"Just How Great Is God's Love?"
The Bible does not lack for verses that tell of the love of God. There are hundreds of them.
Of course, the most famous of these is probably John 3:16.
In fact, the famous Christian author Max Lucado has written an entire book about this one verse. (The title of the book is simply 3:16.)
But here are the big questions:
The book of 1 John has one of greatest passages about love in the entire Bible. It starts in chapter four. I quote it here in part.
Here the author writes that love is from God. He then goes further by saying God is love.
This is important because John is defining love for us. Where does love come from? Love comes from God. What is love? God is love.
Picking up where we left off, we read
The fact that God sent His only Son Jesus is proof of God's love for us. God did this of His own prerogative as an expression of His love. Our love, then, is a response to God's love for us.
What is interesting is that John is the author of both the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John. In both books, he expresses the idea that Jesus is the savior of the world.
In John 3:16, he says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son." And then in 1 John 4:14, he says, "The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" -- and that sending the Son was an expression of God's love.
So we have established a few things:
Some who have been schooled in church doctrine may argue that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, but that people can reject Jesus... somewhat like a drowning man who rejects a life preserver.
This argument, in my opinion, fails. It reduces Jesus to a "magic potion" that can be used or not, depending on the whim of the individual. Jesus is much more than a life-saving elixir; He is the Savior of the world.
So the question becomes: If Jesus is the Savior of the world, will he save all people?
Let us examine what the Scriptures say. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:18
This is an interesting verse. First, it says that Jesus died "once for all." He did not die once for some. He died once for all people.
This means that no further animal sacrifice is needed to atone for sin. Jesus truly was the final sacrifice. It also means that Jesus's death on the cross is for everyone, and not just a few.
John confirms this in 1 John 2:1,2
Jesus died once for all people, and He is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world. Praise God!
Pay close attention to the language Peter uses. He says Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Peter does NOT say Jesus could be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, if only everybody would accept Him.
If we are to truly understand what Jesus has done, we must not start with any preconceived ideas and then attempt to find Biblical support for them. Rather, we must look carefully at what the Bible says and earnestly seek to know what God is really saying -- no matter whether it fits into church doctrine or not.
Returning to Peter, we read in 2 Peter 3:9
The promise Peter is referring to is the promise of Jesus's second coming. God does not wish any to perish, and so He is patient toward us so that we may have opportunity to repent of our sins and be drawn to Jesus.
Paul agrees with Peter when he writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Here Paul encourages us to pray for "all men" -- not just our family and friends, but our enemies also. He says to pray specifically for "kings and all who are in authority." Since no qualification is given, this applies equally to rulers who are good as it does to rulers who are evil.
Why should we pray for "all men" as Paul urges?
There are two reasons. First, because we may lead a quiet life, at peace with our neighbors and all those in authority. Second, because God wants all men to be saved! And if we are in agreement with God, then we must also pray for all men.
Now some have argued that God wants to save all men, but that He can't because each person has to choose to accept Jesus on his own. If a person rejects Jesus, there is simply nothing God can do. In other words, man's will overrules God's desire to save all men.
Clearly, I disagree with this view.
First, we do not choose God; God chooses us. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8,9
Paul makes it very plain that we do not save ourselves by choosing Jesus. Rather, we are saved by God's gift of grace so that no one can boast of making a better decision than another person.
Just so there is no doubt of what Paul is saying, he writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30,31
Paul states that it is by God's doing that we are in Jesus -- not our own doing. He then quotes the prophet Jeremiah who says if we boast, then we ought to boast in the Lord.
In other words, if we know Jesus, it is not because of anything we've done. So we have nothing to boast about other than God's love, grace, and mercy. We know Jesus only because of God, and so we boast in the Lord.
Jesus Himself says in John 6:44
So Jesus says that no person can come to Him unless God the Father draws that person to Him. It is God's doing and not our own.
I can't make this point strongly enough, which is why I have quoted three different passages to prove the point.
Now, if God chooses us and draws us to Jesus in the first place, what is stopping God from choosing all people and bringing all of them to Jesus?
In fact, in John 12:32 Jesus made a bold claim by saying He would draw all men to Himself. His exact words are:
Was Jesus lifted up from the earth on the cross? Yes. As a result, He will draw all men to Himself.
This is how much God loves us. He is not willing to leave us in our sin, or allow us to perish apart from Him. And so he draws each of us to Him, at different times, so we are able to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But what of those who had already died? Will they receive a second chance to repent, acknowledge Jesus, and receive life? I believe so. In 1 Peter 4:6 we read
Peter says the gospel has been preached to those who are dead so that, ultimately, they may live in the spirit -- even if they are judged in the flesh as men.
God is patient, indeed!
Now let us return for a moment to the subject of love. When people get married, they often read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 because it is such a beautiful picture of love.
Keep in mind that "God is love," so these attributes also apply to God. In fact, if you've ever read the story of Jesus, you will see a perfect description of Jesus in these words.
Question: If God is love, and love never fails, how can God fail to save all men as He has stated He desires to do?
The answer is, God cannot fail. And he WILL save all men, just as He has said He will.
Many have argued (Christians included) that death can permanently separate us from God; that our own stubborn wills can permanently separate us from God; that "hell" can permanently separate us from God; etc.
But is this really true?
Paul writes in Romans 8:38,39
Here's good news...
There is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. This love is IN Christ Jesus our Lord. And love never fails!
This is how great God's love really is.
Peace be with you, in the name of Jesus, the Savior of All Mankind.
-Ryan M. Healy
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