Is The Love of God Unconditional?
Here is an article from a contributor, Richard E., modified by highlights and font changes, on whether God's love is conditional.
The Definition of Love, As Given By God and Christ
Having grown up as a teenager in the “Jesus freak” time-frame, one thing that still stands out in my memory was the concept of “love” being unfocused. As the Beatles song went on and on: “Love, love, love; love, love love; love, love, love; all you need is love.” Some also pretended that Jesus’ love was passion for a fallen and forgiven harlot that followed Jesus and the disciples around (Jesus Christ – Superstar). My dad would get up in the pulpit and preach about “Agape’” love – the unconditional love of God in 1 Corinthians 13 – and that all the problems in the world or the Church would be resolved with agape’ love – we just needed to put unconditional love into practice and action.
We can look back historically and see that all this preaching and singing of “love” undefined by the life, word and example of Jesus didn’t accomplish much. Could it be because no one bothered to notice that the love of God or the Christ is not unconditional? In effect, many were merely taking a few quotes of His word and neglecting to understand His teachings, life and example – the ‘cut and paste’ version of Christian faith. “The sum of Thy word is truth” – not “some of Thy word is truth.”
How did Yahshua define love? What did love mean to him? And just to be sure we know it when we see it – what would the love he taught cause those who believe him to do? Did he ever teach unconditional love, as the Greek word “Agape’” could indicate to us? Or is this a provable misunderstanding?
It’s no small wonder that God said through the Prophets that in the end times there would be great deception and turning from His instructions of righteousness to work lawlessness, as well as the fact that some things would remain hidden, or not understood, until the time of the end. (Such as the words to Daniel from the angel.) Could it be that we should recognize the Messiah by the prophecies of what he would teach and do, in addition to the prophesied lineage? We should also know those who are truly his by their manner of life and conduct – his disciples model their understanding and life upon His example and word. According to Yahshua, love is known by what it does - it isn’t just a feeling – it has definition and is not ambiguous.
The passages from John 14 and 15 show that love abides in and does as he taught – love is defined, proven and known by the works it does. Not that our love can ever be completely perfect, but as disciples of Yahshua, we are called to live and grow and walk through continuing in the pathways of life and conduct he gave us to abide in. If we are faithful, in time we will mature and grow to become his disciples indeed through growing to be more like him. As John said, if we confess our sins, God will be faithful to forgive those who return and continue on in the pathway of life that He has instructed us to walk in. As Yahshua said, it is enough that we become like him, that we reflect the goodness of God in our lives, just as he did.
We know from the Sermon on the Mount that we are not to even think Yahshua came to set aside, loosen or do away with even the least of the commandments of God. The commandments of God were the conditions for the Covenant that God put upon Israel and the Gentile sojourners with them. Review of those Commandments will show some things to be instructions to His people about knowing what He said is right and good, and what He declared to be minor sins and matters of ritual purity, as well as what was sin, evil and also what He considers to be abominations. Some things that resulted in a person being “cut off” from the people were minor issues of ritual purity that were easily resolved. Some things were regarded to be abominations in His sight and were not easily resolved. Be careful to treat His words with the distinctions He made, and don’t ignore any of His Instructions in Righteousness. This should be reasonably convincing evidence of the source of the Commandments of God, proving they are from the Creator who knows what is for our good and what it takes to live a blessed life in a community that desires to live uprightly toward both God and their fellow man. Because the need to honor and keep His instructions indeed was taught by Yahshua, faithful disciples will be doing these things and also keeping the words of God given by Yahshua. When we mature in the things of God as Yahshua taught them, and also raised righteousness to higher standards, we will come to understand more fully what it means to know what God is doing and what it means to be a friend of Master Yahshua. Although discussed earlier, since it is the direct topic discussed at this time, this passage is again noted:
John 15:9-21; “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 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. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. 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. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
Revelation 12: 10-12; “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, [ye] heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
When our faith and word is abiding in the testimony of the gospel as preached by Yahshua, and our love is centered on doing the will of God, surely we will be found to be faithful overcomers who fully trust in the Testimony and blood of the Lamb of God.
