Grasping the threefold love of God

Reading John M. Frame’s Doctrine of God I came across the following extract from Francis Turretin’s, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, III.8,5 on God’s love.

A threefold love of God is commonly held; or rather there are three degrees of one and the same love. First, there is the love of benevolence by which God willed good to the creature from eternity; second, the love of beneficence by which he does good to the creature in time according to his good will; third, the love of complacency by which he delights himself in the creature on account of the rays of his image seen in them. The two former precede every act of the creature; the latter follows (not as an effect its cause, but as a consequent its antecedent). By the love of benevolence, he loved us before we were; by the love of beneficence, he loves us as we are; and by the love of complacency, he loves us when we are (viz., renewed after his image). By the first he elects us; by the second, he redeems and sanctifies us; but by the third he gratuitously rewards us as holy and just. John 3:16 refers to the first; Ephesians 5:25 and Revelation 1:5 to the second; Isaiah 62:3 and Hebrews 11:6 to the third.

This threefold nature of God’s love can be represented in a Venn diagram to show the affect on the believer when one aspect is forgotten:

Election and redemption but no sanctification.
I know God has loved me since before the creation of the world and that he redeemed me by his blood. This gives me an overwhelming sense of value but I see no need of transformation or change. I’ll never know the smile of God when I live more like Christ day by day.

Redemption and sanctification but no election.
I know God loves me as I am because of Christ’s death for me and I know his love as he works in me to increase my godliness but I have no assurance that he will complete what he began because I don’t know that he has always loved me and always will.

Election and sanctification but no redemption.
God has shown me that he loved me before he made me and I know that I must continue to change to know his smile but I am not sure of his love for me today, just as I am. I’ve lost sight of the cross and so don’t know that I am credited with his righteous simply by believing in him as my crucified Saviour.

The full assurance of faith.

I know God has always loved me, before he made me or the world. I know God loves me as I am because of Christ’s death in my place. I know God loves me as I grow in Christ’s likeness, as his image is renewed in me by the work of his living word and the power of his Spirit.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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1 Response to Grasping the threefold love of God

  1. VICTOR says:


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