Is it right to say that Christ loved the world in His humanity, but love the elect only in His divinity? Could this explain why He is said to love the rich young man even though he was obviously an unbeliever (Mk 10:21–22)? Could it also explain why the Lord said what He did in Matthew 23:37—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”?

No, I do not think it is right to say, nor true, that Christ has a universal love in His humanity and a particular love in His deity. I believe such a formulation arise out of an error akin to a 5th century heresy known as Nestorianism, which teaches that Christ’s human and divine natures are not inseparably united in one person. The Creed of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, which we believe provides the most accurate formulation on the person of Christ, teaches us the following:

(a) Jesus Christ is one Person.

(b) He has a fully divine nature and a fully human nature, and the two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.

(c) He had two wills, one divine and the other human.

When our Fathers say that the two natures of Christ are “without confusion,” they are saying that His human nature is fully and properly human and that His divine nature is fully and properly divine. When they say that the natures are “without change,” they are affirming that Christ’s human nature continues to be fully human and His divine nature continues to be fully divine. When they say the natures are “without division” and “without separation,” they are affirming that though Christ has two natures, these two natures are hypostatically united and cannot be separated. Thus, it is not proper to say: “It is Christ as man doing this” or “Christ as God doing that.” Although Christ has two wills, all that He does, He does as the theanthropos or the God-Man.

Let’s explore this a little more. When thinking of the life and work of Christ, we may see three categories of activities:

The first category of activities is such as are divine, which man cannot normally engage in. This would include miracles, such as healing, multiplying bread and fishes, and perceiving the thoughts of other persons. It is not a problem for us to conceive of Christ doing such deeds, for God did sometimes perform miracles through His prophets, how much more, would it be proper for Christ as the God-Man to do these works. One difficulty, though we have to consider, is that God is omniscient, which means that if Christ is fully God, fully man, He should know all things. Yet, He professed concerning the day of His return again, that “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mk 13:32). Does not the Son know all that the Father knows seeing that they are one in essence? This is a difficult question, for which I am not sure if I can have a perfectly satisfactory answer in this life. But Calvin gives perhaps one of the best answers, I think:

We know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the Divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of Mediator. There would be no impropriety, therefore in saying that Christ, who knew all things (Jn 21:17), was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man; for otherwise he could not have been liable to grief and anxiety, and could not have been like us (Heb 2:17) (Comm. on Mark 13:32).

I shall not attempt to add any more to this explanation, except to say that such a view is not inconsistent with our doctrine of Christ since the prerogative of the infinite divine nature and will cannot be questioned even if a finite human nature is united to the divine nature.

The second category of activities is such as pertain to the human nature, which cannot be attributed to God, as He is an infinite, eternal and unchangeable Spirit. This would include eating, drinking, sleeping, weeping, suffering or dying. These activities cannot be attributed to God, as it is contrary to the divine nature. However, it is not impossible to think of Christ weeping, suffering and dying, etc., as the God-Man. Indeed, if Christ shed His blood only as man, how could His blood be sufficient to pay for our sin? The blood of Christ is sufficient only because He bled as the God-Man. Thus, in Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul speaks of God purchasing the church with His own blood.

The third category of activities is such as may be attributed to God, as well as to man. This would include all acts of the will, which are within the capability of man, such speaking and loving. Yes, although there is such a thing as a feeling of love in man, we must not think of love merely as an emotion. If it is merely an emotion, how could the Scripture command us to love (Deut 6:5; Mt 5:44; Eph 5:25; Jn 15:12; 1 Jn 3:18; etc.). Loving, then, is properly an act of the will; though it is closely tied to the disposition of delight or pleasure.

Now, it is in this third category of activities that your question addresses, and it is in this category that such as are inclined to Nestorianism will find support for their heresy. You see, it is clear that Christ has two natures and two wills, for He said unto His Father (with whom He shares the divine essence): “not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22:42). Does it then mean that there were times when Christ exercised His human will and times when He exercised His divine will? Does it mean He loves some in His human will while hating them in His divine will? But how can this be the case when the Scripture testifies that Christ was without sin? If Christ did something in His human nature or human will that is contrary to the divine nature, then would He not be sinning against God in His human nature? Christ Himself said in the Psalms: “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps 40:8; cf. Heb 10:5–7). We must conclude then that, even in this category of acts, Christ did all He did as the God-Man, where every act is consistent with the human and divine wills which are inseparable. And we conclude that whoever Christ loves in His human nature, God loves.

How then do we explain Christ’s love for the rich young man? I believe there are two possibilities. There first is that His love referred to is a love of benevolence (cf. Mt 5:44–45), which God also has for all His creatures. The second possibility is that the rich young man was an elect of Christ. Why not? Did not the Lord say at that occasion: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mk 10:27)?

What about the Lord’s statement concerning Jerusalem? Did He love all in Jerusalem and desired to gather them all in? No, that would be contrary to the fact that God has His elect within the city. Who then were the “children” whom Christ desired to gather? Surely it cannot be everyone in Jerusalem, for the Lord says: “how often would I have gathered thy children together,… and ye would not!” Surely the Lord is referring to how the unbelieving leaders of the people hindered the conversion of Christ’s elect children within Jerusalem!