Have you ever looked at a diamond ring at the jewelry store, literally captured by its beauty? As you admire this stunning stone, the salesperson places a sheet of black velvet under the diamond, which always does one thing: it accentuates the beauty of the diamond. Nothing has changed in the diamond—you merely have a renewed perspective.

The Bible declares in emphatic terms that “God is love”. My prayer is that you will be captured by the love of God. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and drawn in by the love of God. I want to accentuate the love of God by contrasting this attribute of God with the black velvet. The black velvet will depict the condition of the creature.

Depicting the Condition of the Creature

The condition of the creature is clearly taught in Scripture. The Bible says that apart from grace, we are enemies of God.

  • “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10, ESV)
  • “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12, ESV)

In What Respects Natural Men Are God’s Enemies

Jonathan Edwards summarizes the enmity that sinful men express toward God.[1]

  • They are enemies in the natural relish of their souls.
  • Their wills are contrary to His will.
  • They are enemies of God in their practice.
  • They are enemies to God in their affections.

“The natural tendency of the heart of man,” writes Edwards, “is to fly from God, and keep at a distance from him, as far off as possible… When wicked men come to be cast into hell, then their malaise against God will appear. Then their hearts will appear as full of malice, as hell is full of fire.”

The Degree of Natural Man’s Enmity to God

  • They have no love of God.
  • Every fiber of their being opposes God.
  • They are mortal enemies of God.
  • They are greater enemies to God than they are to any other being.

Edwards continues, “But natural men, without a mighty work of God to change their hearts, will never get over their enmity against God. They are greater enemies to God, than they are to the devil.”

Every person apart from grace is helpless, hopeless, and under the wrath of almighty God. Every person apart from grace resists God, rebels against God, and recoils at God’s very presence. It is crucial to understand the gravity of sin and recognize that the penalty for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). This is the black velvet that every human being must take into account. This black velvet of sin is at the core of our hearts, wills, minds, motivations, and consciences. This black velvet of sin fuels the thoughts, intentions, goals, and daily activities of every unconverted person. This black velvet represents the sinfulness of sin that separates people from a holy God. Let us move, then, from the depiction of the creature to a definition of God’s love.

Defining the Love of God

Paul shows the contrast between the sin of mankind and the love of God: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV). Wayne Grudem writes, “God’s love means that God eternally gives of himself to others.”[2] J.I. Packer adds, “God’s love is an exercise of His goodness towards individual sinners whereby, having identified Himself with their welfare, He has given His Son to be their Savior, and now brings them to know and enjoy Him in a covenant relation.”[3]

Describing the Love of God

In the 18th century, there was a preoccupation for some people with the wrath of God. In the 19th century, the liberal theologians re-focused the church on the love of God, but tragically excluded his wrath. In our generation, we need to strike a biblical balance. The Scriptures proclaim that our God is a God of love. Many passages bear witness to this unbelievable reality:

  • “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21, ESV)
  • “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.” (Exodus 15:13, ESV)
  • “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18, ESV)
  • “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34, ESV)
  • “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Psalms 32:10, ESV)
  • “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” (Deuteronomy 7:9, ESV)
  • “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love…” (Psalms 33:18, ESV)

Several years ago, my brother-in-law expressed an interest in checking out a lake at the top of a very steep hill. Even though it was during the winter months, there was no ice or snow on the road—at least not in our neighborhood, which sat at 2,700 feet. So we made our way to the top and reached the lake, which sits at about 4,100 feet. There was quite a bit of snow at the apex and we ended up stuck in the snowy blast. We decided to hike back down the hill, in search of help. We knocked the door of a little cabin and sheepishly explained our situation. The man at the door uttered a few words that we will never forget: “I’m a retired psychiatrist. And we have a word for people like you who come up here in the middle of the winter: ‘You’re crazy!’”

We have learned about the condition of the creature. We have learned that apart from grace, we are enemies of God; separated from God because of our sin; under the wrath of God because of our sin and unbelief. There is a word for anyone who refuses to call upon the God of steadfast love. There is a word for anyone who refuses to hope in the steadfast love of God. Anyone who refuses this love is crazy! So I plead with you today, to turn to God and turn from your sin. Trust in him. “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The Scriptures also proclaim that God is a God of wrath:

  • “…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7, NIV)
  • “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)

“Both God’s wrath and His love work to the same end—His glory. God is glorified in the condemnation of the wicked, and He is glorified in the salvation of His people. The expression of His wrath and the expression of His love are both necessary to display His full glory.”[4] What does the person do who minimizes the wrath of God? That person marginalizes and minimizes the magnanimous love of God. But this person also marginalizes and minimizes the splendor of God’s glory.

Renew Our Understanding of God’s Love

We should stand in awe because God loves us! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1, ESV). Our great God has lavished His love upon us. We should not only stand in awe of God’s love; we should stand in awe that God chose to love sinners like us (Romans 5:8). He did not love the lovable. He loved the ones who despised Him. He loved the ones who refused to trust Him. He loved the ones who fled from Him. He loved the ones who crucified Him!

God has called everyone who believes in Him “the children of God”. The phrase called means, “to call aloud by name”. God adopts us and welcomes us into His family (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7). We should stand in awe because God sent His Son to die for sinners. The cross of Christ is the fullest expression of God’s love for us: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, ESV).

Rekindle God’s Universal Offer of Love

God’s love is offered to all in the gospel (Matthew 22:1-14).[5] The gospel invitation is extended to all peoples. Therefore, we should be passionate about proclaiming the message of the gospel to as many people as possible. “So the preacher has not done his work when he has spoken of Christ and proclaimed the historic facts of salvation. From there he must go on to urge the reception of Christ upon all men.”[6]

Rejuvenate the Command to Love God and Love Others

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV).

Jesus made it clear what our responsibility is before Him. We are called to love God and love others. What would it look like if your grave aim in life was loving God? What would it look like to make a commitment to loving other people in the way Jesus demands? We should love one another because we are born of God (1 John 4:7, 11). The Greek term translated born means that we have been born of God. We have been acted upon in eternity past with results that extend into the future! How does your life measure up to the admonition of Peter: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart …” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

A Final Thought…

Jonathan Edwards made a penetrating observation that will guide our concluding thoughts. He said, “Love is the sum of Christianity.”[7] If you have not yet trusted in Christ for salvation, I urge you to turn from your sin and trust in Him. Fly to Christ and find your satisfaction in Him alone! Then and only then will you know true and everlasting love.

This article first appeared in Theology for Life Winter 2016-2017 Issue. To download the rest of the issue click here.

[1]        Jonathan Edwards, Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies: The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, reprint 1834), 130-132.

[2]        Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theolgy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 198.

[3]        J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 111.

[4]        John MacArthur, The Love of God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996), 19.

[5]        The discussion that concerns the God-dishonoring movement known as “hyper-Calvinism” is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, hyper-Calvinism holds that the gospel is only meant as a means of gathering the elect, which is to say – it is only for the elect. Spurgeon is one of the many men who refuted this erroneous view. See John 3:18; Rom. 10:13; Rev. 22:17.

[6]        Iain Murray, Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1995), 70.

[7]        Jonathan Edwards, Charity and It’s Fruits (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1852).