Sunday, October 28, 2012

God's "Unconditional" Love

"I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. " Proverbs 8:17

I have been thinking a lot about the "unconditional love" of God.  This is commonly asserted by many Christians, and most often in relation to sin, "God loves us unconditionally in spite of our sin."  However, is this sentiment really biblical and what is meant when people say this? I ask you to think honestly about this question.

Increasingly people are being lulled into a false standing with God which seems to hinge on some perversion of God's love.  The purpose of this article is not to attempt to divorce man from God's great love, but to ensure that we are truly abiding in His abounding love.

For a doctrine that has become so central to the contemporary church, Scripture is relatively silent on this issue.  That is why many asserting that "God's love is unconditional" must deduce that it is so.  They seek to appeal to what might be called your sense of reason saying, "God's love must be unconditional because...[fill in the blank]"  Yet, there is not one Scripture which states that all have God's love unconditionally.  Is God's love undeserved by all?  Yes!  Yet, undeserved does not mean unconditional. At the very least this concept should be supported by God's word if it is to be believed.  Otherwise, it is likely false - no matter how warm & fuzzy it makes us feel.

So, what does it mean biblically to say that God's love is unconditional?
unconditional: not limited by conditions; asserting that the existence or occurrence of one thing or event does not depend on the existence or occurrence of another thing or event.
God's love simply exists, for He is love (I John 4:8).  It is not dependent upon anything else for - like His very nature - He (and it) just is.  Yet, the fact that God's love exists unconditionally does not mean it is received by man unconditionally. 

I Love Them That Love Me

Proverbs 8:17 states that God loves them who love Him.  That is a condition...not a condition to the existence of God's love, but a condition upon its receipt.

And if obedience is the evidence of our love for God, then where does that leave sin?

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." John 14:21

"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:23

"For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." John 16:27

Scriptures state repeatedly that God loves those who love Him.  Why would God say this if all receive His love unconditionally?  If He loves all the same, then what is the point of such statements?  If we truly examine the Scriptures, we will see that being recipients of God's love is only explicitly referenced for those who are considered His people.  It is a promise of our inheritance in Christ Jesus.

The Biblical truth then is not that, "God loves me in spite of my sin." but that "God is love, in spite of my sin."  Our sin does not stop God from being love, but our sin can surely place us outside the bounds of receiving His love (Hebrews 10:26-27). We should not be asking, "Does God love us?" but "Do we love God?"  If we do, then we will obey His commands.

Abiding in God's Love

Does this condition mean that God's love is fickle?  That it comes and goes at His slightest displeasure, at the smallest wrong?  Not at all.  God's love is steadfast and sure (Lamentations 3:22-23; Psalm 86:15).  Neither does it imply that God's love is not offered equally to all (John 3:16; Revelation 22:17).

God "loving those who love Him" is not a barometer by which we measure God's love, rather it is the standard by which we measure our response to His love.  It simply affirms the reality that - although God draws man to Himself via His love - many do in fact reject His love.  Some do this outright, never responding to His invitation for eternal life.  Others might receive His love initially, but not continue to abide in it.

"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matthew 24:12

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:4-5

The quality or quantity of God's love does not change when we sin; rather continued sin illustrates our response to that love. God's love must be received by us for it to apply to us.  We do realize that God's love does not abide in everyone, right (I John 2:15)?

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:12-13

The goal is to have God's love (which exists unconditionally) living inside of us (which is conditional).  We must enter into His love by turning in faith to Jesus Christ.  His love must be perfected in us.  If this is so, then our obedience will be the sign that we are abiding in that love (I John 1:6-7).

"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:26

"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:10

"But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." I John 2:5

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." I John 5:3

"And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it." II John 1:6

Don't be deceived by those telling you that God's love will keep you in spite of your continuing willfully in sin.  The Lord keeps those who love (obey) Him.

"The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Psalm 145:20

Remember, the issue is not primarily the presence of sin, but the absence of a passionate love for Him.  Persistent sin is merely the [rotten] fruit resulting from a lack of love relationship with God.

