The Conditions in "Unconditional Love"
Does God's Love Have Conditions?
Timothy S. Morton
The term "unconditional
love" has become one of the catchwords of recent years. It is used by
nearly every segment of society to describe the kind of love they
desire from others and "aspire" to give in return. The Christian world
is caught up in this frenzy as well, including Fundamentalists. What is
unconditional love? Is there such a concept in the Scriptures? Can man
give such a love? Does God bestow such a love upon anyone? We will
examine these questions in the following.
The use of "unconditional" as a description of "love, " according to
one source, cannot be found in use before the "hippy" movement of the
1960s. As often as the words are used together today one would think
the concept is of ancient origin, but that is not the case. It is a
product of the 60s along with LSD, "free love, " and the "new age."
"Unconditional" simply means "without condition or reservation." That
is one is to "give love" without any physical, emotional, and
especially moral judgments. "Love me for who I am" is a common request.
Another way of saying this is, "It doesn't matter what I do, say, or
believe, as a human being, I deserve unconditional love."
This unconditional love philosophy is really just and extension of the
modern concept of self love. The basis of the self love craze is the
mistaken notion that a person has intrinsic worth. That is, just
because a person exists he is owed unconditional love by both God and
man regardless of his actions, and he above all things must
unconditionally love himself. This has to be one of the most diabolical
schemes ever hatched out of the mind of Satan. Self-love, self-worth,
and self-esteem are just forms of self-gratification. They make the
person "feel good."
This self love philosophy is openly promoted in the secular world. Here is an example of the "teaching" found at www.coping.org
To accept and love yourself unconditionally is to:
- Place no condition on yourself as to how to behave or what to be in order to receive self acceptance and self love.
- Not use "if - then" clauses in establishing conditions for accepting and loving yourself.
- Take a risk to be open and vulnerable to who you are with no preset limits or expectations.
- Accept and love yourself for the fact that you exist rather than for what you do.
- Give yourself the respect and latitude to be yourself rather than to be what others want or expect you to be.
- Set the stage for yourself to feel warmth, caring, and concern
for yourself which results in your growing in self-esteem and self
When you are the recipient of unconditional self acceptance and self love from yourself, you feel:
- Free to be yourself.
- You have value and worth.
- Wanted and desired for you as you are rather than for what you do.
- Listened to and understood.
- That you have yourself to offer others which in itself is worthwhile.
- Warm, cared for, and nurtured.
- You are OK just the way you are.
- That there is no need to wear a mask or to act in any way just to please another.
- Free to be yourself and to open up your feelings with no fear of rejection or non-approval.
- That it is possible to take the risk to be vulnerable in order to have open and honest relationships with others.
- No fear of retribution or reprisal from others if you should make a mistake or experience a failure.
- That there are no conditions set on your relationships with yourself.
Blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, anyone who continues to adhere to
these beliefs cannot be saved. You must see yourself a sinner [Rom. 5:8
], lost in sin [Luke 19:10
], and without hope apart from Christ to be saved [Eph. 2:12
You must see you have a desperate need. These deceived self-reliant
kooks who are in love with themselves have no hope. How is their
self-love and "coping skills" going to help them at the Great White
It should be no surprise that the world would be caught up in this
unconditional love/self love frenzy, but that professing Christians
would promote it is another matter. However, when believers abandon the
Bible as the sole source of infallible truth and fall to the pop
psychology of secular humanism this is not so surprising. James Dobson,
of Focus on the Family has reportedly said, "I'm
convinced the human spirit craves this kind of unconditional love and
experiences something akin to 'soul hunger' when it cannot be achieved."
Then he goes on to say "God's acceptance is unconditional."
A common contention among Fundamentalists that is promoted all over the airways and in print is the classic saying, "God loves the sinner, but not his sin."
This is a confusing statement under examination. Can a sinner in some
metaphysical way be separated from his sin? If he can then why is He
still a sinner? Does the Lord see a person and his sin as separate
entities? If so why did Christ have to die to redeem the sinner? Why
couldn't He just separate him from his sin? This pet phrase may have a
place in trying to lead someone to Christ, but it is poor doctrine.
