Unconditional love is intended to provide assurance of God’s love without any effort being exerted by the object of God’s love. While it is most assuredly certain that God loved us first, nothing in Scriptures or the Spirit of Prophecy supports the idea that God’s love is unconditional. Jesus said to His disciples, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” KJV, Matthew 11:12, emphasis added. What did Jesus mean by this statement? The Spirit of Prophecy provides us with some insight into the Savior’s meaning:
“Let none imagine that without earnest effort on their part they can obtain the assurance of God’s love. When the mind has been long permitted to dwell only on earthly things, it is a difficult matter to change the habits of thought. That which the eye sees and the ear hears, too often attracts the attention and absorbs the interest. But if we would ever enter the city of God, and look upon Jesus in his glory, we must become accustomed to beholding him with the eye of faith here. The words and the character of Christ should be often the subject of our thoughts and of our conversation; and each day some time should be especially devoted to prayerful meditation upon these sacred themes.
“Sanctification is a daily work. Let none deceive themselves with the belief that God will pardon and bless them while they are trampling upon one of his requirements. The willful commission of one known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit, and separates the soul from God. Whatever may be the ecstasies of religious feeling, Jesus cannot abide in the heart that disregards the divine law. God will honor those only who honor him.” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, May 3, 1881; also, Review and Herald, November 15, 1887, emphasis added.)
“Jacob was in fear and distress while he sought in his own strength to obtain the victory. He mistook the divine visitor for an enemy, and contended with him while he had any strength left. But when he cast himself upon the mercy of God, he found that instead of being in the hands of an enemy, he was encircled in the arms of infinite love. He saw God face to face, and his sins were pardoned. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.’ This violence takes in the whole heart. To be double minded is to be unstable. Resolution, self-denial and consecrated effort are required for the work of preparation. The understanding and the conscience may be united; but if the will is not set to work, we shall make a failure. Every faculty and feeling must be engaged. Ardor and earnest prayer must take the place of listlessness and indifference. Only by earnest, determined effort and faith in the merits of Christ can we overcome, and gain the kingdom of heaven. Our time for work is short. Christ is soon to come the second time.” (Ellen White, Youth’s Instructor, May 24, 1900, emphasis added.)
“The Lord of life and glory clothed his divinity with humanity to demonstrate to man that God through the gift of Christ would connect us with him. Without a connection with God no one can possibly be happy. Fallen man is to learn that our heavenly Father cannot be satisfied until his love embraces the repentant sinner, transformed through the merits of the spotless Lamb of God. The work of all the heavenly intelligences is to this end. Under the command of their General they are to work for the reclaiming of those who by transgression, have separated themselves from their heavenly Father. A plan has been devised whereby the wondrous grace and love of Christ shall stand revealed to the world. In the infinite price paid by the Son of God to ransom man, the love of God is revealed. This glorious plan of redemption is ample in its provisions to save the whole world. Sinful and fallen man may be made complete in Jesus through the forgiveness of sin, and the imputed righteousness of Christ.” (Ellen White, Youth’s Instructor, March 30, 1893; also, Youth’s Instructor, April 23, 1912; also, God’s Amazing Grace, 99, emphasis added.)