God So Loved the World

When using Scripture to deduce that God's love is unconditional for all, one of the main Scriptures that people point to is John 3:16.  There is much which could be said about this verse and what it tells us about God's love, but that has been previously covered.  My purpose in raising it here is to examine whether it is an example of all men being given God's "unconditional" love.

"We love him, because he first loved us." I John 4:19

Did love lead the Father to offer His only Son for our sins, and likewise lead Jesus to sacrifice Himself?  Absolutely!  It would have been impossible for us to love God without this sacrifice for we would not be able to be born again and become partakers of the divine nature.

Was that act unconditional?  At one time (even at the point of writing this article) I would have said, "Yes! Jesus died once and for all to be a propitiation for the sins of the whole world based upon His own Sovereignty and compassion for mankind.  Therefore, the love God exhibited in offering us redemption through Jesus Christ was unconditional because He required nothing from man in providing it."  However, even as I was typing that, God asked me, "What about Abraham?"

God called upon Abraham to sacrifice His "only son" as a pattern and figure for what God would later do with His only Son, Jesus (Genesis 22:1-2).  Yet, when God saw that Abraham was willing to do this and had faith that God would restore the life of his son (Genesis 22:5; Hebrews 11:17-19), God stopped him and substituted a ram for the sacrifice saying:

"And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:15-18

For more on how this willing sacrifice was a shadowing of Christ's sacrifice, see here: Why did God tell Abraham to kill his son Isaac?

However, look again at God's response to Abraham.  God assures Abraham that "because" he was obedient & faithful in this way, God would bring forth a promised seed.  We know from Scripture that this seed is Christ.

"That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith...Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Galatians 3:14, 16

Could God still have sent Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins even if Abraham had refused to offer Isaac?  Of course.  God's plans are unchangeable and He is limited by nothing other than His own will.  However, that is the point.  It was God's will to predicate the sin-sacrifice of His Son on the obedience of His servant.  Since Abraham did not withhold his son, God would not withhold His own Son.  Although God had promised to send this seed from the beginning (Genesis 3:15), at the same time we must acknowledge that He was looking for a response from man before bringing that to pass. 

There was a certain type of faith (as witnessed by obedience) which God was waiting to see in man before bringing about Jesus' sacrifice.  Similarly, He is also looking for that same faith in man before applying this sacrifice to our lives (Romans 4:1-25).

Our salvation through Christ - made possible by God's great love - is conditioned upon faith in Him and is the vehicle whereby that love is received by us as His sons & daughters (Hebrews 12:6; Galatians 5:6; I John 3:1, 4:7; Revelation 3:19).

Apart from just that type of faith (the faith of Abraham - faith working by love through obedience):
  • We are not saved (Ephesians 2:8; I Peter 1:9)
  • We are not justified (Romans 5:1)
  • We are not pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6)
  • We are not being kept by God (Psalm 31:23; I Peter 41:5)
  • We are not being filled with the life and power of God (Ephesians 3:17-19)
  • We are not promised to receive the blessings of God (Romans 8:28; I Corinthians 2:9)
  • We are not promised eternal life (James 1:12, 2:5; Revelation 2:10)
  • We are not called saints of God (Revelation 14:12)
  • We are not promised to be recipients of God's love (Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 3:17-19).  
Would God's love still exist unconditionally in such a case?  Absolutely!  Our refusal to receive God's love has no bearing on the existence of His love - which is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).  We merely disqualify ourselves from receiving it by not meeting the condition (faith) for that love to personally transform us.  God only "knows" those who "love" (obey) Him (Matthew 7:21-23, 25:10-12; Luke 13:24-27).

"But if any man love God, the same is known of him." I Corinthians 8:3

Jesus' death on the cross is an illustration of God showing forth to mankind His great love (Romans 5:8).  However, if that sacrifice/love is not received, then this same loving God will send such persons to Hell for all eternity.  So why are so many going around preaching a Gospel of "unconditional love" when it is not the existence of God's love which saves us, but our submission to it? 

