What do you mean “Does God Love Everyone? Of course he does. Why even ask that question?”
Trust me. It’s worth asking. When confronting one another or unbelievers with the seriousness of sin, the love of God is where everyone likes to plant their flag (and thereby go right on enjoying their sin). So, it’s an important question because sinners (like me) will use a gooey, contemporary definition of God’s love as an excuse to persist in their sin.
But does God really love everyone? Of course he does! Take a breath. See. God loves you. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether his love is spread equally over everyone…you know, like peanut butter. Yummy, nummy, peanut butter love. Sounds like a good band name…if only I could sing, or play an instrument, or write lyrics. Oh well.
When we say that “God loves everyone” none of us mean that he loves everyone in such a way that he will pardon their sin and accept them into his holy presence whether they repent or not. All of us who read the Bible recognize that God does not love people in a way that will excuse their sin on the final day of judgment when they have willfully rejected him and cuddled up to their sin like a warm blanket on a South Dakota Winter night.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7).
Additionally, God has a special, covenant keeping love for his church, that he does not have for the rest of the world.
1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. 6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43).
I’ll bet you never heard this one in Sunday School huh?
Here’s a line of logic that helps me get my head around this idea…
1. I love both my wife and [Average Youth Group Student]. It is RIGHT to love them both.
2. I love my wife differently than I love [Average Youth Group Student.] It is RIGHT to love them differently (otherwise I’m in trouble at home AND at work).
3. It is WRONG to love my wife LESS than [Average Youth Group Student].
4. It is RIGHT for me to love my wife MORE than [Average Youth Group Student]. If I don’t, my wife feels devalued AND [Average Youth Group Student] is given an example of a husband and pastor that prioritizes work, ministry and his friends over his own wife. Result? [Average Youth Group Student] grows up to be a bad husband.
You see, there is simply something special about my relationship with my wife that is superior to my relationship with the students and so it is with those “sons brought to glory” by faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:10-18).
Now, the really important question…”Why does this matter?”
Here it is: You must be able to show, from the Bible, that the sinner has no hope outside of the covenant love between God and man purchased by Jesus Christ on the cross FOR all those who believe (John 6:35-51). You must show from the Scriptures that belief is MORE than an intellectual agreement with a doctrinal statement (John 12:36-43). And, you must show them that this faith is a work and gift of God (John 3:6-8; Ephesians 2:8-10).