Is God’s Love Unconditional?

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Christians have believed for centuries that God’s love is unconditional.  Often this claim is made so as to reveal the goodness of a benevolent Creator and to present Him in a positive light.  Unfortunately this assumption is not based upon the truth of scripture.  God the Father is compassionate, full of mercy, and slow to anger.  The scripture presents us with the picture of a loving God who has both goodness and severity.  Unless believers understand the loving conditions that God requires from them, they can become apathetic and self-serving, refusing to accept their personal responsibility for sin.

 

·        Rom 11:22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  (NAS)

 

The same loving God that reveals Himself to those who believe in Him, and in His son Jesus, will show absolute severity to those who continue to live in sin and rebellion against Him.  The words “if you continue” are powerful proof that there are conditions to God’s love, even for the Christian.

 

The use of the term, “the unconditional love of God” has roots in hyper-Calvinistic ideology.  Theologians who created and espoused the manmade doctrine of fatalistic predestination also infected the church with the notion that God’s love has no conditions attached to it.  This is a convenient doctrine, for it places all of the responsibility in God’s hands, while denying that mankind has any part in his or her salvation.

 

The principles of Calvinism can be summarized in the well-known acronym T.U.L.I.P.:

 

T = Total depravity of all mankind

 

U = Unconditional election (i.e. God chooses us to be saved or damned; it is His “unconditional” election of the redeemed)

 

L = Limited atonement (i.e. salvation is limited to those God selects to be saved)

 

I = Irresistible grace (i.e. God’s grace is supposedly so irresistible that the elect cannot help but choose it)

 

P = Perseverance of the saints (i.e. the “elect” must persevere in their predestined election)

 

One can easily see that the “U” representing “unconditional election” leads to the now popular phrase, “God’s unconditional love.”

 

Stated another way, Christians in America often say, “God loves you no matter what you’ve done.”  While this phrase has a certain appeal to it, and it even sounds true, to those who are well versed in scripture it is a slap in the face of a holy God.   What Christian wants to believe a loving Father who redeemed them would not also love everyone?  They will quickly quote a portion of John 3:16 saying, “God so loved the world…” to emphasize their position.  The “world” they claim means everyone, even blasphemers, and those who hate their neighbor.

It is easy to understand their position.  Many of us who are saved were once blasphemers who reveled in wickedness.  We reason, “If God loved me when I was such a sinner, why wouldn’t He love everyone the same way?”

 

The word “world” refers to the inhabitants of the earth.  God’s mercy and grace were extended to all who would believe.  Believing is a condition.  It is the same as saying, “I love you, and have made a provision for you to experience my love and salvation.  However, if you refuse to believe, you will perish with the rest of the wicked who refuse the gift of my son Jesus.”

 

Just imagine how unjust and ridiculous it sounds to the unbeliever to say that, “God loves everyone unconditionally.”  To the man whose daughter was brutally raped, tortured, and murdered by a serial killer, you are presenting the picture of an uncaring Deity who looks past such a heinous act as though the rapist was due the same love as his daughter.  His ears hear the phrase above in this way, “God loves that violent monster who brutalized your darling little girl, venting his hatred and wickedness on an innocent child.  But no matter what the man did, God still loves him.”  Inside the man’s heart he is hurt, angry, torn and anguished at such a notion.  He thinks to himself, “Doesn’t this loving God care that my daughter was violated?  He will keep loving a man who has robbed our family of a loved one?” 

 

No wonder the percentage of converts to Jesus Christ in United States is so low.  Who would want to believe in a God that is so unjust as to delight in loving those who practice such wickedness?  While we must not ignore the fact that God demonstrated His love toward sinful man by giving His only begotten son Jesus as a ransom for sin, and will forgive even the worst of sinners who repent, He does not have a loving relationship with those who devise evil in their heart. 

 

Those who quote John 3:16 to prove the position that God loves everyone unconditionally forget the requirements placed on man by Him.  As you read John 3:16-18, consider what God demands of those who want to experience His love.

 

·        John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  (NAS)

 

Christians are quick to point out the “God so loved the world” part of John 3:16 that they overlook the word, “perish.”  John 3:16 is a statement about the conditions of God’s love.  If those conditions are not met, then the same loving God will undoubtedly allow men to perish eternally.