Your author is not aware of any place in the Bible where the Lord
considers a sinner's sins as somehow separate from the sinner. They are
part of his very being and nature [Eph. 2:3
]. Not only was he born in sin from his father Adam [Rom. 5:19
he has sinned himself. Sin is so intertwined with him that if he wishes
to be saved he needs to not only repent for what he has done [sin], but
repent for what he is [a sinner, Luke 5:32
, Luke 15:10
, Luke 18:13
]. Sin is so much a part of the sinner that the Lord considers him "of the Devil" [1John 3:8
Can Love be Unconditional?
The whole concept of unconditional love is highly questionable. Can one
love another without regard for their feelings, actions, or behavior?
Some say a parent can love a child unconditionally [Isa. 49:15
Maybe, but what about when they cry all night and you need the sleep?
What about when they become older rebels and get mixed up in sin? Does
the parent love them the same as they did at an earlier time? If their
love ever wavers in scope or intensity the slightest then it is not
unconditional. It is based, if only partially, upon behavior.
What about spouses? Aren't they supposed to love each other unconditionally? One verse that every Christian wife knows is Eph. 5:25
, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it."
But the verse they neglect to quote along with it is Eph. 5:22
, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
both verses show that there is supposed to be a mutual love between
spouses. Loving one's wife as Christ loved the church is a tall order,
but is this unconditional love? What if the spouse intentionally tries
to steal love and devotion that belongs to the Lord? Is the believer
supposed to sacrifice his duty to the Lord for his spouse?
If unconditional love is possible for men by all reason it could only
apply to one supreme object of love and nothing else. It is
contradictory for two parties to expect unconditional love from a
single person because one party will always be favored. Thus even
though one is to have great love for their spouse, giving as Christ
gave for the church, it is to be secondary to their love for the Lord.
My contention is it is impossible for a finite man to do much of
anything unconditional. He may deceive himself into thinks he loves
unconditionally, but under examination there are always conditions.
There are many powers that can pull him away, even in the slightest.
God's Love Examined
The first record in the Bible of God loving anything is in Deut. 4:37,
because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them,
and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
Notice how the Lord's treatment of Israel is based on His love for
their fathers [Abraham, Isaac, Jacob]. A little later the Lord
expresses His love for Israel as a nation,
LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were
more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath
which he had sworn unto your fathers...which keepeth covenant and mercy
with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand
generations; [Deut. 7:7-9]
Here we see that the Lord's love is without merit [Job 7:17
One cannot make God love them because they have any inherent value or
worth. Israel was a small disorganized and complaining people, yet God
loved them for their ancestor's sake.
The first mention of God's love for an individual is in 2Sa 12:24 [see also Neh. 13:26
David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with
her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD
It is interesting to note that Solomon is the only individual mentioned
by name in the Old Testament that God expresses His love for. It is
further interesting that Solomon's life ended in apostasy [1Kings 11:9
In the New Testament expressions of God's love for man in general and
believers in particular is much more common. As Elwell's Evangelical
Dictionary aptly states,
The demonstration of God's
love for man is seen in each of the persons of the Trinity. Those who
keep Christ's commandments evidence their love for him and they are
loved by the Father (John 14:21
, John 14:23
; John 16:27
). As the Father loves Christ, so also he loves the believer (John 17:23
). The love of the Father for the believer is assured (Eph. 6:23
; 2Thes. 2:16
; 1John 3:1
When God is mentioned, it almost invariably refers to the Father. This
is emphasized when some gift or blessing given to the believer is also
mentioned, because the gift is usually his Son (e.g., John 3:16
; Rom. 5:8
; 1John 4:9-10
, 1John 4:16
) or the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5
). There are many references to Christ's love for man. While on earth Christ loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (John 11:3
, John 11:5
, John 11:36
). There is his love for John the apostle (John 13:23
; John 19:26
; John 20:2
; John 21:7
, John 21:20
) and for the disciples as a group (John 13:34
; John 14:21
; John 15:9
, John 15:12
). Christ's death is the evidence of his love for the believer (2Cor. 5:14
; Gal. 2:20
; Eph. 5:2
; 1Tim. 1:14-15
; 1John 3:16
). In his ascension there is an assurance of his love for believers individually (Rom. 8:35
, Rom. 8:37
; Eph. 6:23
) as well as the church as a body (Eph. 5:25
). Finally, the Holy Spirit's love for the believer is mentioned in Rom. 15:30
Probably the classic verse on God's love is 1John 4:8
where it says, "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love, " but
this passage is often abused. God is love in that He is the epitome and
definition of love and His benevolence to man is a manifestation of His
love, but His great love must work in unison with His other attributes,
such as justice and judgment of sin. The Bible is clear, however, that
every good thing that happens to man [and even many of what we consider
bad things] comes about from God's love and mercy. It seems to be the
primary attribute that compels Him to save believers. As another said,
say, 'God is love' implies that all His activity is loving activity. If
He creates, He creates in love; if He rules, He rules in love; if He
judges, He judges in love"
Some try to wrest the verse and claim "love is God." This is tantamount
to blasphemy. One cannot find God by simply loving something.
