We are to distinguish between natural love and the love of God. All mankind has some share at least of natural love–self-love, love for family, love of friends. Our Lord, speaking of this kind of love, implies that it is not the love of God, saying, "If ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same." (Luke 6:32) The love of God, therefore, is a different kind of love to that which is common to the natural man. Love in the natural man is more or less selfish, even in our very best exercise of it. God commends his love toward us as being of a superior kind in that while we were yet sinners, aliens, strangers, enemies through wicked works, under his gracious, loving plan, Christ his son died for us. (Rom 5:8) This kind of unmerited, sacrificing love is wholly different from anything that is known to fallen humanity. As our Lord Jesus said, the greatest love amongst men would be that a man should lay down his life for his friends, but to lay down his life for his enemies is certainly a much higher type of love–unselfish, gracious, heavenly–John 15:13; Rom. 5:7.
It is plain, therefore, that the salvation which God has provided is purely an act of his free grace–an act to which he was in no sense obligated, and to which he was impelled only by his abounding love: "For God so loved the world
The sacrifice of our Lord, the man Christ Jesus as the ransom for all (1 Tim 2:5, 6) to satisfy the claims of justice against all, makes manifest both to angels and to men that this salvation, this recovery out of sin and its penalty death, (Rom 6:23) could not be hoped for on the score of justice, but only on the score of pity and love. The atoning sacrifice for sins was demanded by justice and was furnished by God that he might be just and yet the justifier of men already justly condemned to death.Rom. 3:24-26
The only cause of man's fall which is traceable to the Creator lies in the fact that God created man in his own image–with a free will of his own. This endowment was the crowning act of God's favor to man and man's choicest blessing. It was the lack of appreciation and an abuse of God's favor and goodness, and not any lack on God's part, which led to the fall of Adam. God's original purpose has not been changed by man's failure, but will be overruled for his good and the good of all of his posterity who have been born into sin though his failure (Psa 51:5; Rom 3:10). This painful experience under the reign of sin and death will acquaint mankind more thoroughly with the exceeding sinfulness of sin and at the same time will exhibit the wisdom and righteousness of God.
The love prompting man's redemption was not phileo or duty-love, for God had not wronged his creature in the sentence of death; nor had man ever done anything for his Creator which could put the latter under obligation or duty-love in return. God's love prompting to our redemption was agape, or disinterested charity, benevolence, love. (1 John 4:9, 10; 2 Cor 9:15)God has made the provisions whereby we may know of his love through the gift of his son and through his holy Word (John 17:3). It devolves upon us to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21). We can only thus keep ourselves in his love by seeking to practice in the daily affairs of life the principles of his love. This knowledge when it serves its proper purpose, brings us to the appreciation of "the love [that is] of God" and to a realization of the wisdom of copying his character that we should seek so far as possible to be like our Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:44, 45)