Does God love all people?

One often hears that God loves all people.  Yet that belief is based on a wrong interpretation of one specific verse: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’  John 3:16  

#  Why is it not advisable to say that God loves all people?  

It is because it results in questions, like: 

  • Why is the world then in such a mess? 
  • Why doesn’t God do something about the mess?
  • Why are people then in hell?   

Our human race associates God’s love with pleasure, happiness, an easy life and no judgment for wrong doing.

#  The context of John 3:16

David Pawson (You Tube, What about John 3:16?) explains that the verses before John 3:16 explain the context.  They refer to Numbers 21:4-9 where the Israelites complained and spoke against God and Moses.  So God sent poisonous snakes that bit them and many died.  They confessed their rebellion and asked Moses to pray to God to take the snakes away.  God did not take the snakes away, but told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  When anyone was bitten he/she could look at it and be saved from death.  

#  John 3:16 boils down to the following:

The bronze snake on the pole is a shadow of Jesus hanging on the Cross.  All people are born as rebels against God and it will cause us to die spiritually.  But God provided Jesus on the Cross as our only hope.  If we put our faith in Him, He forgives us and we are saved from the eternal consequences of our disobedience and rebellion.

#  The Bible’s emphasis is not on God’s love for all people.

  • Pawson says that of the 35,000 verses in the Bible, only 35 speak about God’s love.  That is about 0.01%.  God says He loves His people, the elect, those who can appreciate His love. 
  • The Bible’s emphasis is on righteousness (=morally right in God’s opinion) and none of us can make the grade.  It is Jesus’ death on the Cross where He suffered, shed His blood and died for our sins, that enables God to completely forgive us and make us righteous in His sight.  

#  At this point I can almost hear you thinking, that is simple! 

If Jesus is like the ‘bronze snake on the pole’ (the Sacrificial Lamb of God) all I need to do is look up at the Cross and ask for forgiveness of sins.  Then everything is fine.  I am righteous and ready for heaven!  Sorry to disappoint you, it isn’t quite that simple.  It is here that people run into trouble.   

#  God’s Kingdom is perfect.  

God will never accept anyone with a criminal record  (= all the sins we committed against the holy God).  Yet no-one was ever born sinless, except Jesus, the Son of God.  There is no-one who can claim he or she never offended God.  That means all people have a ‘police record’ that has to be cleared.  Only Jesus can do it.  Each person applies personally to Jesus for  forgiveness of his or her offences.  Jesus has no problem to do it, but you need to follow a certain procedure.  

#  David Pawson explains the essential procedure.

  • Repentance.  It means to acknowledge that you are on the wrong way, the broad way.  Jesus’ way is narrow, but leads straight to His eternal Kingdom. 
  • Believe.  It means to believe that Jesus died for your sins and you are forgiven. 
  • Baptism.  It means you are baptised in water as a public declaration that you died with Christ and you come out of the water raised into a new life. 
  • Receive the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the Counsellor, the Personal Life Coach if you will.  He will teach and enable you to change your old ways and prepare to live now as a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  

#  The emphasis is on how to live as a Kingdom citizen ‘now,’ not ‘then.’  

It is not as someone said, ‘My sins are forgiven, my ticket is stamped to heaven, now I can live as I want and when I die I am in Jesus’ arms.’  No, it isn’t like that at all.  God is too clever for that.  He will only allow those who are willing to serve and love Him, no matter what. 

Conclusion 

God repeatedly tests our willingness to obey the Holy Spirit.  The reason is that the Holy Spirit will be in us eternally.  That is why we ‘practice’ now to trust and obey Him.  We learn to ask His advice about our lives, jobs, decisions, et cetera.  He is God the Holy Spirit who knows all things and can help us.  So when a follower of Jesus dies, the Holy Spirit remains with him/her.  In the Revelation 21-22 phase, the Holy Spirit still works in us to honour God and Jesus in love and loyalty.

Richard Dawkins’ advice for God

Richard Dawkins thinks he has excellent advice for God.  ‘If He wanted to forgive people their sins, why not just forgive them?  Why did He have to kill His Son on the cross in such a gruesome way, to forgive people?’  At face value it might sound like good advice, but is it?

What is the issue about forgiveness?  

