The Love of God



Taken from Mark Jones Chapter 6 Antinomianism.

Thank You for allowing me to post this Mark Jones.  Get this book.  It is so important for our generation to understand these things.  Especially when we have been called legalistic or other vile things tagged to us for loving the Law of God as it is to be understood.






A PARTICULARLY COMPLICATED and emotionally charged aspect of the seventeenth-century debate over antinomianism concerned God’s love for his people. The issue may be stated rather sharply: does God love all of his people identically, or with the same intensity? Reformed and antinomian theologians agree that God does not love all mankind in the same way, otherwise election, predestination, and Christ’s works of impetration would make little sense. The precise issue in view is whether the elect are all loved equally. In other words, does God love us more because of our obedience or less because of our disobedience? During the antinomian controversy in New England, it was considered unsafe to say, “If I be holy, I am never the better accepted by God; if I be unholy, I am never the worse.”(234)  This statement shows that the debate over antinomianism was not simply about whether the moral law should be kept or not. While that particular issue was debated, various related issues also arose, such as whether the holiness of the saints has any influence on God’s love for them.(235) Another related issue was whether God is pleased or displeased with his saints when they obey or disobey his law. How does God’s pleasure or displeasure relate, then, to his love for his people?


The answer to these questions depends on a correct understanding of God’s attributes and affections, as well as—and this is an area that has not received enough attention among theologians—the fact that our relationship to God is in and through Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man in one person. The antinomian view that God sees no sin in the elect means that God could not possibly love his people more or less based on their obedience or disobedience; nor is he displeased with the elect at any time in their life, even before they become believers! But by and large, from the time of the Reformation, Reformed theologians have resisted this type of thinking, and thus have held to the position that in one sense God and Christ love their people equally, and in another sense differently, and thus can be pleased or displeased with the saints.




The idea that God does not see any sin in the justified was a hallmark of antinomian thinking in England during the seventeenth century, especially in the 1630s and 1640s. According to Como, this assertion “was the central pillar in the doctrinal monolith of imputative antinomianism.”(236) The antinomian theologian John Eaton explains this doctrine from his “imputative” perspective by arguing that Christ’s righteousness clothes believers in such a way that the weaknesses in their faith and sanctification are “covered and utterly abolished from before God.”(237) Eaton adds that Christ’s imputed righteousness means that believers stand “perfectly holy and righteous from all spot of sin in the sight of God freely.”(238) There was no shortage of responses to this view from orthodox Reformed theologians. Not only the polemical Rutherford, but the irenic Sibbes, wrote against this error.(239) The issue is not whether, in justification, God declares us to be as righteous as his own Son. The imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ, affirmed by almost all Reformed Puritan divines, and, of course, by antinomian theologians, was not debated between them. Rather, the conclusions drawn from this doctrine by antinomian theologians caused a firestorm of debate. For example, because of his view that God sees no sin in the elect, John Saltmarsh reasoned that no sin “can make God who loves forever and unchangeably, love us less.”(240) Again, the problem was not that this statement was completely untrue. But such comments were unguarded and failed to account for the whole truth, which explains why Reformed theologians took issue with the antinomians. In order to formulate a biblically compelling account of how God’s love for his people is both the same and different, the nature of his love must be clarified.


There are different ways of understanding God’s love. In the first place, one must distinguish between the intra-Trinitarian love of God and the love God has for his creatures in relation to the affections of his ad extra will. God’s intra-Trinitarian (i.e., ad intra) love is eternal and therefore natural (amor naturalis). For this reason, this love is necessary. However, the love of God in relation to his creatures is not necessary, but rather voluntary (amor voluntarius). Among Reformed theologians, the voluntary love of God has received the most attention. According to this outward, voluntary love, there is a threefold distinction: (1) God’s universal love for all things, (2) God’s love for all human beings, both elect and reprobate, and (3) God’s special love for his people.(241) This third aspect of God’s love—for the elect—“belongs to the category of affection, arising inwardly and extending outward, and is not to be understood as a passion, arising because of some outward good that it apprehends and desires.”(242)


