Question 1: Who used the exact words in the title of this post as a major heading in one of his recent sermons?
Answer: John Piper, a self-described 7-point Calvinist, who’s preaching through the gospel of John right now. In his exposition of John 3:16, Piper emphasized that the love described in this well-known verse is indiscriminate, and concludes:
We may, therefore, say to every human being, “God loves you. And this is how he loves you: He gave his Son to die, so that if you would believe, your sins would be forgiven and you would have eternal life.”
Okay, maybe you missed that one. Let’s try another question.
Question 2: Who said this?
To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.”
Answer: J.C. Ryle, another Calvinist, in this article on election.
I wanted to point out those statements to say this. Even though Ryle and Piper are Calvinists, not every one of my Calvinist friends would agree with them. Some would say that it’s not appropriate to tell everyone indiscriminately that God loves them. I understand that, but I find it unfortunate.
Every facet of God’s character is complex, and His love is no exception. It’s not easy to understand or explain God’s love. That’s why D.A. Carson devoted an entire book to what he calls the The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
Those who would agree with Piper and Ryle, and those who would disagree, can both make some valid, biblical arguments for their views. As always, caution and humility are in order.
I’ve rambled a bit, but my goal was simply to express a concern I have about how we sometimes portray God. It’s easy for any of us to distort or misrepresent God’s character, even if unintentionally. I’ll close with an excerpt from the writing of John Calvin, and an appeal to anyone reading this who might be an unbeliever.
John Calvin seems to have believed that there is at least some sense in which God loves the whole world (although there are those who would debate that assertion). This excerpt is taken from a commentary on the same well-known passage John Piper was preaching from, John 3:16.
That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.
John 3:16 clearly states that God loved “the world,” and “the world” is a reference, according to Calvin, to “all men without exception.” Calvin referred to John 3:16 in a similar fashion in other commentaries and sermons. (See here for more examples.)
If you’re not a Christian, I simply want to say that God loves you (although The Goal of God’s Love May Not Be What You Think It Is.) He sent His Son to die for the sins of the whole world, including yours. If you repent of your sin and put your trust in Christ, you will never die. That is the most amazing news in the world. In the words of one of the hymns we sang at church yesterday,
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.
But there is a grave danger embedded in this good news. If you reject God’s gracious offer, if you take the atoning sacrifice of Christ lightly, you will not live, but you will die—eternally.
…how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)
I plead with you not to make the mistake of neglecting God’s gracious offer. Do yourself a favor and find out more about it.