Why Not Unconditional?

Some may wonder why I have taken such time to discuss this topic.  Let me be clear.  It is not to cause anyone to doubt God's love. It is to raise to our awareness that the issue of man's standing with God is not about the existence of His love at all.

God's love exists unconditionally for it is part of His nature; it is who He is.  Yet, that alone is not what brings about the salvation of each lost soul.  God's love provides the sacrifice, but apart from receiving that love within, man will still be lost.  When we reassure others that God's love is "unconditional" for man, we not only put forth a concept that is absent in the Scriptures (and at odds with Scripture), but we deny the truths about the conditions God establishes upon which man may be reconciled with Him.

Some believe it would be unrighteous for God not to love all unconditionally, but that is because they do not perceive the nature and purposes of God.  There is a key principle which is missing from man's understanding about God - even amongst many Christian, - and that is this: God only has communion with Himself.  From the beginning, God's purposes have been to have His image and glory reflected across the Earth.  Man was made to be in God's "image" so that he could fellowship with God (Genesis 1:26; Romans 8:29).

"Can two walk together, except they be agreed? " Amos 3:3

The word "agreed" above also means betrothed.  This implies more than just a mental alignment, but two becoming one (I Corinthians 6:17, 12:13).  Why is there a condition for man to receive God's love?  Because God is looking to regenerate Himself in us, and for that to happen, we must be one (in agreement) with Him.

God is looking for Himself in us and only has communion with us to the extent that He is alive within us (I John 1:1-7; I Corinthians 1:7-9).  God only acknowledges Himself (Hebrews 6:13-18).  He only answers Himself (I John 5:14).  God only receives that which is like Himself (Ephesians 5:25-27).

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." John 17:21-23 

Herein is revealed the beauty and magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice, in that it is the way for us to become like Him.  Through being born again and the power of His word, He is planting seed within us that will produce the nature of Christ (Galatians 4:19).  Apart from the Father looking at us and seeing Jesus within us, God does not receive us.

It is in error to take the Scriptures about God's love for us and state that these apply to man regardless of his obedience to God.  What good does it do for food to exist, but I never eat it and die of starvation?  What good is it for water to exist, yet I never drink and die of thirst?  So it is to know of the existence of God's love, yet never submit to it.  For all who are thirsty, come drink of the waters which are freely given...but you must come and drink (Revelation 21:6, 22:17).

The existence of God's love is not what saves man. Rather, we are called to respond to, partake of, and be transformed by it.  Our hearts must be directed to abide in that love as a willing sacrifice (Romans 12:1; II Thessalonians 3:5). 

"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 1:21 

Again, the focus is not, "Does God love you?" but "Do you love God?"  God's love exists unconditionally.  It is not limited or nullified by our sin.  Even when we sin, we can still avail ourselves of His love...and we must do so.  When we do, He promises to forgive (I John 1:7-9).  Receiving this love is the only way that our sin can be covered so that we may enjoy His love and communion with Him.

"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." I Corinthians 16:22

15 comments:

  1. it is beautifully getting the Word rightly divided, some of us as believers simply apply It to all and sundry but we must be able to balanced it. even deep down we know God's love is only for those who love and obey Him but we still apply His love to unbelievers so would you say it is God's grace that keeps the unsaved, i say getting this part correct still have me a bit confused.
    What keeps the unbeliever

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    1. Hi Christhinker,

      I would certainly say that it is God's grace which keeps the unbeliever, and the believer as well. It is not my assertion really that God does not love the unbeliever. What I am saying is this:

      1). That concept is not explicitly stated in Scripture for it to have gained such a foothold in the churchworld; and

      2). It doesn't matter one way or the other, because unless the believer turns in faith, that same God will send them to eternal damnation.

