God's Unfailing Love
Chapter One of "The Really Good News About God" discusses God's unconditional and unfailing love as the motivating factor for all that he does.
The Bible describes God's willingness to love us at such ultimate personal cost in this way ...
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
[Romans 5 : 6 – 8 NIV]
Isn’t that just amazing?
It doesn’t matter whether we are sinners, evil, good, righteous or unrighteous, God still loves us and provides for our well-being.
I like to say that God’s love is unconditional and unfailing.
He just can’t help himself.
Love is his character, his nature.
Love comes naturally to him, and everything he does is clothed in love and motivated by love.
God doesn’t wait for us to become good enough or to meet any prior qualifications in behaviour or attitude.
It was while we were his enemies, out of favour with him, that he expressed his love to us in such an amazing way.
I have a very simple definition of love – simple to explain, that is, but much harder to live by.
For me, to love someone is to genuinely desire the best for them – and as the opportunity arises, to do that best for them.
That works for me, and is another way of saying what the Bible says.
If you love others, you will never do them wrong;
[Romans 13 : 10 GNT]
Which is fair enough.
Surely if love can only love, it can’t do anything that is unloving.
It’s not that it chooses not to or feels it shouldn’t – it just can’t!
God’s influence on humankind is never zero, no matter how far from God any person might be.
Reason requires this to be so, and the Bible assures us of this truth.
If God is God, the Creator of all there is, he must be touchable from any and every part of his universe.
A creator just has to have his creation within his sphere of influence.
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"The Really Good News About God" has been published in various formats. You can purchase a copy, or download a pdf version, using the "Book" link.
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One of my dear Christian friends does not agree with my hypothesis (as he calls it) of universal reconciliation.
His main reason?
He disagrees with my basic concept of God's unconditional love for his creation.
Nowhere, he says, does the Bible say that God's love is unconditional.
He feels that God's love has conditions attached to it - conditions like our attitude to God, our willingness to repent of our sins, etc.
I guess he is correct in the sense that the Bible does not have the phrase 'unconditional love' in its text.
But neither does it have the word 'sovereignty' or 'universal' or 'evangelical' or several other English words that we use to express a Biblical concept or theological idea.
It is the concept or idea that is important and that needs to be based on Scripture, not whether an English word that English-speaking people use to describe that concept is in the Bible.
My evidence for God's 'unconditional' love? Just a few brief references.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [Romans 5 : 8 NIV]
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, ... [2 Corinthians 5 : 14 NIV]
When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. [Romans 5 : 6 NIV]
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." [Luke 23 : 34 NIV]
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification for all people. [Romans 5 : 18 NIV]
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.[Matthew 5 : 44, 45 NIV]
I use the term 'unconditional' to mean constant, dependable, (which are probably unbiblical words also) just like the sun is constant and doesn't depend on conditions outside of itself to determine whether it radiates heat and light or not.
Sometimes we see or feel the sun differently because of overcast conditions or we are indoors, but the sun is still the same, doing the same thing all the time.
Its performance (character) remains constant - it is in this sense that I would say it is unconditional, even though how we experience it is dependent on certain conditions.
In a similar way, how things experience the sun is dependent on their personal condition.
For example, sun shining on clay and ice-cream produces very different effects.
The condition of the recipient determines the outcome, in the same way, as my friend points out, that people in different conditions experience blessing or discipline or hardship under exposure to the love of God.
In summary I believe God's love is unconditional (constant, perfect, reliable) even though it produces different effects due to the different conditions on which it falls.
For me, God's love is always perfect, operating for our good, whether in blessing or hardship, as it works all things towards God's predetermined glorious end.
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Most of the robust conversations I have on the topic of God's reconciliation of all creation centre around judgement, hell, the lake of fire, punishment, etc.
My conversation partners are so focussed on these topics that they completely miss God's ultimate purpose to reconcile all people to himself.
