Systematic Theology I - Lesson 19

Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 2)

A continuing discussion of God communicable attributes, both intellectual (Omnisapience; truth) and moral (goodness; love).

Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology I
Lesson 19
Watching Now
Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 2)

Doctrine of God

Part 9

V. Attributes of God (part 6)

A. Methodology and the Doctrine of God

B. Incommunicable Attributes

C. Communicable Attributes

1. Intellectual Attributes

a. Omniscience


b. Omnisapience

c. Truth

2. Moral Attributes

a. Goodness

i. Love

Class Resources
  • An introduction to theology, answering the questions of what is EST (Evangelical Systematic Theology), why study EST, and how it relates to other theological disciplines.

  • Introductory issues of how to do EST and the criteria for assessing theological formulations.

  • Issues of cultural Christianity, and the evangelical position of "contextualized normativity."

  • Begins with a discussion of the background to the discussion (Pelagius, Augustine, Council of Carthage, and semi-Pelagianism), and then a discussion of Luther, Calvin, Arminius, the Synod of Dort and the Five Points of Calvinism.

  • Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and their views of Israel and the church

  • A discussion of these three positions and the key figures in each (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, von Harnack; Barth, Brunner, Niebuhr; Carnell, Henry, Graham)

  • The beginning discussion of revelation and the specifics of General Revelation

  • A continuation of the discussion of revelation with an emphasis on Special Revelation, moving into the topic of Inspiration (definition and key passages).

  • A survey of the recent debate, defining inerrancy (including the relationship of hermeneutics and inerrancy), and its relationship to authority.

  • The definition of illumination, why it is necessary, and how we come to know truth. The critceria for canonicity is then discussed and why the canon is now closed (i.e., why no more books would be accepted into the Bible).

  • Why there is a need to know God, and "theism" (arguments as to whether there is a God or not).

  • Can God be known? The Doctrine of the Trinity (Scriptural basis; historical background; Monarchian heresies)

  • Continuation of the discussion of the Trinity and the church's rejection of Monarchianism

  • Beginning of the discussion of the attributes of God's character, and how the discussion is organized.

  • The related doctrines of God's self-sufficiency and his love. (The lecture begins in the middle of a sentence but not much content is missing. Point V., subpoints 1 and 2 were covered in lecture 14. See Outline tab.)

  • God's incommunicable attributes are those that he does not share with us: self-existence; self-sufficiency; infinity; omnipresence; eternity

  • Completes the discussion of God's incommunicable attributes by discussing immutability, the doctrine that God does not change.

  • Discussion of those attributes of God's character that he shares (to some degee) with his creation, beginning with his intellectual attributes (omniscience).

  • A continuing discussion of God communicable attributes, both intellectual (Omnisapience; truth) and moral (goodness; love).

  • Continuation of the discussion of God's communicable moral attributes (love, grace, mercy; holiness, righteousness, justice) and the attributes of God's rulership (freedom; omnipotence).

  • The Scriptural teaching and issues related to this central question

  • Hyper-Calvinism, Process Theology, Arminianism, and Calvinism

  • Concluding discussion on Calvinism

  • An introduction to the doctrine of humanity and the doctrine of humanity's origin (Adam and Eve)

  • Theories on the structure of the human soul (Monism, Dichotomy, Trichotomy) and the transmission of the soul (Creationism, Traducianism).

  • Sin is one of the most foundational and significant topics in Scripture. The doctrines of salvation and sanctification are meaningless without an accurate understanding of sin. The Old Testament teaches both the personal and corporate aspects of sin. New Testament teachings include the essence of sin and total depravity.

  • The facets of the Fall, theories of Original Sin, and God's triumph over sin

What value is there to attempt to know the unknowable or to try to understand someone that, by their own description, is beyond our understanding?

