The Conditional and Unconditional Love of God
Understanding, knowing, experiencing, feeling, and receiving the love of God is crucial to our Christian walk! Very few other subjects get me as excited as the topic of God’s love! There are so many books out there on the love of the Father so why have a chapter in my book on holiness about this subject? The love of God and holiness seem to even be at odds with many. So why write a chapter on it?
It’s a good question and to answer that question, we must first understand that the love of God and the holiness of God go together like a hand in a glove. God’s love is holy and God’s nature is both one of holiness and one of love (1 Peter 1:16; 1 John 4:8). They are not contradictory, but rather complimentary. It is not a matter of either/or but rather both/and. As we learn to live out of God’s love, we will then be able to love God and love our neighbor and thus live a holy and Christlike life. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In fact, the Scriptures are crystal clear that if we are to filled up to the fulness of God, then we must know (not just intellectually but also experientially and in the depths of our heart) the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19). To experience the fulness of God is to experience a holy life.
There are a lot of books and teachings on the unconditional love of God but not as much on the conditional love of God. But in order to be true to the whole counsel of God’s Word, we must teach both. Don’t get me wrong, I do rejoice in the great amount of teaching on the unconditional love of God. Amen for it! It is true and also freeing to understand that God’s love toward us is unconditional. In other words, there are no conditions that we need to fulfill to get God to love us. “Why is that?” you might ask. Simply because God loving us is based on who He is – namely a God of love – and not based upon us. The Scriptures declare that God is love (1 John 4:8) and therefore, God can’t but love, period. God cannot go against His nature and it is His nature to love. He is perfect love in all of its fulness. God not only defines love and gives it away generously, but He is love.
Now it is true that God finds us “attractive” because He is drawn to us because all of mankind is made in His image. When He sees mankind, He sees part of Himself in His creation. Sure, the curse of sin has marred the image of God in us, but it has not erased it completely (James 3:9). God longs to have intimate heart-to-heart fellowship or relationship with all of His creation. This is why in love He desires or wills all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). This is also especially true of His spiritual children who have been adopted into His heavenly family through faith in Christ (Romans 8:14-17). He loves His adopted children and delights in them!
The unconditional love of God is seen crystal clear in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Even in our worst sinful state before we were saved, God the Father showed us His love by sending His only Son Jesus to die for us. We did not deserve it nor did we earn it through any condition of ours. It was simply the God of love desiring to save the world from its sin. All who would believe in Jesus would be saved (John 3:16). Jesus’ love drove Him to the cross so that He would be the savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
But there is also the conditional love of God seen clearly in the Scriptures. The conditional love of God has to do with the recipient receiving and experiencing God’s love. John 14:21 states, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Notice that it is those who keep Jesus’s commandments who love Him and if we love Him, then we will be loved by the Father and Jesus and we will also experience Jesus disclosing or revealing Himself to us. Notice that there are conditions attached here (i.e. keeping Jesus’s commandments) in order to experience God’s love.
Again, John 14:23 states, “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” The condition is us keeping Jesus’s word and the result is that Father will love us and both He and Jesus will come to us and they will make their abode or home with us. In other words, we will encounter and receive and live in God’s love as we keep His word. This is why Jude 21 can tell us to, “keep yourselves in the love of God…” It is not enough to know the love of God intellectually, we must also receive, experience, feel, and live in it continually. Therefore, we must meet the conditions of keeping God’s commandments so that we continually experience this love of God.
Truly God loves all of mankind because He is a God of love. But God only has a special intimate heart-to-heart relationship with some of mankind. This will be determined by those who seek to keep His commands. In keeping God’s commands, we prove our love for Him and we draw close to His heart and receive His love intimately. May we always know the conditional and unconditional love of God.