“God loves you unconditionally.”
We hear this over and over from well-meaning preachers, teachers, and typical Christians. But is it true? The short answer is yes. God’s love is unconditional. But what does this beautiful truth mean?
That requires the long answer. The answer that provides biblical context.
Often when you hear someone say, “God loves you unconditionally,” you are hearing a truth presented in support of a false doctrine, a heresy—a doctrine that mixes truth and error. Enough error to make the doctrine lethal. Like a glass of water that contains a deadly drop of poison.
The Love of God Does Not Unconditionally Accept Sinners
The Bible says, “…for God is love,” (1 John 4:8).
Scriptures like this are plenty. So, there is no doubt: God is love. But what does this mean? Well, one popular belief is that God is so loving that He unconditionally accepts everyone just as they are. Sin and all.
You’re a homosexual? No problem. Rapist? No problem. Bank robber? Racist? Adulterer or fornicator? No problem. You’re a liar, drunk, or witch? No problem. Thief or just a nice, respectable sinner? No problem. God loves you unconditionally.
But is this what the Bible really teaches? That God is so loving He accepts sinners unconditionally?
If this is true, why Jesus?
Why Do We Need Jesus if God Accepts Sinners Unconditionally?
What do I mean, why Jesus? I mean if God is so loving that He unconditionally accepts sinners, why was it necessary for Jesus to die for our sins? It’s obvious that if God’s love makes sin a non-issue, there was no need for Jesus to sacrifice Himself to save sinners.
Furthermore, the central theme and overwhelming message of the entire Bible, Old Testament and New, is that sin has separated humanity from God and has made us natural enemies of our Creator (see Ephesians 2:1-3).
So, what’s the deal with Christians running around explicitly telling God’s enemies they are unconditionally loved, and subsequently are accepted by God?
Shouldn’t the message be the following?
- “You are one hundred percent unacceptable to God.”
- “You are dead in trespasses and sins.”
- “You are an enemy of God.”
Once we have explained to the sinner the bad news of his true spiritual condition, we can explain to him the good news of the gospel:
God’s incomprehensible gracious nature of love has compelled Him to provide a way for you to escape His wrath against evildoers. He has provided a way for you to become acceptable. This way is to turn from your life of sin (repent) and to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The Corrupted Message of God is Love
There are no doubt many preachers who know better, and yet have chosen for matters of self-gain and acceptance to build ministries with a deliberate strategy of sanitizing their “gospel” of a God who hates sin and punishes sinners.
But there are many other well-meaning, but ill-informed Christians who are spreading a false gospel in the name of God is love.
They are trying to present to sinners the beautiful truth that God’s nature of love has compelled Him to show mercy to a world in rebellion. That He is so infinitely good and kind and gracious that He has even done the unthinkable and unfathomable to save us…
That He has given Himself as a ransom to pay for our sins and to provide a way back into favor with Him. And that this marvelous love and provision can’t be earned. It can only be received as a gift.
When God is Love is Poisoned
But these beautiful truths are corrupted when Christians fail to present them in their Biblical context, and present them instead with certain modifications designed to make them more acceptable to sinners. Let’s look at these illegal modifications.
First, God is love. The problem here is not that God is not love; He is. It’s that God’s nature of love doesn’t preclude Him from hating something. To teach otherwise is deception.
The Bible is filled with references to God hating things. Here are just a few examples:
- “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 16:6). Old Testament
- “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs” (Amos 5:21-23). Old Testament
- “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans; which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15). New Testament
God is love, but He absolutely hates sin. He hates the sin and rebellion of sinners. To present the gospel in such a way that we hide or lessen God’s hatred for sin is shameful, deceitful, cowardly, and often does nothing but produce false converts.
Second, God loves you unconditionally. Hmm. Depends on what you mean by unconditionally. God’s readiness to forgive His enemies comes from His own heart of love, and not from Him seeing any inherent good in us (Romans 3:10-18), or in any assumed right we think we have to be forgiven. In that sense, God’s love is unconditional.
But if by unconditional, we mean we can live for the devil and still go to heaven because God loves us unconditionally, we make a grave mistake.
The mistake is God’s love alone doesn’t automatically save the sinner.
Gotta be a false prophet, right? Nope. Put that rock down. Let’s look at the most famous Scripture in the Bible:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16
Fact. God loves the entire world.
Fact. There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve this love. It is in that sense unconditional.
Fact. Despite the “unconditional” love of God, most people are not saved.
Fact. God’s love alone doesn’t automatically save the sinner.
Since God’s unconditional love doesn’t automatically make sinners acceptable to Him, shouldn’t we stop telling unrepentant sinners they are acceptable to Him?
Graphic Proof the Unconditional Love of God Doesn’t Automatically Make Sinners Acceptable
Let’s highlight a fact before we consider the above point. God is eternal and unchanging. He has never been impatient or unkind or unloving. He has always been a God of love.
He destroyed the whole world by water because of their sin (Genesis 6 – 7).
He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and several cities by fire because of their sin (Genesis 18 -19).
Jesus, the Savior of love, reminded us of these events and pointedly told us not to forget the wrath He poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah: “Remember Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32).
Do you know why they were destroyed? It is because God’s unconditional love doesn’t forever treat the sinner as guiltless if he hasn’t submitted to God and repented of his life of rebellion.
But that was the Old Testament, you say. We have Jesus!
Jesus Promises to Destroy Billions of Sinners When He Returns!
Well, I could develop the points that God’s nature doesn’t change, or that it was Jesus who sent the Flood and the fire and brimstone from heaven that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
But we’ll instead look at the eternal God of love executing brutal wrath upon billions of sinners—in the New Testament:
…since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe…2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
Who is this appearing in the heavens with mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on the ungodly? Who is the One in Revelation 20 sitting on a great white throne on Judgment Day sentencing billions of sinners to eternal damnation?
It is the New Testament Jesus.
Some “Christians” may despise the narrow gate of repentance that leads to eternal life (too legalistic! they say), and the Jesus of judgment, wrath, and vengeance, but they can’t erase Him or His demands from the pages of the Bible.
How about you? Is there any place in your presentation of the gospel for the Jesus of the Bible?
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