Friday, August 10, 2012

The God of Love

For God So Loved the World

Someone recently submitted a comment saying in part,  "God is love PERIOD...Are you sure YOU know God?"

I had to admit, as I read the person's comment that it was abundantly clear we did not serve the same God.  The idol god they endorsed was someone completely alien to the Father, because their perversion of "love" does not involve obedience to God's commands.  In this erroneous perspective, sin is of no consequence because God is love.  Holding to God's truths are merely academics in "biblical knowledge" which has nothing to do with a Christian's call to "show love."  Somehow, I don't think this is what God meant when He said that love covers a multitude of sins.  God is love, but God is also Truth.  You cannot separate the two without perverting who God is.

Christianity itself is being redefined to be about tolerance (of sin), diversity (of sin), and unity (with those willfully in sin).  Anyone who speaks about sin is therefore "judging" and "unloving."  The hatred coming against those who speak against sin has indeed become palatable.

Let me say unequivocally that I am not a servant of this idol "god of love" promoted by many in the churchworld which shies away from addressing sin and uses the grace of God to promote lasciviousness.  If that makes me your enemy, so be it.   

In the following messages from Min. David Pawson entitled, "What About John 3:16?" he reviews these issues via an in-depth study of John 3:16.

Studying God's word takes time; there is nothing cursory about it.  If we don't want to take the time to study God's word so that we might have understanding, then we have no right to quote it.  Let us be "more noble" in our pursuit of truth and not just flaunters of Scripture (Acts 17:11).  With that said, I do recommend the following teachings by Min. Pawson as they will surely enlighten on common misconceptions about that text.

GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT JOHN 3:16
  • John 3:16 is one of most mistranslated, misunderstood, and misapplied verses of the Bible
  • It is a major mistake to focus the preaching of the Gospel on the love of God
  • Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God's love is "unconditional".  Such gives the wrong impression that God does not judge people.
  • The very first step for man in coming to God is to repent, but such is done away in preaching an unconditional love to unbelievers.
  • Every mention of the love of God in Scripture is addressed to those who have already been redeemed by God.
  • Neither Jesus nor any of the Apostles ever preached about the love of God to unbelievers in their public ministry.
  • Jesus said not to cast pearls before swine.  This is what is done when we talk about the love of God to those who have not been redeemed.  They will inevitably turn around and rend you with that news, questioning that a loving God would not allow suffering in this life or the next. 
  • Jesus never taught that God is the Father of all people.  
  • John 3:16 does not say that God loves everyone and neither does any other Scripture.
  • In terms of preaching, our focus should be on the righteousness of God.  The very first response to this will engender repentance.
  • According to Scripture, God loves those who fear Him, who keep His commands, etc.  There are many conditions attached to the love of God.
  • You cannot properly understand John 3:16 without also understanding verses 15 and 17.
EXAMINING THE WORDS IN JOHN 3:16
  • The word "God" referenced in John 3:16 references God the Father.
  • The word "loved" in that text is agape, which is the love of action.  It is not centered in the heart, or mind, but the will.  It is a response to the need in someone; not a response to their attractiveness or interest.
  • Because agape is centered in the will, it can be commanded.
  • The word "world" is a reference to the human race.  God 'agaped' a rebellious, hating world and did something about it.
  • The word "begotten" here is used to illustrate that Jesus was God's only natural son, versus one by adoption.  It doesn't mean that Jesus had a beginning or wasn't eternal.  By His very nature Jesus is God, just like His Father.
  • The word "whosoever" is really the word "all" in the Greek.  It is an inclusive word; a wide invitation.
  • There is a big difference between "believing that" and "believing in".  Believing that Jesus died for your sins is not saving faith.  Believing in the Christ who died for your sins is.  Trust and obedience is the evidence of believing in Christ.
  • The word "perish" means to be destroyed in an act of destruction; to be rendered useless; to be ruined by someone.  It does not mean to be annihilated.
  •  The word "life" references a life that is totally fulfilling and satisfying.
  • John 3:16 indicates that the same God who loved (agaped) the world is the very God who destroys those who don't believe in Jesus.
EXAMINING THE TENSES IN JOHN 3:16
  • John 3:16 does not indicate someone believing once, but someone going on believing.  If you stop believing, then you cease being a believer.
  • Whoever 'goes on' believing will 'go on' having eternal life.  Those who don't go on believing will lose eternal life.
  • The word "loved" in John 3:16 is in the aorist tense, meaning that on one occasion, God once loved (agaped - acting to meet a need of) the world.  People read this and immediately think of a continuous love, but that is not what the text says.  The text says "loved" because it refers to that one time in history where God acted on behalf of our sinful, rebellious race by giving the life of His Son.
  • This text does not say that God loves everyone all the time. 
THE CONTEXT OF JOHN 3:16
  • The word "for" indicates a linking word to the previous sentence where the thought previously expressed is expounded upon.  This means that we cannot properly understand John 3:16 until we look to verse 15.
  • The word "so" explains how God loved the world, as in how He did it; He did it thusly, just so, or in this way.  It is not a quantity word regarding how much God loved, but and illustrative word telling how He loved.
  • The words "for" and "so" are there to present John 3:16 as a comparison to John 3:14.  This shows for one that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament.  The God who killed Israelites off for grumbling in the wilderness is the same God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  His loving act to them was not to remove the snakes, but to give the people a way of escape
  • Over emphasis on the love of God has made the cross obsolete.  John 3:16 is not a verse about God loving everyone, but about God providing man a way out.
  • John 3:16 is part of a conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus in answering his 3 questions: 1) How can I be a teacher like you?; 2) How can I start all over again at an old age; and 3) How can I be born again by the Spirit?
  • Nicodemus wanted to learn of Jesus because he knew that Jesus spoke with power and authority.
  • When Jesus says that you must be born again out of water and spirit, He is referencing 2 baptisms: a baptism by water and the baptism of the Spirit.
  • The cross must be understood before the Spirit can be received.
  • Verse 16 onward in John Chapter 3 is the Apostle John's commentary on Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus and not the words of Jesus Christ.  This is important because it addresses the context of what is said and to whom it is being said.  
  • The Gospels of John & Matthew were written for believers; the Gospels of Mark & Luke were written for unbelievers.  John writes about who Jesus is for the benefit of believers so that they might go on believing and as a result, go on having eternal life (John 20:31).
  • It is an abuse of John 3:16 to use it for evangelism because it strips the text from its context.
 FINAL COMMENTS ABOUT JOHN 3:16
  • One message that is clear from John 3:16 is that eternal life can be lost by ceasing to believe in Jesus Christ.
  • We are given eternal life not in ourselves, but it is obtained by having the Son (I John 5:11-12).
  • Jesus describes this in John Chapter 15 where He indicates that the branches have a choice to stay or abide in the vine or not.  Those who do not stay in Him have no life; we only have life while staying in the vine.
  • We are to show people the agape of God, but we should not preach it to them
  • Most who preach this "Gospel of Love" never preached on the Book of Revelation.  Yet Jesus chose John - called the Apostle of love - to pen the book about God's wrath poured out against the world.  This is evidence of how there is balance in God; He is love, but He is also righteous. 



What About John 3:16 - Part 1 from thelatterdays on GodTube.

What About John 3:16 - Part 2 from thelatterdays on GodTube.

9 comments:

  1. I had a "friend" that went to joel osteen's "church" and when I asjed why Osteen doesn't preach on sin and repentance the response was "He does, just in a different way than most. He focuses more on God's love and how God can help you past your mistakes (what they meant for sin)". I said that the problem with thst message is that there is no balance because though God is loving he is also a righteous and just judge that will throw you in hell. He struck people down for lying to the Holy Ghost. He swallowed folks up in the ground in Mose's time for SIN not mistakes and rained fire and brimstoned down on the cities of the plain including Sodom. If Osteen is not telling those things and calls sin mistakes, then its to no surprise people flock to him. They never have to change. I guess its like what pastor Price says....Osteen really does preach another Jesus and another gospel. There must be balance and truly sinners have to be preached lost and damned first or they will never know tje severity of God's wrath upon them. The wimpy love gospel makes for wimpy luke warm christians. The "friend" defended Osteen saying he was a man of God and I should be careful about how I speak about him and that she knew Osteen had God's hand over him... I just brushed the dust off and kept it moving.

