Why is Christ’s Exclusive Love for His Bride So Embarrassing for the Church?
Is it because of the decimation of the covenant of marriage by the general populous that such liberal proclamations of unconditional free love abound? “God loves you.” “Jesus died for you.” These sound very generous, but can Christians say them to just anyone?
Let us consider some parallel examples of liberal, unconditional free love. Divorce is rampant. Adultery is rampant. People living together in sexual sin is rampant. Pornography is rampant. Homosexuality is rampant. Pedophilia is rampant. Child sex trafficking is rampant. Can anyone imagine a reason for entering the covenant of marriage anymore?
Clearly, we have a sexual immorality problem, but what is really offensive is someone asking about Christ’s exclusive love for His bride, the church. Yes, it resembles faithful monogamy. Ironically, it offends most people. It is mocked by the world. Covenant love, why do it? The liberal lover asks, “Hey, God loves everybody…just like we do. He’s not a jealous, is He?”
Man-centered theology constructs God in man’s own image. If we are adulterers, surely God must be like us. The fallacious argument goes like this: if God does not love everyone, then God is not love. The person who makes such a claim usually follows with: if God does not love everyone, then I am not going to choose Him to be my God.
A God who has chosen His bride and loves her with a covenant love (hesed) is unacceptable to the great majority of people in the church, today. If God is going to love outside of the relationship of the Trinity, then He must love everyone, everywhere, and at all times. This is what the world demands of God, and so it is what much of the church desires from Him. Exclusivity is embarrassing.
Apparently, the church wants an open marriage with Christ. He can love everyone and anyone He wants, and the church can love whoever and whatever it wants. In an open marriage, the one who goes outside of the covenant simply must abide by the rule: as long as it is consensual and nobody gets hurt. Each partner must have the free will to choose his/her partner or partners. Imagine one’s wife saying to another woman, “My husband loves you, and he said he would die to have you, too.” It is a polygamous Jezebel spirit at best. This is what Christians are saying when they say, “God loves you, and Jesus died for you,” to the unelect, unregenerate, unbeliever.
It is troubling to imagine the church of Jesus Christ being as treasonous to the new covenant as the old covenant Israelites were in their debauchery. Is it possible for the church of Jesus Christ to be a wife of harlotry, like Gomer was to the prophet Hosea?
God is not a whoremonger, and He is not interested in a prostitute for a wife, nor in a polygamous relationship of wives. Israel played the harlot in the Old Testament. This was true in the period of the Judges (8:33); the period of the Kings (2 Chron 21:13); and the period of the Babylonian exile (Ezek 20:30).
The message of Hosea is a parallel lament. Hosea took Gomer to be his wife, even though she was a prostitute. God took Israel to be His wife, and she was apostate despite her covenant vows. Israel worshipped the gods of the surrounding nations. Israel was an idolatrous nation, unfaithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel. The connection: sexual immorality equals spiritual idolatry.
What about Christ and His bride, the church? Did Christ’s advent change anything? Does the New Testament change anything? If Israel was a type for Christ’s church, then, is the church subject to repeat the same apostasy as Israel? Paul’s warning to the Corinthians not to repeat Israel’s bad behavior seems to affirm the problem of apostasy and idolatry in the church (1 Cor 8, 10).
First, we must establish the idea of a faithful remnant found within an unfaithful Israel (Rom 9:27). A people of faith occupied their place within a larger group of people, identified with the faith in name only. The genuine people of faith were a minority to the whole. As Paul wrote, “Not all Israel is Israel (Rom 9:6).” Hebrews 11 also gives us a short list of some of the faithful and their faithful deeds.
Second, there is the church universal, which is sometimes identified as the visible church. A remnant within the church universal /visible is identified as the invisible church. The true Christians are a minority to the whole. We might add, “Not everyone in the church is a true Christian.”
From this parallel observation, we can discern the continuity between Israel and the church. Paul calls the church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). If the continuity is right, then we must ask, is the law of proportion in effect, too? If yes, then the church, the true Israel, is smaller than at first glance.