God’s voluntary love, understood as an affection, has three major components. Reformed divines have not always expressed these distinctions in the same way; but the following three categories relate to God’s love for the elect: (1) God’s love of benevolence (amor benevolentiae), understood in terms of God’s election and predestination, (2) God’s love of beneficence (amor beneficentiae), whereby he wills to redeem his people,(243) and (3) God’s love of delight or friendship (amor complacentiae vel amicitiae), whereby he rewards his people according to their holiness.(244) Staying consistent with their view that God sees no sin in the elect, the antinomians denied this distinction.(245) Rutherford responded to the antinomian denial of a distinction between God’s amor benevolentiae and his amor complacentiae by arguing that “it has an evident ground in Scripture.”(246) The antinomians’ denial of God’s complacent love is “without ground.”(247) After providing a thorough explanation of this twofold love of God, Rutherford says that the idea that when a justified person “whores, swears, kills the innocent, denies the Lord Jesus, as did Peter, and David, God loves us as much as when they believe, pray, . . . and God is not a whit displeased with the Saints, . . . is to us abominable.”(248) Incidentally, John Gill (1697–1771) rejected this distinction as fiercely as Rutherford affirmed it,(249) though one may question whether Gill accurately understood how orthodox Reformed theologians used it—which is not entirely uncommon in Gill’s interpretation of the Reformed tradition.(250) Gill’s hyper-Calvinism and avowal of justification from eternity certainly contributed to his distaste for this doctrine. This also shows how similar antinomian theology is to hyper-Calvinism. In the end, the distinction between God’s benevolent love and his complacent love has a rich Reformed pedigree.(251)


Regarding God’s love of delight or friendship, Benedict Pictet (1655–1724) argues that this is the love whereby God rewards us for being holy (John 14:21).(252) Besides Pictet, literally dozens of highly regarded Reformed theologians from the Reformation and post-Reformation period made use of this distinction. For example, Melchior Leydekker (1642–1721), a prominent Reformed theologian and professor of theology at Utrecht from 1678 to 1721, also distinguishes between God’s benevolent love and his complacent love:


God’s love is either of benevolence or of complacency. The first is the love by which God shall do well to the elect, before there is anything in them that could give Him complacency, John 3:16, Rom. 5:8. And therefore, it can be regarded either as predetermining in God’s decrees, or as actually effecting in time. The second, the love of complacency, is the case where God approves the good which is in the elect, especially as being commanded by him and caused, Heb. 11:5–6; John 14:21; 16:26–27.(253)


God’s benevolent love is logically prior to his complacent love. It could hardly be otherwise, because God’s love of benevolence is the fountain of election and all blessings the elect receive. The love of complacency delights in the good that is in his elect—but that good is only there because of his benevolent love.


A clear statement of God’s complacent love comes from Stephen Charnock. He speaks about the implications of believers being more holy, and argues that the more we are like God, the more love we shall have from him. He writes:


If God loves holiness in a lower measure, much more will he love it in a higher degree, because then his image is more illustrious and beautiful, and comes nearer to the lively lineaments of his own infinite purity . . . (John xiv 21). . . . He loves a holy man for some resemblance to him in his nature; but when there is an abounding in sanctified dispositions suitable to it, there is an increase of favor; the more we resemble the original, the more shall we enjoy the blessedness of that original: as any partake more of the Divine likeness, they partake more of the Divine happiness.(254)


Charnock is not merely arguing that God’s “increased love” is subjective from our perspective. Rather, he argues that God in fact loves in “higher degrees.” In other words, God cannot help but love us more and more if we become more and more like him. Christians will receive “an increase of favor,” the more we become like Christ. This view is by far the majority position among Reformed divines from the time of the Reformation onward, but today it is hardly ever discussed or preached on in Reformed circles.


In discussing the doctrine of justification, Francis Turretin notes the language of John 14:23, where Christ promises the love of the Father to those who love Christ, “not affectively and as to its beginning (as if the love of the Father then begins, since he loved us before, 1 John 4:10), but effectively and as to continuance and increase because he will prove his love by distinguished blessings and console them by a new manifestation of himself” (emphasis added).2(55) The threefold distinction in God’s love for his people means that justice can be done not only to texts that speak of God’s election of his people (Eph. 1:4–5) and his justifying acts (Rom. 4:5), but also to texts that speak of love in the context of ongoing communion with God and Christ (John 14:21–23; John 15:10; Jude 21).


