When Did God Start Loving His People?
By Curt Wildy
There are those who believe that the love of God does not fall upon one of His elect until that elect child has been quickened and receives Christ by faith; this is blatant error. The chief misunderstanding here lies in the nature of God and His love. This love is not some carnal emotion that our Lord switches off and on like a light switch. This love, this divine love, is God Himself — for God is love. When love is in the heart then God is in the heart. When the love of God is revealed then God Himself is revealed. When God loves His people, He is manifesting a central aspect of Himself to them. Likewise, our God is immutable; He changeth not. He does not hate someone one minute and then love them the next — for God is Eternal and all whom the eternal God loves He loves eternally. Eternality has no beginning or ending; it simply is. It is before this world was and it is after this present world will cease to be (and time along with it). The Love of God is as eternal and everlasting as the God who is Love.
We read in Jeremiah 31:1-3
“At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I HAVE LOVED thee with an EVERLASTING love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, is our Spiritual Israel (see Hosea 11:1 with Matthew 2:15) and both He and all of His elect body are loved of God with an everlasting love; an `owlam love, one that incorporates all of eternity. This is an alpha and omega love; there is no beginning or end to it either.
Some argue that since this love is not in the heart of the elect until they are quickened, and since God is not yet in their heart, God does not yet love them. My response would be that my God is a God who loved me whilst I was dead in trespasses and sin. He loved me before I first, by His grace and working, loved Him. Though there was no love for Him in my natural heart there was an eternal love for me (and all of the elect) in His blessed heart. We read in Ephesians 2:1-6:
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Even when I was spiritually dead, and had no God-given desire for the Lord of my salvation, I was loved of him. Even when I was yet an enemy, He manifested His love to me and, likewise, to all of the elect. Before we were ever born; before we could ever receive Christ by a God-given faith, we were loved of Him. We read in Romans 9:11-13:
11 (For the children BEING NOT YET BORN, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to ELECTION might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob HAVE I loved, but Esau have I hated.
“Jacob HAVE I loved;” aorist, active, indicative, which equals the past tense. In the past before they were born, before they did any good or evil, one was loved of God with an eternal love and the other hated of God with an eternal hatred. Can you not see, those of you who would make the love of the Divine mutable, dependent upon the creature (or what is done in the creature), can you not see that divine election is directly and eternally yoked with divine love? God is making it clear that His words “Jacob have I loved” directly correlate to His words “that the purpose of God according to election might stand…” We read in Ephesians 1:3-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who HATH blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he HATH chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Note in verse 4 that divine election, the “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” directly ties into “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” That word should is einai and it means to be, to exist, to happen, to be present. God uses this verb in the present infinitive; this form is used to show not action but state of being. God is telling us that we are now holy and without blame before Him in love according as He hath chosen us in Christ from before the world was. This is a little clearer in Young’s Literal Translation wherein we read “according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for OUR BEING holy and unblemished before Him, in love.” In Love, reads the text. We were chosen in Christ, in Love, for the purpose of our being -even then- holy and unblemished before God in Christ. Nothing impure, nothing sullied, nothing unjust, or unloved, can be in Christ Jesus.
Note also that v3 declares that God HATH blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; He did this “5 HAVING predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he HATH made us accepted in the beloved.” Note the tenses; these are not actions conditioned upon some future act or experience on our part (or on God’s part in us) but these are precepts that even now exist — they exist, in Christ, without regard to the regenerative state of the elect sinner. The sinner, whether regenerated or not, whether bound to this body of death or not, already has all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. Just as surely as the elect sinner has the election and predestination of God (whether or not it is yet made manifest in time via quickening and conversion), he or she has all of the spiritual blessings of God. Just because they have not received it experimentally does not mean that they do not have it, that it isn’t theirs. If God purposed them to have it in Christ, and those blessings are right now in Christ, then it is theirs right now even if they are not yet tangible possessors of it. If God sets aside a gift for me and says this gift is for Curt in light of my immutable will and purpose, then that gift is indeed mine even if it is not yet in my personal possession. I may not be able to experience the benefits of it yet — but that does not make it any less mine.
We read in Romans 8:29-30
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.“
The verbs at issue in the passage above are all also in the past tense; they are in the Aorist Active Indicative. The Christian was foreknown in the past, predestinated in the past, justified in the past, and glorified in the past. From eternity “past,” from before the world was, these things were done — and where were they done? They were done IN Christ FROM eternity (for Christ is Eternal as is the Godhead that indwells Him bodily). If we read the rest of Romans 8 in context it becomes clear (especially in Romans 8:39) that the Christian has, IN Christ, the love of God; and, in keeping with the context, we have to know that this love was from eternity just as the electing, predestinating, calling, and glorifying were. It is true that there are aspects of these salvific acts that manifest in time but we must remember that God exists both inside and outside of time. Think of time as a ruler, a measuring stick; God is the one who is not only not limited by it but He holds it in his almighty hand. He wields it as He saw fit from eternity. What He decreed from eternity IS though the manifestation of it in time may not yet be. The Lord envelops time and all His eternal decrees are just as sure and true now as they will be once they are completely manifested in time.