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  2. This blog is such a blessing. You have broke this scripture down to the nitty gritty. I was on Facebook the other day and I read a post by one of the members of Trin-i-tee 5:7 basically telling their fans that Christians just don't listen to gospel music and it's cool if they do, but not to judge those who (in her terms) like excellent music (she lists Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, the Beatles, Marvin Gaye as excellent music). I was appalled, and more appalled when some Christians were commenting howlistening to worldly music is wrong, other so-called Christians were accusing the true Christians as be judgmental and so many used this same scripture to justify Christians who like worldly music. This is really an eye opener. I thank God for his truth and revelation, I told myself I would not buy their music or anyone who would pervert the word of God. I'm going to post this and pray. Thank-you. May God bless and keep you.

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  3. I understand that the world has distorted God's love to mean that God is cool with whatever people want to do. This is certainly not true. God is Holy and cannot abide with sin. Sin must die. All sins, not just the ones the other people do. The other ways of describing God have to do with man’s view of God, like “my provider, healer, love, truth, etc. This are not wrong as they are in the Bible and God answers to those as well, but God in essences is holy. The angels who are constantly in the presence of God refer to God as "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
    But the hope of the world is found in this verse John 3:16 as it is all over the Bible if you believe it is the infallible word of God which I do. John 3:16 shows us God's heart for all of us. The hope for salvation of this world is that God loves us so much that he gave up His own only begotten which is the only sacrifice that was perfect and without sin that could cover our sins. God didn't have to love us at all, but He did truly and so much that His word says that God is love. God did this for the entire world, not just people who agree with various points of view, appear to be pious enough, go to your church, speak in an acceptable manner, is involved in the right political party, etc. God is so much bigger than you or any one or all of us together. God's love covers us all. God's sacrifice, and be clear, it was a sacrifice because God so loved his only begotten son, was because he love us, all of us, all of mankind. It is God's will that none should perish.
    There is nothing that you can do to save yourself. You can't get yourself right to come to God. Sin is your master until you accept that Christ did it all for you already. There is nothing that you can offer to God on your behalf that will hide your sins. Christ died for us. We just need to accept that. The Holy Spirit will take care of us on our journey. We each mature in Christ at different rates in different areas of our lives. That is why we don't struggle the same. But please be clear, it is false to say that God doesn't love every single one of us. That is a lie. You need to read your whole Bible slowly so that you don't miss anything. The Bible says clearly that all we need to be saved is to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, that is the Lord of my life and ruler of all and the son of the living God, and believe in my heart that God raised Him, that is Christ, from the dead and YOU WILL BE SAVED. (Romans 10:9)
    Some other words for love are "grace" and "mercy." We are saved by the "grace" of God. Grace is God blessing us when we don't deserve the blessing. None of us deserve salvation. That's how grace saved us. God's love of us led to His grace for us. Another way love is all over the Bible is the word "mercy." That is God not giving us what we do deserve. God loved us and mercifully provided Christ so that we don't have to be condemned and eternally separated from Him.
    Do you understand that this is the gospel? This is the good news that we are supposed to run and tell others. We are supposed to tell others that God loves them and they can be reconciled back to God again. God will be with them if they accept God's good and perfect gift of love.
    We as Christians are supposed to love others to Christ. We are not to hand out judgment as we have neither a heaven nor a hell to put anyone into. We are not supposed to go along with everything and compromise our faith either. We are to follow Christ's example. Christ went and dined with the sinners. Christ spoke openly so that anyone could come see and hear him. Christ always demonstrated love with everyone that he healed and dealt with. This is our example. If you believe that God is not the God of Love, true love that this world does not understand and is hungry for, and that God commanded us to show them, then you don't know the God of the Bible, and truthfully, you don’t know love.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I have to wonder if you have even listened to the message above, for you are making the same mistakes Min. Pawson mentions.

