Written by Rev Zheng on 30 October 2022
Historically theologians distinguish three types of divine love in relation to God’s character: the benevolent love, beneficent love and the complacent love. The first two types are the general love that God shows to all men, righteous or evil. The third type of love is God’s love specially for His elects.
The benevolent love is the goodwill that God has as our Creator. Because God is good, His will is always good. The Bible is replete with God’s goodwill towards mankind. For example, in the incarnation of the Holy Son, God’s love of goodwill for mankind is proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds when Jesus was born,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will (of God) toward men.”Luke 2:14 KJV
Another example is found in Ezekiel when God declares His good will towards evil men,
“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”Ezekiel 33:11
The second type of love is the beneficent love of God. It is the Creator’s acts of kindness towards men according to His good will. For example, both the good and the evil get to enjoy sunshine, rainfall and air together.
Another example is the great commission that Christ gave to His church. Christ commanded every disciple to go and preach the Gospel to the end of the earth, geographically (Acts 1:8). The altar call we often hear at a gospel rally is a manifestation of God’s beneficent love. (It is also known as the external call.)
Jesus taught us that love is not a ‘feeling’ but a series of sincere actions of goodwill when he taught us to love our enemy. He called us to cultivate beneficent love for mankind by showing kindness, doing good and mindfully praying for the good of those who ill-wish us. Then we will be perfect like our heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:44-48)
Righteous or evil, all men are constantly living in the benevolent and beneficent love of God. And eventually, all shall be judged be the individual’s response to God and behaviours towards men. The more love we receive from God in our life, the more thankful we should be towards Him; otherwise, the greater will be the condemnation. On the day of ultimate judgement, the love that those who reject God receive throughout their living days will no longer be a blessing to them; instead, it will justify their eternal condemnation. What they receive will not be love but the wrath of God, because God has instituted an absolute condition for sinners to enjoy His everlasting love before the creation:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16
Therefore, it will be fatally misleading to tell a person that “God loves you unconditionally”, without telling him that the holy God does not tolerate sin, and that he will have to bear his own sin in judgement and in eternal punishment at the end of the world, for he will think that he can continue to enjoy the pleasures of sin and still be loved by God without Christ’s salvation! Then woe to us because we will be guilty of preaching a gospel that is different from that in the Bible!