Is God’s Love Unconditional?
“Is God’s love really unconditional? The phrase unconditional love is not even in the Bible!”
Ever heard that one? How about this one:
“God’s love is unconditional, but…”
Statements like these make me shake my head in wonder.
What do you think the word love means?
Is God’s love unconditional? It must be, otherwise it is not love. There are no ifs, buts, and maybes when it comes to love.
“But ‘unconditional love’ is not in the Bible.”
Sure it is. It’s in plenty of places.
In scripture, the love of God is captured in the noun, agape. God is the source and definition of agape-love.
According to that well-known chapter we read at weddings, agape-love is patient, kind, and not self-seeking. It is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Agape-love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Agape-love never fails.
Sounds like true love to me.
The love of God in action
In the New Testament, two verbs are used to describe the manner in which God loves. The first verb, agapao, means to be well pleased or fond of or contented with. It is the unconditional love God the Father has for his Son, for the whole world, and for his children.
Which means God loves you the same way he loves Jesus (see John 17:23).
The second verb, phileo, means fondness or affection. It is the affection that God the Father has for his Son Jesus and the disciples. It is the friendship Jesus had for his good friend Lazarus and the wretched Laodiceans.
Yes, those Laodiceans.
The love of God is also captured in the adjective agapetos which is usually translated as beloved. The word means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite, and worthy of love.
This beautiful word beloved captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child.
How religion distorts the love of God
Manmade religion portrays God as capricious and his love as variable. “Sometimes he loves you, sometimes he doesn’t.” But the gospel of grace declares God’s love for you is constant and shadowless.
Religion prostitutes the love of God by putting price tags on his affection. “You have to earn God’s favor.” But the gospel of grace declares that God loved you while you were a sinner and nothing can separate you from his love.
Religion demands that you impress God with the fervency of your love, but the gospel of grace inspires you to trust in your heavenly Father who loves you without limit.
Everything that is good about the good news is good and true because your heavenly Father loves you.
He always has and he always will. God never changes.
How do I know that God loves me unconditionally?
The cross is the proof.
Jesus knew the name of every soldier who beat him, every person who mocked him, and every Pharisee who thought he was the devil. Yet he still went to the cross so that they might be reconciled to God.
The wonder of the cross reveals God’s unconditional love for us.
God did not wait for us to repent or get cleaned up before he loved us. While we were in the filth of our sin and self-righteousness he came and hugged us.
God will never make you jump through hoops to earn his love. He won’t love you any more if you succeed and he won’t love you any less if you fail. If you lead millions to Christ or none at all, he will love you just the same.
There is nothing you can do to make him love you more, and nothing you can do to make him love you less.
His love endures forever.
For scriptures and Greek definitions, check out the entry for “Love of God” in the Grace Glossary. Image: Prodigal Daughter by Charlie Mackesy
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I don’t understand what I’m missing, why I don’t know whether I’m free, and why I seem to be stuck in unbelief! I am desperate to be delivered, for grace and to know salvation! My anxious and doubtful heart still cries to know salvation and know this Father of love and be His child, to have the joy…yet how to reach out and get or take the grace, to lay hold of salvation and breach the wall of what seems like unbelief, I know not! Why God will the fog not clear, I have asked many times? What to do?
Jared, it can be a battle but the truth is that God cannot lie – He calls you beloved. That is your identity when you are a child of God. When you believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Ask God where the issue is – He will be longing for you to find freedom and rest in Him – address the issue and rest in His love. Bless you Jared, Rowan
Hi Jared… I too have struggled for years in what you are struggling with. My “fog” has been clearing as I walked in My walk with him.