Even though we cannot know everything there is to know about God, there are some things you can know because he has revealed them to you. You can develop a systematic theology as you contemplate what you experience in nature, what you can read in the Bible and what you can know from history. This will give you insights into who God is, how you can have a relationship with him, and how you will live your life differently. Dr. Ware begins by giving you a systematic theology definition and explains systematic theology teachings and concepts that you will find in systematic theology books. He also helps you to learn both the inductive and deductive approaches in assessing various criteria so you can determine for yourself the validity of any theological position.

Some of the first lectures in Dr. Ware’s Systematic Theology I give you the core theological positions of major movements like Calvinism, Arminianism, Covenant, Liberalism and Neo Orthodoxy and help you compare and contrast their different perspectives. Also, since the Bible is the primary source for determining your systematic theology, Dr. Ware defines and explains key terms like inspiration, revelation, inerrancy, illumination and canonicity. God’s existence and attributes make up a major part of this class. The final lectures in Systematic Theology I focus on what the Bible teaches us about humans and sin.

The study of systematic theology is a mixture of science, art and faith. Join Dr. Ware as he leads you in understanding the core teachings of Scripture in a way that help you articulate your systematic theology, deepen your relationship with God and live out your life as a changed person.

This is the first of a two semester class on systematic theology. We recommend the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem as a companion book for this class. Dr. Grudem also wrote an abridged version entitled Bible Doctrines that includes discussion questions that are helpful for using in a small group/classroom situation. 

Dr. Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology I
Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


V. Attributes of God

    A. Methodology and the Doctrine of God

    B. Incommunicable Attributes

C. Communicable Attributes

We are in the section on the communicable attributes of God, which are to some measure, to some finite measure, true of us as well, true to at least a portion of the moral creation of God.

1. Intellectual Attributes

a. Omniscience

I talked with someone after class last period, and he was asking about Molinism, and I mentioned to him this way of breaking down those three kinds of knowledge that Molina used. There is necessary knowledge (Molina's term is natural knowledge), middle knowledge, and free knowledge. Natural knowledge is knowledge of all possibilities. Think of it as knowledge of what could be. There could be unicorns roaming the ranges in this world; there could be three headed monsters. With what could be the possibilities are literally limitless. So God knows all that could be the case. Knowledge of the world as it ''will'' be is knowledge of what in fact will be the case. So God knows all the ìcould be'sî and all the ìwill be's,î that is, what will actually happen in this world. He knew from eternity past, before he created the world, that this particular grouping of students and individuals would be in this class at this moment in this time in history. God knew that this would be the case and what now is the case. Middle knowledge is knowledge of what would be. It is knowledge of what would be the case if such and such were different. He knows that you would have worn a warmer sweater today had the temperature been even lower than it is. He knows you would have come with a T shirt on if the temperature had been 40 degrees higher than it is today. God knows what would have been the case in any particular situation; that is this category of middle knowledge. Natural knowledge is the knowledge of all possibilities and necessary truths. Middle knowledge is the knowledge of everything that would be the case. Free knowledge is the knowledge of the actual world that God designed. It is called free knowledge because of all the possible worlds God could have created, he freely chose to create the world that will be just this way; hence free knowledge. He freely chose to create this particular world and not another.

b. Omnisapience 

Omnisapience is a term that you don't hear very often in normal Christian parlance; even theological language doesn't invoke it very often. It is another omni attribute of God, in this case all wise. Sapiential literature, you may know from studying the Old Testament, is the study of the wisdom literature. So God is omnisapient; he is all wise. I think that you would agree with me that there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Someone can be incredibly knowledgeable but not very wise. It is hard to reverse that. It is hard to conceive of someone who is very wise but knows very little. In fact, wisdom relies upon knowledge. If you know very little, it is hard to be wise about what to do with your money in the stock market. But knowing a lot doesn't necessarily mean that you are wise. You might think of wisdom as a certain use of knowledge. It depends upon knowledge; it relies upon knowledge. It makes use of knowledge. Some people in defining wisdom have just stopped there; wisdom is the use of knowledge to accomplish particular ends. But that is not quite good enough. Think, for example, of a vivid recent case where a sniper used a lot of knowledge about weapons, police activities, traffic patterns and all kinds of things. He used a lot of knowledge very cleverly to evade capture for quite some time. Would we call his actions wise? Not on your life. We would call them evil, but it is the use of knowledge.

