Does God love the wicked the same way He loves the elect?

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When the Bible says, “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), it doesn’t say that He loved everybody in the world equally. This text is pointing to the world, the generic cosmos. God loved this fallen world enough to send His only begotten Son into this world to save believers. It doesn’t say that He sent His Son into the world to save everybody in the world, but rather to save those who would put their faith in Him.

In theology, we distinguish among three different kinds of God’s love. First of all, there is the benevolent love of God. God’s goodwill is bene-volence. That is, His goodwill which He gives to the whole world.

Second, there is common grace, where God is kind to all sinners in the world to some degree. Related to this is the will of beneficence, which describes His good actions. God pours out His goodness upon all mankind. The sun falls on the unjust as well as upon the just.

There is a third type of love that we call the love of complacency. Here, the theological term complacency is not referring to an attitude of “being at ease in Zion,” or the way we speak about being “complacent.” Rather, it describes the special love that He has for His Son and those who are in His Son; that is, those who are adopted into His heavenly family. They are the redeemed or the saved. The result is a special love that God has for His redeemed that He does not have for the wicked, which the Bible speaks to when it describes God as abhorring the evildoer.

This is a transcript of R.C. Sproul’s answer given during our 2015 Pilgrims in Progress Regional Conference, and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.