Doug asks this super question:
I just heard a podcast you did on August 2, 2022, about the letter to the church at Philadelphia. You talked about John Niemelä’s suggestion that Rev 3:9 should end with a comma instead of a period: “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan…to know that I have loved you, because you have kept My command to persevere.”
This would suggest that the believers there had earned God’s love by their faithfulness. This seems to contradict a statement that I’ve heard numerous times: “You can’t do anything to make God love you more, and you can’t do anything to make God love you less.” Is this not a true statement? Is it possible for me to earn God’s love by being faithful?
I have heard that statement a lot as well.
While that sounds good, it is incorrect.
There are many passages of Scripture that say that if a believer departs from the path of righteousness, then he will experience the wrath of God. There are many other texts that say that a believer must remain in fellowship with God in order to abide in His love. Let’s survey a few of those verses.
Jude 21: “…keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
Ephesians 3:19: “…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”
Exodus 32:11: “Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?”
Ezekiel 18:24: “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.”
Colossians 3:5-6: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience…”
There are some texts that speak of the fact that God loves believers in terms of their position (e.g., Rom 5:5; 2 Thess 3:5; 1 John 3:1). But there are many other texts that say that only when believers are walking in the light do they experience the love of God.
The prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) learned that when he was away from the father, he did not experience his father’s love. While in the far country, he lost everything, and no one gave him anything. He realized that the hired hands of his father had it better than he did. His father loved him even when he was in the far country. But he did not experience that love.
Everyone reaps what he sows both in this life and in the life to come (Gal 6:7-9). While everlasting life is a free gift, its fullness now and in the life to come depends on our walking in the light.
In my estimation some preachers go too far in extolling God’s grace. God does not bless wickedness, even when done by His children. He only blesses godliness.