Wisdom has to be more than just the use of knowledge. It has to be a certain kind of use. It has to be the use of knowledge for particular kinds of ends: good ends. Biblically speaking, wisdom, though it is categorized under intellectual attributes because it ties so closely to knowledge, is actually a moral attribute as well because wisdom makes use of knowledge for good ends, for morally good ends. Think biblically. Is there any sense when talking about wisdom, biblically, that doesn't advance the good? No way. In the Bible wisdom is using knowledge for the advancement of good ends.

You also have to talk about means. It isn't just any means. If your church has a building program going on and that is a good end to give money to, it doesn't justify going down to the bank and robbing the bank and giving all the money to the church. Though that is a good end; you gave it all to the church for the building program. The means have to be just and good as well.

God's wisdom is defined as the application of God's infinite knowledge in a manner that accomplishes his morally perfect ends by the best means possible. The words "the application of God's infinite knowledge" is an important concept in this whole discussion. Sometimes our plans falter; they prove not to be wise because we lacked relevant information which, had we known, we would have decided differently. Just think of driving, of going from point A to point B. Had I known that there was an accident on the freeway I wouldn't have gone this way. If you never lack relevant information imagine the usefulness of your knowledge in using it to devise wise strategies. Godís wisdom is the application of his infinite knowledge in a manner that accomplishes his morally perfect ends by the best means possible.

In Scripture there are clearly a couple of actions of God that are spoken of more commonly as wise or as displaying God's wisdom. They are creation and redemption. For example, in Psalm 104:24 God made all of his creation in wisdom. Proverbs 3:19 is similar. In relation to redemption, the strongest passage is 1 Corinthians 1 where Paul contrasts the work of God in the cross of Christ with what men think about it.

1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world, through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 1 Cor 1:22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 1 Cor 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 1 Cor 1:24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

As you think about it, both of these actions, creation and redemption, are huge manifestations of wisdom and power simultaneously present and realized. When you think about wisdom and power being there for creation and being there for redemption you realize how important it is that while God is all wise, without power there is no point. God ends up being a rather pathetic brilliant sage. Wisdom without power is pathetic. Power, unleashed, irresistible, unthwartable power lacking wisdom is fearful. It is absolutely frightening, sort of like an omnipotent Satan. We probably wouldn't live, but if we did we would live in never ending fear of what could happen, of what he might do, of what horrible thing he is devising. The beauty is that creation and redemption show these in such clear manifest ways. We have a God who is infinitely wise. It is a moral quality. His morally good or perfect ends are accomplished by the best means to do them, and he has all of the power to do them, so he is never thwarted in his purposes to accomplish what he chooses to do.

c. Truth

God is truth. A definition involves two aspects as you think of God as truth. One is that God knows all things as they are. In other words, he knows the truth about everything. He knows the truth about you and about me. He is never deceived; he is never fooled by appearances. God knows the truth as it is. The second aspect is his Word in revelation is utterly reliable. God knows the truth as it is; he knows all things as they are; and his word in revelation is utterly reliable. A simple way to put this is God is the truth, and he speaks the truth. God is the truth; God is truth(1 Jn 5:20). He speaks the truth; thy word is truth (Jn 17:17).

