The Conditional Love of God
When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, God warned them that if they followed the evil ways of the people, He would take them out of the land, and He would cause them to be overtaken by other countries (Deuteronomy 29:25-28). The books of 1 and 2 Kings tell the history of the Israelites sliding into idolatry generations after entering the land and after the death of King David.
The nation quickly divided after the death of David’s son Solomon into Israel in the north and Judah in the south (1 Kings 12:16-24). Israel immediately fell into idolatry under King Jeroboam, and they never turned from this idolatry. They were eventually carried into captivity by Assyria as a result of their idolatry as God promised (2 Kings 17:6). It was only by the intercessory prayer of King Hezekiah that Judah was not taken away by Assyria at the same time (2 Kings 19:20).
But under Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, the nation fell back into idolatry. Manasseh’s actions were so bad that God announced that Judah would suffer in the same way as Israel had: “And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. (2 Kings 21:13).”
Even the righteous actions of Manasseh’s grandson Josiah were not enough to save the nation (2 Kings 22:2). He went through all the land of Judah and tore down all the evil places of worship that were setup by the other kings, led Judah back to proper worship of God, and repaired all the damage that had been done to the temple. We read in 2 Kings 23:26, “Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.”
This brief retelling of Israel’s history while in the Promised Land is meant to illustrate that God’s love is not unconditional as some might say. God did freely choose Abraham and promise to lead his descendants into the land of Canaan, but their place in the land was always contingent on their faithfulness to God.
This contingency is not something that is tied only to the Old Testament. This truth is seen across the New Testament and can be seen from perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, “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).” God’s saving love that results in eternal life is only given to those who believe in Jesus. Jesus went on to say in the same passage that those who do not believe in Him are condemned (John 3:18).
It is important to remember the conditionality of God’s love because if God’s love was truly unconditional, then there would be no need for us to put our faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Telling unbelievers that God loves them unconditionality gives them no reason to listen to the Gospel, have their heart regenerated and repent of their sins.
The wonderful news of the Gospel is that while God’s forgiveness is conditional, the offer is unconditional. It does not matter where you were born, how much money you have, what sins you have committed or how young or old you are. If you know that you are a sinner in need of grace and believe and confess that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, God will forgive you and give you the gift of eternal life.