The Value of a Soul
Before we move on we must clear the air concerning the inherent or
intrinsic value of a human soul. What is a man's soul actually worth to
God, himself, or to others. Is it of infinite value as many of the
self-love/self-esteem crowd claims today, or is it of a lessor value.
Many Fundamentalists like to quote Mark 8:36
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Most construe this verse in such a way as to teach that a man's soul is
more valuable than the whole world, but this is a great overstatement.
What is the world, anyway? It is an earth full of people. John 3:16
makes that clear. Is one person more valuable than a world full of
people just like him? Of course not. At the risk of damaging the
self-esteem of some preachers, read the verse again, and understand that the verse does not
say a soul is more valuable than the world. It says, "what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? "
What would it profit a man if he gained a new car and lost his soul?
Nothing. What would it profit him if he gained a peanut butter and
jelly sandwich and lost his soul? Nothing. What would it profit him if
he gained all creation and lost his soul? Again, nothing. The Lord is
not saying a soul is more valuable than the world. He is saying there
is no profit in gaining anything, no matter how large, at the expense
of his soul! The fact is most sell their soul out for a lot less than
Some of you are thinking [I can hear your brains rattling from here],
"Then what am I actually worth. It must be a huge amount since God paid
such a price to save me." Listen to yourself. Your bloated ego has
scrambled your mind. Do you actually believe when God redeemed you that
you were so valuable that the only thing in the universe that He could
find to pay for you was the precious blood of Christ? Don't flatter
yourself. I'll tell you if no one else will, you aren't worth that
much. In fact, 10 billion like you isn't worth that much. What are you,
in yourself, [and me, of course] other than a filthy low-down sinner
with a body made up of a few basic elements inhabited by a depraved
soul [the real you]? How hard would it be for God to make 100 billion
more just like you out of stones, dirt, or less [Matt. 3:9
]? Why He could do it before breakfast without drawing a second breath [pardon my levity].
No doubt many people deem themselves as very valuable and precious.
They spend all they have and more just to try and patch up their
fragile, sin-cursed body so they can spend another day upon this cursed
and evil earth, but take little thought of the state of their soul.
Each person's soul should
precious to them. It is the only one they have and is the essence of
their being, but compared to the great scheme of things in God's
program for man, it is no more valuable than any other.
About the only thing man has that will rival the scope or vastness of the world is the pride of his heart [Pro. 16:18
, Obad. 1:3
, 1Tim. 3:6
, 1John 2:16
He thinks so much of himself; he reasons he is the "measure of all
things." This pride is not immune to a believer. It still resides in
his "old man" and flesh [Eph. 4:22
On the contrary, the Lord did not see the supposed inherent value of
man, either individually or collectively, and then calculate what man
was worth as if He was buying something of value. He paid the ultimate
price because it is His nature to love and have mercy on us poor, needy
sinners [Num. 14:18
He originally created man in His own image and likeness for Himself,
for His glory, and it seems for fellowship, but He also wanted to show
all creation through the redemption of man what kind of God He really
is [Isa. 43:7
, Pro. 16:4
Salvation is all of God, dear reader. He provided man salvation because
it is His nature to help hell-bound, destitute sinners and reveal
Himself to them, not that man is "worth the price"! Man had a great
need, God saw the need, and according to His immense love, mercy, and
compassion supplied the need. The thought that He could have cast the
whole world into hell and started over again in a moment does not seem
to have been considered. Aren't you glad, dear reader, we have such a
God for a Father?
However, the question still arises, what kind of value does the
Scriptures place upon a man? The Bible is not specific, but here is a
verse that gives us a general idea,
the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor
gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not
much better than they? [Mat 6:26]
Here's another [see also, Mat 10:31],
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. [Luk 12:7]
How do you like that comparison? At least twice when the Lord wanted to
make a statement concerning the relative value of a man, He compared
him with birds
. Do you take
comfort in the fact that you are more valuable than a flock of birds?
