This article was triggered by a friend who shared how he encouraged his daughter to believe in God’s love for her. More specifically, that God accepts her just the way she is, without having to meet any condition.
Without question, that’s unquestionably true. God expressed His unconditional love to everyone, as stated in the most famous Bible verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yet, such encouragement can also be completely deceptive, having dreadful consequences in this age and the age to come.
The alternate translation of John 3:16 is helpful to understand the distinction between God’s temporal and everlasting love: “For this is how God love the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God expressed His unconditional love in a certain, definite, and particular way, one that excludes all other ways.
A Vital Illustration
Let me give you an illustration that will make the distinction between God’s temporal and everlasting love crystal clear. What if you had an insurmountable debt, about to be evicted from your home? A month before the eviction date, you receive a letter from the town’s billionaire who offers to pay anyone’s debt for free—no strings attached—because of his genuine love for the town and its citizens.
Since you are a citizen, you automatically qualify for his tremendous offer. The one thing you have to do is go to his home and receive his check that will cover your full debt, which is clearly outlined in the letter.
To say that you’re excited may be one of the greatest understatements ever. You call your family and friends and share about the town’s billionaire and his amazing offer. “His love is truly amazing,” you share with everyone who comes across your path. Tragically, to say the least, you never went to his house and became a true partaker of his expressed love.
God’s Particular Love
Yes, God expressed His love to you in an unconditional manner, but it was in such a way that you must receive something in order to make you acceptable to Him—the very righteousness of His own Son. That’s why Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The Father won’t accept anyone who isn’t perfectly righteous in all his thoughts, feelings, motives, words, and actions. The tiniest sin demands His eternal, full, and just displeasure: “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab. 1:13). As such, His love is expressed to you in the giving of His Son, but can only be truly experienced when you actually receive His Son by faith.
Unless you wholly bank of His Son’s perfect, blameless, flawless, righteous life for your temporal and eternal acceptance with the Father, you will be able to say that God loves you, but you won’t be able to partake of His everlasting love. He will not accept you for who you are in yourself, both in this age and in the age to come, no matter how good, innocent, moral, or righteous you may seem to appear or think you are.
How Many Live in God’s Temporal Love?
That’s a vital question. Paul wrote that many have a zeal for God, “but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). The same can be said about many who have a passion for God’s love and even share that passion. We must be particular about the only way God will accept us, lest we deceive ourselves and others.
The “not according to knowledge” is in relation to the very righteousness of God’s Son: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Rom. 10:3), which is none other than Jesus’ perfect, blameless, flawless, righteous life.
The only way to truly enjoy the Father’s love—relate to and receive from Him—is through His own Son. Ultimately, through the love and acceptance He has for His own Son as the Son of Man. Any other ground is an illusion that will cause a rude awakening: “And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).
A Needful Admonition
God’s expressed love in the giving of His Son will be temporal to you if you don’t reject any and all of your own supposed “right” living. The only way to approach the Father, relate to Him, and receive from Him is through the perfect righteousness of His Son.
You do a great disservice to anyone when you share God’s love—having received the billionaire’s letter—without urging someone to embrace the very righteousness of His Son as the only ground of acceptance with the Father.
Actually, you will be considered as those who are “incensed against him,” as God stated through Isaiah: “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To my every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance’” (Isa. 45:23).
What does it mean that “every tongue shall confess to God”? He made that clear: “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him,” which is a reference to everyone who didn’t submit to the very righteousness of His own Son as the only way to and the only acceptance with the Father. Any other message about God’s love will fail the test of eternity.
Jan Blonk was born and raised in the Netherlands (“yawn” is the Dutch equivalent for John). He permanently moved to the U.S. in 2001 and is the author of It’s All about Jesus: The Bible’s Grand Testimony, a one-year devotional about the person and work of Jesus Christ. All his books are used as a fundraiser for the spread of the gospel through reputable ministries: www.thecauseofchrist.com