Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
God’s eternal love has specific recipients.
The love of God is fundamental to the atonement, John 3:16.
James Montgomery Boice differentiates between value and intention in regards to the atonement.
The value of Jesus’ death is infinite. The question rather is what is the purpose of Christ’s death, and what He accomplished in it. Did Christ intend to make salvation no more than possible? Or did He actually save those for whom He died? Reformed theology stresses that Jesus actually atoned for the sins of those the Father had chosen. He actually propitiated the wrath of God toward His people by taking their judgment upon Himself, actually redeemed them, and actually reconciled those specific persons to God. A better name for “limited” atonement would be “particular” or “specific” redemption.[a]Whitlock, Luder G. et al. The Reformation Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995. Print.
The love of God must be similar to the atonement. His love is infinite but intended only for those the He will save.
God loves people of His own free will. To the Reformed person, God’s will is irresistible. Therefore, God’s love is irresistible as well. And therefore, Reformed theology limits the scope of the enduring love of God to the elect.
The world is not everyone in the world.
The Reformation Study Bible affirms that God loves the whole world, so long as we accept a doublespeak definition of world.
As always in the New Testament, “we” or “us” as the objects and beneficiaries of redeeming love means “us who believe.” “We” or “us” does not refer to every individual belonging to the human race. When “the world” is said to be loved and redeemed (John 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 5:19; 1 John 2:2), that “world” is the great number of God’s elect scattered worldwide, in every nation (cf. John 10:16; 11:52). The redeemed “world” is not each and every person who ever did or will exist. [b]Luder G. Whitlock et al., The Reformation Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).
What conclusions do I make?
If we accept the position toward irresistible grace and particular atonement, then we must conclude that God’s enduring love is only for some of us. However, we will need to wrangle our vocabulary to make sense out of it.
a) If God’s grace cannot be resisted and
b) if God gives grace to those that He loves and
c) if God unconditionally loves each and every one who has ever existed,
then one would conclude that Jesus has saved everyone without regard to their own will or their own beliefs. Everyone goes to heaven whether they want to or not.
a) If the atonement for sin is limited or particular or specified and
b) if God saves those that He loves,
then God limits His love to those for whom He provides atonement. God loves some of us. Otherwise, He would save all of us.
A different conclusion based upon a different perspective.
However, there is no contradiction when we believe that God loves everyone and sent His only Son, but that some people will still choose not to acknowledge the free gift of love and grace and salvation.
If God’s sovereignty includes a full knowledge of this free will, then the sovereignty of God is not threatened when His human creations reject His grace. The great sovereignty of God considers the will and the results of the free will of those made in His own image. Man is morally responsible for his choices. His choices were not predetermined or decreed by God. Rather, before he created humans, God decreed in His sovereignty that man would be responsible to will, to choose, to respond to God.
When we isolate the Scriptures about predestination and election from the rest of the Bible, we can reduce those verses into a theological form of determinism. If we look at the entire scope of Scripture, we will need to accept verses that describe God’s foreknowledge as well as those that describe the truth about human will and moral responsibility to God.
…and we can believe that God loves everyone.
|↑a||Whitlock, Luder G. et al. The Reformation Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995. Print.|
|↑b||Luder G. Whitlock et al., The Reformation Study Bible: Bringing the Light of the Reformation to Scripture: New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).|