 

Repentance, faith, and a changed life are but a few of the “conditions” God requires of man in response to His love.  One must repent and believe in Jesus Christ, and the price he paid by shedding his blood for mankind’s sin.  He must also believe that God raised Jesus from the dead to be justified.  By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed that He accepted the death sacrifice Jesus paid to redeem man from the curse of the Law.  Anyone who fails to follow these conditions will, without doubt, perish eternally.

 

For many years Christians who have experienced the love of God know and understand how patient and compassionate He is.  Through all their many failures and weaknesses of the flesh, both in good times and bad, they have found His love to be faithful.  Often believers who have been saved from such a wretched and sinful way of life can reflect backwards, and see that God loved them, and that He was working to bring them to a place of repentance. 

 

Does this mean that God’s love is therefore unconditional?  No!  His love was working to bring them to repentance.  He presented them with His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ as a clear demonstration of His love.  He required that they obey His commandment, and in faith accept the risen Savior.  Scripture is replete with many similar conditions that God has given mankind concerning His love.

 

·        Rom 2:4-8 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.  (NAS)

 

Christians readily embrace the teaching that the love of God is unconditional simply because they have experienced God’s mercy.  Who can blame them?  It sounds so personal, and to hear that God loves you “just as you are” from the pulpit of churches affirms what people choose to believe about Him.  In turn, they spread what they believe to others without carefully searching and studying the scriptures to see if it is true.

 

Before proceeding further, a definition of the word ‘unconditional’ must be provided.  A word search of five different translations of the scripture reveals that the word “unconditional” appears nowhere in God’s word.  Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language defines unconditional as follows:

 

Unconditional – 1. not limited by conditions; absolute; an unconditional promise

 

If we believe that God’s love is not limited by conditions, and that His promises in scripture are unconditional, is that accurate?

 

The scripture teaches that God is love.  This is unquestionable.

 

·        I John 4:7-10 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.  (NAS)

 

This passage of scripture is the one that states specifically, “God is love.”  The Greek word for love used in 1 John chapter four is agape.  Agape is defined by Strong’s Dictionary as follows:

 

26  agape (ag-ah'-pay); from 25; love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast: KJV-- (feast of) charity ([-ably]), dear, love.

 

25  agapao (ag-ap-ah'-o); perhaps from agan (much) [or compare 5689]; to love (in a social or moral sense): KJV-- (be-) love (-ed). Compare 5368.

 

Agape love means “affection or benevolence or to love (in a social or moral sense).” 

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines “affection” as:

 

1)      fond attachment, devotion or love; the affection of a parent for an only child

2)      Often, affections.

a.      emotion; feeling; sentiment

b.      the emotional realm of love

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines “benevolent” as:

 

1) characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings

2) desiring to help others; charitable

3)  intended for benefits rather than profit

 

The AMG Complete Word Study Bible and Reference CD defines ‘agape’ as follows:

 

ajgavph  agápeM; gen. agápeMs, fem. noun from agapáoM (25), to love. Love, affectionate regard, goodwill, benevolence. With reference to God’s love, it is God’s willful direction toward man. It involves God doing what He knows is best for man and not necessarily what man desires. For example, John 3:16 states, “For God so loved [eMgápeMsen] the world, that he gave.” What did He give? Not what man wanted, but what God knew man needed, i.e., His Son to bring forgiveness to man.

 

The expression of God’s love (i.e. affection and devotion) for mankind is first and foremost demonstrated by sending His son Jesus to be a propitiation for our sins.  Since love is something that must be expressed, it is imperative to note the specific manner in which God revealed His love.  The fact that He gave His only begotten son, as a propitiation for sin, is evidence that His love has certain conditions.

 

Can man simply ignore what God did by offering Jesus as a sacrifice for sin?  Are we to believe that He is an affectionate Deity who simply loves everybody in their sin, debauchery, and wickedness, even if they reject the very nature and demonstration of His love?  Is He a heavenly Santa Claus who loves everyone who is naughty or nice?  If mankind persistently rejects His son Jesus, and lives in perpetual unbelief, are these people that God loves?  Even Christians, when they defect to the ways of the world become enemies of God.

 

·        James 4:4 You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.[1]  

 

We know that all have sinned, and have fallen short of His glory.  In the next section we will deal with God’s view of the wicked. 