One aspect of this is the basis of our confidence that God is faithful. Think how important the faithfulness of God is; think of his covenant keeping quality that Scripture extols. We sing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and do it with gusto; we sing it with a great deal of reassurance and confidence because God is truth. His faithfulness is founded upon the fact that he is, in himself, truth, and he speaks what is true. In fact, he cannot lie. Scripture says in two places (Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18) God cannot lie. Another way to put that is God is so perfectly truth bearing, the embodiment of truth, that he expresses his own nature. His own nature is one of truth, so he speaks from his nature. What will he speak? He will speak the truth. We never have to worry about God lying. He will always speak what is correct. God, in his grace and mercy, is working in our lives.

This then is a communicable attribute; we are to be people who are truth bearers. We contain within ourselves increasing truth. "You shall know the truth"(Jn 8:32). We should live out the expression of what that means. "And the truth shall set you free," Jesus says. Being like God is to be the freest, free from lying, free from deception, free from perversion, free from the kind of tricks and smoking mirror images that sin gives to us to distorts the truth. To know the truth is to be free. Sometimes I think that we Christian people just need to take God at his word that God's perspective on things is right even when we don't think so or feel like it is so. We live in a culture where feelings are huge. "Luke, keep your eyes closed, feel where you should go" (from the Star Wars movie). We live in a culture that elevates feelings about things. The problem with this is that our feelings, as well as our thoughts, are deeply affected by sin, and they are not a good guide. They are not a true guide to how you ought to live your life or decisions you ought to make. So sometimes we just have to go with what God says. Sin can even twist and distort our ways of thinking so that we can start thinking that what God says is wrong and what we think is right. That can happen. One of the most sobering things in the book of Judges is the statement, "people did what was right in their own eyes." That is much more fearful than people doing deliberately, intentionally what is wrong in their own eyes, but they do it anyway. At least then they know it is wrong. This is worse. This is the pro-choice advocate who believes that advocating aborting fetuses is right, that working for the civil liberties of homosexuals is right. Christian people can get trapped in this same thing. We can get trapped into thinking what is in fact is wrong is right and we don't even know it. How do we guard against this? You can't trust your feelings; you have got to go with God's word. You have to. Be people of the Book. Be people who meditate and who read. Before God, acknowledge your own propensity to read right and wrong from our experiences and our feelings and say, "God deliver me, God help me to see the truth as it is, help me to see it and obey it." Because in knowing the truth that is where freedom is.

2. Moral Attributes

There are two broad categories in the moral nature of God. The first I think the best name to use for this category is "goodness." The other one is "holiness." It looks to me that there are moral attributes of God that are best seen as fitting in these two broad categories. These are not conflicting categories. This is not Ying and Yang or black and white. These are categories that are mutually reinforcing. The easiest way to see that, for example, is that to live holy is to experience the good. Or to put it differently, true goodness is found in the living out of holiness. So these are not contradictory categories by any means, but they do have different emphases and within them certain attributes that attach in each of these.

a. Goodness

Goodness can be understood as the intrinsic disposition of God by which he seeks to show kindness and want the well-being of others. It is an intrinsic disposition. Nobody has to stand there over God and say, "Now, you be good." We have to do that with one another; parents with kids certainly have to do that in a variety of different ways because of our sinful natures. Nobody has to make God be good. He is intrinsically good. Another way to think of it is there is no goodness other than God's. Whatever else is good in this world is good by virtue of its derivation of God's goodness. We have derivative goodness; God has intrinsic goodness. There is a huge difference. The only goodness there is, is God's goodness. If we share in it, it is because God has shared it with us. We have derivative goodness and he has intrinsic goodness. This intrinsic goodness is a goodness that seeks the well-being of others. It is intrinsically inclined toward their welfare. So God is good.

Now think of God prior to creation, can you still speak of God as a good being, a solitary monotheistic being? There is no world there. Within the trinity there is goodness expressed. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in this social relationship in which goodness is expressed. There is an intrinsic disposition to show kindness to another, Father to Son to Holy Spirit in this joyous Trinitarian social relationship. But when God creates, he creates a world and his own nature is one that inclines him toward goodness.

Ps 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.