One speaker had a sentence in his sermon years ago, there is nothing you can do to be a better Christian” (I have no memory of what he spoke on, It was a “one Liner” I needed to hear. about 10 years before that,
I had been living on a beautiful Island in the Hauraki Gulf Auckland NZ, at an interdenominational christian community there. In a prayer meeting The Lord gave me a “vision”…. I saw The Lord standing on a small hill near the waters edge (the room we were in held a beautiful glass wall to see the view), The Lord was standing there with His Arms out towards me, and from His Wrists/Hands came streams of what I knew to be Love. That Love came to me and I knew I wasn’t to keep that Love it was for me to give to whomever He sent me to…
That has become a base for me, but as you can see about 10 years after that , I was still going through a bit in my walk with Him and struggle. I have learnt slowly about The Rest we have in Him… Our Journeys are all different, But Our Lord is faithful to reveal His love to Us as we focus on Him… Blessings T
I 100 % get it, I too still go through this even after 29 years of being saved and wonder why I do not get it even though so many of us do more easily, so it’s easy to question,assume what’s wrong with me am I the too tough,stubborn,ungrateful,disobedient,thickest nut,child of God to crack and it’s always going to be like this?! NO 100 times NOit isn’t God and it isn’t you or me it’s childhood,environmental,historical,locational,individual,general,timing,“adversarial” but it’s not personal from God for He is unconditional and no respector of persons with His love,forgiveness,acceptance,nothing is wrong with us I do not know your situation but for me I struggle with the concept of love for lots of reasons but I trust that God knows this about me,does not condemn,reject,disown me is taking His loving time with me,has not let me go even though I constantly fear this as I am still here by His grace professing Jesus is my Lord,Saviour,all,life even though I do not fully receive it and I have never walked away or let go of HimI can’t as He won’t let me and I trust somewhere in my spirit from Holy Spirit somehow that He does love me unconditionally but it’s taking me time but that’s ok as He has all the time in Heaven and earth to convince me until I “have got “
Daddy, I thank You for Your son Jared and that his heart is open to receive the knowledge and revelation of Christ, that You so loved the world that you sent Your Son. You were in the Son reconciling the world back to You, not the other way around. We were ar enmity (war) with You in our minds, but now Jared has rhe mind of Christ.There is no greater love than One Who laid His Life down for a friend. That’s you, Jared. His all-consuming 🔥🔥, whic is His Love burn out all of the doubts and lies you have ever believed about Him and how He sees you. Be overcome with His presence as He dances and sing over you exclaiming, “That’s Jared, My son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Anyone else having difficulty receiving our Father’s love put your name in what I just wrote. Speak it out loud for Life and death are in the power of the tounge. Choose Life and declare it for your words have power. Be blessed. I release all of the love, joy, and peace that He has ever given me to flood your entire being right now.
Timothy, thanks a lot for this. I struggle to know whether I actually am His child or an unbeliever..! This holds me back from knowing a loving Father. I guess I can only choose to go on as if I am His child forever and even if I have these fears and may be seemingly faithless and confused, that He will not lose me? I practically don’t know how to “receive by faith/belief” and actually be convinced, which I guess is belief? Is knowing I need salvation(which I at least think I see, or else I’m hell bound to pay it myself), and at least desiring to trust( Jesus did indeed already save me on the cross, enough? I’m not even sure I have a mustard seed faith honestly, with the confusion, and feelings of uncertainty. “Oh God, I shall perish in my sin if You do not regard me in Your love and mercy! You said Jesus already took away all my sin and nailed it to His cross and through that, I’m already forgiven, so ok, ok, if I have any faith at all, I say ok then, I must be free since You say it’s been dealt with already. Im experiencing uncertainty, and I don’t know for sure if I can do this, but I claim Your adoption of me and say thank you for loving me and that You will always keep me no matter how I may or may not act or even if I seem to lose faith and throw myself deep in sin, You still said you would not lose me, so ok, thank you”.
I’m so desperate, even though I have often been told that talking to God/a prayer, doesn’t save anyone, I don’t know what else to “do”. I doubt myself, my heart’s desires(where they are legit or not), my decisions, my intentions, my feelings, etc.. In my confusion, I fear at times that I may even doubt God and the cross of Christ, or at least that MY sins personally were dealt with. I don’t want to make God sad, yet unbelief does make Him sad, though I don’t know if doubt and unbelief are the same.
Hi Jared , I know that we look to Jesus for faith, how do I know, because the word of God says so, He is the author, perfecter and finisher of our faith. you don’t check yourself, look to yourself, other things, or people for faith or to know whether you are free, you check Jesus, you look to Him. you don’t have to do anything just look to Jesus. look at Jesus Check Him out. Salvation with it’s whole package is the person of Jesus Christ, faith comes by hearing about Him. We are saved by faith in Him, we are delivered by faith in Him.
Base everything on Jesus(word), not yourself. The Bible says these things are written that we may KNOW that we have eternal life,
Jesus is our salvation, our redeemption, righteousness, life, perfection, our everything. I will encourage you to keep hearing about Him. Don’t try to do anything just keep hearing.
