Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Does God Love The Whole World?
An Open Letter To A Friend
By Michele Rayburn
I don't think that the Church has only been teaching that God is love. The unsaved world may seem to be, but it seems that the Church is teaching doctrine (often legalistic doctrine) to the exclusion of love.
The Bible says that we are nothing without love, and yet I do not see its principles expounded upon very often. And I believe that it has had its effect on the body of Christ. If the Church is not "walking in love" then we are not spiritually mature...we are not "walking by the Spirit". And that is what is so lacking.
I don't think that we should deny that God loves the lost just because you think too much emphasis is being given to "For God so loved the world...". That would not be a biblical approach. Because the concept that "God so loved the world" may confuse the unbeliever is no reason to downplay it. It's not a matter of giving them "false hope" by telling them that God loves them, but rather, it is biblically accurate.
We can say that God will not save all people, even though "God so loves the world", and it doesn't matter if it confuses them, because it is the truth. "God's ways are higher than our ways" and we can't always understand His ways. "The deep things belong to God". And, "The natural man cannot understand spiritual things". The clay is not to ask the Potter, "Why did you make me this way?"
But, we know from John 3:16 that God loves the world (the whole world) because in that same verse, God says "whosoever believes". This is a recognition that some (the "whosoevers") in the world will "come out from them" (come out from the world) and believe.
And, nowhere does the Bible say God did not love His elect before He saved them. The Bible says that God chose you before the foundation of the world, which is an act of His love. He sees the end from the beginning and He still set His love upon you before you were created. When John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world...", was it before He knew them or after? God so loved the world always. There is no mention of time limitations on God's love or preconditions for His love.
God's love is the motivating reason (or, at least, the best known reason) for our salvation. It is because He loved us that He saved us. You said the Gospel begins not with love. But even the giving of the Law to convict man of sin was an act of love.
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world [His love comes first] that He gave His only begotten Son [the good news comes second]". The reason God gave His Son is because He so loved the world. God was motivated by His love.
"We love Him [why?] because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Here are more Scriptures that show that God's love came first and that His love was the motivation for His salvation plan:
Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
1 John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us."
1 John 3:9, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:10 "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
This last verse, 1 John 4:10, by the way, together with 1 John 2:2 "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" is a clear Biblical statement of fact. For 1 John 2:2 to say "not for ours only, but also for the whole world" clearly states that God means "the whole world". Because, who is left over after He is the propitiation for our sins?
The word "propitiation" does not mean "turn away God's wrath", but rather, it more closely means "to satisfy God's wrath" ("It does not make God merciful; it makes divine forgiveness possible"--The New Compact Bible Dictionary). It means that Jesus Christ's offer of Himself is a sacrifice that is sufficient for all. But it is not describing an act that is accomplished in all. The turning away of God's wrath comes after the act of propitiation is received by those who repent.
The love of God is the motivation for the salvation of man, and the law is used to convict lost souls in order to show them their need for salvation.
If we see God as only angry toward unbelievers, I think we could very well become angry Christians, since we are imitators of God. God has the right to be angry because He knows how to be angry and not sin. He has a righteous anger, because underlying His anger is His perfect love.
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.