God’s Conditional or Unconditional Love

Well, if ever there was to be a post that may ruffle some feathers, this would probably be a strong contender. I know that coming in and trust me, I have prayed about it. The thing is, I keep running into this time and time again and the long and the short of it is that it does need to be honestly and Scripturally looked at. This will, of necessity, be a lengthy post, but the subjects being discussed are vitally important, so please bear with me.

It is relatively easy to pick Scriptures that fit into the understanding we have on a particular subject. In other words, find Scriptures which validate the perspective that we have formed on a particular subject. The more difficult thing to do, is look at Scriptures that do not validate our perspective and then realign our thinking to encompass all of the counsel of God’s Word, not just those Scripture verses that we can agree with, because they happen to fit the perspective we have formed on a given subject.

There are three mainstreams of thought that keep crossing over into one another and each of them, from my understanding, according to the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word, put forward a false perception, based on a false understanding.

The three mainstreams of thought that I keep encountering have to do with whether a Christian is to judge, whether God’s love is unconditional and whether a Christian can lose their salvation. I shall endeavour to either directly or indirectly address each of these three mainstreams of thought, in this singular post.

TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE

The first mainstream of thought has to do with is a Christian required to exercise judgement. I recently posted an article that extensively covers this particular train of thought in the post entitled “Righteous Judgement” which can be viewed here, if you have not already read it. If you read all of it, which I would encourage you to do, including the links to many Scriptures and the two videos that are supplied, one should, I would think, have little difficulty in understanding that, no – we are not to judge those outside of the Church and yes – we are required to judge those within the Church.

The problem being, that there are many Christians who apply the Scriptures that indicate we are not to judge those outside of the Church, with Christians not being required to judge those within the Church. Whether we judge or not ultimately has to do with the RELATIONSHIP of those to whom we are interacting. It is vitally important to be aware of this.

As Christians, we do NOT have a relationship with those who are outside of the Church, i.e. they are not part of the Kingdom of God, and as such, we are not to render judgement on them. However, because we DO have a relationship with those within the Church, we do have a responsibility to protect and defend the Church. That would be where all those Scripture verses that do NOT apply to those who are outside of the Church in our Bibles, are indeed applicable to those who are within the Church. Of course you can ignore those Scriptures if you want and just apply the no judgement mentality on literally everyone, but when you do that, please understand that the reasoning being used, does NOT line up with the whole counsel of God’s Word.

Because there is a distinct difference between our relationship, with those who are outside of the Church, there is no assigned responsibility of judgement. However, that reasoning does NOT apply to those who are within the Church because we do have a relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters and as such, there is assigned responsibility.


Consequently, to promote the Biblical reasoning that we are not to judge anyone, falsely applies the logic of no accountability for judging the unsaved, towards those who are saved, within the Church, which is a false perception based on a false conclusion, according to the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word.

If you would like to prove me wrong, please be my guest.

What is important to note here is that the difference in the relationship is subsequently being ignored, which God’s Word does indeed clearly address.

What is also important to note is how what applies to the unsaved, is falsely or incorrectly applied to the saved. PLEASE REMEMBER THIS BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO COME UP AGAIN.

And when we as Christians, do exercise our responsibility to judge those within the Church, it goes without saying, that all of the Scriptures that the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word provides, that tells us not to judge hypocritically or to use some common sense with regard to the seriousness of the alleged sin, and the detailed process that is provided, and that we are told to follow, obviously comes into play.

GOD’S NON-CONDITIONAL OR CONDITIONAL LOVE

Interesting enough, the same error of misapplication, where what is applicable to the unsaved, is falsely transferred over to the saved, when it involves God’s unconditional love, is also commonly voiced by many Christians and what is overlooked once again, is the relationship aspect.

When we are NOT within the Kingdom of God and in an unsaved condition, and we turn to God, God accepts us as we are, warts and all. His acceptance of us is unconditional. This is without question what God’s Word tells us. It matters not what we have said or done or who we currently are.

But to infer that after we have truthfully turned to God, and repented of our sins, that God’s love towards us continues to be totally unconditional, does not, in my opinion, line up with what the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word says.

Is the “love” of God conditional or unconditional? It is both, depending upon relationship:

“Non-relationship love” is unconditional.
“Relationship love” is conditional.

1. God’s “non-relationship love” is what unconditionally draws us as “sinners” to a holy God to receive the conditions of salvation— the new birth.