God’s love of benevolence is the ground for his love of complacency. Furthermore, God’s love for us must be in Christ. The twofold love of benevolence and complacency is only possible in Christ and our threefold union with the Mediator.(256) God’s unconditional love is called his amor benevolentiae; his conditional love is called his amor complacentiae. Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803) addresses this point by noting that God’s benevolent love necessarily includes his complacent love. “Therefore,” says Hopkins, “a complacency and delight in holiness, or moral excellence, is always implied in holiness. God is therefore represented in the Scriptures as delighting and taking pleasure in the upright, in them that fear him and are truly holy, and delighting in the exercise of loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness.”(257) With this in mind, Hopkins makes plain that amor complacentiae is not the chief or primary part of God’s love, “for holiness must exist as the object of complacency, in order to the existence of the latter.”(258) Christians are surely correct, then, to emphasize and glory in God’s unconditional, eternal, infinite love of his people. But we are surely correct also to understand that God’s complacent love for us has a direct correlation to our godliness. This principle is nowhere more evident than in the person of Jesus Christ.




The love of God for the elect cannot be properly understood except in relation to Jesus Christ. As noted in the introduction, antinomian theologians do not have a robust Christology. God’s people cannot relate to him apart from a Mediator. His love for us and our love for God pass through the Son, so that if we love God, we must necessarily love his Son, and if God loves our Mediator, he must necessarily love us. Axiomatic to any understanding of God’s love for his people is the fact that the Son, as the eternally begotten of the Father, is, according to John Owen, the “first, necessary, adequate, complete object of the whole love of the Father.”(259) Owen adds that in the Son was the “ineffable, eternal, unchangeable delight and complacency of the Father, as the full object of his love.”(260) On this point there can be no dispute. But there is more to say about God’s love for his Son.


As the God-man, seated in glory, Christ is still the “peculiar object of the love of the Father.”(261) The person of Christ, in his divine nature, is necessarily loved by the Father (i.e., ad intra love). However, the love that the Father has for Christ, “as clothed with human nature, is the first and full object of the love of the Father in those acts of it which are ‘ad extra,’ or are towards anything without himself” (Isa. 42:1).(262) In relation to the church, God “loves him for us all, and us no otherwise but as in him.”(263) But there is something else to be considered that more narrowly focuses the discussion of this chapter, namely, whether God’s love for Christ is only eternal (and thus necessary) and unchangeable, or whether there is a sense in which God’s love for his Son increases in relation to Christ’s obedience. In other words, how does God’s love of complacency relate to his Son, the God-man, Jesus Christ?


In John 10:17, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” As Thomas Goodwin notes, “It is spoken in relation unto his fulfilling this . . . command formerly mentioned, so withal imports, as if God should love Christ the better for the love he should show to us” (emphasis added).(264) Then, referencing John 15:10 (“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”), Goodwin also shows how Christ was commanded by the Father to lay down his life, among other reasons, in order to remain in his Father’s love, and that Christ’s sheep are mutual pledges of love between the Father and the Son.(265) Again, this love has to do with the ad extra will of God with respect to the God-man in his role as Mediator. God delights in his Son, not only necessarily, because he is his Son, but also voluntarily, because Christ obeys the Father perfectly and this brings delight to the Father. It is little wonder, then, that Luke records how Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52, emphasis added).(266) If this was true before his baptism, how much more true was it afterward, as Christ continued in his Father’s love by obeying him, even to the point of death!


Thus, the Father has a twofold love for Christ: (1) a natural, infinite, and eternal love of his person, for he is the divine Son, and (2) the love of the God-man, in his mediatorial role, as he obeyed the Father perfectly and learned obedience as he suffered (Heb. 5:8). The former was not subject to increase, but the latter was. This point, not often emphasized when this subject is discussed, has certain implications for our understanding of God’s love for his people, which will be addressed below.