God is good and he gives good to others. In the context of Psalm 119 you can guess what the good gift is that he gives to others. Psalm 119 is about God's word that he gives as an expression of his goodness to others. His Law, the Law of the LORD is good.

A parallel text, one that I have thought of many, many times is when Moses summarizes the moral commandments to the people of Israel before they enter the promised land and he comes to his summation in Deuteronomy 10

Deut 10:12 Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and love him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, Deut 10:13 and to keep the Lord's commandments and his statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

If we could help our children grow up with constant reminders that the ways of the Lord are for their good it would help battle what the world is constantly telling them, that some kind of ungodly sinful behavior is good for them. Temptation works precisely because the woman looked at the tree and it was good for food, it was a delight to the eyes and it would make one wise. This is how temptation works. It presents a false claim with glitter and balloons and banners and tinsel and candy coating. It says, "Here is good." But it will kill you. God presents good, and it is the real thing. It is the genuine article.

Ps 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever.

God is not bashful about making it clear. You come to me and you get good; you go anywhere else and you make your broken cisterns. (Jeremiah 2)

Jer 2:13 For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

What is the key to understanding the anthropology, the psychology of why people would leave a fountain of living water for dry broken cisterns? (Remember, this is Israel; it is dry, barren, not much water, itís hard to come by, a rare commodity; water is precious stuff.) The key to that passage that explains this behavior, that explains your behavior and mine every time we succumb to temptation is in the words, "To hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water." I did it my way. This is the theme song of Hell. It is the epitome of sin; I did my way. So God wants us know that good is found in him. If we could learn that, how we would resist temptation. If any of you men are struggling with pornography, until you are convinced that walking a life of purity, living life before God, pursuing him and his holiness, until you are convinced that is the surpassing value (to use the language of Philippians 3) you will go back to that website, you will find that magazine and you won't break it because, in you soul, you are convinced that is where good is. This is the only way to break it. Pardon the little sermonette here, but it is true.

Thomas Chalmers, the Scottish minister, preached in the 17th and 18th centuries. He preached hundreds of sermons. He was a politician turned preacher, turned pastor. The one sermon he most known for is a sermon entitled "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." The point of the sermon is very simple; if you want to remove worldliness, remove sinfulness from a person, it won't do to simply try to push it out. He says this is what we do most often by telling ourself how bad this is. Committing adultery would be a horrible thing this to my marriage, my family, my ministry; it would just ruin me. It is not wrong to think those things; it helps, but it won't do it. If you have eyes for a woman who is not your wife, those things you will begin to rationalize very quickly. You will figure there are ways to get away with this without incurring the consequences. You will talk yourself into doing it anyway. So trying to remove this temptation by focusing on the negative things won't work. So he suggests the expulsive power, what pushes this out, is a new affection which is greater, more potent, and weightier, so it drives out the old affection because of the greater value that now you attach to the new affection. An analogy would be if you have a glass of water, you can empty it a variety of different ways. You can siphon the water out; you can drink it; you can pour it out. In all these ways, you leave a glass empty. Glasses don't mind being empty. We have glasses in our cupboard that have never been used in our 23 plus years of marriage and I have never heard a complaint. I've never walked by this cabinet in the dinning room and heard, "fill me, fill me," from these glasses. These glasses don't mind being empty, but people do; people mind it very much. So you push pornography out of your life saying, "I'm not going to do that anymore, not going to go there." So you have this resolve that you are not going to do that. If you leave yourself empty, you will want to be filled. You are not a glass. You cry out I want to be filled. So you have to be filled. There is another way to empty water out of a glass: by filling it with something weightier, let's say liquid mercury. You pour liquid mercury into a glass of water, as the mercury rises and fills the glass the water is expelled; the expulsive power of a new affection. So fill yourself with something weightier, namely God, his word, Christ, his beauty. Fill your life with him, and the crude has no place anymore. This is how it works. Try it the other way, and you will be working at this your entire life; it will never end.

