There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture…. The better we are acquainted with his love-its character, fullness, blessedness-the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to him.
1. The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of his love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in the object; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in his own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7-8). God has loved his people from everlasting, and therefore nothing about the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from himself: “according to his own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9)…. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, there was everything to repel him, everything calculated to make him loathe me-sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.
2. It is eternal. This of necessity. God himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved his people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that he had set his heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that his love is spontaneous, for he loved them endless ages before they had any being.
3. It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto himself, acting always according to his own imperial pleasure. Since God is sovereign, and since he is love, it necessarily follows that his love is sovereign. Because God is God, he does as he pleases; because God is love, he loves whom he pleases. Such is his own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). There is no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased him to do so.
4. It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for he knows everything of the past, present, and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for him. So his love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us”: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.
5. It is immutable. As with God himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so his love knows neither change nor diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, he never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake him. Nevertheless, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6-7). Nothing can separate from it (Rom. 8:35-39).
6. It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice, passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as his grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so his love never conflicts with his holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness or effeminate softness. Scripture declares that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in his own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.
7. It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is, from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined him to give his Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because he did love his people. Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.
A.W. Pink (1886-1952), The Attributes of God, 99-104.