God's Love Is Better Than Unconditional

Those who genuinely follow Jesus will always be loved by God, but the word "unconditional" is misleading and not found in Scripture. This devotion explains.

 
The phrase "unconditional love" didn't become popular in Christian teaching until the 1960's, and most people believe it originated in the teachings of atheistic psychologist Erich Fromm.

It's important to know that the description "unconditional" is never used in Scripture to define God's love. 

Scripture defines God's love as patient, longsuffering, sacrificial, pure, holy, just, fair, perfect, etc.. but none of these words are the equivalent to unconditional.

Those who genuinely follow Jesus will always be loved by God, but the word "unconditional" is misleading and not found in Scripture. This devotion explains.
Why is the term unconditional misleading?

1. Because it misleads unbelievers about salvation.

God gives His love while we're still sinners (Romans 5:8). His love is undeserved and we can't earn it (Ephesians 2:8). 

But salvation is only given to those who believe in Christ. That is a non-negotiable condition.  

John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.

Truly unconditional love would treat God-hater and God-lover, victim and criminal, godly and wicked, atheist and Christian exactly the same. Unconditional love would save everyone. Belief in unconditional love has increased the popularity of the Universal Salvation heresy.

Christians are saved from the eternal death we deserve because Christ fulfilled justice and paid for our sins. If God's love had no conditions, Christ would not have needed to die.

2. Because it misleads believers about sanctification.

Those who genuinely follow Jesus will always be loved by God, but using the word "unconditional" to describe God's love gives the impression that God rewards all believers equally, is never displeased with believers, and sees all believers the same.

This has produced a great many lazy Christians who don't take their faith seriously.

See Do You Want to Just Barely Escape? and  Why Christians Still Face a Final Judgment.

3. Because it encourages the common misunderstanding that God views all sins the same

Unconditional love by definition has no conditions. It's unquestioning, unqualified, and unrestricted. Unconditional love would view all sins equally without judgment of any. Judgment by it's nature has conditions.

Sins are "equal" in these ways: any sin sends us to hell apart from Jesus, and any sin can be forgiven (except the unpardonable sin). But Scripture makes it very clear that all sins are not equal in God's eyes. If you believe God views childish irresponsibility and rape equally, you need to read the Scriptures in All Sins Are Not the Same

In conclusion
God's loving salvation is conditional. Period. Only those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior will be saved. Scripture doesn't confuse or mislead unbelievers by saying God's love is unconditional.

God's love for believers is unfailing, eternal, perfect, and undeserved. But saying it's unconditional brings confusion. It causes many people to believe God views all sins and all levels of devotion equally. It gives the impression that God has no expectations, no rewards, and no punishments for believers.

Why is this word our first choice? Why are we insistent on using a word that has so many misunderstandings attached to it? Why are we unwilling to trust the words used in Scripture?
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Below are some other respected resources and Bible teachers who explain the error of the term "unconditional" better than I can:

Thomas Nelson’s Bible Dictionary:
"AGAPE [ah GAH pay] — a Greek word for love used often in the New Testament (John 13:35; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4:7–18). Contrary to popular understanding, the significance of agape is not that it is an unconditional love, but that it is primarily a love of the will rather than the emotions. The New Testament never speaks of God loving unbelieving human beings with emotional love or a love that expects something in return. But He loves with His will (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). The reason for this is that God can find nothing enjoyable about a sinner on whom His wrath still abides. So He loves by His will; it is His nature to love."

Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Rev. ed. of: Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.; Includes index. Nashville: T. Nelson.

Gospel Coalition - Does God Love Everyone the Same? 

Bob Russell on the Myth of Unconditional Love

Berean Publishers on Unconditional Love

R.C. Sproul on Unconditional Love

Gospel Coalition - Why God's Love is Better than Unconditional

You might also read John Piper's view of unconditional love. He chooses to use the word, but qualifies it, noting that most people use it incorrectly. Is God's Love Unconditional? He talks about the unconditional love that saves us and the conditional love that transforms us: Hope for More than Unconditional Love. I prefer teaching that avoids the word altogether, but there is helpful content in these articles. 


Those who genuinely follow Jesus will always be loved by God, but the word "unconditional" is misleading and not found in Scripture. This devotion explains.


Bible Love Notes

7 comments:

  1. The word 'love' is used loosely. For example, I love Chocolate Cake. The 'love' of God is greater than human love, as you have pointed out.
    Thank you for teaching what the 'Love of God' really is. JKH-WV

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    Replies
    1. Hi Judy,
      So glad to know this is your comment :)
      Thanks for your insights.
      Gail

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  2. Thank you for this love note, I've always had a problem with the use of the phrase unconditional love, this has made clear to me what this term means

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  3. Wow thank you for explaining that in such a great way. I had a bit of a discussion once with someone on Facebook and tried to explain to him about there being circumstances for our behaviour. I didn't do so well as you though.

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  4. great read! i think such semantics can & do become enemy principles yet by grace serve as encouragement to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭

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  5. I sure would love for you to be my mentor right now, to be able to pick up the phone and chat with you. I have been desiring a wonderful woman of God to help me look into the Bible for answers and to make some deep confession. I know I can do that with God, but sometimes one feels like they are going to burst (yet there is no one that you know you can confide in for fear of gossip or sounding like you are gossiping.) I signed up for your emailed 1 minute devotions as I can see from this post (that was so needed in my search for truth on the subject) that you are spot on with the Word of God that was already revealed. It was a confirmation. Yet I did not know that the so called definition of Agape was not "unconditional Love". Instead what I found was that in the Vines Dictionary the drift was that they really don't know the definition and it can really only be inferred by context. So the definition of Agape/o must remain as "God's Love". Vines said that it was inferred in the 3 places in the Old Testament. When I looked up the hebrew word (2836) it said to cling, e.e. join (fig. to love, delight in). Isn't that beautiful! The Lord want to cling to us, join to us, much like expressed between a husband and wife! Of course, He is preparing us as His bride, without spot or blemish! The thought is too wonderful for me! Thank you for your insight, and allowing the Lord to use your (His) material for "the good of all!"

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    Replies
    1. Dear Teresa,
      Thank you so much for your encouragement.

      I pray that God will provide you with a mentor to help answer your questions and navigate your faith.

      But it sounds like you are maturing and seeking answers in God's Word, and that's so important.

      Yes, I love those descriptions of God's love!

      I know God will continue to bless you as you seek Him.

      Delete

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