 

 

God’s View of Mankind Living In Sin

 

God created man in His own image (Gen 1:27).  He made Adam from the dust of the earth, and breathed the breath of life into him (Gen. 2:7).  The LORD God created man for two purposes.  First, He made mankind to love Him and have fellowship with Him.  Second, His desire was to have man love one another.  Man rebelled against God by choosing to sin, therefore breaking fellowship with a holy Creator.

 

Sin led to murder, as in the case of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:7-11).  God hated not only what sin did to mankind, but He hated those who practiced it.  His wrath was kindled against mankind, as is demonstrated by His judgment of earth’s inhabitants by the flood.

 

·        Gen 6:6-7 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  And the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.”  (NAS)

 

God was grieved at the condition of mankind, and was sorry He had created them.  The Hebrew word for “sorry” conveys a much different meaning than our English word.  To say that God was “sorry” makes it appear as though He doesn’t know the future.  Strong’s Dictionary defines this word as follows:

 

“sorry” = 5162  nacham (naw-kham'); a primitive root; properly, to sigh, i.e. breathe strongly; by implication, to be sorry, i.e. (in a favorable sense) to pity, console or (reflexively) rue; or (unfavorably) to avenge (oneself): KJV-- comfort (self), ease [one'sself], repent (-eringself,-,).

 

God is saying, in an unfavorable sense, that He would avenge Himself because mankind had become corrupt and violent.  Does this sound like He loved them “unconditionally”?  Quite the opposite; He was grieved and angry, and intended to destroy them!

 

·        Gen 6:12-13 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.  So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”  (NIV)

 

Why would a God who has no conditions on His love destroy His very creation?  Sin had led to an earth filled with violence.  Man no longer looked to God for fellowship, but chose to continue in corruption.  How does God feel about those who practice violence?

 

·        Ps 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates. (NAS)

 

The LORD hates those who practice violence.  It has been often said that God “hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”  This is not scripture, but a human concept.  God hates the one who delights in wickedness.  The Hebrew word for “hates” is defined by Strong’s Dictionary as follows:

“hates” = 8130  sane' (saw-nay'); a primitive root; to hate (personally): KJV-- enemy, foe, (be) hate (-ful, -r), odious, X utterly.

God personally hates the wicked and His wrath is kindled against them.

 

·        Ps 5:4-6 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.  The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; you hate all workers of iniquity.  You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  (NKJ)

 

Even so-called Christians that hate their fellow brethren are considered murderers in God’s sight.  This is important to understand when considering God’s love and the conditions He has placed upon it.

 

·        I Jn 3:8-10 The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.  (NAS)

 

·        I Jn 3:15-17 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  (NAS)

 

·        I Jn 2:9 The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.  (NAS)

 

·        I Jn 4:20-21 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.  (NAS)

 

God hates all workers of iniquity.  Who are workers of iniquity?

 

·        Rom 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (NAS)

 

All mankind, with the exception of babies and small children, have sinned.

 

·        James 4:17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.  (NAS)

 

Some might say, “That is how God deals with the unsaved and the unbeliever.  With His covenant people He is compassionate.”  While it is true the LORD is longsuffering with His children, even they can test His patience and love to a point of wrath. There is no greater example of this than Israel in the wilderness, who grumbled and complained against God, refusing to trust Him.

 

·        Jer 12:7-8 “I have forsaken My house, I have abandoned My inheritance; I have given the beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies.  My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has roared against me; therefore I have come to hate her.” (NAS)

 

·        Hosea 9:15-17 “All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them. Because of the evil of their deeds I will drive them from My house; I will love them no more.  All their princes are rebellious.  Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit. Yes, were they to bear children, I would kill the darlings of their womb.  My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”  (NKJ)

 

·        Ps 78:31-42 The anger of God rose against them, and killed some of their stoutest ones, and subdued the choice men of Israel.  In spite of all this they still sinned, and did not believe in His wonderful works.  So He brought their days to an end in futility, and their years in sudden terror.  When He killed them, then they sought Him, and returned and searched diligently for God; and they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.  But they deceived Him with their mouth, and lied to Him with their tongue.  For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant.  But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them and often He restrained His anger, and did not arouse all His wrath.  Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.  How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert!  And again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel.  They did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary.  (NAS)

 

·        Deut 9:28 ‘Otherwise the land from which Thou didst bring us may say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.”’ (NAS)

 

·        Deut 12:29-32 “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’  You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.  Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”  (NAS)

 

It is evident from the few passages listed above that God is not only a God of love, but of wrath and indignation.  He is the One who inspired these words of scripture.  He is the same today.  God never changes.

