It has been said that God’s love is unconditional. If you believe in Jesus, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. Let us examine words from the gospel of John—and John was known as the “apostle of love”—to see whether or not this teaching is true.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
According to a study of the Greek grammar underlying this verse, God loved the world by performing a one-time action 2,000 years ago whereby He gave His Son to die on the cross on our behalf. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Whoever believes in him and continues to believe in him shall not be condemned in hell, but shall be saved and have eternal life. But what of those who choose not to believe in Jesus?
3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
It is clear that those who choose not to believe stand condemned already by God. The wrath of God is a subject rarely brought up in churches today, even when the gospel is presented. Contemporary western culture has exiled the concept of divine wrath and judgment against sin to the religious lunatic fringe. In order to make the gospel “seeking-friendly,” all we hear about today from our pulpits is “God’s unconditional love.” But is God’s love really unconditional, even to those who profess to believe?
John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Yes, Jesus has loved us. He died on the cross for us while we were still sinners. But if we want to remain in his love, there is a condition. We must obey his commands. Even Jesus himself had to obey his Father’s commands in order to remain in his Father’s love. Is there a special provision for us whereby we do not need to obey the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ? No, there is not. If we truly believe and have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will obey his commands.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. …23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
If you claim to believe in Jesus and to love him, then you should most definitely obey his command and his teaching. Only then the Father will love you. If you do not obey his teaching, it means categorically that you do not love him, regardless of whatever warm feelings you may have toward him. (It would be very risky to conclude that even if we do not love him despite His sacrificial love for us, that he continues to love us.) Jesus states emphatically that these words belong to the Father who is seated on high in Heaven. These words must be taken with utmost gravity. God’s love is in fact conditional. This should be obvious, but apostasy abounds in the crowd-pleasing Church today.
John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
If we remain in Jesus by obeying his commands, he will remain in us and we will bear much visible fruit for him.
15:6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
If we do not obey his commands and remain in him, we will be thrown into the fire and burned like fruitless and withered branches. Anyone who professes to believe in Jesus Christ must understand this. There is no security in disobedience—only divine wrath.
15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Here is stark contrast. If we do not remain in Jesus and as a result are fruitless for him, then we are thrown into the fire. But if the words of Jesus remain in us and we remain in him by obeying his commands, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us. But what will we ask from him? We will ask that He will enable us to bear fruit to the glory of the Father, showing ourselves to be true disciples. We will not ask God to bless us with earthly comfort and success for our own personal pleasure and ambition. Rather, we will first seek His kingdom and his righteousness. All these other things will be given to us as well.
We can conclude from this brief study of Scripture that God’s love is not unconditional, even for those who profess to believe. God’s abiding love is conditional on remaining in Jesus Christ and obedience to his commands, teachings, and words.