      "The hope for salvation of this world is that God loves us so much..."

      John 3:16 does not say that, and neither does any other Scripture. The hope of this world is Jesus Christ and the fact that God sent Him to die for the sin of the whole world. The text however does not say that the hope of the world is that God "loveS" us. In fact, the very next verses state that this same God (who IS love) condemns those who don't believe. That is love too, because love is righteous.

      "God's love covers us all." And where is this statement in Scripture? I understand that this is what you want to believe, but even a plethora of words does not make it so. If you honor God's words as the foundation of truth as you say, then where does Scripture even once state what you claim?

      "The Bible says clearly that all we need to be saved is to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, that is the Lord of my life and ruler of all and the son of the living God, and believe in my heart that God raised Him, that is Christ, from the dead and YOU WILL BE SAVED."

      Again, as you suggest, I would recommend you read all of Scripture to see the truth in this matter.

      "What Must I Do to Be Saved?"

      "We are saved by the "grace" of God...God's love of us led to His grace for us...God loved us and mercifully provided Christ so that we don't have to be condemned and eternally separated from Him. "

      You do realize however that you are discussing here God's "love" for the believer? Your stating how God loves and has mercy & grace on those who are not condemned does not change the fact that there are those who are condemned. If God's love equals our salvation, then why doesn't His love equal salvation for all? If God's love "covers us ALL" as you say, then why has God's love led "US" to His grace and not others?

      "Do you understand that this is the gospel?"

      No. The Gospel is not that God loves us all. Again, where is this in Scripture?

      Preach the REAL Gospel

      "God will be with them if they accept God's good and perfect gift of love."

      The implication of your statement is that God is NOT with them until they do accept Jesus.

      Where Was the Love?

      I have never said that God is not the God of love; I have said that it is not the "love" many (including yourself) have made love out to be. I can only suggest that you listen to the message and actually study the Scriptures to see the what God has to say in this area, and not simply what religion has espoused.

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  4. Amen Latterdays! People believe that God loves everyone, that is false. If God loves everyone then why in Malachi 1:2-3 "I have loved you," says the Lord "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" Says the Lord. "Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness." Then how can we say God loves everyone? The truth is God is long-suffering but God also said he will not strive with man always. How can you love someone who doesn't love you back? That would be a dysfunctional relationship. When people say God loves everyone then why would God ask them to change because if God loves me then why do we need Jesus because we would be fine as we are. Latterdays you hit the nail on the head, thank you for providing us with this information.

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      There is also another Scripture which is interesting in light of this topic:

      "All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters." Hosea 9:15

      The thing to consider as well is that whom God loves is really not the issue. As the other Anonymous poster's comments show (in spite of their protests), God's love is not the key to salvation, but our response to Him is. In His love, God will still condemn folks to Hell.

      While I have yet to see a Scripture that says God loves everyone, it really doesn't matter because if we never in turn love Him, we will still wind up in Hell.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  5. I have Pawson's book and have only briefly perused it but as I understand it, God's love is reserved for the redeemed - only those who obey/love him. It is clear that God hated Esau because of his disobedience but I found one example of Jesus loving a person who was not yet saved. In Mark 10:21, it states that Jesus loved the rich young man though the man could not yet part with his riches.

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    1. Hi IronSights,

      Thanks so much for sharing. I suppose we don't know the eternal destiny of the rich man. As you say, he did not yet part with his riches, but he may have later come to salvation.

      It sort of reminds me of John 15:13-14, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."

      Yet, the Scriptures say that when Jesus died for us, we were all His enemies (Romans 5:10). So how is His dying for us an example of one laying down His life for His friends?

      I think the difference is that God is in eternity. He sees the beginning and the end of the matter at the same time. While we were His enemies when He died, He knew those who would be saved, and they would become His friends. So, He is looking at one point in time, but seeing it from eternity.

      Anyway, just reflecting on your comments. Either way, I don't think people's version of God loving unconditionally is Biblical. God's Unconditional Love

      God Bless!

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  6. Very interesting article. I do think Pawson's full message is indeed sober and thought provoking as well as this article.

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