What Love Is This?
The simplicity of God is a doctrine that provides a rather useful fence. The perfections of God are, of course, worthy of our excitement. Their infinity is, of course, staggering. But the simplicity of God is that place where these infinite perfections show themselves to be one where the glorious colors come together in a blinding white. Whatever else we delightfully affirm about God, we must affirm that He is one.
It is the very point of the doctrine of simplicity, however, that we don’t diminish one attribute when we remember another. We have misunderstood simplicity if, as we wax rhapsodic over the love of God, we throw a wet blanket over the party by remembering, “Well, He is also a God of wrath, after all.” The wrath of God doesn’t restrain the love of God, nor does the love of God restrain His wrath. Rather, in a profound way, they are one and the same thing.
There are some fairly obvious ways that we see this. In Psalm 2 we see the wrath of God coming for a specific reason, because the kings of the earth will not kiss the Son. The love of the Son is what provokes the wrath of the Father. We see much the same thing on the road to Damascus, as Jesus accuses Saul, “Why dost thou persecute Me?” Christ’s loving union with the Bride brings wrath on Saul. And in turn, that wrath brings forth love as Saul becomes Paul, a part of the Bride.
Love is universally loved. We who belong to the King rightly celebrate His love for us. But those outside the camp do not stay outside the camp because of a self-conscious rejection of love. Those who think the lost are lost because they have trouble accepting love have been accepting too many foolish bromides from pop psychologists. The very creatures that the lost create, in their rejection of the Creator, are characterized by love. One can safely finish the idolater’s sentence, when he begins, “Well, my god is a god of … .” It’s love, every time. Have you ever heard someone object, when we tell them to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, “Well, I’m repulsed by your God that forgives the repentant. My god is a god of raging, irrational fury.” No. Everyone loves love.
But while love is not diminished by wrath, a love that excludes wrath is not a biblical love. The love clamored for by the lost is a wrathless love. But the love they crave is just unknown. While there is, rightly understood, a universal love of God that includes even those who will be damned, this love is a simple love, one that includes all that God is. There is no wrathless love that comes from God.
The Bible tells us that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. We find there what some theologians call “common grace.” God acts kindly to all men living. We all need to remember this. When we, or others, in trying to describe their particular anguish describe their situation as “a living hell,” they do not understand the patient love of God. Any suffering experienced on this earth, save for the passion of Christ, is a suffering mitigated by His love, a suffering that is less severe than what is due, a suffering less severe than hell. But even the most wicked among us do not live their earthly lives exclusively in agony. Some unbelieving mothers genuinely rejoice when blessed with a child. Sometimes unbelievers win the Super Bowl and are genuinely happy about it. Even the heathen in the remotest, most desolate part of the world sometimes sit down to a favorite meal and feel real joy in eating it. Common love is common, love, and real.
Common love, or the universal love of God, however, cannot be separated from common wrath. Because God is one, a simple being, you cannot wrap your arms around His love and miss the wrath. The Lord our God, the Lord is One. For the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness, including the unrighteousness of ingratitude. The common love of God is connected with the common wrath of God right here, where Paul tells us of all natural men, “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him …” (Rom. 1:21a). Though the lost will receive the loving gifts of God, they will neither honor Him nor thank Him, and so they will earn His eternal wrath.
God’s love is not only inseparable from His wrath, but it is equally bound together with His sovereignty. That is, when God sends the rain to the unjust, He does so knowing that the unjust will not honor Him. But this doesn’t frustrate God. First, He planned it that way. And second, He planned it that way because of one more connection between love and wrath — God loves His wrath. He delights to manifest the infinite perfection of His wrath just as much as His love, because they are one thing.
This, in turn, must inform how we look at the world around us. The problem with the broader culture, that place where they love love, isn’t that they’ve embraced part of the truth, and that our job as sound Christians is to teach them the hard parts. Rather we have to understand that the love they love is no more love than the god they worship is God. They are wrong on all counts. And unless they embrace the true and living God, the God of love that is wrath, of wrath that is love, of both that are manifest sovereignly, they will perish. Biblical love requires that we tell the world that their love of their love will earn them only His wrath.