Addressing Objections: God is Love But God is Just
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Many of those who argue that God does not save all mankind suggest that salvation for all ignores other attributes of God’s character, besides love. God is also just, holy, and wrathful toward sin, it is argued. I agree that He is just, holy, and wrathful toward sin, but would argue that these in no way oppose his love, but are rather born out of it.
You see, the words just, holy and wrathful are all adjectives. They are descriptive. But when John says that “God is love,” love is a noun. He didn’t say that God is “loving,” putting this as a simply descriptive characteristic of God, on par with others.
The importance of this fact is that it suggests that love is the defining attribute of who God is. It is his very nature. If this is the case, all other attributes of God must flow out of his love. His justice is a result of who He is, love. His wrath is because He is love. Even his holiness is made perfect in His love. Seeing that love is the central, defining characteristic of who He is ought to inform our view of his judgment, wrath, and holiness. With that in mind, let’s see how the Bible defines love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
The love described above is the same word that describes the central concept of who God is when John said that God is love (agapē). If we look at some of the characteristics of this love, they seem incompatible with the idea of eternal torment but highly compatible with the ultimate salvation of all people.
For example, we see that love is patient and kind. The doctrine of hell suggests that God’s patience with people runs out at judgment. Once you are dead, it says, God will no longer give you any more time and you will experience eternal suffering. Imposing eternal suffering on someone is certainly not kind. This doesn’t seem to need any further explanation. On the other hand, if all men are ultimately saved, even though they go through the lake of fire that purifies them from sin, this shows God’s justice, patience, and kindness in harmony.
Also, we see from the passage that love “is not irritable or resentful.” In the NIV translation of the passage, it is said that love “is not easily angered” and that “it keeps no record of wrongs.” The image that many hellfire advocates paint suggests that God’s wrath is a powerful anger that will never subside because of our sin and because we rejected him. This picture suggests God’s wrath is resentful (unforgiving of our rejection) and that he keeps a permanent record of wrongs.
I believe that God’s wrath is, instead, born of His love. His anger toward sin and its destructiveness is a righteous anger. Don’t we understand this concept? Aren’t we angry when we hear of injustice, brutality, and all sorts of evil? Don’t we want justice to be done? It is a loving act to judge sin, ending wickedness and bringing all creation under His authority.
The biblical view that all people are saved through Jesus Christ is compatible with God’s wrath and judgment as well as with his love. All humanity will be judged righteously “according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12-13). Our wickedness (if we haven’t accepted Christ’s salvation) will merit punishment in the lake of fire. But as we have seen, this punishment, while painful, serves a purpose of purifying people of the sins that they have been slaves to, and will demonstrate Gods love.
Remember that “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) and that He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” ( 1 Timothy 2:4 ). This brings us to the final characteristic of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:8: “love never ends.” Some translations say “love never fails.” In either case, the sense is the same.
God’s love for the world, His love for us, does NOT end. It does NOT fail. Not even in death, or judgment. Not because we didn’t believe the right things or do the right things. Love never fails. Love never ends.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Why do we assume that God’s love ends at death for the unbeliever? There is not a single passage in the Bible that shows this concept to be true. Doesn’t Christ have the keys to death and Hades as Revelation 1:18 tells us? Indeed He does and He is powerful enough to save us from them.
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