It is also said in Revelation that those who enter the City do so because of right – not just grace, not just because of their faith without works, but rather because they kept the commandments of God and the Testimony of Master Yahshua. Revelation prophecies that the bride of Christ made herself ready for His return, she was clothed in clean garments that were not stained with unfaithfulness or abortions. She knew what the will of her betrothed was and set about to make sure she was faithful to Him indeed and persevered to the end in her faithfulness to God and Christ with the help and assistance of the Spirit to renew and empower and aid in living within the pathway to eternal life as shown through Master Yahshua. Lamentations 3:21-33 comes to mind:
“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in him! The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to hear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust – there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
(As a side-bar of the Scriptural details of the teachings of Master Yahshua, this passage directly relates to the one about “turning the other cheek,” as what the underlying support text is: “Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach.”)
The apostle John wrote of these things in his letters, which provides further evidence that this is in keeping with the Apostles understanding of the instructions of Master Yahshua that fits perfectly with what is quoted just above about the need to love Him as He said.
I John 1; “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen [it], and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
I John 2: 1-6; “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
God knows our works. He knows our hearts better than we can ever know ourselves. Do take note of what Yahshua taught, and do so with the mind to be faithful and true - to be his disciple indeed and to be wholehearted in our discipleship to him. Grow in understanding and faithfulness to the instructions in righteousness, that God may then be true to His word and be able to bless us, rather than place ourselves under a curse by ignoring His instruction and goodness. The faithfulness of God to His words of blessings and curses towards Israel are surely something we all need to heed and pay close attention to. There is no reason to believe God will be unfaithful and cast aside His words as meaningless or irrelevant. God has both shown and told us what is good – if we will but see, hear, and turn to do His will that He might heal us, and possibly our nation. As the Revelation of Master Yahshua ends, “Amen. Come quickly!” Are you making yourself ready? Are you trying to share the need to repent to do His will with others, so they might also be saved from this wicked and perverse generation? At least be salt and light for Him.
Love is a verb; it is an action, and according to God and Christ, it is being active to do as God and Christ have instructed and commanded us to do if we believe. The world cannot love God because it cannot abide in His words of life because their deeds are evil, so in response, the world hates God and those who do His will indeed. Love, according to God and Christ, is known by what it does, rather than an imagined feeling or emotion that is not in accord with His words of life, and we are told to choose life, that we may live. To love God is to seek to know and do what He delights in – to do His good will.
Of the Ten Commandments, the one most Christians ignore is keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath was primarily kept in the home. This command has to do with not doing gainful work and to remember the blessings of God in the Everlasting Covenant and provisions made for us in every need we have. It is a time to remember His goodness in creation of the earth and all good things He gives us. The day was traditionally set-apart, distinguishing the secular from the holy, before sundown on Friday, Scripture readings, and then also commemoration of the end of the Sabbath with sundown on Saturday. We can keep the Sabbath holy and set it apart as commanded without the need to convince everyone in our Church of the need to keep the Sabbath and worship on Saturday instead of Sunday.
I found two paperback books on the subject of keeping Jewish home customs in a used book store, or you might do some searches to find information on the internet. It was enlightening to understand the matters from the Jewish perspective, and they have been keeping the Sabbath commandment a long time. We should keep the day as Set-Apart to our Creator and learn about how much this day speaks of our Savior, Redeemer, Master and King. See “The Jewish Home” by Daniel B. Syme; UAHC Press, New York, New York. Note that there is careful division between the secular and what God has set-apart as holy.
Article Two - By Me, Doug
Conditional Agape Love?
