Pop quiz: The Bible says that every knew shall bow and every tongue confess that____________________. If you answered “Jesus Christ is Lord” then congratulations on passing. Now, if you’ve recently listened to the song “Love Has Come” by Mark Schultz you might have answered “that God is love and love has come to us all.” I don’t intend to pick on Mark too much here because I suppose there is a remote possibility that everyone will confess that God is love. As far as I know, the Bible doesn’t say they won’t, but that’s not what the Bible says either. There is a huge difference between confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and confessing that God is love.
In talking about the background of “Love Has Come,” Mark Schultz references Philippians 2:5-11 as his source. This passage is clearly where he got the words “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess,” but it says we’ll confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, not that God is love. As I said, it is possible that Mark is right, so I’m not going to argue against his statement directly, but I will say that it bothers me to see people handling the word of God so loosely. If we truly believe that the Bible is the inspiredm, infallible word of God then our responsibility is to understand what it says as it is written and not add thing to it that aren’t there.
God is love. The Bible says he is. But could it be that people are focusing on the Love of God and failing to understand the other attributes of God? If all we see is that God is love and don’t also see that Jesus Christ is Lord we will fail to understand the very nature of salvation. One of the things we hear people say is that God loves us too much to let us go to hell. If all we know about God is that God is love then that might be our conclusion. The Bible tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). Some people then surmise that God and Satan are fighting over how many people they each get and while God is trying to get people into heaven Satan is taking them to hell. But that’s not the way it works, God is in control.
Why then do people go to hell? We know it is because of sin, but why does sin send us to hell? If all I ever did to sin was to steal a cookie from a cookie jar, is that enough to send me to hell? Some people say no, thinking that as long as they are mostly good they will make it into heaven. But the Bible makes it clear that such a person would still go to hell (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 6:23). It doesn’t seem fair, if all we know is that God is love. But consider a mother who has put a clean white tablecloth on the table for company. Her three kids come in from outside with muddy hands. The first has mud covering his hands. The second has tried to wipe it off, but the mud is still there. The third only has mud on the tip of one finger. While their mother isn’t looking, they wipe their hands on the tablecloth. Can we say that the one with very little mud shouldn’t receive punishment? What if the other two had washed their hands and he just wiped his finger on the cloth? The result would be the same. The tablecloth would still be soiled and the mother would not be ready for company.
This is why it is important to understand the most important attribute of God. This is the only attribute of God that is emphasized by stating it three times in a row in the Bible. God is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). God is so holy that he is unable to look upon sin. Because of this, any imperfection in our righteousness separates us from God. Just as even the smallest amount of mud on the tablecloth makes it unfit for company, the slightest sin makes us unfit for God. Our soul, breathed into man by God, is eternal and rather than disappearing into nothing, the soul will go on whether it is in the presence of God or not. God cannot have sin in his presence, so the sinful soul is placed outside the presence of God. We call this place hell.
God is torn between two things. He loves us and wants the best for us. He hates sin and must push it out of his sight. To get rid of the blot of sin there had to be a punishment. While we may think of hell as the punishment for sin, death is the punishment for sin. For those who believe on him, Jesus took that punishment for us. Jesus’ death on the cross is the punishment for sin. Through Jesus we are able to be reconciled to a holy, holy, holy God. But our salvation comes when we make Jesus Lord of our life, not when we agree that God is love. So we must be careful or we’ll point people in the wrong direction and they won’t be saved.