He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
[Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Colossians 1 : 19 - 20 NIV]
When we focus on the judgement, punishment topics, isolated from God's purpose, and isolated from God's love and sovereignty, we quickly get back to the position that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross completely failed for the majority of God's creation, and man's will has usurped God's.
But when we focus first on God's love, will and sovereignty, we can easily see God's judgements and punishments as the correction of a loving Father, in control of his family, moulding his children to become the people he has designed them to be, in the likeness of his begotten Son, Jesus.
We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
[1 John 3 : 2b NIV]
If we saw a parent smacking a child and knew nothing of that parent's love for the child or desire to improve the behaviour of the child for its own well-being we might have a distorted view of that parent and his/her character.
Equally, of course, if we saw a parent belting and belting and belting a child, for whatever reason, we would be horrified and would question that parent's love for the child and the motivation for the punishment.
Unfortunately, many people view God just like this - as an angry, incessant "belter" of his wayward children - because they don't know his heart and purpose.
Instead, let's focus on God's character and purpose first and then we will see more easily how the punishment verses, correctly translated, complete the picture.
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A few years ago, in an email discussion with a dear friend who does not agree with me that God's plan is to reconcile the world to himself at the consummation of the ages, my friend pointed to the punishments handed out by God, mainly in the Old Testament but also in the New, to demonstrate God's intention to exclude unbelievers from ever enjoying peace with God.
He suggested that because the wrath of God, which leads to vengeance, punishment and death, is an integral part of God's character, it will not change, but continue throughout time, and beyond.
He implied that this "fact" combined with the belief that all decisions effecting eternity are made during lifetimes on earth, showed clearly that most of creation will not make it into eternity.
In my response I suggested that God's wrath is directed towards sin, those things that cause us to miss the target of bearing the image of God, and needs to be seen in relation to God's love, mercy, etc.
Interestingly, he has written a paragraph which describes this beautifully ...
There are a number of aspects to the judgment and ‘wrath of God’ that is worth mentioning and which have partially been alluded to.
First is that the love of God and the wrath of God are perfectly compatible and can perhaps best be seen in the Cross which shows us the self-giving gracious act of God’s Son paying the price of the wrath of God against sin which Jesus bore.
God’s anger and wrath is against sin or sinners that profane his holiness and righteousness, that hurts others, that reduces our love for God and one another.
God has in view our good and anything that interferes with that is the object of his anger and wrath.
Our lack of wisdom cannot often see what is good for us individually and collectively but God has total supreme wisdom and all the attributes of his character, his love, mercy, grace, holiness, justice, patience, compassion, faithfulness, wisdom, sovereign power and yes wrath…. work together seamlessly.
I then offered the following comments ...
If "God has in view our good" and we believe God when he says he is the Saviour of the world (1 Timothy 4: 10), then however God interacts with us, even bringing death, has to be seen for our good in some way and a part of the process of fulfilling his role as Saviour of the world.
If we believe God when he says he will bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1:10), all aspects of his character and dealings issuing from them must be working towards this end (even if our lack of wisdom prevents us from seeing it).
In other words, God's wrath, punishment, vengeance, etc. are not ends in themselves, but stepping stones to God's loving, predestined end.
This is why I consider our starting point to be vital in appreciating what God might be doing in his various interactions with mankind.
My starting point, illustrated by the 1 Timothy and Ephesians and other references scattered through this website, allows me to see that no matter what calamities have eventuated in someone's life on earth, even removal from the planet by God himself, God's love and predetermined plan will always bring them into sweet fellowship with God in the future.
Those with a Calvinistic starting point, belief that God has divided humanity into two groups, the elect and the lost, do not allow millions of people to ever see the love, kindness, mercy or grace of God, or allow the work of Christ on the cross to be as successful as God designed it would be.
Those with an Arminian starting point, belief that mankind has free will and chooses his own eternal destiny during his lifetime on earth, not only confine those who make poor choices to be forever lost, but proclaim that God's will can be trumped by man's will - that God is not sovereign.
Believing what our God of unfailing love says in His Word about himself and his intentions for his creation produces a Biblically more consistent theology for me.
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