IS GOD’S LOVE UNCONDITIONAL?

To this question the Bible answers “Yes” and “No.” On the one hand Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) and Paul said this love was before we became obedient. “But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So God loved the world before they gave Him a reason. This love was unconditional.

On the other hand Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) Here the Lord says that keeping the commandments is a condition of this love. At verse 23 He said that if anyone loves Him and keeps His word, both the Father and the Son will love him and will come and “make our home with him.” So according to Jesus this relationship with God is conditioned on the kind of love that keeps His commandments. So which is it? Does God love us unconditionally or not?

In a court of law a witness must swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”? Why is that? Why not just “the truth”? It is because a half truth can be misleading and a truth imbellished with speculation can be a distortion. So they want the facts to be stated, presented in full, and they want speculation and opinion omitted, so the conclusions reached, or judgments, will be correct. These same facts are true concerning Biblical truth. Half truths are a method Satan often uses to lead people to wrong conclusions, and Biblical facts when imbellished with speculation and theory can lead to mistaken ideas.

The matter of the nature of God’s love is a classic example. Satan is “the lawless one.” (2 Thess. 2:8) His aim is to get us to accept and practice an ideology that does not see obedience to God’s commands as essential. He uses half truths about the nature of God’s love, coupled with some faulty reasoning, or speculation, to lead us to the conclusion that a love relationship with God is separate and apart from commandment keeping.

While working on my book on “Calvinism” I got to wondering how it was that many of the famous preachers of past years reached the conclusion that God loves us unconditionally and that salvation is received as a separate matter from obeying commands. What was their thought pattern? So I researched the writings of several of them, such as Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Adam Clark, etc. in pursuit of this question.

I found out that their reasoning always started at the same place. Premise #1 was “We cannot save ourselves.” They all started here, and it is an absolute truth. Their next step was to ask, “What can save us?” The answer was, “Only the blood of Jesus can save.” This also is a Biblical fact. Up to this point they were getting a Bible answer to a biblical question. But from that spot their reasoning went awry. The conclusion drawn from these facts is where the error was made. They concluded that “therefore nothing man can do can affect his salvation.”

That is a mistake in reasoning. It is based on a half truth. They did not ask “How is the blood of Jesus applied?” They were asking “What can merit, or purchase salvation?” Then the answer to that question they took and applied to a different question, “What can affect our salvation?” In spite of the fact that the Bible specifies baptism as how we get into His death, (Romans 6:4) and repeatedly states that salvation is given in response to obedience, (Hebrews 5:9) and the details of that obedience are spelled out, they still held the conclusion that salvation is given apart from obedience to commands, and that conclusion still prevails throughout evangelicalism today. Even in churches of Christ many brethren today are leaning dangerously close toward that way.

A more thorough consideration of Biblical facts would dispel that notion. For example, the Biblical fact that all the people outside Noah’s ark were lost while Noah and his family were saved? Why? The Bible says it was because Noah had a faith that obeyed what God said. (Hebrews 11:7) Verse 30 says that the walls of Jericho fell down “after they were encircled for seven days.” Looking back at the account in Joshua 6 we find that God said to Joshua, “See I have given Jericho into your hands.” Then He told him what to do to get this gift, which was encircling the city for seven days, followed by trumpet blasts and a shout by the people. As Hebrews 11:30 says, they got the gift after they met the conditions. In both these cases the acts of obedience did not have the power that made these things happen. God made them happen. The acts were the conditions on which the gifts were given. They got the promised gift by obedient faith.

So men have been asking the wrong question. They have been asking, “What can I do to purchase my salvation?” The Bible has answered that clearly. Nothing can purchase salvation except the blood of Jesus. We should be asking, “On what conditions does God offer the gift of salvation?” The Bible also answers this clearly. “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) “Do not touch the unclean thing and I will receive you.” (2 Cor. 6:17) “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev.2:10)

The chief reason this particular kind of deception is dangerous is what Jesus said will happen when folks who buy into this deception come before Him at the judgment. “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you who practice “lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:23)

Satan wants us to arrive at and hold a concept of lawlessness. Half truths and human speculation is the means of getting us there. The way to avoid that mistake is to embrace “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The half truth is that God loves us regardless of what we do. The rest of the truth is that this does not mean He will receive us into a saved relationship with Him unconditionally. He offers that relationship, based on conditions. We will not be lost because God did not love us. We will be lost because we let Satan sell us the counterfeit doctrine of lawlessness. God loves us unconditionally. But this does not mean He will save us unconditionally. Nothing is more clearly stated in the Bible than the fact that the dividing line between the saved and the lost is obedience. It has always been so from the very first of creation. It is not mistake free perfection that is required, but commitment to obedience. Let’s appreciate what God has done for us and let’s love Him for it. Don’t let Satan pervert that into lawlessness.

Check your Bible as to whether this is legalism or the whole truth of what the Bible says.

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