Written by Paul J Bucknell on November, 09, 2020
God’s Everlasting Love (Jeremiah 31:3)
Expand one’s understanding of God’s everlasting love by amplifying it with His unconditional, enduring, and loyal love.
Seeking to Comprehend God’s Eternal Love
How do we begin to grasp God’s eternal love? Where do we start? Many believers never get to venture into the delight, warmth, and security of God’s eternal love because they get wrangled in unbelief or arguments of man’s will and God’s sovereignty. I hope that we are willing, even eager like Paul the Apostle, to enter the supreme joy of God’s love (Eph 3:17-19).
“17 So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19).
There is no doubt that God wants us to revel in His amazing love; it’s imperative to this love of God to wrap itself around our hearts and minds. We want to be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17) so that we can stretch our dwarfed minds “to know the love of Christ” (Eph 3:19).
So what if our puny intellect takes time to process some theological issues? Let our arguments take a backseat to the enjoyment of God’s dazzling love for sinners. Does some past abuse or present situation embitter you? Dare to step forward into an unreserved full-flung trust of your relationship with God. Day by day, move forward; He desires to teach you how. Try to fathom the “width and length and height and depth” of God’s ongoing grace and mercy.
You might never find answers on this side of heaven; that’s okay. Hold onto them; they are sometimes important, but we must first grapple with comprehending God’s love for us in Christ—it’s foundational. I believe it’s only then that we can find a greater, if not full, resolution to our struggles.
Jeremiah 31:3 God’s Everlasting Love
To embark on this trip, we will explore God’s eternal love by delving into it’s one-time Bible usage found in Jeremiah 31:3, and expand our understanding of this eternal love by other synonymous words and thoughts used to describe God’s eternal love.
Few dispute the scriptural teaching of God’s devoted love towards His people, even if they do not see how it matches with what the Lord allows to happen to His people. Not a few believers doubt this love of God, seeing the way they question it. They are not allowing this truth of God’s love to breakthrough into their life situations.
“The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness”” (Jer 31:3 NASB).
Everlasting love by definition includes an unending range of love, from eternity past into eternity future. Eternity has no parenthesis, no beginning nor end; it just is.
His Everlasting Love
While the scriptures only use this phrase “everlasting love” once, the idea is hinted at throughout the Bible couched in His goodness, faithfulness, grace, and mercy.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His faithfulness is everlasting” (Psalm 136:1).
Anytime we discuss eternity, the land beyond time, humans become befuddled. Rightly so, since we never visited the land beyond. Let me present three characteristics of this eternal love to better understand the nature of God’s eternal love.
Everlasting love is a loyal love, depicting an unwavering commitment to a person or group. A loyal love roots itself in a commitment to another and continues on and on.
(1) A Loyal Love
Jeremiah 31 reveals the numerous ways Israel recklessly treated God, and yet, the Lord treated them based on His commitment to them. He would judge them, as stated in the Law, but then He Himself would save them. God’s redemptive love-plan amazingly incorporated the creation and even the fall of humanity.
We see the whole, the judgment and promise of salvation, captured in a single verse. Jacob’s distress stems from their judgment from their horrendous sins.
“Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it” (Jer 30:7).
The context of this passage restates God’s judgment on the northern kingdom and their capture by Assyria. This does not, oddly enough, dampen or otherwise change God’s commitment to Israel. Even though they are undeserving of His grace, God’s unwavering, loyal love continues on. God’s promises are built upon His dedication to His people. Although their sins are many, God’s compassion is greater. Each of the two quotes below are from within the same context of Israel’s judgment.
“Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous. Why do you cry out over your injury? Your pain is incurable. Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous, I have done these things to you” (Jer 30:14-15).
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace will stand on its rightful place” (Jer 30:18).
This same picture is even more broadly seen in Jeremiah 30 and 31, where the words of His promised new covenant serve as brushes to paint a yet more splendid portrait of God’s loyal love (Jer 31:31 ff.).
Humanity’s abject sin tests and reveals the loyal nature of God’s everlasting love in real space and time.
Everlasting love is an enduring love, notwithstanding one’s unfaithfulness. Jesus told the eleven disciples that they were clean, “You are already clean” (John 15:3). (By this time, Judas had already left Jesus to betray Him.)
(2) An Ongoing Love
This cleanness, however, did not imply that the eleven would not fail Jesus—they did. Each of the Gospels records the falling away of the eleven disciples, especially the Gospel of John. This is where we observe the stellar ongoing nature of God’s love for them. Jesus’ commitment to them went beyond their performance, for His love and promises were based on His choice appointed beforehand in eternity in Christ not upon our works or virtue (Rom 9:11, 15-16).
It is this ongoing, perpetual commitment of God that ultimately ushers this incredible blessing to His people. All of it highlights the nth degree of God’s love. The Apostle Paul’s affirmation in Romans 11:25-26 restates God’s words for unfaithful Israel in Jeremiah 31.
“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever” (Jer 31:35-36).
Unconditional love expands the notion of everlasting love by weaving the treachery, sinfulness, rebellious nature of His people into its meaning. God’s sovereign love is not dependent upon man’s response but transcends his sinfulness.
Exploring the Great Expanse of God’s Love
Christians repeatedly stumble over God’s unconditional love. They can see mankind’s tainted conditions—their inferior love, their love for the world, etc. The prophets, the Book of Judges, and the Book of Kings all poignantly remind us of the undeserving nature of mankind of God’s love and care.
While some people find themselves grieved over their sin and cry out in their distress to God, others pretend they are not so bad. They assume and think that they are somehow deserving of God’s mercy. They are not.
“9 For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written: “There is no righteous person, not even one” (Romans 3:9-10).