All of this is to say God is good. We have to believe this. I am absolutely convinced that people who do not believe the fundamental goodness of God will never really truly obey him. We have this instinct, a God given instinct, a drive to go for what is good. God says, ìCome, taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8). He is like a vender at a grocery store that has all their stuff out there, saying, ìTry this!î Come and taste and see that the Lord is good. He is not embarrassed for you to know that if you go to him you will find goodness. He wants you to know this. If you are not convinced of it you will go somewhere else that you think goodness can be found. You will because it is your nature to want to have goodness, hence the appeal. Taste and see that the Lord is good. In that appeal God assumes something about you which is the basis for the appeal. The assumption is that you ''want'' good, you ''want'' blessing. Otherwise, what is the point?

Ps 34:8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

If God doesn't assume we want blessing, what is the point of the appeal? The fact is we do; we do want blessing. We want goodness; we want fulfillment; we want satisfaction. Why do we want all of those things? Because God made us with this inner drive to want those things because he wanted to be the one who would satisfy them. As they are satisfied then we give thanks and glory to God. God is glorified most in us because we have been satisfied so deeply in him. We boast about that which fills us. We boast about things which satisfy us. Be satisfied in God and worship happens.

God wants us to know he is good. There is hardly anything more pastorally relevant for your life and for your people than for you and they and I to become increasingly convinced there is one place to find goodness, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure (Ps 16:11 In my presence there is fullness of joy, at my right hand there are pleasures forever more). There is only one place that collection of good things is found: in him. Let's not be deceived in going after other things.

Goodness is a quality found in God Himself. 1 Peter 2:3 speaks of the kindness of the Lord that makes us eager to want more of him.

1 Pet 2:3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Romans 2:4 is an important verse because it speaks of the kindness and the severity of God. We dare not think that goodness stands on its own apart from holiness and the attributes that are attached to it.

Rom 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Rom 11:22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

There are three different biblical terms, biblical attributes of God which are expressions of his goodness. They are not identical. The three are love, grace and mercy. These are very prominent conceptions that have to do with the expression of God's intrinsic disposition to show kindness, favor, and well-being to others.

1. Love

I talked about this briefly when we talked about the self sufficiency and the love of God. I will give a short review of what was said there. There are two main terms for the love of God in Scripture. In the Old Testament, the term is ''hesed.'' The term ''hesed'' contains two concepts together. One is loyalty, covenant faithfulness, and promise keeping. The love of God most vibrantly, lavishly manifested is a love which is loyal, faithful, and true. The other element is kindness, well-being, and enhancing one's good. Putting the two together ''hesed'' communicates God's commitment to bring good to others. It is his commitment, his loyalty in bestowing favor, kindness, well being. It is translated variously and this is one of the places I wish the New American Standard did not have such a lousy translation. ''Hesed'' is translated in the NASB as loving kindness. A better translation is in the ESV. It says steadfast love. Loyal love would also be a good translation. Loyal love, covenant keeping love, steadfast love is the ''hesed'' of God. To see how your translation translates it, look at Psalm 106 in verse one.

Ps 106:1 Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his lovingkindness is everlasting.

In Psalm 136 you see it used in the refrain all the way through the Psalm.

Ps 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his lovingkindness is everlasting. Ps 136:2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.

The New Testament word for God's love is ''agape''. It refers to an unconditional nature of God's love, not a ìbecause ofî love; because you are smart, because you are handsome, because you are gifted, because you are rich, because of anything. It is rather an ìin spite ofî love. While we were enemies God loved us and gave his Son to die for us.

1 Jn 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The love of God in this broad sense is his unconditional loyal commitment to bring about good to others.

I want to recommend to you the book that Don Carson wrote, ''The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God''. I am so glad somebody who is capable of doing that and certainly Don Carson is, wrote this book because I have taught on this for years and I have never been able to refer people to something that articulated this and he does it so well. Carson shows that the love of God in the Bible is complex not simple. It doesn't just mean the universal favor and desire of well-being that God has for all people everywhere. It does mean that in some instances. I think John 3:16 is a very likely candidate for that understanding.

