God's Eternal and Unchanging Love

Dr. Brian Allison

Alex Low, the premier U.S. mountaineer, died recently in an avalanche as he was scaling a Tibetan mountain. He was taken in the prime of his life. It was unexpected. Low's wife was interviewed shortly after the tragedy, during which she stressed the quality of love between them. She mentioned that her husband had sent her hundreds of letters; and in most of them, he underscored his love for her. She boasted that it was an extraordinary love relationship that she had with her husband. While being interviewed, she affirmed, "I still feel his love." The love relationship that the Lows experienced clearly pictured the constancy of love. Constancy prominently marks the love of God for us. His love is unchanging.

The eternal, unchanging love of God

Romans 8:35-39 is the par excellence passage on the marvellous love of God. This passage primarily deals with the constancy of this love. It is an indisputable and basic fact of Biblical truth that God loves us—a thought that ought to humble us. One criticism that is often raised by detractors of Christianity is that hell is a repugnant concept which offends all moral sensibilities, and that such a teaching is contradictory to the very notion of love. Well, however contradictory it may sound, the Bible emphatically teaches about the fact of hell. Hell is simply the visible revelation or concrete expression of the wrath of God. As Christians, we can rejoice in the truth that we are not objects of God's wrath, but rather objects of His love. We who have entered into a living, personal relationship with Jesus Christ can rejoice that God, according to His infinite mercy, has poured out His love upon us and that we are destined for glory and not destruction. As incredible as it may sound, God—the Lord of the universe, the Creator of the worlds—is pleased to love us, and not because He found anything desirable in us, nor because we deserve His love. He loves us because He has chosen to do so; He has found the reason in Himself.

Romans 8:35 reads, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ [Who shall remove us from Christ's own love? Who is it who can prevent Christ's own love from resting upon us]?" The implied answer is, "No one, nothing, will ever separate us from the love of Christ." The apostle Paul proceeds to answer his own question. He affirms that absolutely nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v. 39). God's love is experienced in the context of being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—"...in Christ Jesus our Lord." This love is enjoyed by personally knowing spiritual union with Christ.

The above affirmative statement of the apostle discloses two basic truths about God's love. First, God's love is an eternal love. It will never end. It does not matter how much we fail Him, it does not matter how often we fall short of His standard because of our weaknesses and frailty (not that we have a license for sin), it does not matter how often we inadvertently or unintentionally sin, He will always love us. Second, God's love is not only eternal, it is also unchanging. It is an immutable love—remaining constant, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, millennium after millennium. Human love is fickle. It is often unpredictable. It is often conditional; but not the love of God. His love is unconditional.

The fact of the eternal, unchanging love of God ought to give us much peace. Such a reality ought to cause our hearts to rest (or hopefully, to return to its rest), and instill in us confidence and assurance. The story is told of a faithful Church worker who became ill, and his friends, rallying around him, went to his home to pray for him. One supporter prayed, "Comfort him, Lord, for You know how much Your servant loves You." The ill man interrupted, "Hold it, that is not the right emphasis. Mary and Martha sent to Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus. They did not say, 'He who loves You is ill,' but rather, 'He whom You love is ill.' My comfort is not so much that I love Christ, but rather that He perfectly and forever loves me."

The demonstration of God's love: salvation

How is God's love worked out or revealed? How does it actually touch us? How does it address us in our situation and according to our needs? Romans 8:31a reads, "What then shall we say to these things? [What more is there to say?]" Paul has been dealing with this whole matter of salvation, and what God has redemptively done for us. He has emphasized the certainty of salvation and the promise of future glorification. And thus, he concludes, "What then shall we say to these things? [What more is there to say? There is nothing more to say. God has saved us—it is an eternal salvation, it is a certain salvation.]" Then he summarizes in the form of a compelling question, "If God is for us, who is against us?" (v. 31b). Paul, in effect, asks, "If God is standing up for us, if God is committed to us, if God is going to bat for us, who in all the world can oppose us?" Paul seems to assume, with this question (anticipating an obvious answer), that Christians have a proper understanding of God. Who is this God? He is a God that is all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, and everywhere present. He is infinite, self-sufficient, and sovereign. Nothing and no one can resist Him or His will. Hence, a Christian and God make a majority. There can be no possible opposition. There was a nine year old boy whose 16 year old brother was the provincial wrestling champion for his weight division. Some of this young lad's classmates were picking on him one day. In exasperation, he turned to them and blurted out, "Watch it! You touch me, you will have to deal with my older brother." Similarly, anyone who touches us, as believers, will have to deal with our older Brother, even Jesus Christ. If God is for us, no one can be against us. God is committed to us. He is vitally concerned about us. He wants the best for us.