Perhaps the fact that nothing in God can be said to be subject to increase—just as there are no attributes in God, but his simple, undivided essence—because there is nothing accidental in him, explains why pastors and theologians do not often speak of God’s love increasing. Yet Scripture calls us to speak of God’s good pleasure increasing. God had a greater complacency in the completed creation than in the individual parts (i.e., “very good” versus “good” in Gen. 1). God did not change himself, but in the completion of creation there was perfection and harmony of the whole, which indicates that he was more pleased at the end of his creating activity than in the isolated parts before everything was done. God was always pleased with Christ while he ministered on earth, but there is a completeness to Christ’s work on the cross—“it is finished” (John 19:30)—that provided the basis for God’s new work of creation, whereby he could say it is “very good.”




The question whether God loves his people in different ways and degrees should never be considered apart from whether Christ loves his people in different ways and degrees. Christ is not only divine, but also human. In his human nature, Christ’s love for other humans is subject to increase. Reformed Christology maintains that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Christ’s gifts and graces (e.g., knowledge, faith, hope, love) increased from the incarnation to his heavenly enthronement and beyond. Indeed, Christ has gained greater knowledge in his human nature in heaven than he had on earth. Moreover, because he received the Holy Spirit afresh in heaven, to the greatest degree possible for a human being, Christ’s love for his people increased and did not lessen in any way.(267)


While on earth, Christ apparently did not love all people equally. His choice of disciples was a matter of election, though obviously not in a soteric way in the case of Judas. There is no doubt that Jesus loved all of his true disciples (John 13:1; 14:21; 15:9; 17:9, 12). But there was one special disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 21:7, 20). This disciple was, I believe, John. As William Hendriksen comments, this name (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”) “had been given to this one disciple, to him alone. Is it not possible that the others had bestowed this honorable title upon him when they noticed the intimate character of the fellowship between him and the Master?”(268) In his human nature, Christ desired fellowship with other human beings. Just as we experience different levels of intimacy in our relationships, it should come as no surprise to us that Christ experienced differing degrees of intimacy with his disciples. In the case of John, Christ seems to have had a special relationship. The other examples of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus also confirm this point.


Christ’s teaching in John 14:21,23 (269) confirms the point about varying degrees of communion. The distinction between God’s love of benevolence and his love of complacency enables us to understand the plain teaching of this text, so that the glorious truth of God’s unconditional love is not jettisoned for a love that is only conditional. Arminians and Roman Catholics seize upon texts like these and come to numerous unsound conclusions. But, as Turretin noted above, the love promised by the Father and Christ to those who keep Christ’s commandments refers not to God’s “affective” love (its beginning), but his “effective” love (its continuance and increase). Tullian Tchividjian’s book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, lacks the theological framework to deal with Christ’s words in John 14:21, 23 (and 15:10).(270) Tchividjian repeatedly argues that our obedience, or lack thereof, does not affect our relationship with God. His book fails to distinguish between God’s love of benevolence and his love of complacency. Moreover, he often states things as either-or, when, in fact, the doctrine in question is more both-and. This approach goes back to the seventeenth century, when antinomian theologians never quite seemed to balance the both-and concept in their theology. Of course, one hyperbolic statement here or there, to emphasize a point more strongly, should not evoke harsh criticism from readers. But his whole book is one lengthy antinomian diatribe, and it bears a striking resemblance to the content and rhetoric of various seventeenth-century antinomian writings.(271)




Christ loves his bride, and because he has a true human nature, he has real passions for his church. But because God is simple and without passions (WCF 2.1), he is, as Edward Leigh (1603–71) correctly notes, “neither pleased nor displeased.”(272) The Scriptures do, however, speak plainly of God’s pleasure and displeasure. Leigh affirms that “God by an external and constant act of his will approves obedience and the purity of the creature, and witnesses that by some sign of his favour, but abhors the iniquity and sin of the same creature, and shows the same by inflicting a punishment” (Ex. 32:10).(273) According to William Ames (1576–1633), when Scripture attributes affections, such as hatred, to God, this must be understood “either as designate acts of the will” or else they “apply to God only figuratively.”(274) Simply put, God’s anger is an expression of his ad extra will, not his essential being. But Christ’s anger may be an expression of his person, because he is a complex person (the God-man, who has two natures). Indeed, even in his exalted human nature, as evidenced by some of his remarks to the churches in Revelation (e.g., chaps. 2–3), Christ expresses anger. This constant reminder about the person of Christ cannot be relegated to the background. God reveals himself principally in the person of his Son, who is the God-man.


