God's Love Is Better Than Unconditional

This devotion explains why the word "unconditional" (which is not found in Scripture) causes many misunderstandings about God's love.

 
Did you know that the word "unconditional" is not found in the Bible, and it has contributed to multiple misunderstandings about God's love?

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.

None of the Greek or Hebrew words used to describe God's love are equivalent to "unconditional," and no legitimate translation uses the word.  

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

Why is the term unconditional misleading?

This devotion explains why the word "unconditional" (which is not found in Scripture) causes many misunderstandings about God's love.
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. 

That's why the belief in unconditional love has increased the popularity of the Universal Salvation heresy, the belief that all people will be saved even those who hate Jesus.

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. Justice has conditions or it ceases to be justice.

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
✔ The greatest act of God's love is based on the condition that Christ die for our sins. If that condition were not fulfilled, all men would go to hell. 
✔ The greatest offer of God's love, His offer of salvation is based on the condition that we repent and turn to Him. If that condition is not fulfilled, we will spend eternity in hell. 
✔ God's perfect love includes justice, which is based on conditions for right and wrong. Commands are conditions: do the right thing and you will please God; do the wrong thing and your will displease Him. Consequences and punishments are the result of violating a condition.
✔ God's perfect love results in rewards which are based strictly on conditions
✔ It's illogical to say that God's love is unconditional, but admit that every gesture of His love is conditional.

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 are so many Christians insistent on using a word that is not found in Scripture and causes these serious misunderstandings, a word that does not accurately describe God's love?
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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. 


This devotion explains why the word "unconditional" (which is not found in Scripture) causes many misunderstandings about God's love.


Bible Love Notes

8 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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    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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    1. Unconditional love is where when a woman has unconditional love for her child no matter what they do they still love them

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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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    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.

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