Then the preacher said something I’ll never forget. “God sent His Son to earth to die for you. This proves how worthy you are of God’s love.”
I agreed with the first sentence. But what about the second?
God loves me because I’m worthy of His love? In other words, I should be taking credit for His love?
Then I stumbled across a little booklet by John Piper, entitled “For Your Joy.” Here’s what I read:
“I have heard it said, ‘God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.’ This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in our lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great only divine sacrifice can pay it.
There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is ‘the riches of his grace’ (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty.”
So here we have an explanation of God’s love that is significantly different from what many of us have been taught: God’s love is not an acknowledgment of our worth. Rather, it is the proclamation of God’s infinite worth.
J.I. Packer would agree with John Piper. In his book Knowing God we find these comments in chapter 12 on “The Love of God” –
“God’s love is an exercise of His goodness towards sinners. As such, it has the nature of grace and mercy. It is an outgoing of God in kindness which not merely is undeserved, but is actually contrary to desert; for the objects of God’s love are rational creatures who have broken God’s law, whose nature is corrupt in God’s sight, and who merit only condemnation and final banishment from His presence. It is staggering that God should love sinners, yet it is true. God loves creatures who have become unlovely and (one would have thought) unlovable. There was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it forth; nothing in man could attract or prompt it.”
Yes, God’s love for us is staggering. We did nothing to deserve it. In fact, all we are and all we have done merits only God’s wrath.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8).
Paul’s says nothing here about our value and worth, does he? Rather, he describes us as “powerless,” “ungodly” and “sinners.”
The love of God is all about God, not us.
Why does God love us? According to J.I. Packer, God loves us for the same reason He does everything: “God’s end in all things is His own glory – that He should be manifested, known, admired, adored.”
“It is staggering that God should love sinners; yet it is true.”
To quote John Piper again, “Let it take your breath away.”
Note: This is one of a serious of posts on the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer. For details on how to join me, blogger Tim Challies and hundreds of other Christians on this journey, click here. To read the other posts in this series, click here.
Final Thought: If you only had one word to describe God’s love, what would it be?
Please post your answer in the comment box below. Thank you!