The lamp-posts are poetical...the lamp-post really has the whole poetry of man, for no other creature can lift a flame so high and guard it so well. --G K Chesterton, London Times July 24, 1909.
"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)
1)God’s providential love over all that he has made - God loves birds, and cows, and insects, and even cats. God loves inanimate objects like mountains and iron.
"God creates everything, and before there is a whiff of sin, he pronounces all that he has made to be ‘good’ (Gen. 1). This is the product of a loving Creator…The birds of the air find food, but that is the result of God’s living providence, and not a sparrow falls from the sky apart from the sanction of the Almighty (Matt 6). If this were not a benevolent providence, a loving providence, then the moral lesson that Jesus drives home, viz. that this God can be trusted to provide for his own people, would be incoherent.” (16-17)
2)God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world - Can you say to your nextdoor neighbor who doesn't know Christ, “God loves you”? In one sense, yes!
"God so loved the world that he gave his Son (Jn 3:16). I know that some try to take cosmos (‘world’) here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John’s Gospel is against the suggestion…However much God stands in judgment over the world, he also presents himself as the God who invites and commands all human beings to repent.” (17-18)
3)God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect - Really this love is the most emphasized. This is the love that saves. God loves his creation, but there is a saving love towards his children. Those who are trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
“The elect may be the entire nation of Israel or the church as a body or individuals. In each case, God sets his affection on his chosen ones in a way in which he does not set his affection on others.” (18)
4)God’s love is sometimes said to be directed toward his own people in a provisional or conditional way—conditioned, that is, on obedience. Does God love me less if I sin? No, you don’t ever stop being his son or daughter. But does your sin displease God and your obedience please God? Yes.
“it does not have to do with how we become true followers of the living God, but with our relationship with him once we do know him. ‘Keep yourselves in God’s love,’ Jude exhorts his readers (v. 21), leaving the unmistakable impression that someone might not keep himself or herself in the love of God."
Took a trip with the fam to Northampton, MA, about a two and half hour drive each way from home. I procrastinated this visit for awhile, even though I love Edwards, simply because there is so little about Edwards at Northampton. Even though he pastored there for many years and it was the home of the First Great Awakening, the town seems to barely recognize this fact. It's a fun town to walk around in, with plenty of shops and restaurants, yet the only real remaining reminder of Edwards legacy is his church, First Churches of Northampton which has a few token memorials to him. On their website it is clear that they no longer accept Biblical authority and are uneasy about their historical connection with Edwards.
I consider Jonathan Edwards to be the greatest American theologian, and a man who truly treasured God and exalted Christ, holding firm to the Scriptures. He truly loved his wife and children, and ministered faithfully (though not perfectly) in Northampton. No doubt he is in perfect happiness with his redeemer:
"The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."(J. Edwards)
If I mess with this list in anyway, I am in serious danger. To replace 1 with 2-5 would be idolatry. To replace 2 with 3, would create a weak marriage. To replace 3 with 4, would be hurtful, unfair, and sinful (a particular temptation for pastors.) 4 must always come before 5, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Gal 6:10). The desire should be to see 5 become 4.
The "moral" non believer puts 2-3 in the place of 1. The nominal christian puts 4 in the place of 1. The typical unbeliever puts 5 in the place of 1.
I've seen the damage of messing with this list, and it's not pretty. May God help me to keep it in order!