Sunday, June 29, 2008

God's Unconditional Conditional Love

One of the great things about re-teaching material that you wrote many years ago is that you get the opportunity to correct your own errors. Which is what I was doing this morning with my Sunday Bible study lesson. I'm teaching a study on the fruit of the Spirit that I wrote and first taught a number of years ago. And today's lesson was an investigation into the first fruit of the Spirit laid out in Galatians 5:22-23 - the fruit of love. Obviously, to rightly understand the nature of the love that the Spirit of God produces in the life of a believer in Christ, we must first understand the love of God. The self-sacrificial, other-centered, sovereign and gracious and merciful and righteous agape love that God Himself manifests, and that His Spirit produces in the life of His people. And that is what much of our lesson today was focused on.

So in the midst of this study, we came to a statement in the material I had written which described God's love as "unconditional." When going over the material prepping for this class, I had left this in the study, but knew that it would need some definite expansion and clarification. The problem with referring to God loving people unconditionally is that what the unrepentant sinner hears in this statement is, "I'm OK, God loves me as I am so I have no need of salvation or Jesus Christ." So I had spent some time the past few days thinking on this. And the understanding I came to was that God's love is both unconditional and conditional.

Scripture is clear that the love of God, the grace and mercy of God in salvation is unconditional in the sense that it cannot be earned or deserved. Indeed, any hint of merit or obligation has no place in love or grace. God's love is freely given as an act of His will. It can never be deserved by any person. It is a result of His sovereign grace. In this sense, the love of God expressed in the saving grace of God is completely unconditional and unmerited.

However, God's saving love and receiving the benefits thereof is most definitely conditional. As with many of the promises of God, there is a condition that He requires for receiving His salvific love. And that condition is faith - faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We know this so well but seldom think of it in terms of a condition for receiving His saving love. Yet it is clearly stated in so many passages. Including that great love of God verse, John 3:16. Paraphrased, it stated that God loved fallen people in such a way that He acted on that love and gave of Himself, in the person of His Son. And this giving had a purpose - so that those who meet the condition of believing in Christ will be free of the eternal punishment for their sin, and instead be inheritors and possessors of eternal life.

But as I considered this conditional aspect of God's love, it occurred to me that in and of ourselves we could never meet this condition. Depraved, sinful, rebellious and spiritually dead people (as we all are in our natural state) can and will never free themselves from bondage to sin and trust Christ. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ to receive eternal life, yet we are quite incapable of meeting that condition. But here's where the sovereign grace of God comes into play yet again. God Himself does what is necessary to meet the condition. He sovereignly chooses to grant spiritual life to His elect, enabling them to irresistibly run to Christ in faith and trust.

Once again, a deeper understanding of the sovereign will of God results in a further and deeper understanding and appreciation of the grace of God. In His unconditional conditional love, the manifest grace of God is most fully expressed. Amazing.

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