Jn 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

God so loved the world, I don't think that can rightly be limited or restricted to a portion of humanity. I think that ought to be understood as the whole, entire human race; everyone who has lived or ever will live. God loved the world. Here is the universal love of God for all people.

Many Christian people make this mistake that Don Carson talks about in this book. That is, the mistake of thinking that this is the love of God period. This is all there is in the Bible teaching about God's love; it universal and impartial; it is freely bestowed on all people equally. If you want to be true to Scripture you can't hold to that view. Let me give you some examples of the love of God that is particular, not universal. It is a love whose particularity is up to God. We cannot say that, "He can't love them because they refused it; they rejected it. He is trying; he wants to love them; he is out there seeking to love them." It won't work in these passages. They speak of a love of God that is particular, and the particularity is owing to God's decision. One clear example of this is Romans 9:13. People who hold to the universal view of God's love honestly don't know what they are doing. I suppose they wish this verse weren't in the Bible. But it is and if we are going to be true to the Word of God then we canít ignore it. This is not an isolated case; I am giving it to you right now as a clear cut example of this other category.

Rom 9:10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; Rom 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to his choice would stand, not because of works but because of him who calls, Rom 9:12 it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." Rom 9:13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Romans 9:13 is quote from Malachi 1:3. Even if you take this passage in the most kindness, gentleness way possible you have to conclude there is a discrimination. Even if you translated it, ìJacob have I loved, but Esau I have loved less,î (which is a far cry from hated, but is a good translation because it aptly reflects what God said to Esau in Malachi 1:3), you must see that there is a discrimination. It is sort of like I say to my daughter, "Bethany I love you and to the neighbor kids down the street I love them, too." I do, but don't. I love Bethany my daughter differently than I do the neighbor kids down the street? You bet I do. I am paying for her college; I am not paying for theirs. To make it more vivid, I say to my wife, "Jodi, I love you." Are we not called to love everyone? What If I said to Jodi, "I love you just the same way I love all women." How do you think this is going to go over with my wife? We do discriminate in love. Here this is discrimination. However the contrast is not love and love less; it is love and hate. Look in Romans 9:11 so that you can see the particularity of the love owing to what God decides.

Rom 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to his choice would stand, not because of works but because of him who calls,

Isn't he laboring the point that this is not because Jacob was such a great guy and Esau was a jerk? No it will not work, for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, it was God's choice. So that God's purpose according to his choice would stand, it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." So God chooses to violate the law of prima genitor, the favoritism shown to the eldest born. He can because he is God. He wants to choose the younger; he will choose the younger.

I really think that one of the most important steps Christian people have to come to in their pilgrimage, in their growth in life is realizing that part of what God uses to define himself as God is, ìI decide not you. I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion; I will show mercy on whom I show mercy. Part of what constitutes the very deity of God is that he decides. Here is a vivid point. Before the two were born, before ether had done anything good or bad, God chooses. ìI decide, I say, ëJacob, you are the younger, you are going to be treated as the older. Esau you are the older one, you are going to be treated as the younger.í I am going to love Jacob and I am not going to love Esau.î

Anything I am going to teach you which you believe is not in accordance with the teaching of the word of God 1) don't believe it, and 2) you have every right to challenge the teaching. You have every right before God to believe what you are convinced Scripture teaches. I just want you to know that I am someone standing before you who is very much aware of my mandate to endeavor before God to be faithful to his word. I can fail at that. If I fail, call me on it. I am not interested in perpetuating human ideas because they are more cozy or comfy. Nor am I interested, on the other hand, in making up a bunch of stuff that is uncomfortable because we ought to feel uncomfortable. I am not interested in either one of those things. I want, by God's grace, to be faithful to his Word. This means, for most of us, we are going to have to make adjustments on how we think about a lot of things if we really do settle on accepting what Scripture teaches. This is one of those areas where it is a whole lot easier to just say God loved everyone and what that means is it is always the same, it is impartial; it is universal. He never shows favorites; the only reason that anyone doesn't receive the love of God is because they reject it. That plays well. People like hearing that. But is that faithful to the Word? My answer is no it is not. It may be faithful to this text or that text, but it is not faithful to all of the Word of God.