When discussing whether God is angry or displeased, there must be recourse not only to the attributes of God, particularly his simplicity, but also to the person of Christ. Appropriately, Christians may speak about God’s anger toward the sins of the regenerate, as well as his delight in their obedience. But in this discussion there must also be a decided focus on Christ’s truly human passions as he relates to his church, both in anger and in delight.




Since God’s ad extra will includes anger toward his creatures, he can in fact be angry at the sins of the elect. The antinomian idea that God sees no sin in the elect had, as noted above, a number of far-reaching pastoral implications, most of which were not very good. One of those was the idea that God could not be angry with the justified.(275) Hebrews 12:5–6, according to “their principles,” has in view not the godly, but ungodly persons that need to be chastised in order to be driven to Christ.(276) But orthodox Reformed theologians, such as Rutherford, insisted that God “is really angry at his own children’s sins” because he punishes them for their sins.(277) The Westminster Confession likewise makes clear that the elect can be subject to God’s fatherly displeasure. Those who are justified can never lose their justification; “yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance” (WCF 11.5).(278)


In his response to antinomianism, John Flavel deals with the view that God cannot be angry with the elect. He notes that the antinomians are led into this view in part by their fear of popery, and also by the idea that Christ’s satisfaction for our sins is inconsistent with the idea that God chastises and gets angry with his people. In response, Flavel argues that God must necessarily hate sin, even in light of Christ’s satisfaction. For the Christian, however, God loves the person. “His hatred to their sins, and love to their persons are not inconsistent.”(279) Moreover, the antinomians fail to make a crucial distinction between “vindictive punishments from God,” which are the effects of his wrath toward the non-elect, and his “paternal castigations,” which are the “pure issues of the care and love of a displeased Father.”(280)


The differences between the two types of punishments are far-reaching: one is legal, the other evangelical; one is out of wrath and hatred, the other out of love; one leads to destruction, the other leads to sanctification and salvation. Not content with these qualifications, Flavel makes three important concessions: (1) Christ’s satisfaction has entirely erased God’s vindictive wrath toward the justified. (2) The sufferings of believers are not always for their sins, but sometimes to prevent sin. Sufferings are sometimes for the trial of our graces, and some sufferings confirm God’s truths (Acts 5:41). These types of trials “have much heavenly comfort concomitant with them.”(281) (3) God’s displeasure toward his people, “evidenced in the sharpest rebukes of the rod,” does not mean that God’s love has turned to hatred. Rather, God’s love is unchangeable.(282) In other words, there can be no change in God’s amor benevolentiae, but God’s pleasure, understood also as his amor complacentiae, may change. Thus, after the litany of David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, we read: “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Sam. 11:27). For believers today, with the incarnation of the Son of God, promise has become fulfillment. There is a heightened indicative in the new covenant and therefore a heightened obligation to love and obey God.


Because of the heightened new covenant indicatives, believers today, when they consciously sin against God’s law, not only displease their heavenly Father, but also displease Christ, who reigns in heaven. Christ’s displeasure and frustration with his own disciples during his ministry on earth cannot be denied, even with a cursory glance at the Gospels, but in his exalted state the Lord Jesus shows displeasure with, for example, the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15–16). Christians need to be warned that they risk grieving the triune God when they willfully sin against his law. While there were and are theoretical antinomians, who deny that God can be angry with those who are justified, perhaps the more pressing problem is that of practical antinomianism, whereby ministers fail to warn their people that they can displease God and Christ or that God can be angry with his people, as he often has been (Ezra 9; 2 Kings 17:18). Equally, there is the other side, namely, that Christians are also able to please God and Christ by obeying their commands and enjoying communion with the three persons of the Trinity.




Christians are able to please their Father in heaven only because Christ pleased his Father by perfectly obeying him during his earthly ministry (Mark 1:11; Matt. 17:5). As noted above, God loved Christ not only with a benevolent love, but also with a complacent love, far above all men and angels combined. The Father delighted in Jesus, his servant: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (Isa. 42:1). Because of our union with the risen Savior, Christians are frequently urged to please God and Christ. Sometimes Paul speaks of pleasing God, as in Philippians 4:18 (see also Heb. 13:21; Rom. 14:18; 1 Thess. 4:1). At other times, Paul speaks of pleasing Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). Our conduct may result in being described as “fully pleasing” to Christ (Col. 1:10).