That is a long way from the "infinite value" some of the modern
self-esteem preachers suggest. David realized his little inherent worth
and likened himself to a dog or even a flea on a dog. He said he was a
mere dog before Saul [1Sam. 24:14
]. What would that make him before the God of heaven? Even wonder why David was considered a man after God's own heart [Acts 13:22
Some of you are sinking in you chair as you read this. Remember these
truths the next time you get to feeling a little "special" [Psa. 36:11
, Pro. 16:19
, Pro. 29:23
The Limitations of God's Love
The heading of this section will cause some readers to gasp. "Do you mean to tell me that you believe God's love has limitations? " Of course it does. "Is God's love not unconditional? "
Absolutely not. A love without limitations is not really love at all.
Husbands, what if your wife loved every other man in the world as much
as she loved you? [Some of you unfortunate fellows may have a wife like
that] Then the "love" she has for you is not really love because by
definition "love" means someone gets special affection or devotion
above others. A case can be made for the statement, "One who loves
everyone actually loves no one."
Unconditional love in its basic sense requires that God love someone in
every manner and every form regardless of their belief, relationship,
or behavior. If this were true God would continually love the lost
while they are in rebellion and even love those in hell. In fact,
unconditional love would not allow anyone to go to hell. It is just
another way of teaching Universalism; the belief God will eventually
Love as God uses it is primarily a verb; an action word. To say one
loves someone is not love in its essence. That person must manifest
their love. Some go around telling family and friends they love them,
and they may, but the object of those words is usually not convinced
unto the love is seen. The person professing the love must show forth
actions that express his love. Notice the Lord does not go around
saying "I love you" to anyone until He shows His love. As we saw above
He told Israel He loved them AFTER He delivered them from bondage. He
tells the world He loved it AFTER He sent His son to die for it. The
action always comes first. Romans 5 tells us God "commendeth his love toward us...."
However [and this is the clincher], if the potential recipient of God's
love [any man] refuses to come to the place where this love is
manifested [the cross], then this person does not receive the love. He
doesn't get in on it, so to speak. While alive he still partakes of
God's mercy, but not necessarily His love. Look at probably the most
well known verse in the Bible, John 3:16,
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
This verse is often used to "prove" that God loves everybody with an
unconditional love, but notice the love is past tense. God loved the
world enough to provide it a Savior, but those who refuse the Savior do
not partake of the love. Only those who "believeth in him" get "everlasting life."
In short, God's love for every sinner is found at the cross and there
alone. Those who refuse the cross presently have God's wrath abiding on
them as John testifies in the same chapter,
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth
not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. [Joh 3:36]
Wrath and unconditional love don't go together very well. In fact, they
are pretty much opposites. Some may think, "This is just tough love" or
something similar, but the fact remains, No where in the Bible does it
say God loves a lost sinner who refuses His provision in the Lord Jesus
Christ. Instead they inherit wrath [Psa. 2:12; Rom. 1:18, Rom. 4:15, Rom. 5:9; Gal. 3:10; Eph. 5:6; 1Thes. 1:10, 1Thes. 5:9; Heb. 2:3; Heb. 10:29; Rev. 6:16, Rev. 6:17].
Remember, to God love is an action and until a sinner receives and
accepts God's action on the cross by faith, there is no other love from
God to be manifested or received. Every bit of the love God has for the
world is confined to the cross.
When the Lord provided Christ as man's salvation the whole world was
unredeemed. Some had been saved in the Old Testament on credit [so to
speak] in view of that day, but as far as redemption was concerned all
mankind was lost. It is God's immense mercy and boundless love that
motivated Him to provide such evil rebels a Savior,
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And those who receive this Savior's death as their own are accepted in God's love,
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, [Eph 2:4]
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent
his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. [1Jo 4:9-10]
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
But boundless love is not unconditional love. The condition is
receiving what was done at the cross as your own. Those who refuse it
may enjoy God's mercy on earth for a while, but in hell they will see
the full manifestation of not being "accepted in the beloved."