Christians are incessantly told that God loves us with an unconditional love. He loves us “just as I am.” James Dobson insists “God’s acceptance is unconditional.” In a broad sense, there is some truth to this. “For God so loved [e-gapesen, from agape] the world.....” (John 3:16.) The Psalm 145:8-9 says “God is good to all.” This is a love of the world in a broad undiffused way. Is this the same way God loves individuals? No. God loves the lost in an undiffused general way, but this is not a love that will save them as individuals absent repentance and turning toward Him in obedience.
The question that we address here is whether individuals who are disobedient are still loved by God to save them despite such disobedience? We are repeatedly told by the modern Gospel of Grace that God supposedly still loves us so that He will save us from hell despite disobedience. Not so! God loves the lost sheep, and will hunt him out. But Jesus never says absent a true repentance by the lost sheep, and turning back that the pursuer's love means that the sheep will be saved, nor that one is a "friend" of God / Jesus when lost and unrepentant. The modern Gospel of Grace has spread a dangerous myth into the faith. If you listen to Jesus in two passages, the answer is clear. First, let’s read:
Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. (Joh 15:14 ASV.)
All those times you sang “we have a friend in Jesus,” the Lord was thinking not necessarily so. If you have an initial pistis (pledge to Christ), but in time of temptation, you fell away, then you are like the second seed (Luke 8:13) and the Prodigal Son. You no longer have a friend in Jesus. This blunt truth is what Jesus is saying. Those who assure themselves that He ‘loves us just as I am’ are living in a popular delusion.
Jesus says the same thing again in this passage:
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 (agapon) him, and will manifest myself unto him. (Joh 14:21 ASV.)
Jesus was being blunt once more. Here Jesus says you only show you truly love him by obeying His commandments. Hence, if you disobey His commandments, you do not love Him. But if you obey Jesus, you show you love him and Jesus promises in return “I will love him and will manifest myself unto him.”
Now put John 14:21 and 15:14 together: “you are my friends if you obey my commandments....[if] you obey my commandments, I will love (you).”
Hence, something separates us from the love of God and friendship with Jesus. It is called disobedience. Who says so? Jesus.
God had said the same thing through Moses. In Deuteronomy 7:9, Moses says God “lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.” He “destroys those ... who reject them.” Further, Moses makes clear the conditionality of God’s love: “If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the LORD your God will keep His covenant of unfailing love with you....” (Deut. 7:12 NLT.) As Solomon explained: “The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but He loves those who pursue godliness.” (Prov. 15:9.) “God hates all who do iniquity.” Ps. 5:5.
But Paul say nothing can separate us from the love of Christ:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Rom 8:35
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Rom 8:38-39 ASV.)
Paul can be read not to endorse unconditional love. Paul instead specifies those things that cannot separate us from the love of God, such as death, life, rulers, things, powers, or creatures. Paul never clearly says that even sin cannot separate us from the love of Christ. As Jeff Paton points out: “nowhere in these verses is Paul saying that sin cannot separate the one who rebels against the true and holy God.”
If, on the other hand, you insist Paul says that sin cannot separate us from the love of God, then Paul would contradict Jesus. In that event, we stick with Jesus. Our precious Lord clearly said His friendship and His love is conditional. You may like a touchy-feely God who loves you with an unconditional love. You are loving a phantom. A self-made god. He is not the God Jesus declared. His is someone other than the Lord Jesus. Jesus’ love and His friendship are expressly conditional on obedience. This is another proof that eternal life can only be intended for those whom Jesus loves. This is not everyone who has once called on Him as Lord but do not do as He commands.