It is probably a futile exercise to try and analyze it further, although George Barna has spent years attempting to get a more accurate picture of these distinctions. Our point: there are unbelievers in the church, who consider themselves to be Christians. They offer a very broad gospel of love because they do not believe in an exclusive covenant of love.
In the church, everyone agrees with John’s statement, “God is love (1 Jn 4:8).” God is also truth (Jn 14:6). God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). God is life (Jn 14:6). So, we must think beyond love when we think of God’s nature. There is much more to God, of course, taking nothing away from His nature as love. If God is love, how does He demonstrate His love? Toward whom does He demonstrate His love? Does God enter a covenant of love? With whom does He covenant?
Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).” Christ dying shows how He loves; and “us” tells us who He loves and for whom He died. “Us” implies a “them.” If God loves us, then logically, He cannot love them, too. Otherwise, they would also be “us.”
The perennial question is, “Who is ‘us’?” The Unitarian/Universalist says, “us” is everyone, everywhere and at all times. There is no “them.” Therefore, they congruently conclude, everyone is saved. Christ loves everyone. Christ died for everyone. Christ saves everyone. This includes: Judas Iscariot; Adolf Hitler; Pol Pot; Joseph Stalin; Mao; and the Islamic terrorists blowing everybody up these days. Remember, God loves you!
The Arminian says, “us” is everyone, everywhere and at all times. Therefore, they incongruently conclude, only those who choose to be saved are saved. Christ died for everyone, but not everyone is saved. Salvation is controlled by man. The “them” are those not wise enough to decide for Christ. Christ loves everyone. Christ died for everyone. Christ wishes He could save everyone. Christ fails because not everyone is saved. The Arminian does not blame Christ, he blames “them.”
The Calvinist says, “us” is the true church, spiritual Israel, everywhere and at all times. Therefore, they congruently conclude, only the church is saved, for Christ loved her and gave Himself for her (Eph 5:25b). We are told that Joseph and Mary were to name the child, Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).” The “them” are those who were not elect of God (Eph 1:4–5). Christ loves the church. Christ died for the church. Christ saves the church, and the church is saved.
Who does Christ love, and who did He release from their sins (Rev 1:5)? Is everyone, everywhere, and at all times released from their sins? The Universalist says, “yes.” The Arminian says, “possibly.” The Calvinist says, “no.” So we must inquire of the Arminian, if Christ died for everyone’s sins, and it is possible for everyone to be saved, then is it possible that God does not love everyone? The reasoning is that God loves those He has released (Rev 1:5), but not everyone is released.
The Universalist says, everyone is released, so everyone is loved. The Calvinist says, every one of the elect is released, so every one of the elect is loved. The Arminian must be consistent by saying, Christ died for everyone, but some are released and some are not released, and thus, some are loved and some are not loved. If they are all loved but only some released, there is an inconsistency. The Arminian must conclude that Christ has given away His sovereign choice in salvation. God cannot be sure who will be saved and who will not be saved because it is not His choice. This, of course, is not found in Scripture (Rev 13:8; 17:8). In truth, the Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim 2:19).
Arminian preaching is everywhere, and I would argue, it is deceiving. Do Arminian preachers wish to deceive people? I don’t think so. I think they have simply been deceived. Most Calvinist preachers will confess to being former Arminians themselves. Arminian theology plays directly into the hand of our self-centered humanity. Making man, instead of Christ, central to a sermon is extremely common.
When your pastor tells you to do anything other than believe in Jesus, he is leading you down the path of works-based salvation. “Give yourself to Jesus,” “Ask Jesus into your heart,” “Make Jesus your Lord,” are all common works-based salvation statements.
When a true Gospel preacher says, “believe in Jesus,” he is not asking you to do something. He is telling you how salvation manifests. You believe in Jesus because God positioned you in Jesus (Col 1:13) and gave you faith (Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1). Everyone seems to use the same vocabulary, but not everyone has the same meaning for the same words. Therefore, we are not all saying the same thing. Obviously, only one view is right.