The language of pleasing the Lord helps us to understand the nature of God’s complacent love. Speaking of the necessity of good works, Anthony Burgess notes that just as Leah said, “Now my husband will love me” (Gen. 29:32), “so may Faith say, Now God will love me, when it abounds in the fruits of righteousness; for, our godly actions please God, though imperfect; only the ground is, because our persons were first reconciled with God [according to God’s amor benevolentiae].”(283)


The Christian, living by faith, continually asks, How may I please the Lord? We make it our aim to please God and Christ and thus bring glory to Jesus, which is his reward for having cleansed us by his sacrificial death. The more we please Christ, the more he comes to delight in his people and rejoice that his work for us is being realized by his work in us. The sanctification of the church is an important part of Christ’s glory. It would be incorrect to affirm that we can add to or diminish God’s essential glory. But, again, we may or may not bring glory to the God-man, depending on our obedience or sin. Our desire that in all things Christ should have the preeminence should cause us to seek to please him more and more (Col. 1:18).




The glorious truth that God loves us unconditionally is a Reformed commonplace that gives wonderful assurance to the Christian. But if this is all that is ever said about God’s love, then there is a significant problem, for, as J. I. Packer once quipped in his remarkable introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, “a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”(284) God’s benevolent love, which is the highest love that he expresses toward his elect, has not only a logical priority in his twofold love for his people, but also a causal priority. Yet to speak only of God’s benevolent love is dangerous, because it ignores the important truth that God loves and delights in the goodness that is in his people, and also the fact that Christ, according to both natures, communes in love with his people, but to varying degrees. The distinction between God’s unconditional love, understood as his amor benevolentiae, and his conditional love, understood as his amor complacentiae, enables Christians not only to make sense of the passages cited above (e.g., John 14:21, 23), but also to rejoice that God is pleased and delighted in the obedience that we offer to him. More than that, the Christological element that has been highlighted in this chapter serves to ground discussions of God’s love, pleasure, and displeasure in the person of Christ. As Mediator, Christ was the object of God’s twofold love, as well as his displeasure. God was never happier with his Son than when he was angry with him—at the cross.


From our perspective, we relate to God in and through Jesus Christ, which means that when we discuss the pleasure and displeasure of God, we must never divorce that affection from the person of Christ, who, according to his human nature, is necessarily pleased and displeased with his people because of their obedience and sin. To deny that truth would be to rob Christ of his humanity. But his humanity is, for us, as important as his divinity. According to both natures, in the unity of his person, Christ loves his people with benevolence and complacency.




