In one of the comments on an earlier post, the question was posted: “If God is love, how then can He send so many to hell?” We know that God is love because the Bible states this to be true. But in saying this, far too many people rip “God is love” out of context and make it mean whatever they want it to mean.
For instance, those seeking to have adulterous relationships often use this passage about God since at the heart of their adultery is their own view of what love is. They live by the premise that if you can quote one verse in the Bible proving that God is a loving God, therefore He must not be a judging God, then you can go off and commit any sin you would like, be it adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. “God is love” is the liberal talisman that opens the door to every sin of your desire. Just state the verse and plunge headlong into wickedness. After all, since “God is love” then He certainly cannot have any standards of holiness that would keep us from our most seedy desires, right? Since He is love and we get to define love the way that seems right in our minds, then we can rush headlong into a host of sins, knowing that a loving God, as WE DEFINE HIM, would not send anyone to hell in the end, right?
This seems to be the implication that so many use when it comes to twisting and ripping this verse out of context. But before you rush headlong into wickedness, there are some things you should know about God and this verse where this declaration is made before you do so.
First off, there are only two places in the Bible that directly say “God is love,” both of which are found in John’s first letter to his fellow believers. John is not writing to the world or the people of the world. In his letter he makes it clear that there are those who are “in Christ” and those of the world. Those of the world have no part with the people of God, with Christ, or with the forgiveness found in Christ because they deny Christ. Therefore any hope of the love of God being the world’s to obtain is unthinkable.
Secondly, John shows us what this love means. 1 John 4:7-9 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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.
He is defining what the love of God means for those who are in Christ: that God has sent His only begotten into the world, that we might live through Him. He is showing believers in Christ, what manner they are to live in Christ in response to the gift of salvation that comes through Christ. He tells us that God is love, and shows us what that love looks like. He doesn’t say anything about not sending the masses to hell, or allowing the wicked of the world off the hook for their wickedness. There is no reference to universalism in this passage at all, but a direct link to believers as recipients of God’s love through His Son.
Long before John gets to his point about describing God’s love for us, he has already made it clear that we cannot continue on in sinfulness if we want to be apart of God’s people.
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
John has makes it clear that the path to licentiousness is not acceptable for the believer. There is no place for the “way of sin” in the life of the believer. We know that we do sin, but this is not our habit and when we do, we certainly do not embrace that sin and hold it up as something to honor and behold as so many do in our world today.
The broader abuse of this passage is the liberty many take by defining what God is by this verse without respect to the Bibles other claims about what and who God is. In other words, those who abuse this truth do so because they also ignore God’s other attributes, like His holiness.
I know this is shocking to some, but His holiness has far more implications for the world and non-believers than His love does. Whereas the believer is the recipient of God’s special love, the non-believer is the recipient to God’s special judgment. This is because God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with.
As I pointed out in the comments section, God deals with man’s sinfulness in one of two ways. The first way, and the way that I advocate that all of my readers allow Him to deal with our sin is via the cross of Christ. Out of His love for His people, He has provided the atoning sacrifice necessary to deal with our sin. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, our sin is imputed to Christ and dealt with on the cross, while His righteousness is imputed to us, making us acceptable before the Father. To reject Christ and His sacrifice, is to reject God’s love.
This leads to the other way that God deals with man’s sinfulness: through His judgment and wrath. He does this both temporally and eternally. His holiness demands it and He will not clear the guilty (Exodus 34:6-8). This being the case, should not the mantra of those seeking to share the good news of Christ be: God is holy! instead of God is love?
After all, so many people have a warped view of what love is, that it really comes no where close to revealing what God’s love is. The concept of love has been abused by our culture that we are actually doing a diservice by echoing the truth. It would be much better to say God is holy and then explaining what that means instead of this abused concept that God is loving, therefore meaning that He loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t love us unconditionally. The conditions of His love are very specific and most people are ignorant of these biblical truths.