At this point, one might argue, but God so loved the world. Very few people stop to consider what is meant by “the world.” It is immediately presumed that everyone has the same definition of the word kosmos (usually translated “world”). This is lazy and dangerous.
John 3:16 is obviously in the Gospel of John. Kosmos in the Gospel of John is used some 57 times, and even novice students of Greek know there are at least 10 different meanings for the word kosmos in the Gospel of John. So, we ask, “Which kosmos is John using in John 3:16?” If you cannot explain your answer, you may wish to cease from telling everyone God loves them.
Where else would people get the notion that God loves everyone, everywhere, and at all times? Unfortunately, it is a simple, yet false assumption without any other basis in the Bible, except a wrong interpretation of John 3:16. Someone might argue, God tells Christians to “love your enemies,” and so did not God love His enemies? Yes, we Christians were children of wrath by nature just as were the others (Eph 2:3). He loved us while we were enemies (Rom 5:8-10).
God loves everyone is simply a myth. I am sensitive to how shocking this truth is considering the extent of the Arminian error, but some simple logic may be helpful. Does God hate anyone? Most Christians impulsively reply, “No, of course not.” Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5; and Romans 9:13 all make it clear, the answer is, “Yes.” But “God desires everyone to be saved.” Again, wrong interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 will not support Universalism, nor Arminianism. Who is everyone? Every one of His people? or, everyone everywhere and at all times? Wrong Bible exegesis leads to wrong Bible interpretation.
How is it possible for God to love someone and hate them at the same time? This would make God double-minded. Or how can one justify God loving someone and not saving them from an eternity in fiery hell? This would be evil.
The argument that God loves everyone, but people must choose to accept God’s love is cruel, considering the number of people who have never heard of Jesus Christ, the One who demonstrated God’s love to the world. Some blame the church for failing to evangelize the whole world, but we must remember that church only accomplishes what the Holy Spirit accomplishes. To blame the church for this directly is to blame God indirectly.
Christ loving His bride, the church, is a beautiful love story. It has all of the best aspects of covenant love, including: faithfulness; sacrifice; Him coming to save His bride; incarcerating her abusive old boyfriend, going and preparing a place for her to live happily ever after; coming again to sweep her off her feet; an eternal future with love, prosperity, and security; and so much more.
How comforting to know that God’s plan loses none of God’s beloved people who make up His church. Of all whom the Father gave to Jesus, He loses none and casts no one out (Jn 6:37). His love for His people endures forever. This is true love, and it is exclusive.
Christ came to save His people from their sins. Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep (Jn 10:15).” We confidently claim, “Jesus came to save the people He loves, and He actually saved them.” If God loves people, but is powerless to persuade or convince them to take Jesus as their Savior and Lord, then He has failed.
How has God failed? He has either lost control of salvation, by giving it to unregenerate sinners; or, He was powerless to save them, despite loving them. This is what makes bad systems of salvation so destructive. They devalue God without their adherents even realizing it.
Jesus Christ is the only Savior. He came to save His beloved people, His bride. He demonstrated His love by laying down His life for His church. He bore our sins in His body on the Cross. He saved us. He is coming again, and like a good shepherd, He will separate those sheep which belong to Him from the others, who do not belong to Him, and upon whom He has never set His mark of love. He has given His bride the token gift of betrothal, the presence of His Spirit, and He will give the gifts of bodily resurrection and eternal life to her when He comes again for her.
Brides do not choose grooms, and the church did not choose Jesus, but He chose His bride, in love. He showed her His love, and He says to her, and to no other, “Israel, my beloved.” Therefore, in response, it is the Spirit and the Bride, and no other, who call out, “Come, Lord Jesus.” It is a love thing, an exclusive love thing, and we are not ashamed.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 13, 2021