For God SO LOVED THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16.)

2. God’s “relationship love” is what conditionally offers us as “His children” an intimate relationship with God through continual obedience to His voice and commandments.

He who HAS MY COMMANDMENTS AND KEEPS THEM, it is he who loves Me. And HE WHO LOVES ME will be loved by my father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21).

I’m going to include a link that covers this particular question pertaining to whether God’s love is condition or non-conditional directly below. It is lengthy but the subject matter requires that it be so. I would encourage you to read all of it:

https://www.bereanpublishers.com/is-gods-love-unconditional/

I spent considerable time researching this topic and in addition to studying God’s Word, I have accumulated a large list of links that support the conclusion that God’s love is indeed conditional to those within the Kingdom of God. You may disagree and I understand that, but the above link makes an awful strong case that conditions are indeed applicable.

What bothers me the most when I run into the “totally unconditional” mindset after conversion, is the thinking that irrespective of what we do, we are still unconditionally accepted by God, because of our faith in Jesus. I’ve even seen it stated by someone that they did not have to change one little bit, because they are still unconditionally loved by God. I’d have a tendency to think that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NASB plus many other Scripture verses, would argue against that.

This paragraph is a late add-in: I am aware that how God’s love is manifested is a complicated matter and not easily articulated in a singular post. I think that everyone agrees that God’s love is unconditional to us when we sincerely turn to Him as a sinner. Whatever has happened in the past is paid for by the shed blood of our Saviour and our trust and faith in Him. But even entering into receiving the benefits of God’s unconditional love involves us acknowledging that God is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him, which in itself is a condition. I am also aware that after we are reborn, our walk with God is progressive, in that we are continually being changed into His image. And because we are in Christ now, His righteousness is imputed to us, even though, in actuality, we are in ourselves, still imperfect. Even in this walk, God’s unconditional love is still in effect, because we are in Christ. The key, as always, is remaining in Christ. And if we sin, which we all do, if we confess and turn from our sins, God’s Word tells us that He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if we commit a grievous sin, such as adultery and refuse to acknowledge it as such, or turn from it, or for whatever reason, we deliberately walk away from Jesus and no longer strive to walk in His ways, that unconditional love that we speak of, from my understanding, does not continue. Even that sin of adultery can be forgiven but it must be acknowledged as sin and it must be turned from. So in that sense, there is a condition for the unconditional love that we speak of, to be in effect. When we put our hand to the plow, it behooves us to continue on, to hold on, to endure, to the end. And I am of the mind set, that because our free will is so vital in our decision to follow Christ, it also is vital in our continuance and should we decide along the way to abandon the faith that we once held onto, then God will not violate our free will there either. So, in actuality, from how I see it, according to the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word, our continuance in trusting and sincerely following Jesus, and His Commandments, is a condition and this condition is vital to remaining within the unconditional love of God that we speak of. Poorly worded I know, but that is the best that I can do. Hope this helps.

ETERNAL SECURITY

I also am of the mind set that it is possible for a Christian to lose their salvation. I am acutely aware of the “once saved, always saved” or “Eternal Security” school of thought. Once again, you may disagree and in this particular case, that is fine. I would have no axe to grind if this school of thought is correct. If anything, my personal preference is to error on the side of caution, but I do believe that “Eternal Security” can promote a false sense of security. I am deliberately not entering into a discussion of the pros and cons of this particular school of thought.


CONCLUSION
I personally don’t think that it is a coincidence that some Christians who falsely attribute what applies to the unsaved, to themselves, as the saved, with regard to judging and God’s unconditional love, is a casual oversight. It strikes me as a deliberate misapplication devised to detract from, versus build on, the sure Word of God. And I must question, as a source, who would gain from this misapplication?

I think that those who have decided that it is biblically correct not to ever judge anyone within the Church, as being totally unscriptural. I also think that to infer that God’s love comes with no conditions whatsoever for those within the Kingdom of God, as also unscriptural. Cherry picking selected Scripture verses can validate this stance, but applying the whole counsel of God’s Word clearly can’t.

If you have read down this far, I sincerely thank you. These instances where we run into misapplication of God’s unconditional acceptance of us or God’s unconditional love for us, due to a misunderstanding of our relationship, to those being addressed or not addressed, needed to be clarified and challenged. And considering that I am just am ordinary Christian layman, my reasoning is not infallible. But, as previously noted, this, what I deem as false reasoning, seems to be frequently coming across my path and I strongly felt led to address it. Will it do any good? Heaven only knows but at least I have tried to clarify it and it has been challenged.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!