(3) An All-powerful Love
Everlasting love is an all-powerful love. Jesus, the Light, came into a dark world, not a bright world, and not even a dull grey world, but a dark one. Apart from Jesus, there is no light. The dawn of the new day (age) came at Jesus’ first coming. This is the grand promise of the Messiah (i.e., the Christ) earlier given to the Jewish people but applies to all the nations.
To be an ongoing love, love must be more powerful than the dark forces about it trying to snuff it out. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). I like this verse because no matter how dreadful hideous the darkness, or to what degree the darkness had enveloped the light, it was not able to extinguish God’s light in Christ.
For God’s love to be everlasting and unconditional, it has to be thoroughly able to overcome all the challenges that it would face. We already spoke about the unfaithfulness of Christ’s eleven disciples, just when Jesus needed them the most. We wrote, too, about Israel’s complete departure from God, requiring a fierce judgment. But the powers of darkness failed to squash the lone flickering light coming from God’s commitment despite their clever attempts. Darkness strikes with severity at the heart of love in strange and unexpected ways (remember how Herod attempted to kill all the infant boys in Bethlehem (Mat 2:16; Jer 31:15), but it is precisely here that God’s light of love gloriously demonstrated itself to be an eternal and all-powerful love.
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace”” (Luke 1:78-79).
God’s people had fallen into darkness. They descriptively “sit in darkness” and under “the shadow of death.” They had no escape except in the powerful way the Lord overcame the dark impenetrable cloud forces. Through His ingenious eternal redemptive plan, God’s own Son would take upon their sin and redeem them for His own. He defeated sin’s death and darkness with love itself, introducing the wonderful sacrificial love seen on the cross. The word propitiation (1 John 2:2, 4:10) wonderfully records how Jesus’s death satisfies the wrath of God, liberating God’s people from the curse of death and power of darkness (Heb 2:14) Jesus, the Sunrise, today shines brightly in the hearts of His people everywhere.
An Analysis of Everlasting Love
God’s love is an everlasting love, but unlike a new, untested, pristine new boat, it has weathered fierce attacks to drown or hinder this love. This love needed to bore itself through the thick layers of darkness, despair, defeat, and death. The full glory of God’s everlasting love does appear until we specifically look at it and allow passages like the full context of Jeremiah 30-31 to movingly highlight His abounding grace.
So, we add the notions embedded in “unconditional love” and “loyal love” and “all-powerful love” to reveal what Paul desperately tries to include in “the width and length and height and depth” (Eph 3:18) love of God. God’s everlasting love endured all treachery, rebellion, and evil, further magnifying the glory of His love, so Paul describes it as “riches of His glory” (Eph 3:16, 1:18).
Paul sums up the mighty workings of God’s love, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). We are the true benefactors of God’s enduring love and have become His stupendous trophies of grace for all eternity.
Some Questions on God’s Eternal Love
Some believers miss the point of God’s everlasting love by making it conditional on our goodness, worthiness, or ability to respond to God. If you start by assuming one’s worthiness of His choice, due to some hidden virtue, you will befuddle this teaching of God’s everlasting love. God foreknew us, not on what we would do or the kind of people we would be (Rom 8:29, 11:2). His choice in eternity in Christ came before we ever existed (Eph 1:4-5), “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” His choice is not due to our deserved nature but according to His good pleasure.
The scripture describes some to be righteous, like John the Baptist and Mary (Mat 1:19). Though this is related to God’s willingness to work with them, in light of the whole scripture, we should not conclude that they have lived a wholly perfect life. God sets Himself apart from all, “And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me” (Isaiah 45:21). Moreover, all peoples, descendants of Adam, incur Adam’s curse of death (Rom 5:12-21), but can, through faith in Christ, find deliverance to God’s kingdom (Col 1:13).
Trying to grasp theological issues before being overwhelmed by God’s everlasting love is like attempting to understand the universe’s vastness by exploring a seed or microbe. To gain one’s bearings, one must first understand one’s greater location to discover one’s position, just as the old seafarers used to use detect their position by the North Star. Only by understanding the whole picture can we detect one’s position.
For this reason, when trying to grasp God’s ongoing love for His people, Paul presents the eternal redemptive picture (Romans 8:28-30). It starts before time in God’s choice of us (foreknown) and completes itself in Christ (as Savior) even into God’s eternally shared glory.
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30).
Even after presenting this eternal redemptive scheme, Paul continues to describe how God’s love is all-powerful (“overwhelmingly conquer”) and unwaveringly committed to us (“will be able to separate us”) in “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39).
God’s love for us is found in Christ. We are chosen in Christ (Eph 1:3-4) and saved in Christ (Eph 2:4-7) and glorified in Christ (Rom 8:30). God’s love is everlasting because it endures all testings and attempts to snuff it out; it’s a love secured in God’s eternal choice to protect, keep and eternally bless His unfaithful people in Christ Jesus.
“Keep yourself in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:21).
Discussion Questions on God’s Everlasting Love
- What verse uses the phrase God’s everlasting love (NASB)? Memorize it.
- What other scriptural verses or thoughts hint at the eternal nature of God’s love?
- List one or two reasons believers doubt the greatness of God’s love?
- What three kinds of love help expand the full nature of God’s love?
- Pick one of these kinds of love and share how this love is richly seen or proven.
- Have you ever been overwhelmed by God’s love? Please share.
- Read or quote two ways Paul the Apostle showed that He was overwhelmed with God’s love.
- What might hinder you from further trusting in God’s love? Why so?
- How would an unquestioned trust in God’s love further enable you to trust God when facing difficult times?
Further Studies on the Love of God
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Apr 27, 2019 ... God’s everlasting love is based on His personal character and is expressed towards those He so designates, in this case, His elect and bride.
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