      Look at the following:

      "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:44-48

      We know that God is good even to those who are not believers. Yet some might say, from this was can assume that God loves His enemies. Maybe, maybe not. For example, would it be accurate to assume from this that Jesus is praying/interceding for all who are lost? Look at the following:

      "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray NOT for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." John 17:8-9

      People want to picture Jesus interceding on behalf of everyone in the world and the Father loving everyone in the world because such beliefs mesh well with a watered-down view of sin.

      God's mercy and grace is extended to all mankind. Is that an example of His love? Yes. Yet Scripture still seems to indicated that - while God's love is extended to all - it is only received and imparted to those who turn to Him in faith.

      God Bless!

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  2. Margaret NahmiasMay 6, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Yes, but look at sinful Isarel. Although God punished them, he never gave up. This longing to be close is what gave birth to the new convenant we are under.
    However, I think this God love us all is used as excuse as for sin, and that is wrong. Even Paul mentions that grace should never be used an excuse to sin or to cause other to sin.

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    1. Hi Margaret,

      I agree! However, remember, Israel was also set apart as God's people. As the article states, God's love towards man is only explicitly referenced in relation to His people.

      I also agree that God's love is often used as a cloak for sin. My point in this article is not to say unequivocally that God does not have love for all. My point is that this is certainly not a position that should be used as the linchpin of the Gospel, as it never was in Scripture.

      God Bless!

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    2. I really appreciated the distinction made in this article with regard to God being love verses us receiving His love (or being "in His Love"). It is a horrible lie when people think that they can live however they want and that it doesn't affect their relationship with God. I believe this article did a good job of establishing how things such as salvation, being pleasing to God, being filled with life and power, etc are affected by our love for God. This is absolutely critical and undoubtedly, it is a root misunderstanding that fuels false forms of Christianity.

      One thing that I thought that might improve this expression is more clearly defining what it means for "God to be love". The article seemed to almost make it sound like "God being love" is like He is a box full of good things that we can partake of by trusting and loving Him. In this way, the idea follows that just because we don't love Him, doesn't mean that He isn't a box full of good things...rather, we just can't partake of this box full of good things unless we trust and love Him. To say that there is conditions isn't my concern, but making love seem like more of a "noun" rather than a "verb" seems like it is missing the heart of love itself. By the very nature of love, it is directed toward something and can't exist without an object (a noun) to be loved. Though I appreciated how the article points out that God's love doesn't benefit us if we don't receive it, it still seems lacking as it almost states that we are not the object to which God's love is directed until we trust and obey Him. The reason that it is important to know that God's love is directed at people before they repent is that it is by believing this truth that they are empowered to love and obey God (1 John 4:16-19). As a result, I think though this article drives home a wonderful point, it also seems to miss the heart of what its means to say that God is love and strips the gospel of its power to change people.

      When we say that God's love for sinners is certainly not a position that should be used as the linchpin of the Gospel and that it never was in Scriptures, something is not right. The very heart of the Gospel is that God loved people while they were still sinners and that because He demonstrated His love for them they can be saved. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul writes: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved." Also, Titus 3:3-5 states, "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." These passages point out that the scriptures do teach that God's love for the wicked is central to the Gospel of Salvation.

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    3. Since verses such as Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:7-12, John 3:16, 1 John 3:16, etc... explicitly state that we are to understand Christ death as an expression of love for those who are in need of salvation, I find it very difficult to say that God's love for sinners in bringing them to salvation is not the linchpin of the Gospel. Paul boils down the gospel to state that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to several people (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). If Christ's death is beginning point which brings us into eternal life and Christ death is the expression of love toward sinners, then our faith in God's love for the wicked is the linchpin which holds God and man together in the gospel.

      Overall, this article brings out many good points and several good scriptures, but it seems to not simply say that God loves people even while they are still rebels, like in Romans 5:8 (and never mentions this verse in the writing). Certainly, it is good to point out that rebels can't enjoy the benefits of God's love while they continue in their rebellion and this writing clearly demonstrated that this is what the scriptures teach. However, it is probably equally dangerous to not make it clear that God loves rebels before they repent because it calls them to action without giving them what they need to be successful. (it is by believing that God loves them that they are enabled to successfully love and obey Him - “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us...We love because He first loved us” - 1 John 3:16, 4:19). It is like telling a horse to drink without leading it to water, it gives the command without the power to perform it. This is obviously a difficult topic and though the writing has a lot good to say, I think that a fuller expression of God's "unconditional love" is need to really capture the roots of this truth.

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    4. I had to post it in two chunks because it was too long :)

      Thanks for the good read...I appreciated meditating and considering this topic again...any thoughts :)

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    5. Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your very thoughtful response.

      You say, "...it still seems lacking as it almost states that we are not the object to which God's love is directed until we trust and obey Him."

      The question is, "Who are the "we" being addressed in that text?" You offer I John 4:16-19 to support that statement, however the "we" being referenced there are those who are "children of God" and "of God" (I John 4:4, 6). It is not a blanket statement about God's love for all people. When looking at the Scripture, we must keep in mind the context of what is written, and that includes the audience being addressed.

      The same can be said for your other notation of Ephesians 2:1-5. It is speaking to those who have been "quickened together with Christ" and "saved" (verse 5). Does God love those who are His own? Absolutely!! When did He start to love us? He has loved us from even before the foundations of the world. Yet again, this is not a statement about those who never turn in faith to Christ.

      Likewise, Titus 3:3-5 is speaking to those who are "saved" (verse 5). Romans 5:8 is speaking about those who have been "justified in Christ" (verse 1). I John 4 is addressed above. In regards to John 3:16, please see the following: The God of Love. In I John 3:16, the "we" being spoken of are the "sons of God" (verse 1).

      The problem is brother, that there are no Scriptures which speaks of God's love towards those who will never turn in faith to Him. The question is not whether God loves sinners. We were all sinners, but God loves sinners who repent. There is no reassurance in God's word about God's love towards those who never repent.

      Does that mean God doesn't love such persons? To answer that I would recommend: Does God Love Those He Sends to Hell?

      The Bible does not say that God loves rebels before they repent. It says that God loves sinners who repent, and in fact He has loved such before they were even born. There is a stark difference between those 2 statements. Remember, God is outside of time and space; He is not limited or defined by such.

      Finally, I have to strongly disagree with one of your last statements. I John 3:16 and 4:19 does not say "it is by believing that God loves them [sinners] that they are enabled to successfully love and obey Him". Not at all! You will not find such statements made anywhere in Scripture. If that were true, then Jesus' preaching of the Gospel would have been "God loves you all!" and not "Repent and believe!"

      Man's problem is not that he doesn't know God loves him, but that he loves darkness more than light (John 3:19). What allows sinners to successfully love and obey God is that they have repented of sin: Repent and Believe.

      Again, I appreciate greatly your time and thoughtfulness of response. However, unless you can identify text in Scripture which states that God loves those who never repent, then such should not be used as the message of the Gospel.

      God Bless!

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    6. I appreciate your diligence in writing, but it may be unlikely we are going to come to agreement on all this. The difficulty is that we are coming at it from two different sides. Perhaps, I can at least articulate where I am coming from...

      You have stated, “Remember, God is outside of time and space; He is not limited or defined by such.” I do not believe the scriptures really discusses God being “outside of time and space.” This is merely man's attempt fit God into his finite understanding. If God really thought we could understand how He can function within His finite heavens, earth, and time...and yet be infinite, then He probably would have given us a systematic theology on “the reprobate” and those who “will never repent.” Though I do believe that God predestines people (because this is in the scriptures), I do not try to explain it (because this is not systematically spelled out in the scriptures). These types of attempt to speculate like we understand what is going on in all this is like a kitten pretending to make logical deductions about calculus, it is outside of our capacity (Romans 11:33-36). What is clear, as you agree, is that God loves people before they repent: “He has loved us from even before the foundations of the world.” ...I know you are probably thinking something about God being outside of time again when saying this, but I'd say you are going beyond your capacity of understanding. If we think like the limited people we are, within time (and this is really the only realm we can legitimately even think to understand), then before a person has repented, God has loved them. Paul isn't scared to talk about God's work of salvation in the realm of time when explains: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:8-10). It is pointless to even talk about those who never repent...only God understands such things...my point is practically speaking (not theoretically speaking), in space-time, God loves the man while he is wicked and before he ever repents...The only reason I stress this is because it is an essential part of the Gospel that plays a role in bringing about “practical salvation” (a transformed life in fellowship with God).

      You said, “If that were true, then Jesus' preaching of the Gospel would have been "God loves you all!" and not "Repent and believe!” ...I am not going to get to in John 3:16, because you obviously have a different perspective on it than I and I am not convinced it would be profitable. On the other hand, I would like to address the idea of “repentance and belief.” I read your article and think the definition of repentance could be better. Repentance is the greek word metanoeo, which means a change of mind. When someone repents they are changing their mind to believe something else. In essence Jesus and His disciples called the people to change their beliefs to the Gospel. It is faith in the Gospel that changes people: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...” (Romans 1:16). People don't change and then believe, their knowing and believing the truth of the Gospel changes them and sets them free from their sin (John 8:31-36).

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    7. What is the gospel when it is boiled down: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). As stated earlier a large aspect of the Gospel is God's love being expressed in His death for us “while” we were still sinner (Romans 5:8). “God's love for people” isn't the whole Gospel and I am not trying to say that it is, but it is a crucial part of the gospel.

      Finally, you said, “...unless you can identify text in Scripture which states that God loves those who never repent, then such should not be used as the message of the Gospel.” I was not attempting to address those who never repent...rather, I was only referring to those who are not physically dead and in need of repentance because I believe this is the only realm that we can practically understand God's ways in predestination. As a result, I believe I have adequately demonstrated with several passages that God loves those who are in need of repentance and as a result when we preach we should call people to repent and believe the gospel (and as I have already demonstrated in my previous comments, this includes that God loves them before they repent - Ephesians 2:1-5, Titus 3:3-5).

      Here is a link that might help you better understand my train of thought on Repentance, Faith, and Grace.
      http://www.godlychristianministries.com/cm/index.php/outreach/what-is-the-gospel

      ...blessings, hope that helps :)

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    8. HI Peter,

      It is clear what you believe, but there is no biblical foundation for your beliefs.

      God's love as directed towards men is only ever assured towards those who are His own. Each of the references you have posted about God's love for "us" is speaking only about those who are saved. Where do you see either Jesus or the Apostles assuring man of God's love for them outside of being in relationship with Him? Nowhere, not even once. Such is "another Gospel" (II Cor. 11:14).

      You cannot speak of God's love for those who never repent because the Scriptures are silent in that area. As such, why are you attempting to build a doctrine on just that point? It is false to assure all who are lost about God's love for them...especially when God repeatedly states that He loves those who love Him.

      What is meant by God being outside of time & space is that God is eternal (Isaiah 57:15). He does not experience time the way we do (Psalm 90:4). The element of time is an aspect of creation (Gen. 1:5). The eternal nature of God is certainly something He wants us to understand (II Peter 3:8).

      We know that God predestines based upon foreknowedge (Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29; I Petr 1:2). It is this knowing the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) -which allows God to say things such as:

      "My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 19:15-16

      "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jer. 1:5

      "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." II Tim. 1:9

      "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Rom. 9:11-13

      By no means speculation to say that God has loved His own from before the foundations of the world.

      The point though brother is that you are interjecting into Scripture something that is not there. Our effort as believers is not to "come to agreement on this", but to ensure that we have hold of the truth...for our sakes and the sakes of those to whom we witness.

      Remember, God both loved Jacob and hated Esau, before either had done good or evil because He knew what would be in each of their hearts. You could be standing right in front of Esau - assuring him of God's love for him - and be deadly wrong. In fact, since it is a narrow way, the likelihood is that one is far more wrong than right in trying to assert such a claim.

      We are assured that - for those who are saved - God's love was toward us even before we repented. That statement is never made about those who do not repent. Therefore, it is a falsehood to assure the lost that "God loves them" unless God has given you a special "word of knowledge" to know who would be saved and who will not.

      It is without Biblical foundation to say that God loves man before he repents. It is Biblical to say that God loves His own before they repent. To say otherwise - apart from Scriptural backing - is to pervert the truth and the Gospel.

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    9. In summary, just because the Scriptures say that God loved those who are saved - even when we were in sin, does not mean that we can stretch that to say God loves all who are in sin.

      It is so simple really. If such a claim is true, then why is it not stated anywhere in Scripture? Why didn't Jesus or the Apostles preach it? As many times as the love of God towards man is discussed in the Bible, why is not even one of those times addressing those who are not saved?

      Yes, love was the motivation behind the greatest gift the world could ever receive - Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. However, that love is only received by those who turn in faith to Christ. The Scriptures provide no assurance of having God's love apart from that. Further, assuring the lost that they already have it is not only an unbiblical falsehood, it may very well damn many people to Hell, thinking they have what they may not.

      The following is also related: Jesus is NOT a Friend to Sinners

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    10. You have stated, “Yes, love was the motivation behind the greatest gift the world could ever receive - Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. However, that love is only received by those who turn in faith to Christ.” In all I have said, I am in complete agreement with this statement. Love extended is different from love received. I can love someone, but they don't have to receive it. God loves the world, but most do not receive His love...

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    11. Hi Peter, Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

      I would just caution those reading these comments to remember that Scripture never says God's love is unconditional. Further, there is no Scripture which assures us of God's love towards those who are not saved. People like to assume that such is the case, but it is not biblical. It is even the opposite of what is Biblical, because God states that there are those He hates.

      We must receive God, not based upon what we think He should be, but on who He actually is. For this to be the case, our foundation must be truth and not mere sentimentality or else we may find ourselves erecting an idol instead of worshiping Him in Spirit and Truth.

      The Scriptures also do not say that God "loves the world", but that God "loved" the world. There is a great difference between those statements. As Min. Pawson sates, "John 3:16 is one of most mistranslated, misunderstood, and misapplied verses of the Bible."

      I thoroughly encourage you readers to review the following linked article, as a misunderstanding about John 3:16 is the basis for much of this confusion about God's love: The God of Love

      God Bless!

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  3. Great dialogue folks. Of course, I could interject my conclusions and opinions, however, I think you two are providing great balance to a very maligned subject and equally praised subject, this being God's love.

    This debate you've had going provides a great resource as it further dispels the myth that is Christian Universalism. There are many sincere and greatly loved individuals that seem to want to speak for the God of the Bible when they are hearing from spirits (other than holy) by insisting, that God will, in the end, redeem the entirety of His creation, and not one will ever suffer eternally for their choices because His love will change even the most wicked rebel.

    I think this dialogue between you two is useful and needed. You both have displayed patience and love throughout - and while it is easy to become defensive in one's posture, you both have seemed to avoid that pitfall.

    Keep up the great work, both of you. Perhaps one of you is right and one is wrong. Perhaps both are wrong, but both cannot be right.

    In essence, the end of the matter is this . . . will God's love redeem even those who vehemently reject his love? I do believe the Scriptures speak loudly that it will not.

    And in this I perceive you both to be in agreement.

    Whether God loves all sinners or just those sinners that respond to His call is not as important, at least from perspective, as asking - does God's Spirit, in the end ( so to speak) glorify all sinners or just those sinners who've become saints through obedience? And if He only glorifies those that are obedient perhaps whether He loves all or just some becomes a non-issue?

    Just my two bits.

    Blessings to both of you.

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