 

·        Mal 3:5-7 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien, and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.  For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them.  Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’”  (NAS)

 

God is love, which means He is just and impartial.  A just God cannot show partiality to any man (READ Deu. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9).  Because God is just and impartial, He must execute judgment upon all who practice sin.

 

The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).  Adam and Eve partook of sin in the garden bringing physical death into the world.  Because all men sinned, death spread to everyone (Rom. 5:12).  God’s judgment for transgression resulted in condemnation of the guilty (Rom. 5:16-18).

 

Condemnation is the sting of death because it results in God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18, 28; 1 Cor. 15:56).  All unrighteousness is sin.

 

·        I Jn 5:16-17 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.  There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.  All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.  (NAS) 

 

There are sins that lead to eternal death (i.e. the second death), and there is a sin that does not lead to death.  Since we understand that physical death is inevitable, a sin that leads to death is one that takes a person into the lake of fire (which is the second death; READ Rev. 20:14; 21:8).

 

The lake of fire is a metaphor describing the anguish a person will experience eternally as punishment for practicing sin that leads to death.  These are sins against God Himself, or sins that hurt other people.  The following scriptures illustrate God’s anger and hatred towards those who engage in these types of sins:

 

·        Ps 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates. (NAS)

 

·        Zech 8:17 “Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,' says the LORD.”  (NKJ)

 

·        Deut 7:9-10 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.  But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.  (NIV)

 

·        Prov 6:16-19 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.  (NIV)

 

God will destroy mankind eternally unless he repents, and returns to Him.  Throughout time God has made provision and covenants for man to return to Him.  In the Old Testament He provided opportunity in a variety of ways, including the Law.  But the Law could never make man complete, and the shedding of the blood of bulls and goats would never atone for sin.

 

God was willing to demonstrate His wrath on sinful man, but He made a way to redeem him through the sacrifice of His only begotten son Jesus.  This leads us to a study on the provisions and the conditions of God’s love.

 

 

God’s Love – Provisions and Conditions

 

It is important to understand that man was made in the likeness of God.

 

·        Gen 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.  (NAS)

 

The Hebrew word for “likeness” comes from a root meaning “to resemble; comparable.”  Man was made to resemble what God is like.  Man is not God, however, since man’s love was made to resemble God’s, there are some comparisons.  For example, when a man and a woman begin to love each other, a response is demanded from each.  This is particularly true with women, whom God made to be a responder.

 

If a man treats his wife with kindness, respect, gratitude, affection, and heartfelt communication, she will undoubtedly respond in a favorable manner.  If he treats her with disrespect, shows no affection, is ungrateful, takes her for granted and does not show intimacy through both verbal communication and body language, she will begin to distance herself from him.  She was made to respond.

 

God’s only begotten son Jesus revealed what God’s love was like more than any other human being.  He extended this love to men, women and children of various ethnic and religious backgrounds.  He taught Nicodemus the truth in love in the most well known passage of the New Testament (John chapter three).  On the opposite end of the spectrum, he reached out to the Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of John.  Most Jews in Palestine hated the Samaritans, who were considered half-breeds.

 

Jesus required a response from each person that he extended the Father’s love to.  The Lord Jesus was not demanding a response from people, but the truth he spoke to each one reveals that obedience to the Father was needed.  An excellent example of this is evident in the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery by the scribes.  As you read this passage, consider the phrases that have been highlighted, for they reveal the conditions of his love:

 

·        John 8:3-12 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (NIV)

 

Jesus did not condemn this woman.  Her own actions condemned her, as did the actions of the religious hypocrites who had accused her.  Rather, Jesus showed her mercy, and gave her God’s requirement, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  Then he gives another condition to come out of darkness, and walk in the light of God’s love: Whoever follows me…”

 

Two things are required to experience the love of the Father God:

 

1)      Do not continue in a life of sin

2)      Follow Jesus

 

Someone may argue by saying, “The commandments Jesus gave were man’s part.  Man must respond in obedience to the truth to experience God’s love, but He still loves us unconditionally.”  To this the scripture replies that man was made to “resemble” God.  In what manner?  There are numerous passages of scripture that draw a parallel to God’s love and our love.