Paul stresses two facts concerning the demonstration of the love of Christ or God. First, we see this love demonstrated in that He has given us eternal salvation. Do we want to understand the extent to which God loves us? Romans 8:32a reads, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all." God was willing to allow His Son to suffer and to die for us. God sent Christ to the cross. God commissioned Him to come into this world, to identify Himself with humanity, to represent sinners, and to substitute Himself in their place; and when the Son of God cried out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, God turned a deaf ear, as well as a blind eye. Jesus had no choice but to suffer and to die because God said, "No!" to His initial prayer of clemency.

Now, this treatment of the Son by God the Father is no reflection on God's love for the Son, but rather clearly indicates the extent of God's love for us. Do you want to see a demonstration of the love of God? Look to Calvary. It is there that you have an indisputable argument, proof positive, the answer to the criticism, that God cannot love and does not love. There is nothing more to say when we consider Calvary.

The demonstration of God's love: provision

The love of God, secondly, is clearly demonstrated in His infinite provision—"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (v. 32). Notice Paul's line of reasoning. If God has given us His best gift, will He not also give us His lesser gifts? If God did not spare His own Son, but gave that which is most precious in His sight, it stands to reason that He will give us everything else which is of lesser value and worth. Does your faith really embrace this truth—that God will freely give us all things? The language 'freely give' simply means 'graciously give.' It is not something we can earn, or merit, or deserve. He gives because He is pleased to give. Do you see what is here underscored concerning the character of God?—His generosity and His kindness. God wants to give us all things. There is no limit to His bounty; we limit God by our faith. God says, "The world is mine, all power is mine, and I delight to give you everything." During our times of spiritual weakness, we can bemoan and grumble, saying, "God, where are You?" We can doubt His goodness and love. We can doubt His willingness to provide for our every need. But God says that He is willing. He says that He will freely give us all things—His infinite provision. A little while ago my son wrote me a letter to express his heart to me. One thing that he wrote was, "You always tried to give me what I wanted. I cannot remember a time that you did not give me something that I wanted." My gift-giving was as an expression of my love. Jesus teaches, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall the Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Mt. 7:11). Listen my friend—I do not care what the devil says to you—when you come asking God for bread, He will not give you a stone, and when you come asking for fish, He will not give you a serpent; that is not His way. If we in our evilness are so concerned about making our children happy, giving them what they want, how much more will God do that for us? I hope you have a high view of God; I hope you see God as a God of infinite generosity and kindness. God has infinite provision for us, for He freely gives us all things.

The demonstration of God's love: justification

Concerning the matter of eternal salvation, Paul writes, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies" (v. 33). The critic may stand there and accuse, "You, as a Christian, do not deserve God's blessing. You do not deserve God's goodness." It is not a question of deserving, it is a question of His grace. We know we do not deserve it; and the bony finger of accusation has no sway, no force, no persuasive power with our God. Nothing that can be said can change His mind, nothing that can be done can change His heart. Paul says that those whom God has chosen, He has justified. God declares us righteous. It is not what we do, or what we can do for ourselves. We cannot save ourselves, but God does. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus turns to these critics, He turns to the accuser of the brethren, and He need not say a word, but simply extends His nail scarred hands. There is no stronger convincing answer than the nail scarred hands of Christ—"God is the one who justifies." If God says that we are declared righteous, then we are declared righteous; and nothing in heaven or hell can overturn or nullify that.

But the critic may further accuse, "The way you are living and what you are doing are damnable. You deserve to be punished." The accuser of the brethren may contend, "Listen God, Your Word says that sin is to be punished, that sinners are to be judged. Your people are sinning and they need to be punished. They are worthy to be condemned." But Paul says, "Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us" (v. 34). Yes, God's people may appear to be worthy of punishment because of their sin, but the point is this: God has sufficiently and eternally dealt with their sin. Christ died for them. His atoning sacrifice covers their sin, and they have been delivered from the wrath, from the punishment, from the judgement of God because the blood of Christ covers and continues to speak more powerful things than that of the blood of Abel. Christ offered Himself up in the eternal Spirit, once and for all, for sin; and He was raised from the dead. Not only did He die for us, but He lives for us. He rose again the third day for our justification. And not only that, He ascended on high—He is not only the Prince of life, but He is also the King of glory. And as the King of glory, He is also the great High Priest. He ever lives to intercede for us. So, His death deals with our sins, and His prayers deal with our struggles. He continues to pray for us. Who dares condemn a child of God? When the believer understands these truths, he or she cannot question the love of God. The love of God is irrefutably demonstrated in the death of Christ and in the life of Christ. We have eternal salvation; we have infinite provision. There is grace that meets our every need.