But what of spiritual life? Isn’t spiritual life given upon regeneration? In a very real sense, yes! Yet, all of the elect have spiritual Life even if that Life has yet to be given to them experientially upon regeneration. Colossians 3:3-4 declares:
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, [who is] our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
When did our Life become our life? When we were quickened? Yes, that is when our live was given to us, in time, that we may have that current, felt oneness with the Lord and communion with Him. This is when Life and immortality were brought to light. But we have been eternally joined to Christ from eternity for our life was hid in Him from eternity and He is our Life (even our Eternal Life). Christ is Life and Christ is the Resurrection. Where He is, we are. Where He was, we were. How so? in that our life was truly hid in Him. This precept is called eternal union or eternal vital union. We do not just have life when God gives it to us and causes us to receive it. We had life (albeit not yet given) from the moment we were elected in Christ, that is chosen in Life, from before the foundation of the earth. In that Life, in that Christ, in that Beloved, we always had and always will have divine love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, justification, redemption, and glory. Just because our present (bodily) condition obscures these things does not mean that it is not ours in Christ objectively speaking. So, our spiritual life, being hid in Christ and being Christ, was and is nonetheless the spiritual life of the elect sinner. Where there is spiritual life there is spiritual love. Where a Christ exists there is a divine love for His body. If we were elect in Christ before the world was, then we were elected into that Life. Though it has not yet been revealed to all of God’s people, it will be given unto them manifestly at the appointed time.
God’s love is manifested to us from before the foundation of the earth (divine purpose), at the cross (divine realization), at regeneration (divine manifestation), and throughout our sojourn both here and in Heaven (divine completion). The Lord manifested His love to us in Christ eternally for Christ was purposed to be, and is, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth on behalf of His elect. God manifested His love for us at the cross, for there He quickened us (again past tense) together with Christ. Moreover, God manifests His love for us at the time of (experimental) love, when He through the Holy Spirit quickens us and reveals that love to us in that new heart of flesh which He gives us. Through that same Spirit, in light of our union with Christ, and in light of the divine gifts given by the Father, God shows forth His love by giving us all that we need for Life — He gives us Christ experientially throughout our life.
But what of wrath? Weren’t we all children of wrath at one point? We were children of wrath by nature but that by no means suggests that the eternal and spiritual wrath of God was upon us in time. That just and divine wrath that leads to eternal damnation never met with the elect sinner in this life. Though the elect were at enmity with Christ in their own being and experience, the Lord God was always their, hedging them in, keeping them safe, ensuring that they would be where they needed to be for His appointed time of love. Though they needed salvation, needed that quickening and converting, they were never at risk of not receiving it. It was always there, ready to be given to them, at God’s appointed time. Unfortunately, we are often stuck thinking linearly, temporally, we cannot see how we could be under the wrath of God in one sense (as the entire lump of clay was purposed to fall into sin before Adam even was) but that before the world was God “saved” us from that condemnation through His divine electing, predestinating, calling, justifying, glorifying love in Christ. Again, just because salvation must be manifested by the Finished work of Christ on the cross, and manifested in our individual lives experimentally, it does not mean — from an eternal perspective — that all was not, and is not already secure in its completion. Whereas we would all agree that 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” refers to the experience at regeneration and not our election in Christ from before the world was, it does not negate the reality that we were chosen in Christ, hid in Christ, and eternally united with Christ from then. Consider this very important passage:
2 Timothy 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who HATH saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which WAS given us IN CHRIST Jesus BEFORE the world began, But IS NOW made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
As it was with Jeremiah so it is with us when we read in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I KNEW thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” We are all prophets in that the testimony of the Lord Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. When we faithfully preach or witness from the Bible (and the Bible alone), we are prophesying; this is what all Christians are called to do. Before God formed us, He loved us (for divine knowledge, foreknowledge, is eternally yoked with divine love; to never be known of God is to never have been loved by Him). Before we came forth out of the womb, we were sanctified, set apart for holy use, even though the experience or manifestation of that use may not come about until many years (or decades) later. We were ordained prophets, biblical witnesses, from before the world was even though we do not become faithful witnesses until after God quickens and converts us. Nonetheless, and with all being said that has been said, it should be clear to all that an eternal God, one with no beginning or end, loves eternally. It should be clear that an immutable God, one who changes not, cannot change His love at one point or another. The Hope of the saints is the eternal Christ who is Love, Resurrection, Life, and everything else to us that is good, right, and needful. He is steadfast in all things.
To God be the glory!