 

·        I Jn 5:1-3 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.  (NAS)

 

Notice in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”  The scripture specifies what God’s love actually IS…that we keep His commandments!  A conditional love indeed!  In the next portion of scripture, we find even more conditions for God’s love (note highlighted conditions).

 

·        I Jn 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.  (NAS)

 

God’s love requires Christians to love one another, because God is love.  His love was manifested, or revealed, to us when He sent His son Jesus to be a propitiation for our sins.  Such a sacrifice by God demands a response from man who was made in His likeness (resemblance).  Thus it is insufficient to merely have one’s sins forgiven to understand God’s love (although it is a righteous requirement).  We must also love one another sacrificially to demonstrate His love.

 

Some Christians feel that they have a right to hold a grudge or ill feelings towards another believer.  In part, they justify such animosity because they believe that “God loves me no matter what.”  How much darkness has surrounded those who hold such a prideful and foolish position!

 

·        I Jn 3:16-19 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.  (NIV)

 

 

 

Are You Still Arguing?

 

Although there are many more scriptures that tell of the many conditions of God’s love, enough have been stated to prove the point.  Still, the die-hard believer will tenaciously argue, “The Bible says that nothing can separate me from the love of God!”  They proceed to quote from Romans chapter eight:

 

·        Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (NAS)

 

While they contend that nothing can separate them from God’s unconditional love, they conveniently, or ignorantly, ignore the very last words of Romans 8:39, “…which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Hmmm? 

 

For someone to say that nothing can separate him or her from God’s love (according to scripture), they must first be in Christ Jesus.  There is a lot to being in Christ Jesus, but we will start with the basics.

 

·        Rom 9:22-23 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?  And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.  (NAS)

 

·        2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (NIV)

 

God’s love patiently awaits man’s obedient response.  He does not love the wicked unconditionally, neither is He desirous that anyone should perish eternally.  His love has a basic condition for EVERYONE…REPENTANCE! 

 

Strong’s definition of the Greek word for repentance (metanoia) is compunction for guilt, (including reformation); by implication reversal (of [another's] decision); to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction).

 

Some may feel that it is unfair to state conditions on God’s love, but His love directs the hearts of true seekers towards repentance.  Repentance is one of the conditions, and it is compunction for one’s guilt.  It is that which causes a person to think differently about their sinful ways, and to reconsider the love of God to be found in Christ Jesus.

 

·        Rom 2:4-8 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (NAS)

 

Only those who have a stubborn and unrepentant heart fail to see that God’s love leads to repentance.  These are the people that have self-centered ambitions, and reject the truth.  Because they love unrighteousness, they will experience God’s wrath and indignation. 

 

Those who desire to be “in Christ Jesus” and remain in him will come to know the conditions of God’s love.  They see those conditions as His kindness and forbearance.  They understand that God demonstrated His love by offering up His only begotten son as a ransom for man’s sin and guilt.  In response they repent, and in faith call upon the name of Jesus to experience salvation (another condition).

 

·        Rom 5:7-11 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  (NAS)

 

Saved from the “wrath” of God?  If God’s love were “unconditional” where would His wrath fit in?  Those who refuse to obey the provisions of the love of God, and the reconciliation that is found in Jesus, will not be saved from His wrath.

 

 

Still Not Convinced?

 

There may be personal reasons that have not been mentioned in this brief study to sufficiently convince some that God’s love for them is not unconditional.  Therefore, we conclude by listing some passages of scripture that describe the love of God in more detail.  Please note that the word “unconditional” appears nowhere in scripture, yet there are many other attributes that properly describe His great love.

 

·        II Th 3:5 And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.  (NAS)

 

·        Deut 7:7-11 “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.  Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.”  (NAS)

 

·        Deut 10:17-20 “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe.  He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.  So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.  (NAS)

 

·        Isa 63:9-10 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.  But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.  (NAS)

 

·        John 15:9-10 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.  (NAS)

 

·        I Jn 4:12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.  (NAS)

 

·        I love those who love me and those who diligently seek me will find me.  Proverbs 8:17 (nas) amen…so let it be!

 


 

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[1]The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.