Jesus died on the cross for us without conditions so we could receive the unconditional gift of everlasting life “. Thank you Paul”…
Love this article Paul, so beautiful. God is so beautiful ! Thank you for sharing your gift for teaching and writing with us all. Bless you abundantly, Rowan
Thank you for this Paul! A much needed article. Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming sermon!
I look at it this way. There is no such thing as conditional love. If it’s conditional, then it isn’t love.
Precisely. Water is wet, fire is hot, love is unconditional.
This is lovely. I was taught God’s love is conditional, the concept substantiated by the (poorly interpreted) verses “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” in Malachi 1 and Romans 9. But God IS love (1 John 4:16). For His love to be conditional, His very nature would have to be conditional, yet He tells us He never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 3:18). Practically speaking, have you tried trusting (much less loving) a god who you believe loves you conditionally? I had to admit to myself I was scared of and angry with that god. There is no peace in him. The God of Grace is infinitely better.
He sure is, Rachelle. BTW, if you’re interested, here is my take on why God hates Esau.
Since God’s love for us is unconditional and the cross proves it, the only thing for us to do is accept it. We don’t need a five point sermon to tell us how we can earn anything from God because He gives it to us freely. He completely and perfectly loves you right now as you are.
It is hard to say anything negative on this excellent article by Dr. Ellis on God’s unconditional love. However, I have a couple of thoughts/questions to ponder? Is God’s unconditional love also to unrepentant sinners? God may love them, but is it unconditional? We know that God loves the sinner (Rom 5:8 and John 3:16) who repents and accepts God’s grace and mercy. But how about God’s wrath, holiness, and righteousness to those who reject the Gospel of Grace? There are passages that show God’s anger, justice, and wrath against sinners (Ps 5:5-6; Proverbs 6:16-19; John 3:36; Rom 1:18-25; 2:8; Rev 6:16-17). So does God show the same unconditional love to unrepentant sinners as He does to His own sons/daughters?
Do we need to be careful that in our zeal to bring lost sinners to Christ, that we don’t sugarcoat God’s love and hide His wrath, justice, and righteousness to make Jesus more appealing to the sinner? If God loves everyone unconditionally while they are alive, is it not strange that He sends the unrepentant sinner to hell as soon as he dies? If one rejects God’s love, mercy, and grace, then he remains under God’s wrath and condemnation. The Good News is that God balanced His love and His wrath at the Cross.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I was accused of sugarcoating the love of God.
“Is God’s unconditional love also to unrepentant sinners?” YES! Did not our Savior say, “For God so loved the world”? See any conditions there? Does that mean the loved sinner is saved? Of course not. “Love does not force itself on others.” But your actions can no more diminish God’s love than they can extinguish the sun.
Any time you seek to balance God’s love, you kill it. Putting price tags on God’s love is spiritual prostitution. And no, I am not shying away from wrath and judgment. I have written numerous articles on these subjects. If you seek more balance you can find them in the archives.
Amen to all that, I agree Paul, I know why,understand ,respect what Alex is saying ,however I have to respectfully,carefully say that in my opinion his comment is of the world not God or His Kingdom,will,way and I can explain it this way by using an example comment from my grandma when I was younger my dad commented on how beautiful and amazingly blue my eyes were and she immediately slammed into him saying what are you doing??!!,never compliment only criticise,she’ll get a big head and become conceited,arrogant and end up with a spoilt,selfish nature.First of all I was shocked and pleased at my dads sudden rare attention,compliment,then at my grandmas response and in a flash as I was newly saved I understood from Holy Spirit why I felt crushed,overlooked,bad,less than all my life and why I was still experiencing this same general attitude from church,Whether we are saved,unsaved we are taught for some insane reason to be conditional with ourselves first and others but less so to down play and de/undervalue as apparently God “hates” it and it’s “ unchristian” to be otherwise as we are inherently bad and need to be reminded,handled, as He’s made out to be conditional,utter rot we all need to go back with Holy Spirits help and reacquaint ourselves with the God who came to earth in the likeness of human flesh to save us coz He loves us and start to use our common sense again with Holy Spirits help about who this God of love is and what He is really like,expects and how only He can keep us on the straight and narrow and right behaviour,conduct, we can’t! we are rubbish at love and rubbish at consistent humane behaviour that’s why we needed a SAVIOUR.
What about Jesus’ love for Judas?
What about it?
Why do people not believe in God’s unconditional love.
Hell is their proof.
The two don’t reconcile.
I believe the first.