Please contrast Jesus’ words against the wordly thinking that invades Christian thought on this topic. Wordly-delusions of a God with uncontional love explain why John 3:16 was narrowed down via translation to save us regardless of continuing disobedience. The old refrain rings in our ears: ‘Once saved (i.e., belief alone), always saved (i.e., disobedience does not affect salvation).’ Thus, Adam Clark -- the famous commentator -- in the quote that follows -- will say if God were to lead us to Him by terrors and fear of violating the Law, He is supposedly no longer a God of love and no one would ever desire to be saved by such a conditional loving God. Thus, to create this desire, God supposedly had to offer salvation for mere belief alone, and not require obedience to the Law with all its terrors. Thus, Clarke says we supposedly cannot lead anyone to God by any teaching of God's terrors for disobedience -- that God requires obedience. (This was Marcion’s doctrine too.) Listen to the famous Adam Clarke injecting such worldly supposition into his commentary on John 6:45:
God draws men by his love, and by showing them what his love has done for them. Fear repels, but love attracts. He who is ever preaching the terrors of the law, and representing God as a vindictive judge, will never bring sinners to him. They are afraid of this terrible God: but they love him who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.
Yet, if Adam Clarke is correct, then Jesus was wrong to teach repeatedly the terrors of hell for disobedience and sinfulness. Jesus simply did not know how to preach if you trust the wordly thinking of Adam Clarke. Thus, you see the true impetus to misread John 3:16 is to remake God in our design. It is retranslated to disguise the true words of Jesus when we should know Jesus said He would, if we are obedient, truly manifest Him to us. God loves us, but it is a conditional love. If you cannot accept this aspect of God, you have come to the wrong God to fulfill your dreams of living disobediently and being loved by God Almighty all the while.
As one commentator correctly explained:
In a typical teaching of Jesus, much of what he said were the life-giving conditions of moving out-of a position of wrath and into a loving relationship with the Father. The catch-phrase unconditional love strips these words right out of our Savior’s mouth. “Hey Jesus, you can’t say that! Don't you know that God’s agape love is unconditional!”
Thus, when Charles Stanley says the Parable of the Prodigal proves unconditional love, Stanley is overlooking one important fact. The Prodigal repented. To deny this is to invent God in a secular humanist mold.
The book of Hosea says as much, but this is ignored and twisted around to prove God has an unconditional love for the disobedient.
For some cite the fact that God told Hosea to marry a prostitute and love her during her unfaithfulness, and claim that this exemplifies the unconditional love God has for us during our wilful disobedience. See Bill Freeman, God’s Unconditional Love: The Way God Loves Us In Our Failure (Ministry Publications). Rather, God gave this command to prove how repulsive it would be to do this. God is telling Israel that His love has limits. He is not telling them He forgives them and loves them in their unfaithful condition. "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. Hosea 9:15
And Hos 2:23 KJV reads: "And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."
People typically rationalize God’s love is unconditional based upon our own perception of what a human parent feels for his children. May I suggest this argument appeals to our self-image rather than reality. A disobedient child raises your wrath. When they repent, you freely love them again. Your father-hood position is why you are always ready to reinitiate the love-relationship. But when your son or daughter is flaunting your authority and disobeying, you are not feeling love in that moment. It is impossible. You are deluding yourself that such love continues. This is not to deny you have a defused love which is that you with your child come back to you and be a obedient again, but your love is not the same as when they are obedient.
Furthermore, if one applied the human-experience to interpret whether God loves unconditionally, it would mean you should play out the following hypothetical to truly test the idea: Imagine you tell your children that you love all the children of the world as much as you love them. What then is the perception of your own children, particularly the obedient ones? They will conclude you either have a very shallow love for them or you unjustly lack a special love for those children close to you who honor and obey you. No human father would say this because then your own children would lose respect for you. You would be claiming to love children as much as them whom never pay a visit, disrepect you, and deny your authority. Your own children’s love and passion for you would naturally wane. Parental love belongs only to your own children. If they were adopted by "obeying unto" your son (pisteuo eis in John 3:16), then that remains the condition hanging over them. If they “disobey your son,” you promised them “the wrath of God will remain on them.” (John 3:36.)
This is the true meaning behind the story of Hosea.
The False Doctrine of Unconditional Love from Ken Raggio