  1. Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: J. Nisbet, 1870–75), 13:140–41
  2. Joseph B. Felt, The Ecclesiastical History of New England (Boston: Congregational Library Association, 1855–62), 1:318.
  3. Of course, in keeping with the idea that our good works are prepared in advance by God, we could also look at the issue in terms of whether those who do more good works than others have been recipients of God’s love and grace on a greater level.
  4. David Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 394.
  5. John Eaton, The honey-combe of free justification by Christ alone (London, 1642), 127.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Samuel Rutherford, A survey of the spirituall antichrist (London, 1647), 2:26–27; Richard Sibbes, The Returning Backslider (London, 1639), 170.
  8. John Saltmarsh, Free Grace (London, 1645), 130.
  9. See Benedict Pictet, Theologia Christiana Benedicti Picteti (Londini: R. Baynes, 1820), 71. “Tres vulgò gradus amoris Dei solent distingui.”
  10. Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2003), 3:567.
  11. God’s love of beneficence is subsumed under his love of benevolence in many Reformed authors, and that is the pattern followed in this chapter.
  12. See ibid.
  13. See, for example, Samuel Richardson, Divine consolations (London, 1649), 207; Henry Denne, Grace, mercy, and peace (London, 1645), 32–35.
  14. Rutherford, Spirituall antichrist, 2:20.
  15. Ibid., 2:21.
  16. Ibid., 2:22.
  17. “It is high time that these distinctions about the love of God, with that of an antecedent and consequent one, were laid aside, which so greatly obscure the glory of God’s unchangeable love and grace.” John Gill, A Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London: George Keith, 1773–78), 3:210.
  18. See Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 141, 147.
  19. This distinction is used in the Acta of the Synod of Dort: Acta Synodi Nationalis: in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Dordrechti: Isaaci Joannidis Canini, 1620), 49. Thomas Goodwin refers to it as an “old distinction” (i.e., going back to the Medieval theologians). The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D. (1861–66; repr., Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 1:109.
  20. “Primo amore Deus nos eligit, secundo nos redimit et sanctificat, tertio nos sanctos remuneratur. Deo isto ultimo loquitur Christus Joh. xiv.21.” Pictet, Theologia Christiana, 71–72.
  21. “De liefde Gods is of van gunst en welwillentheid; of van welbehagen en genoegen. De eerste is/ waardoor God de uitverkorene wil wel doen, eer dat in dezelve yts in haar is, dat als een zedelijk goed hem kon welgevallen, Joan. 3:16 . . . Rom. 5:8. En zo kan ze of als voorschikkende in Gods besluiten/ of als dadelijk uitwerkende in der tijd werden aangemerkt. De tweede, van welbehagen, is/ waar door God het goed, dat in de uitverkorenen is, byzonder als van hem geboden en uitgewrogt met welgevallen goed keurt. Heb. 11:5/6 . . . Joa. 14:21; 16:26/27.” Melchior Leydekker, De verborgentheid des geloofs eenmaal den heiligen overgelevert, of het kort begryp der ware godsgeleerdheid beleden in de Gereformeerde Kerk (Rotterdam, 1700), 74–75.
  22. Stephen Charnock, Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God (London: Thomas Tegg, 1840), 206–7. Herman Witsius refers to Charnock in reference to God’s complacent love. Conciliatory, or Irenical Animadversions, on the Controversies Agitated in Britain, under the unhappy names of Antinomians and Neonomians, trans. Thomas Bell (Glasgow: W. Lang, 1807), 177.
  23. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992), 16.8.17.
  24. By “threefold union,” I mean the (1) eternal/immanent union, (2) redemptive-historical  /transient union, and (3) existential/applicatory/mutual union. Various terms have been used for each category over the centuries.
  25. Samuel Hopkins, The Works of Samuel Hopkins (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1854), 1:50.
  26. Ibid.
  27. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, D.D., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850–55), 1:144.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid., 1:145.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Ibid., 1:146.
  32. Goodwin, Works, 4:114.
  33. Ibid., 4:115.
  34. Note also the language in 1 Samuel 2:26 that describes Samuel growing in “stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.”
  35. On Reformed Christology, see Mark Jones, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2012); Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, chap. 31.
  36. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 245–46.
  37. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
  38. Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), e.g., 98, 140, 142–43.
  39. Readers may be interested to know that the impetus for writing this book on antinomianism came after I had received a startling number of communications from professors, pastors, and laypersons in varied theological traditions who had read my online review of Jesus + Nothing = Everything. See
  40. Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Divinity (London: William Lee, 1646), 2:75.
  41. Ibid.
  42. William Ames, The Marrow of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 87.
  43. See Eaton, Honey-combe of free justification, 120ff.
  44. Ibid., 133.
  45. Samuel Rutherford, The Tryal and Triumph of Faith (London, 1645), 37.
  46. Note also answer 48 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “These words [before me] in the first commandment teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god” (emphasis added).
  47. John Flavel, The Works of the Rev. Mr. John Flavel (1820; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1997), 3:574. Incidentally, the idea that God hates the sin but loves the sinner, which is mocked by many Christians, has a strong Reformed pedigree. God loves the justified person, but hates the sin remaining in the justified person. However, that distinction cannot be made of the non-elect. God hates evildoers, not just evil deeds (Ps. 5:5).
  48. Ibid., 3:575.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid. See also Rutherford, The Tryal and Triumph of Faith, 30–43.
  51. Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae legis: or, A vindication of the morall law and the covenants, from the Errours of Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and more especially Antinomians (London: T. Underhill, 1646), 44.
  52. J. I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 2.