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Is The Love of God Unconditional?

Contributor Article: 

Here is an article from a contributor, Richard on whether God's love is unconditional. He runs a great website One Disciple to Another.

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. [Matt 5:17-19.] 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.