Conditionally Unconditional Love
Vol: 141 Issue: 29 Saturday, June 29, 2013
There are few words more powerful than the word ”unconditional”. By itself, the word is just a modifier. Its power is not unleashed until it is linked to an action such as ”agreement” or ”surrender” or ”election”.
“Unconditional” means “without condition, absolute.” What makes the word powerful is that so few things in our existence truly are unconditional. Even the most seemingly unconditional actions are themselves conditional.
An offer of unconditional surrender can only be accepted on the condition that the enemy actually surrenders. An unconditional agreement can only be reached on condition that the parties agree.
John Calvin postulates a state of ‘unconditional election’ of believers. If one accepts that concept unconditionally, then it follows that God decides who will be saved in advance.
But that creates a major problem insofar as the Great Commission is concerned. Since God has already made the decision, why bother with evangelizing the lost?
The problem with unconditional election is that it confuses knowledge with destiny.
My knowing you’ll get home from work at five o’clock isn’t the same as your being destined to get home at five o’clock.
God has perfect foreknowledge of the hour and day that you will get saved. That isn’t the same as destining you to be saved. Just because God knows what your choices will be doesn’t mean that you do.
You don’t know what your choices will be for lunch next Monday. But God is omniscient and therefore, He must — by definition. But you still don’t even know if you’ll even eat lunch next Monday.
When next Monday comes around and you’re looking over the menu, your free will choices remain unimpaired.
Even the most hyper-Calvinistic would have a hard time arguing that unconditional election doesn’t include one condition.
No matter how far one takes unconditional election, one still has to decide to come to Christ. God doesn’t, won’t and can’t do it for you.
Wait! Are you saying that there’s something God ‘can’t’ do? God’s sovereignty is unconditional!
With this one condition. God can’t break His Word.
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:2)
Salvation is unconditional in that Jesus met all the conditions necessary to pay the penalty for my sins. Nothing I do can add to the Finished Work of the Cross, and nothing I can do can take away from the Finished Work of the Cross.
Why? Because it’s finished!
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30)
If the Cross was simply a fresh start with God, but after that it was up to me to maintain it on my own efforts, my last state would be worse than the first.
Hebrews 6:4-6 clearly says that once saved, if you were to lose your salvation, you are forever lost and can never be saved again.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.”
“Impossible” is another one of those ‘power’ words. So if one could lose one’s salvation, they would be forever lost because it is impossible to renew them to repentance.
It also would mean that getting saved in one’s eighties would give somebody a definite advantage over the one who gave his life to Christ as a child.
If I believed that one could sin one’s way out of salvation and as a consequence, be forever lost, I would have advised my kids to hold off on getting saved until they were more mature. (Especially if they’ve only got one shot at it.)
The enemy has less time to work on them before they die, they have more maturity working in their favor when temptation comes, and a lot of what tempts a 17 year old isn’t so tempting when you’re eighty.
Does that sound either logical or Scriptural?
While maintaining the state of salvation is unconditional, I had to meet at least five conditions in order to obtain it. I had to believe, accept, repent, confess and trust.
It seems there are a lot of conditions attached to even the most seemingly unconditional promises. But there is a lot more here than just a play on words.
Stay with me.
I received an email the other day from a brother asking what at first blush sounded like a no-brainer. “Do you agree/disagree that God’s love is unconditional?”
I was about to dash off a quick reply when I heard that still, small voice in the back of my mind let out with a chuckle. I decided I wasn’t absolutely sure how to answer that question so I’d better make sure.
It’s that word, ‘unconditional’ that nagged at my spirit. Unconditional love is something that makes no demands, has no preconditions, and has no strings attached.
God IS love. But unconditional love is a humanistic concept, not a Biblical one. Unconditional love is the highest kind of love humanism knows.
Unconditional love as humanism views it, is a love that makes no demands for performance, good behavior, fellowship or discipline.
Unconditional love as expressed by God is a bit more conditional:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
That appears to be a condition — not necessarily on love, but certainly on salvation. But unconditional love means that God loves everybody — without condition. So what do we do with Esau?
“And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” (Malachi 1:3)
“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Romans 9:13)
Unconditional love demands that God loves Esau unconditionally, doesn’t it? So there could be no conditions under which God could hate Esau by definition, no?
In the end, I can’t find any expression in Scripture of what could be called unconditional love. At best, one can argue that for a Christian, the conditions have already been met.
Jesus met the first condition, to wash away the sin that God hates. The believer meets the second condition, but only by God’s grace through faith. The conditions of God’s love are resident within Himself, but they are conditions, notwithstanding.
There is a temptation to popularize Christianity by using loaded PC buzzwords like ‘unconditional love’ to make Christianity sound more relevant. After all, it is politically incorrect to suggest that God doesn’t love everybody, saint and sinner, without condition.
But the Bible says God doesn’t love everybody unconditionally. He loved the world so much that He made a way for sinners to have fellowship with Him, on condition that they believe on His Son.
He loves His children, but He still spanks them when they get out of line.
“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:7)
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11)
God’s love for us is deeper than we can contemplate and more unfathomable than vastness of the universe. The price paid for our redemption stunned the angels and totally blindsided the enemy.
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1st Corinthians 2:8)
As deep and as wide and as unfathomable as that love might be, the word ‘unconditional’ is not the right word to describe it.
This brief was originally published May 4, 2010