I really want to get Christians thinking about how they present the gospel. I believe all Christians who really know the peace, safety, wonder and grace of a free and eternal salvation through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection will want to share this treasure and spread the good news with those they see walking on in ignorance around them. It is right and good and necessary to point others to Jesus, to warn them of their eternal danger and show them their spiritual state before God. As those who profess that Christ is sovereign or Lord over our lives and hearts I hope it is fair to assume that faithful representation of the gospel is as important an area of obedience and submission to His Lordship as are all other areas of life.
I am often discouraged and disappointed by the official and unofficial efforts of groups and individuals to evangelise using the trite cliché “God loves you”. Sounds innocuous enough at first reading. But I believe that this simple statement presents at worst a lie and at best a hopeful assertion based on little more than humanistic sentiment and a humanly contrived sense of how God “feels” towards all humanity or unknown individuals with no consideration for the infallible and open meaning of the words of Christ, the Bible.
God never asserts that he loves all men head for head in the Bible. John 3:16 cannot be interpreted in the light of its context to mean this. We really need to read what the Bible says, not what we want it to say.
If God is sovereign, King, Lord and first cause of all things then he is also sovereign over salvation. Will we have God to be sovereign over the whole universe including education and yet make him an impotent, unsatisfied dependent and weaker than human being when it comes to the crowning work of His cosmos in the salvation of His church in Christ?
If God is eternal and unchangeable and not reactive to His creatures how can he passively love? In other words if God is God, how can he love those that he condemns to eternity in hell? Does he suddenly change his mind and decide to stop loving those who scorn his supposedly passive and impotent love. Obviously this does not represent the God of the scriptures. The God of the scriptures promises to faithfully and unfailingly save all those that he chooses to set his love upon (John 10:25-30). None can take them away from him. He is God after all. And he even reveals to us the reality that he hardens the hearts of many sinners and gives them over to their sins so that they will not repent and believe and be saved (Romans 1:18&28, Exodus 7:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). To say that God loves these “reprobate” cannot be reconciled with scripture.
That God is love is no reason to assume that this love extends to all men. God is also justice. Do we receive what we deserve from God for our sinfulness? God exists in his absolute perfections and attributes within his triune being without any dependence on his creatures to be whole or complete. He is under no obligation to love any man or creature in their fallen state. That He loves many, many people does not mean He loves all. That He promises to render vengeful justice on those multitudes who remain in their sins does not mean He will punish all men.
Confusing God’s longsuffering with his love is unfaithful to His word. He leaves some men inexcusable and lets them fill the cup of their iniquity that he might judge them all the more harshly for denying his existence and Lordship. He never extended His love to these people or else they would have been changed to repent and believe in Him. “What if God willing to show His wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” asks Paul of the self righteous racially proud Israelites in Romans 9:22.
That God is good to all men does not equate to God loves all men. The goodness that God rains down on all men will only serve to heap up more fuel for God’s anger against those whom He sovereignly passes over and leaves in their natural sinful state. Greater gifts from God require greater responsibility in the receiver. To whom much is given much is expected. The reprobate human who has been gifted with beauty, wealth, health pleasure and abundant access to the means of God’s grace in the gospel and fellowship of believers can never say that they were recipients of God’s love. The natural man, fallen in sin, takes all these good things and uses them in the service of idols, he fails the test. He hates the giver or seeks to deny His existence. All humankind is in this position of hatred to the Father of Light and in this position they are children of wrath. God’s righteous anger hangs over them in pending judgment.
Jesus Christ prays for his sheep in this situation. He saves His sheep. They hear his voice in the Gospel. They recognize their name “sinner”. They are made to see their plight “condemned”. They alone are able to see the kingdom of heaven through the door that now appears open to them in the Gospel that has touched their hearts and been planted by the Spirit. They now believe in Jesus Christ, that He alone can make them right with God. He alone will take them through His own person to be in a position where they can know and experience the love of God. God plans this. 1 Peter 1:2-7 God has determined that His children will be saved through the means of the gospel. The Gospel is not “God loves you”. The gospel is Jesus calling out to the lost sheep in the darkness of this world “repent and believe” and all those that are his sheep will hear and respond to the voice of their shepherd (John 8:47 & John 10:1-30).
All men are called to repent and believe in Christ the sin offering, but only those that God loves will respond in faith to this call of the Gospel when he makes them willing to believe in the day of his power. Jesus never, ever, ever went and preached the easy believism “God loves you”. Jesus was scathing of those that assumed self righteousness or some claim on the favour of God. Jesus only ever pronounced the favour of God on those that he knew to be his. Jesus only ever prayed to the Father for his sheep. Jesus was absolutely clear about the fact that he came to love, live and die for those that the Father had given Him before the foundations of the earth (John 17). The Jesus of the scriptures, the incarnate Word ascended to the right hand of God cannot be pleased with such a gross misrepresentation of the Word which he embodies.
Below I have included some pertinent scriptural references. That God doesn’t love everyone is not the central message of the Bible, nor is it a truth that needs to be overemphasized. It does however need to be recognized to ensure that the truth and integrity of the Gospel is maintained when we proclaim it.
2 Peter 2:9
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
God’s love is constantly affirmed and demonstrated and presented as a given to God’s people, those who have faith. The furthest it extends to those outside of faith is to those who are yet to be called to the faith who are still in their sins or yet to be born but have already been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1
No doubt you are familiar with all these passages. God’s Word is truth. Jesus Christ is the truth and true revelation of God and His word. Are we helping the cause of the Gospel of our incarnate God by processing it through our simplistic humanistic paradigm that seeks to understand God’s love as a merely human sentiment and acts to produce millions of these easily swallowed sugar coated gospel substitute “God Loves You” tablets to feed to our spiritually starved neighbours who often don’t know who God is or what he is like and requires of them? Did Jesus say “you shall know the untruth and the untruth shall set you free? Is it a small thing to misrepresent the Word?
Please don’t just write this off as fanatical or imbalanced. I am really and prayerfully seeking to be faithful and to help build up those I believe to be brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe Christians who promote the “God loves you” gospel are also often seeking to be faithful. That doesn’t mean we and they can’t get it wrong sometimes. Please consider what I have said in light of the whole testimony of the Word.
Article written by Josh.