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.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
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:
- How great is God’s love really?
- Did He send his Son to save the world (as the Bible says)… or just part of the world?
- Is His love big enough to save all people or only some people?
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.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is begotten of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7,8)
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
“By this the love of God was manifested in our case, that God has sent His Only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. […] We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:9,10,14-16)
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:
- God is love.
- God first loved us by sending His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
- God so loved the world, that He sent Jesus to be the Savior of the world.
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
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”
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
“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
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 Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
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
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
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
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
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
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'”
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
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
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:
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
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 have 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
“For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
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.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
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
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here’s good news…
- What we do in this life can’t separate us from the love of God.
- Death can’t separate us from the love of God.
- Nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can separate us from the love of God.
- Neither height nor depth (hades) can separate us from the love of God.
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.