Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pastoral Pings (Plus): The Timeless Grace of God’s Gift of Love

          One of the things that many church-going people struggle with is the thought of how God feels about them when they are bad. They have difficulty accepting that God could love them when they are misbehaving, or when they are failing to live up to his expectations for them as people who claim to be the sons of God.

          I grew up as a child that always tried to be good to avoid bad consequences. This saved me from a lot of regrets that come with overtly sinful and shameful behavior. However, it also led me into the trap of believing that God’s love was conditioned by my behavior. Although I had received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith in his name when I was an adolescent, my early years as a Christian were characterized by trying to be a good Christian.

          What I learned some time later was that my faith could not rest in my being good enough for God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ at the same time. Did God love me because I was good, or was I expressing a goodness that came out of God’s love for me? Was God angry with me every time I sinned or failed, or had his anger been fully poured out on Christ against all the sins I would ever commit?

          What this came down to was this: did the gospel of Jesus Christ, and my life in the church, call me to be good in order to win God’s approval, or did it call me to discover the work Jesus did on the cross so that God could now approve me as holy and righteous in his sight only by faith in his Son?

          Another way I learned about this was discovering that I believed that God began to love me at the moment that I received Jesus Christ by faith. Yeeha! Suddenly God could love me! What I learned later on was that such a thing was impossible. God could not have set out on a plan of redemption that was motivated by his hatred of me and my sin, just so that, as soon as I received Jesus, he could suddenly love me.

          That would make the gospel something like this: “For God so hated the sinful world that his hatred of sin caused him to send his Son into the world as a sacrifice for sin so that whenever anyone sees this expression of hatred they would believe in Jesus and God could suddenly begin loving them.”

          The clear and undeniable message of the Bible is that God already loved the world (people from every tribe and nation, not just the people of Israel), and it was this love for the people of the world that compelled him to devise this plan to send his Son into the world as the atoning sacrifice for sin[1] that would propitiate[2] all his wrath against our sin,[3] so that he could then accept us into the love relationship that was in his mind before the beginning of time.[4]

          One of the clearest revelations of this truth, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is an undeniable revelation of the love of God for bad people, is what Paul recorded for us when he wrote:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[5]

          While many professing believers think that their weakness or sin makes God angry with them, or causes God to stop loving them, the truth is that God’s love predates time. Jesus’ death for sin was the expression of God’s love for the people he had chosen, being fully expressed and demonstrated on the cross while we were still sinners needing a Savior. At no time do things change so that God’s love becomes dependent on our good behavior. Rather, it is his love that covers over our multitude of sins[6] while transforming us more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ “from one degree of glory to another”.[7]

          Now, to tie this all together, we have this beautiful Scripture: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”[8] God doesn’t love us because we love him, or because we are good enough to deserve his love. He loves us, has propitiated our sins through Jesus’ loving sacrifice, and calls us to now “…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.[9]

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
[2] Propitiate: to remove the wrath of God against our sin by removing the object of that wrath. When Jesus bore our sins upon his body on that tree, all the wrath of God against our sin was poured out upon Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” he meant that there was no more wrath against sin to be poured out later on those who received the gospel. The wrath of God had been fully expended on Christ, so it was propitiated, or taken away from being poured out on those who received Christ by faith.
[3] 22For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3)
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
[4] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1)
[5] Romans 5:6-8
[6] “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
[7] “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
[8] I John 4:10
[9] Ephesians 5:1-2

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