“…for God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)
When if – appears in the Scriptures, a condition normally follows. As an example, the Bible says, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Notably, in this passage God’s promise to His people is spiritually conditional!
We hear about “unconditional love” so often that many mistakenly assume that expression to be Biblical. However, these two words are nowhere written together in either Hebrew, Old Testament, or Greek, New Testament, Scripture. Nor do they describe God’s grace – which specifically refers to His “undeserved” love! Tomorrow, the actual history of “unconditional love” will be explored.
The Roman poet, Virgil, followed by a Moravian sect, and then modern psychology introduced the words “unconditional love.” This history has understandably produced widespread confusion. Some have mistakenly believed that receiving God’s grace is experienced – unrequested. They therefore assume that God’s forgiveness is – unconditional! Without any doubt, God greatly loves all of the world’s inhabitants. He clearly loved us before any condition was met, but in contrast, heaven’s salvation has always been conditional.
The Lord’s sacrifice on the cross was fully inclusive and salvation’s requirement of faith is equally inclusive! Jesus promised, “Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before others, I will disown before My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33) This conditional statement could not be clearer, so it’s important for us to learn the difference between God’s unconditional love and His conditional forgiveness.
Notice that, the means for personally receiving His love is not presented until the second half of the verse. The Bible continues, “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The word believes provides the spiritual condition (see John 1:10-12).
When salvation has been experienced and we have acknowledged God’s Son to be our Savior, then the only way to forfeit that blessing is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 12:31). In Jesus’ teaching, blasphemy alone was explained to be – unforgivable.
“Yes,” God’s forgiveness is fully available and it solely requires personally believing what God has said about the – miraculous birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection of His Son (see Romans 10:9-10). When Christ has been received – a new lifestyle of repentance soon begins!
Concerning the privilege of heaven’s eternal life, John explains, “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (1 John 5:11-13)
Having God’s Son as one’s personal Savior is the Father’s only spiritual condition – for receiving salvation. Jesus is the one and only way to heaven (see John 14:6). It is therefore by personally knowing Him that we receive eternal life and experience His inner peace, purpose, and joy! He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
By Billie Hanks Jr.