Mal 1:1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. Mal 1:2a "I have loved you," says the Lord. But you say, "How have you loved us?"

This is how the book of Malachi is organized: It is organized with these challenges from the people that God answers. So here the first challenge is, you claim you loved us, how have you loved us?

Mal 1:2 "I have loved you," says the Lord. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the Lord. "Yet I have loved Jacob; Mal 1:3a but I have hated Esau,

Do you see that this sense of the love of God is meaningless without the particularity? If you make the love of God equal to Jacob and Esau it doesn't just change the conception; it totally eliminates the conception of love in this text. Because God defines love in this passage not in terms of what he has done for him but what he has chosen not to do or chosen to do negatively toward his brother Esau. So he has given Jacob a favored status against his brother Esau and in this is his love, in this the particularity.

Mal 1:2b "How have you loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the Lord. "Yet I have loved Jacob; Mal 1:3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness."

How much has God despised Esau? Enough so that his entire inheritance will not stand; it will be destroyed.

Mal 1:4 Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the Lord of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever."

So they ask, "God how have you loved us?" And the reply is, "I have hated your brother. And in contrast look at you - favored, blessed, called, chosen."

The point of this is to say that the love of God, in some passages, has to do primarily with the love of God for his own, for his chosen; it is a love that is particular. It is a love that chooses to lavish upon them enormous blessing and chooses not to give that blessing to others, or worse chooses to bring them to destruction.

Isaiah 43 is a passage that is often times read, but a portion of it is skipped over because it isn't pleasant. But the first part of it and other parts are wonderfully comforting.

Is 43:1 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and he who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine! Is 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. Is 43:3a "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

This is normally where you quit reading or skip down to the next part. But look what comes next.

Is 43:3b "I have given Egypt as your ransom,

That is a reference to the Exodus.

Is 43:3b "I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place Is 43:4 "Since you are precious in my sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

He is saying, ìWhen I saved you, I showed my loved to you, what did I do to the Egyptians? I brought them to total ruin, didn't I? And in that did I not show you that you were precious in my sight, that I honored you, that I loved you and look what I did to the Egyptians. I opened up the Red Sea for you to cross through on dry ground, and every one of you made it. You get to the other side, the Egyptian army is coming after you, and they will kill you if they get to you, so what do I do? I bring the waters back over them. Their chariot wheels began to act in unusual ways, they can't drive them straight they are unable to get from the middle of that Red Sea as the waters come back upon them and every single Egyptian soldier dies. I have given Egypt in your place Israel."

I appeal to you to think hard about this, this is the love of God.

When you have this in mind think of Ephesians 1, for example, verses 3 and following.

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Eph 1:4 just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him. In love Eph 1:5 he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the kind intention of his will, Eph 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Do you realize the predestination verses (5 and 6) are bracketed with love? ìIn love he predestined us .... in the Beloved.î Now maybe the phrase ìin loveî goes with the previous statement of election; it could be; it is hard to know. Conceptually you could have elected in love, and predestined in the Beloved. But the point is this: this is love for his own. He chose some, not others. You try to make this into universal love, and it is like me saying to Jodi, "I love all the women in the world the same way." It means nothing then when I say, "Jodi, I love you." If you turn that statement of a husband to a wife into a universal impartial love for all people equally then it means nothing. God tells you if you are his child, "I love you." Do you know what that means? It means he chose to love you and chose not to love others. This is what Scripture teaches.