The love of God and suffering

Paul proceeds to talk about the effect and the experience of the love of God. Romans 8:35a reads, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" It is a constant, immutable love. One may jibe, "You say that God loves you; well, there is something seemingly contradictory here. If Christ loves you, then why are you going through suffering? Why do you go through hurt and pain? Why all the hardships of life? Why all the problems? It does not make sense to me. If He loves you, wouldn't He make sure that no harm, no suffering, no damage comes to you?" Hardships, difficulties, and problems are no indication or proof that Christ's love has been removed or diminished. In verse 35, we have a catalogue of hardships, from which one could draw the conclusion that Christ must not love us, if we are experiencing these things. He says, "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (v. 35b). Experiencing these kinds of sufferings does not mean that Christ's love has been removed from us. God is pleased to allow such suffering in our lives, not because He doesn't love us, but because He loves us so much—"for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Hb. 12:6). God wants us to be just like His Son. He deals with the remaining corruption and vestiges of sin in us through suffering.

When you are going through suffering, my friend, do not draw the conclusion that God's love has been removed, that Christ's love has diminished. It is in the midst of the suffering, in the midst of the darkness, that His love shines brightest. The story is told of a man, and his daughter, who returned from the funeral of his wife. When they arrived home, he put his young daughter to bed. She said, "Daddy, don't leave me. Can you stay in my room tonight?" He said, "Sure honey." He shut off the light, and they went to sleep. In the middle of the night, the young girl woke up screaming, "Daddy, Daddy, are you still there?" The father turned on the light and said, "Honey, I am still here." She said, "You are still with me in the dark? You still love me through the dark?" He said, "Certainly, honey." My Christian friend, God is still with you in the dark, He still loves you through the dark. The darkness does not diminish His love; it remains constant. We should not be surprised when misfortune befalls us. God told us in His Word that we will suffer, so we must not be thrown in our faith. Thus, we read (a quote from Psalm 44), "Just as it is written, 'For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered'" (v. 36). The Word of God has predicted that we will suffer. We, through many tribulations, enter the kingdom; but when we are suffering, when we are in the dark, we must remember that God still loves us. Christ's love shines brightest in the darkness.

The invincibility of God's love

Through the love of God, we triumph—"But in all these things [it does not matter the hardships that we must bear, or the pain that we must suffer, or the struggles that we must endure] we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us" (v. 37). We are not to whine nor complain about our times of suffering and hardship. We can be super-conquerors. We are able to persevere, we are able to press on. Why? Not because of our natural resources, nor because of our ingenuity. We will never be defeated, we will overcome every obstacle "through Him who loved us." It is the manifestation of His love that causes us to press on. He provides for our needs, He gives us determination, He gives us understanding, He gives us peace, He gives us joy—expressions of His love. It is by His love, and the experience of that love, that we are able to persevere and overcome.

We could never know the full extent, the full depth, of God's love apart from experiencing suffering, because while we suffer, we come to clearly understand and appreciate how much He cares for us. We overcome through that love as He works in our hearts, giving us patience, endurance, and stamina. He gives us grace to discern what He is doing in our lives. He gives us grace to accept His severe providence. Vance Havner, a Southern Baptist preacher, passed through a very dark period in his life. His wife became ill, and Havner believed that God would miraculously heal her, if he sought the Lord with all his heart. Havner's wife died; and he plunged into an indescribable, excruciating grief. In the midst of his dark night of the soul, he came to a profound realization, which encouraged his heart and helped him to persevere until the light dawned again on him. The truth that he more clearly realized was that "God makes no mistakes." He said that at this time in his life, he had never known less how to explain the providence of God, and yet had never experienced more confidence in God. He said, "God can do whatever He wants, however He wants, because He is God." He experienced the love of God, and that love sustained him.

The love of God provides us with a sure foundation when we must weather the storms of life. We have every confidence. Thus the apostle concludes, "For I am convinced [there is absolutely no doubt in my mind—the reality of faith] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities [possibly ruling angels], nor things present [anything that is taking place in life now], nor things to come [anything that will take place in the future], nor powers [spiritual or earthly authorities], nor height [anything in heaven], nor depth [anything in the earth], [and just to make sure every conceivable possibility is covered] nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 38,39). Absolutely nothing can destroy God's love. It is imperishable. Maybe this past week, as you have looked at the circumstances of your life, you have questioned the love of God. Have you said, "Lord, why am I going through this struggle? Why are these things happening? Why do I have these problems? Why is the family in disarray? Why is there disharmony in the family? Why do I get this hassle at work? I thought You loved me"? The evil one will say that God does not love you. Yet, the Spirit will say that He will never stop. The love of God is our portion, and we shall enjoy that love for all eternity. Nothing will ever be able to take His love away from us. This is our peace, our joy, and our confidence.