If the Bible Is Really True, You Could Be in Big Trouble

by Ralph Filicchia

Many knowledgeable Christians have trouble with the idea of going into an alley, coming upon a whiskey-soaked bum, and saying to him: "Hey, friend, do you know God loves you?"

This is a popular approach to personal evangelism with certain evangelical Christians, but there is a serious question as to whether it is really biblical in the strict sense of the word.

The Book of Acts is a history of the early church that spans roughly thirty years, and in that history book you cannot find the word "love" mentioned even once. This should convince us of at least two things: 1) people were not driving around the streets with "God Loves You" bumper stickers on the back of their chariots, and 2) personal evangelism did not consist of telling sinners that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives.

The central message of the Book of Acts is "Repent therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). There is no example in this book of a main character going into a city and announcing that he has come to proclaim or share the love of God with anyone. They obviously did not use this approach because they did not consider it the primary message of the cross.

Surprisingly enough, though, many churches today do consider this the primary message of the cross. But why?

Let's go back to our drunk in the alley. Wouldn't it make more sense to tell this fellow something like, "Hey, pal, you're in big trouble. There's a God in heaven who doesn't think too much of you and the situation you're in right now." Wouldn't this have a better chance of grabbing his attention than hearing that God loved him-which may not necessarily be true?

If you walked up to the average person and told him that God loved him, his first reaction might be, "Well, why shouldn't he? I'm a pretty nice guy." That response would not do him much good, but it would be the response of most of the self-righteous who have yet to come under the conviction of their sins.

Personal conviction of sin is paramount, as that is the opening through which God's love flows. If He is a just God, then He can truly love no other way. Divine love thrown out every which way to everyone equally is a degenerative form of love that soon becomes an easy-going apathetic tolerance that takes very little interest in the difference between good and evil.

Furthermore, a God who is nothing more than love-a God who loves every one always, regardless of their acts or beliefs-could not command the respect of anyone. He would fundamentally be an unjust God who has surrendered His own standards-which is why there is no such thing as "God's unconditional love."

Time and again we read in the Bible, "Blessed is he..." and "Blessed is the man who..." and after each we usually find an admonition to become or do something. Like it or not, we have a responsibility to act. This does not mean we work to earn God's love, but it does mean that none of us is an automatic recipient of that love.

Does the God of the Bible love the drunken bum in the alley, the Mafia godfather, and the murdering terrorist, the same way He loves the God-fearing Christian who devotes himself to prayer and honoring his creator? Does "For God so loved the world" (John 3:16) really encompass all this? Can we rightly use a few scattered verses of this nature and with them bulldoze our way through the rest of the Bible as if no other teaching existed?

Psalm 5:5 says, "The boastful shall not stand in your sight. You hate all workers of iniquity."

Psalm 11:5 says, "The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates."

Evidently there are some who are not covered by the "God Loves You" bumper stickers. Nor in a righteous moral order should they be.

We can engage in semantics and, as many do, purposely side-step the issue to avoid having to face an uncomfortable truth. But is all this really necessary? Should not the very obvious also carry some weight? God may have a general, but definitely no particular, love for those who by nature are children of wrath (cf. Eph. 2:3).

Hosea says, speaking of Israel, "Because of their evil deeds I will drive them from my house, I will love them no more" (Hos. 9:15).

Love them no more? Is that possible?

Evidently it is, so why play word games in order to negate the obvious? Why not let the Bible speak for itself and be content with what it teaches, and never mind defending pet doctrines that may be more acceptable to those too timid for hard thinking, or engaging in a form of "seminary-speak" that explains why the Bible doesn't really mean what it obviously says.

Psalm 78:56-64 contains some very hard language against the people of God. Israel had gone bad. They had not kept the Law of God (cf. v. 56), they had fallen into idolatry (v. 58), and so they were given over to the sword to be killed (v. 62). God did this because He was furious and greatly abhorred them (v. 59).

This is definitely not how one treats people who are always loved regardless, nor is it how one chastens an object of continuous love, any more than being in hell is the result of God's everlasting love. God discriminates between the righteous and the ungodly (Ps. 1:6, Matt. 25:46) in both this life and the life to come. Both cannot be the objects of His love. If they are then the word "love" has no demonstrable meaning.

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