Again, to drive it home [some of you are probably still quivering],
even though God manifested His love towards the world at Calvary, that
does not mean He loves a lost man in His sin. The sinner has God's
wrath abiding on him. As long as that sinner lives, however, he can
access God's eternal love at the cross. A close relative of God's love,
His mercy [Rom. 9:16, Rom. 11:32, Eph. 2:4, and especially Titus 3:5],
allows him the opportunity. God's love motivated Him to provide mankind
salvation, His mercy and grace allows man access to it
As the account of Corneilus in Acts 10 plainly shows, God will by His
mercy go to great lengths to get the gospel to a sinner who knows he
needs to get right with his Creator. Then once upon accepting the
Christ of the cross, the Lord will love him as a son.
So much for this "God loves me just the way I am" tripe. It is a satanic deception.
God's Love for the Believer.
One of the most profound verses in the Bible is John 17:23,
in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that
the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou
hast loved me.
Here Christ says that his Father will love His disciples as He has
loved Christ. What an amazing and humbling thought. The God of heaven
for the sake of Christ will love us as He loved Christ. John 15:9 says much the same. There are many more verses that show God's love for the believer, [Rom. 5:5; 2Cor. 13:14; 2Thes. 2:16; 1John 2:5; 1John 4:12, 1John 4:16; 1John 4:19; etc.] but probably the most precious [if any could be] are the verses that declare this love will never be separated from us,
in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved
us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom. 8:37-39]
How could one be more secure in God's love than that?
Does the God of the Bible Hate?
Some completely disallow the thought that God could hate someone of
something. This concept does not fit in their "belief system" [like the
doctrine of a burning hell] and so they just cast it aside. But as has
been said, "One can usually tell more about a person from knowing what
he hates rather than what he loves."
Does God hate? We will let the Scriptures answer,
ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before
you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred
them. [Lev. 20:23]
There are more verses, but this proved conclusively that God hates some
things and some types of people. The usual way this is explained by
some commentators is that "hate" in the Bible is not really
It just means God loves this object less in relation to another. Any
old port in storm. I suppose God loves iniquity and sin to some extent
just not as much as He
loves righteousness? See the mess these Bible correctors get into?
Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth. [Deut. 16:22]
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. [Psa. 5:5]
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. [Psa. 11:5]
These six things doth the LORD
hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying
tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth
wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false
witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. [Pro. 6:16-19]
All their wickedness is in
Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I
will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their
princes are revolters. [Hos. 9:15]
The Lord GOD hath sworn by
himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of
Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with
all that is therein. [Amos 6:8]
There may be an instance or two where the word “ hate” is
used in a relative sense to express only the strong preference of one
to another [Pro. 13:24, Luke 14:26], but that is not the general rule. "Hate" means hate [Matt. 10:22, Matt. 24:9, Matt. 24:10, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-19, John 15:23, etc.], and the object of this hate is often not just the concept of sin, but the sinner!
A god who is not balanced and thus does not hate what is evil and
contrary to Him is not much of a god, but that is all today's Bible
denying modernists have. Maybe they should trade him in for "Allah."
A Believer's Love for His God and Savior
Probably the closest thing to unconditional love you will find in the
Bible [apart from the love within the Godhead] is the love a redeemed
believer is to have for his Savior and Lord. The first and greatest
commandment makes this clear,
thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy
soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the
first commandment. [Mar. 12:30]
Believers are to love God with every fiber of their being. Unlike with
man there is no danger that love for God is misplaced. He is always
worthy. Furthermore, this love is not truly love until it is manifested
that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:
and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him,
and will manifest myself to him. [Joh. 14:21]
Christ goes on the claim that the Father will love us more on the condition we love Him,
For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. [Joh. 16:27]
Those who truly love God are known of him [1Cor. 8:3], preserved by him [Psa. 145:20], delivered by him [Psa. 91:14], partake of his mercy [Ex. 20:6; Deut. 7:9], and have all things working for their good [Rom. 8:28]. So there are distinct advantages for loving the one who delivered us from a devil's hell.
We could go on and show how a believer is to love his neighbor [ Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:43; Mark 12:31; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8), his brethren [John 13:34-35; John 15:12, John 15:17; 1John 3:23; 1John 5:2; 2John 1:5), his family [Gen. 22:2; Gen. 25:28; Gen. 37:3; Gen. 44:20; Ex. 21:5), and even his enemies [Matt. 5:43-44; Luke 6:27],
etc., but we have proved our point. God is a god of love, but His love
is not unconditional. He loved mankind enough to pay the ultimate price
for his redemption, but that love cannot be accessed until a believer
receives the purchaser of that redemption— the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then he will have all the love he can fathom for eternity!
And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.