Right in the beginning God gave  Adam and Eve a command.  If they disobeyed Him, they would surely die (which meant death and eternal separation from Him).  They did disobey (or sinned against God).  It caused a relationship break between God and them.  But in His great love, God demonstrated that their sin against Him could be exchanged with the death of an innocent animal.  God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins to show that the blood of the animals were exchanged for their transgression.

That pattern of God’s sacrificial system goes throughout the Old Testament with the animal sacrifices at the Tabernacle and Temple of the Israelites.  It reaches its pinnacle in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.  The innocent Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world:  ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ 1

Even if Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, forgiveness is not automatic.  God created man with a free will.  Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, exercised their free wills.  Abel decided to do its God’s way: sacrifice an innocent animal.  Cain used his free will and rejected God’s way: he sacrificed produce from the ground. 2  God does not accept anybody who refuses to make use of the blood sacrifice for forgiveness.  It was demonstrated with His acceptance of Abel’s, but not Cain’s sacrifice.

Reasons why God does not automatically forgive sin:

  1. Each person has a free will and can decide, like Cain and Abel, to do it God’s way or not.  God accepts the free will decision of those who want to go their own way.  He will never impose His will on people.
  2. Additionally, God uses the cross of Jesus to sift which people are willing to obey Him, and which ones are not interested.  Scripture states, ‘…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 3

Conclusion

Those who use the sacrificial system supplied by Jesus, can enter the new future garden of Eden. 4  What Adam closed up, Jesus opened up.  The beautiful, peaceful, eternal ’garden of Eden’ is waiting for those people who are willing to approach God in the way He designed.  Richard Dawkins reminds us of the most important aspect of God’s plan for man: making peace with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus the Lamb of God.

References

  1. John 3:16
  2. Genesis 4:2-5
  3. 1 Corinthians 1:18
  4. Revelation 21 & 22

God’s wrath and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac

In Revelation 15:1 we read, ‘I saw in heaven another great and marvellous sight: seven angels with the Only for Jesusseven last plagues – last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.’  Why does God describe Himself as a ‘compassionate, gracious God, abounding in love…’  if He pours out His wrath on people?

One of the answers is found in the narrative of Genesis 22. God told Abraham to go and sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. One has to visualise the agony, the pain, and the torment which Abraham must have experienced. Yet he obeyed.

Naturally atheists and other God haters denounce God. How could a good God expect that of a father? It is cruel, sadistic, typical of a terrible cosmic monster. Sadly, as usual, they miss the point.

In Genesis 3:21 we read, ‘The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.’  The innocent animals sacrificed on their behalf, reconciled them to God. In Genesis 22:2 we read, ‘Take your son…whom you love…sacrifice him….’  It has a marvellous application to what God would do in future for man, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave [sacrificed] His one and only Son….’,John 3:16

God demonstrated His plan through Abraham. Abraham had a son, the necessary ‘ingredient’ for a physical nation. God also has a Son, the necessary ‘ingredient’ for a people of His own. God sacrificed Him and people of all nations can become children of the Father in His Name. The question is now, how big a sacrifice was that for the Father?

Abraham’s agonising experience demonstrates what it cost a father to sacrifice his dearly loved son. Jesus is the dearly loved Son of God. The Bible is generally silent on it, but it must have rent God’s heart to see what His Son endured. The only difference is that Abraham was prevented by God from sacrificing Isaac, but God went all the way with His Son.

Now, think for a moment. At great personal agony God allowed His innocent Son Jesus to be sacrificed by crucifixion for the sins of the whole world. It was not a fast death, but slow and agonising, beginning with the scourging by the Roman soldiers. What is God’s reaction towards those who scorn it, mock it, make fun of it and ridicule Jesus? Exactly the same as every normal father would have done whose son was sacrificed on behalf of people, and then they ridicule and reject it – anger and wrath.

Summary

God is a Father, with a compassionate heart, especially towards His Son. Nevertheless, He was willing to suffer the anguish and pain of sacrificing His Son to reconcile us to Himself. No wonder He is full of wrath towards those who shove Jesus back in His face, because it is Jesus‘ …whom He raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’ 1

People who talk about God’s wrath and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, should rather marvel at God’s mercy and grace, and fall down in absolute awe of such a display of love on our behalf.

References

1. 1 Thessalonians 1:10

 

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