25 comments

  1. Thank you for your thoughts and insights on these ultimately difficult subjects. What I really appreciate about your writing is that you state your case well, but are indeed open to receive comments and scriptural based evidence to the contrary. I hope I to am I able to form bible based conclusions but to recognise that I do not know everything. Thanks again for encouraging and thoughtful writing. God bless you and your ministry.

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    • Thanks for the kind words Andy. I’d be in the same boat that you are in, definitely not knowing everything, not even close, but we learn as we go. I find that putting it down on paper (so to speak) helps me understand . Blessings to your ministry and you and yours also!

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  2. Bruce I liked this post because as Andy said so well, “Thank you for your thoughts and insights on these ultimately difficult subjects. What I really appreciate about your writing is that you state your case well, but are indeed open to receive comments and scriptural based evidence to the contrary.” I second both of those statements. I might add, that since you have stated a desire to regroup and stay away from such difficult subjects and yet here we are bears witness to your convictions. I have come to trust your discernment and find your work highly credible. I can not recall any instance were I have disagreed with what you have posted in fact, find that often I passionately agree even to the point of righteous anger. As you once said most all, with any credibility, accept and agree on the Fundamental Doctrines of the Faith. Yet there are these difficult subjects credible Theologians have not been able to resolve to everyone satisfaction. I would say that the doctrines of men do not precede the Word [the only authority for Faith and Practice] and that The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. Such things as the Sovereignty of God vs the free will of man have been debated time and time again. One wonders why God requires us “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, but I digress, my point is why do Born Again, Spirit Filled Christ-followers come to different and totally apposing Theologies? So then one’s Theology will dictate their view in these maters. We should work out Sound Doctrine by the Whole Counsel of Gods Holy Word in order not to fall prey to False Doctrine. To that point, we are all Theologians, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is getting lengthy and only sets a premise for rather then any discussion. In fact, these difficult subjects can hardly be dealt with adequately in a comment. Suffice it to say that although I agree in the most part I find some disagreement, perhaps a mater of semantics or perspective. It is to weighty to even digest without further consideration and prayerful meditation. Thanks for raising these concerns and may we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Amen

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    • I hear what you are saying Dave and I agree, especially with regard to free will and the elect (God’s sovereignty) , because I see both in God’s Word. That ties in more with the Eternal Security issue, which is why I gave it a wider birth. My primary observation was of course, the transference of non-judgement and unconditional acceptance in how we are to deal with the unsaved versus those saved, as identified from a relationship perspective, which I do think is relatively clear cut. Maybe others will make comments and open this up to wider discussion. Sincerely appreciate your honest input. Blessings!

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  3. Thank you Bruce for this thorough discussion of these issues. This is a post I will have to ponder and read again, my brain cells aren’t what they used to be you know…haha. I certainly admire your bravery in nailing your colours to the mast brother.

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    • Hi Alan, not to worry, one could probably write a book on each of the cross over items so I was pretty sure that this would open up to discussion. Feel free to voice your concerns and any disagreements your might have. This is a means of learning. Appreciate your taking the time to go through this, Blessings to you and yours Alan.

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      • Having re-read it Bruce I understand it a bit better. I do not have any points of disagreement that I see. “Once saved always saved” has always troubled me, especially considering I know people who have completely backslidden into serious sin. With respect to this I feel as brethren we have a duty of love to one another, to correct/judge one another when sin/error is present.

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      • I heartily agree Alan, if God corrects those that He loves, it stands to reason that we within the Church should do likewise, not to mention, the Scriptures tell us to. I would hope that within a close fellowship, needing to do so would be a rare occurrence. Blessings brother!

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      • Alan I liked you comment but need to say “Once saved always saved” only bothers me to the point of misuse. The misuse/abuse you state deeply bothers me and you are correct in regard to our response. Love does not condone the sin of the one loved it confronts it Biblically. I have know problem with God, His Sovereignty or ability to keep that which is His. The issue is in claiming Salvation with dead faith or believing in vain, as Paul puts it.

