Whole Counsel Theology

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Does God REALLY love people more than ANYTHING?

Point of Grace came out with this song of yesteryear a while back called "God Loves People More Than Anything." It's a beautiful arrangement, containing excellent harmonies and has a catchy tune. In fact, the song is difficult to get out of your head once you hear it, even if it is for the first time in a long time. :)

Recently I heard a duet of this song. It sounded great, both men being incredibly talented vocalists. Their performance was met with applause, and then I heard a speaker who followed it say, "It's true. God does love people more than anything," thus adding affirmation to the song that was just sung.

There is only one problem with this picture, and when I say this, I am not accusing anyone of trying to deceive anybody. However, this fact remains:

The song AND the statement are NOT TRUE. To say that God loves people more than anything is a falsehood.

This might come as a shock to some people, but the truth of the statement remains. God does NOT love people more than anything. God is not man-centered; He is God centered, as we ought to be.

How can I make this statement? Well, without the Bible teaching this, I'd be up a creek without a paddle, so to speak. However, God makes it abundantly clear in His Word that in everything, including the salvation of souls, His goal is the Glory of His Name, the magnification of the wonders of His grace. Let's look at the Scriptures then a bit. Everything I quote below is from the ESV, and any bolding added is my own emphasis and not in the text.
Ezekiel 36:19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. (20) But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, 'These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.' (21) But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. (22) "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. (23) And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (24) I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. (25) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (26) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (28) You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (29) And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. (30) I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. (31) Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. (32) It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

Often this passage is cited by people who wish to speak of God's work in the New Covenant, in that He gives us a new heart, and rightly so. God's Spirit comes into those who are in the New Covenant, those who are believers in Christ. We have new hearts, hearts that obey God (v26). Of course, those same people often don't like to quote verse 27 in their proclamation of this truth, the verse that indicates God causes those who receive the Spirit of God and the new heart He provides to obey Him. The reason people obey God is because He causes them to do so, which is in total agreement with Philippians 2:12-13. "Free will" theists run into problems here, but I'll address this more in future posts (when I get around to completing my series on "free will").

The thing I wanted to highlight the most from these verses was the reason God chose to rescue His people. What it for their sakes? Was it because they were returning to Him? Was it because He valued them more than anything?

The answer to all of the above questions is a resounding NO. God goes out of His way to tell the people that they had PROFANED His Name (just as we have) and the He is saving them because of His concern for HIS NAME. God's Name was at stake, and these people had profaned it, insulted it. God was going to work because He was not going to allow His Name to be profaned any longer, and there is NO other reason given here. The repetition of this theme throughout this passage should make it very clear, not to mention the fact that in verse 32 God flat out states that it is NOT for their sake that He would act, and that the people should be ASHAMED of themselves. Would this act be God showing love to them? Most certainly it would be, but the motivation behind it has nothing to do with them and EVERYTHING to do with God's Name.

No, God does NOT love people more than anything. He loves His NAME more than anything. Other Scriptures make this just as clear:
Isaiah 48:9 "For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. (10) Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. (11) For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another."

This should look familiar. Again we see the reason God acts and restrains His anger against His people. In fact, in verse eight, God says that He knew they would surely act treacherously and that even before they were born they were rebels. So then, God would have been completely just to destroy them all, just as He would be right to burn this entire planet up and consume everyone in an instant because of our sin. However, He does not do this -- why? Why does He defer His anger?

Isaiah, like Ezekiel, tells us that God acts for the sake of His NAME. He desires praise; He wants His Name to be made known and honored. This idea is repeated TWICE more in verse eleven, driving the point home forcefully. The thought of God's Name being profaned is, well, unthinkable. It cannot happen.

This is exactly why the Doctrine of Particular Redemption is so important in this area. Jesus HAS REDEEMED a people at the cross. God WILL bring all of those people (the elect) to salvation, and what is the ultimate reason for it? God has purchased them, satisfied His wrath against them, and has promised them to His Son. God will NOT go back on His Word and thus profane His Name. It will NOT happen. All of the elect, whether it is early or late in their lives, will indeed come to Christ (John 6:37). It is certain.

With that, I move to the final set of Scriptures:
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,(4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (12) so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (13) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

There is a repeating theme throughout this passage, and I have bolded it above in verses six, twelve, and fourteen. The whole work of salvation, from election to adoption to redemption to sealing is a work of God for the purpose of magnifying God's glory. The love of God is clearly portrayed; however, the purpose of it isn't the love of the people, ultimately; it is the glory of God.

May God use His Word to correct our theology and practice.

For the Name of Jesus,
David B. Hewitt


  • I've been asked if "anything" in this song means "anything at all" or perhaps just anything in this world. I think that is a fair question, but at the same time, for those who would disagree (and I mean no disrespect):

    Doesn't anything ALWAYS mean "anything"?

    ..kinda like "all" would always mean "all"?

    If we emply context on the one and not the other, we fail to be consistent.


    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, October 26, 2006 9:52:00 PM  

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