God’s love is described in Scripture as being immeasurably broad, long, high, and deep and this quality of His love surpasses all knowledge. The unbeliever does not understand it because they are blinded by their sin and rooted in their pride. And the true believer grows in their knowledge and comprehension of that love the more they understand the truths about God and the greater they grasp the wretched sinner they are.
If you are around evangelical Christianity for any bit of time you will hear the utterances of “God is love” and “His love is unconditional for us” and “He loves you just as you are.” It is true that in 1 John 4:8 it states that “God is love” but before that in chapter 1 verse 5 he states “God is light.” Therefore, God’s love never conflicts with His holiness and the sovereignty of His love lies within Himself, unregulated by any other creature.
God’s love is unconditional in the fact that it is not influenced by men and their sinful actions. 2 Timothy 1:9 shows us that God’s love comes from Himself “according to His own purpose.” Therefore, God loves us not based upon any foreseen faith from us but that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesian 1:4) and He loves us with regenerating love before we meet any condition so as to enable us to believe (1 John 5:1). However God’s love is not unconditional in the fact God’s saving love is not for everyone but only those that would repent and put their faith in Christ alone.
So God’s love is conditional in some respects in the sense that one cannot begin to know, understand, comprehend, or have that saving love applied to us through justification without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. However, God’s love is not conditional in the fact that man can do no work to merit any of the love of God.
So if God’s love is conditional and unconditional and yet not conditional and not unconditional, what is it? I propose we stop using the terms “unconditional” and “conditional” when talking about God’s love.
David Powlinson perfectly interjects a new term that we should use when talking about the fullness of God’s love – contraconditional:
God does not accept me just as I am; He loves me despite how I am; He loves me just as Jesus is; He loves me enough to devote my life to renewing me in the image of Jesus. This love is much, much, much better than unconditional! Perhaps we could call it “contraconditional” love. Contrary to the conditions for knowing God’s blessing, He has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions. Contrary to my due, He loves me. And now I can begin to change, not to earn love but because of love.
Paul in Romans 5 concludes this perfectly in stating:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; through perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
I will let David Powlinson’s words conclude this post by stating:
You need something better than unconditional love. You need the crown of thorns. You need the touch of life to the dead son of the widow of Nain. You need the promise to the repentant thief. You need to know, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You need forgiveness. You need a Vinedresser, a Shepherd, a Father, a Savior. You need to become like the one who loves you. You need the better love of Jesus.