Before continuing with the parable of the prodigal son, let’s spend a moment understanding something of how God’s love works. For most assuredly, God’s puts love into motion. He loves us first because He created us. He also loves us first because He chose to act as a Reconciler toward those who rebelled against Him. Note how well the concepts of deserved love and undeserved love are expressed in the Spirit of Prophecy.
“By disobeying the commands of God, man fell under the condemnation of His law. This fall called for the grace of God to appear in behalf of sinners. We should never have learned the meaning of this word ‘grace’ had we not fallen. God loves the sinless angels, who do His service, and are obedient to all His commands; but He does not give them grace. These heavenly beings know naught of grace; they have never needed it; for they have never sinned. Grace is an attribute of God shown to undeserving human beings. We did not seek after it, but it was sent in search of us. God rejoices to bestow this grace upon every one who hungers for it. To every one He presents terms of mercy, not because we are worthy, but because we are so utterly unworthy. Our need is the qualification which gives us the assurance that we shall receive this gift.” (Ellen White, God’s Amazing Grace, 10, emphasis added.)
One might ask, How do the unfallen angels deserve love? The answer is in the following Scriptures:
“For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.” KJV, Psalm 11:7, emphasis added.
“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children.” KJV, Deuteronomy 32:4, 5, emphasis added.
“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” KJV, Ezekiel 28:14, 15, emphasis added.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them…. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” KJV, Genesis 1:26, 27, 31, emphasis added.
Now, if the righteous Lord loves righteousness, and if He is perfect–having no iniquity–then He would create all to be righteous as He is righteous, perfect as He is perfect. And though He loves first, that love is conditioned by righteousness, those who continue in righteousness and perfection will be loved. In this sense, God created perfect creation to be deserving of His love because He created them and us perfectly.
Now, if God’s love were unconditional, then there would be no condition by which one could become undeserving of His love. But, the righteous Lord loves righteousness. Therefore the unrighteous, the sinner, the transgressor of His righteous law of love can become undeserving of love.
The next question is, What did God do about it? He made a deliberate decision to offer Grace–undeserved love–to the sinner on the condition that the sinner believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and repent with godly sorrow for sin!
“Although by our disobedience we have merited God’s displeasure and condemnation, He has not forsaken us; He has not left us to grapple with the power of the enemy in our own finite strength. Heavenly angels fight our battles for us; and co-operating with them, we may be victorious over the powers of evil.” (Ellen White, God’s Amazing Grace, 10, emphasis added.)
“But God does not use His grace to make His law of none effect, or to take the place of His law…. God’s grace and the law of His kingdom are in perfect harmony; they walk hand in hand. His grace makes it possible for us to draw nigh to Him by faith. By receiving it, and letting it work in our lives, we testify to the validity of the law; we exalt the law and make it honorable by carrying out its living principles through the power of the grace of Christ; and by rendering pure, whole-hearted obedience to God’s law, we witness before the universe of heaven, and before an apostate world that is making void the law of God, to the power of redemption.” (Ibid., emphasis added.)