The Three-Fold Love of God



Introduction – Andrew Myers

Besides his special love to the elect, orthodox Reformed divines speak of God’s general love towards his creatures, as creatures, including all men, made in his own image, whether reprobate or elect.  The command of Christ to love our enemies as even our Heavenly Father does is a clear demonstration of this truth.  Moreover, the Incarnation itself is proof of God’s love for man.  Citing Wolfgang Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 961-963), Richard Muller writes: “There could be no greater indication of the love of God for humanity than this personal union of human nature with the divine nature” (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics 3.563).  The select extracts which follow demonstrate the consistent understanding of Reformed divines, that, because God is love, and this attribute is essential to Himself, the general, benevolent love of God towards all his works of creation, is consistent with his special, discriminating, or electing love, to his chosen ones.

** – Indicates a Westminster divine.



A Collection of Quotes

Myers, Andrew – The Three-fold Love of God, 2011, 29 paragraphs, 9 quotes from historic reformed writers

Quotes from: Turretin, Leigh **, Collinges, a Brakel, Jenkyn, Ussher, Gill, Hodge and Berkhof.



Samuel Rutherford  1600–1661  **

Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, 1647, p. 440-42

[Margin note: No lip-love, nor any empty love in God, but that which is effectual and real to work the good He desires to the party loved.]

We are hence taught to acknowledge no love to be in God which is not effectual in doing good to the creature; there is no lip-love, no raw well-wishing to the creature which God does not make good.  We know but three sorts of love that God has to the creature, all the three are like the fruitful womb; there is no miscarrying, no barrenness in the womb of divine love.

[Margin note: A threefold love in God effectual.]

1. He loves all that he has made, so far as to give them a being, to conserve them in being as long as He pleases.  He had a desire to have sun, moon, stars, earth, heaven, sea, clouds, air. He created them out of the womb of love and out of goodness, and keeps them in being. He can hate nothing that He made.

2. There is a second love and mercy in God, by which He loves all men and angels, yea, even his enemies, makes the sun to shine on the unjust man as well as the just, and causes dew and rain to fall on the orchard and fields of the bloody and deceitful man, whom the Lord abhors, as Christ teaches us,Matt. 5:43-48. Nor does God miscarry in this love. He desires the eternal being of damned angels and men; he sends the gospel to many reprobates, and invites them to repentance and with longanimity and forbearance suffers pieces of froward dust to fill the measure of their iniquity, yet does not the Lord’s general love fall short of what he wills to them.

[Margin note: Christ’s love of election cannot miscarry.]

3. There is a love of special election to glory; far less can God come short in the end of this love. For the work of redemption prospers in the hands of Christ, even to the satisfaction of his soul; saving of sinners (all glory to the Lamb) is a thriving work and successful in Christ’s hands…




Benedict Pictet  1655–1724

Pictet was the Professor of Theology at Geneva after Francis Turretin.  Pictet was also Turretin’s nephew.

Christian Theology, translated from the Latin by Frederick Reyroux in 1834, London

p. 85

From the goodness springs the love of God, by which God is inclined towards the creature, and delights to do it good, and, as it were, to unite Himself with it.  There are three kinds of this love usually ascribed to God. 

The love of benevolence [good-will] is that by which God is moved to will some good to his creature as a creature, without any regard to the excellence [righteousness] which may be in it.  This kind of love is the same as his goodness, and by it God, from eternity, willed good to the creature, even though unworthy, and deserving of hatred. 

The love of beneficence [good-doing] is that by which God does good in time; this expression in time must be noted, so that this love may be distinguished from the love of benevolence, which is from eternity. 

The love of complacency [with-pleasure] is that by which God is inclined towards the creature that is just and holy.  By the first kind of love, God elects us; by the second, He redeems and sanctifies us; by the third, He rewards us being holy.  Of this last Christ speaks (John 14:21), “He that has my commandments, and keeps them, He is it that loves Me, and he that loves Me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him.” 




Related Pages

Common Grace

Historic Reformed Quotes on Common Grace

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer