Many people, probably even many Christians, think God’s love is unconditional. And insofar as God extends his love to all people without distinction, it is true. But many have bought into the sentimental notion of unconditional love evidenced in the old popular song, “Though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he’ll always say, ‘I forgive.’ “ This is fuzzy romanticism and cheap grace, not the good news of Jesus Christ.
There is such a thing as unconditional love in God, but it’s not what most people mean by it.
- It’s not a saving love that he has for everybody. Else everybody would be saved, since they would not have to meet any conditions, not even faith. But Jesus said everybody is not saved (Matthew 25:46).
- It’s not the love that justifies sinners since the Bible says we are justified by faith, and faith is a condition (Romans 5:1).
- It’s not the love of working all things together for our good because Paul says that happens “to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
- It’s not the love of the most intimate fellowship with the Father because Jesus said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:21). And James said, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
- It’s not the love that will admit us into heaven when we die because John says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). And faithfulness is a condition.
How then does God love unconditionally? Two ways (at least):
- He loves us with electing love unconditionally. “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). He does not base this election on foreseeing our faith. On the contrary, our faith is the result of being chosen and appointed to believe, as Acts 13:48 says, “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
- He loves us with regenerating love before we meet any condition. The new birth is not God’s response to our meeting the condition of faith. On the contrary, the new birth enables us to believe. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been [already!] born of God,” (1 John 5:1). “[We] were born, not . . . of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).
Let us pray that thousands of people who speak of the unconditional love of God would discover the biblical meaning of what they say. If that happened many would find their feet on solid ground.