The Scourge of Lawless Love
Basket of Figs, November, 1990
Adapted and Modified, November, 2010
Marry me! I love everybody!
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.” I John 5:2
What is the difference between our love and God's love? Is our love ever to be given without conditions? Can we expect God to love us in spite of our character or our deeds? Can we expect God to love us in spite of our character or our deeds? How is His love reconciled with the doctrine of eternal punishment?
Imagine a young swain who intends to pop the question to his sweetheart. He hs taken her to a find restaurant and wined and dined her. He even had musicians at the table plying romantic music. The time has now come. He drops to his knee, presents a stunning diamond ring, and humble entreats her to be his wife.
She hesitates a minute, but glows with joy and anticipation. But she must hear one thing from him. “Do you love me?” she asks breathlessly.
“Why of course, “ he says. “I love everybody.” You can be very certain that his offer will not be accepted. She will not waste her love on an abstraction. She has a right to set a very firm condition upon her love for him.
It is also certain that faith in the promises of God must include more than an abstract love of God for all men, especially when we also understand that the wrath of God abide on men who will be cast into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
I have a right to know if there is something in the love of God that singles me out from the mass of men who will be lost forever. Am I just one of the herd that must catch God’s attention and show myself worthy, or is the difference in Himself? The Bible is clear: He has set His love on His people from eternity, according to His own purposes in Christ Jesus.
Faith is to rule all we do, or all deeds become sinful. (Romans 14:23). Even love can become a snare if it is not ruled by faith. Faith is relying on God's promises, not wishful thinking.
I. God has placed all under His Law. God does not simply command His creatures to love each other, and then leave them without a definition. The lawyer tempted Christ, “What is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength” (Luke 10:27). Jesus forever united love with law, and what He joined together, we must never put asunder.
II. Lawless love is a scourge and danger to every society. Proverbs 12:10 shows the end of lawless love: “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Love is not some overpowering emotion above law and faith, but true love is ruled by law and faith. Love that has no bounds becomes the refuge and comfort for the worst elements of society.
III. Because Love Is an Aspect of Law, Love can Never Save. “If Righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. 2:21). In our society we see everywhere the evil effects of lawless love. If love could save, then no mother's son would ever go astray. Jesus had good will toward Jerusalem and wept over the city, but it perished under God's wrath in 70 A.D.
Love can become a false god. Jesus Christ alone is Savior, and even God's love, considered by itself, does not save. We are not saved because God is good, but because Christ died for us, and we are called by the Holy Spirit Who works faith in our hearts. Christ fully obeyed the law, took the wrath of the law upon Himself in the place of sinners and calls men to faith and obedience.
IV. This Is the Great Difference Between God's Love and Ours. God's love transforms the character of those He loves: “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). In fact, the Apostle John makes God's love the source of our love: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).
God chooses to love through His people, but His love always seeks His glory and righteousness. As an expression of His holiness, God's love can never be separated from the Bible and faith. Lawlessness is rebellion, though it masquerades as virtue. Being of the flesh, such lawless love will not work the righteousness of God.
V. Because Love is Under Law, Godly Discrimination is Required. In an age of lawless love, the Biblical doctrine of Hell falls out of favor, because this doctrine reveals a discriminating God, Who separates the sheep from the goats, the wicked from the just.
The Bible reveals that God is good to both just and unjust, but His love is revealed in Jesus Christ and cannot be found outside of Christ: “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This love of God in Christ includes election to life, calling, regeneration, chastening, and discipline that we might be made partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12:5-9). Those who do not receive this chastening are “not sons.” Those who do receive this nurturing can never be separated from God's love. (Romans 8:32-39).
VI. God's Love Is Not the Same as His Goodness. God is good to all, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust. In spite of this, we are specifically warned not to presume on the goodness of God: “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4) “He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment...shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the son of God…. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:29, 31).
VII. Our Love Under Law is Conditional. Our love is in terms of covenant. We are to love our neighbor and our brother, not some abstraction of mankind. A man is to love the woman he marries, not women in general. For instance, if a man renounces his marriage and abandons his wife for an adulterous or homosexual lifestyle, she is not under bondage (I Cor. 7:15). She may choose to be so and must make the decision with the counsel and advice of the elders of the church. But for a church to insist that she “love” him through his rebellion and wickedness is to presume on the grace of God.
We are to do good to all men, but a woman is not obligated to be a wife to all men. Only God can love without condition, for He can transform the soul and create the conditions that bring blessing. For us to presume on God's love is to deny our creature-hood and to lay a snare for our feet. In the Bible love is concrete and specific, not abstract. (I John 4:20)
VIII. We Are to Trust God, Not Our Love. Samuel was rebuked for continuing to mourn for Saul (I Sam. 16:1). Jehoshaphat sinned when he helped the ungodly and loved them that hated the Lord. (II Chron. 19:2). We are to do good to all men and show good will to all, but we are not to bid God speed to unbelievers (II John 10, 11), lest we be a partaker of their evil deeds. Those who cast their pearls before swine will suffer for it, and the swine will not value the sacrifice nor be transformed by it (Matt. 7:6).