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  4. I agree with your first point that we are to hold our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable and be held accountable by them.
    The John 14:21 passage I understand differently. If you look at the Greek word for love from the believer, the Father, and the Son, they are all three verb forms of “agapé” (the noun form used in 1 Corinthians 13), which according to Strong’s Concordance mean “To love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem.” So, when we take pleasure in/long for the Lord (which will necessarily result in obedience), He takes pleasure in/ longs for us in a special way that causes Him to reveal Himself to us.
    In human terms, a mother or father loves their child unconditionally and does not disown them for their bad attitudes and disobedience. But the parents may change their mind about taking the child out for ice cream, and they certainly won’t be opening up about their innermost secrets to a child that cannot be trusted to obey.
    My children used to tell me, “I love you” after their offensive outbursts. More than once I answered (half joking, half serious), “If you love me, keep my commandments.” What I meant by that is, true love for someone (1 Cor. 13 agape love) doesn’t act unbecomingly.
    I agree that this love is relational love, but just as a human parent can unconditionally love the child enough to discipline him/her, all the while not taking pleasure in or delighting in the child momentarily, so I understand that God can still love us, His children, unconditionally, enough to discipline us, even though He is not delighted with our bad attitudes and disobedience.
    Again humanly speaking, if my beloved child plays with a skunk and gets sprayed, I still love the child and will be glad to hold him/her close AFTER the smell is washed off. Our sin is a stench to God, but when we are truly a part of His family, He is a better parent than I am, for He shed His blood to clean up that stench and invites us to come to Him for cleansing.
    His unconditional love does not stop even when the relational love is, may I say, interrupted?
    I have more thoughts, but it’s late, and that’s probably enough for one comment.
    God bless you, brother, as you continue to search His word.

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    • Hi Ruth, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I understand what you are saying about the unconditional love aspect and I agree with you on that particular aspect. I am not talking about infractions that we confess and are forgiven for, I am talking about denying Christ (like where He says if we deny Him He will deny us) and literally walking away from Him or committing adultery and refusing to confess our sin or to amend our ways. I am also mindful of the Scripture that says if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The unconditional love aspect covers a number of different circumstances or situations and covering them all in a singular post is difficult. I don’t know if you had the time to read through the link I provided on the unconditional love aspect but it does explain if more fully. And, here are a couple of additional links that you might want to consider: https://craigbrianlarson.com/gods-unconditional-conditional-love/ https://www.christianity.com/wiki/god/is-gods-love-conditional-or-unconditional.html Thank you again, sincerely appreciated. God’s blessings to you and yours!

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  5. Bruce I think we are in agreement, in principle but differ in who’s who. Who does the saving and on whose conditions? What is Salvation, who applies it and how is it applied or to who does it apply? In short, ether one has (been born again) passed from death to eternal life (a new creature) or not, no middle ground. Can’t loose what you never had only prove to have been deceived.

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    • What you are talking about are people who say they are Christians but turn away later on and then someone says, well they obviously were never saved in the first place. As I indicated Dave, I am not about to get into a pro and cons back and forth about eternal security or Calvinism with regard to the elect. We know who does the saving and we know who sets the conditions and it is not a man or a woman. The thing is, none of us know what has transpired in a person’s heart except God, not to mention as to whether their names have been added to the Book of Life and later removed. If you are of the persuasion that they never were saved, I can live with that. It just isn’t for me. Blessings brother.

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  6. I’m OK with ageing on what we agree on and agreeing to disagree where we differ. I believe we totaly agree in principle. Mostly agree in application. I believe we are both against the Calvinistic view of election and agree that God’s acceptance, favor and blessings are conditional. I don’t care to debate them either we agree on far more than we differ! love Ya Bruce

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    • I can easily live with that Dave. I’m glad you’re there to keep me on my toes. Love ya too Dave and thank you for taking the time to comment, sincerely appreciated. God’s continued blessings on you and yours.

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  7. Didn’t know you believed we can lose our salvation (not fighting, just noticing). I am cautious about “once saved, always saved” but I believe in Perseverance of the Saints (eternal security of salvation of true believers, and the human side is holding on to faith in Christ)

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    • Hi Jim, I can appreciate and accommodate that, I’ve looked at both arguments and the Scriptures, but for me, personally, there are just too many Scriptures that indicate otherwise. I also think that if one adheres to Calvinism, (or one of its subforms), one is more prone to this thinking, out of necessity. I could be wrong but then again, so could others who believe in Eternal Security. One day we will know. Definitely not a reason to divide. Blessings Jim!

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