The primary basis for the relationship between God and us is love.
Most relationships are based on real or perceived promises, commitments and expectations. For example, the marriage relationship is founded on promises of love, commitment, honor and respect. A friendship has expectations of understanding, trust, honesty and shared interests.
The primary basis for the relationship between God and us is simple: It is love . The Scriptures tell us that God's nature, the primary motivation in all He does, is love—an unselfish concern for all humanity. This is expressed by the apostle John: "And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love , and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (1 John:4:16). John adds, "We love Him because He first loved us" (verse 19).
Love is often expressed through giving. Jesus advised: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke:6:38). As Paul explained, "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians:9:7).
Gifts can enhance relationships, and God is the greatest giver of all (James:1:17).
Paul tells us: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians:2:8).
Let's now examine some important gifts from God. He intends that they all contribute to our receiving, as a gift from Him, eternal life.
What great gift most demonstrates God's love for us?
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John:3:16).
God's greatest gift of love is the redemptive sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins. Through Christ and His sacrifice, we can have direct access to God and His gift of salvation.
Does God offer another special gift?
"No man is able to come to me if he is not given the power to do so by the Father" (John:6:65, Bible in Basic English).
God's calling is a special gift not yet offered to everyone. Jesus explained this to His disciples. When they asked Him why He spoke in parables, He responded: "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matthew:13:10-11).
Those who are being called to everlasting life in this age are called "firstfruits" (James:1:18; Romans:8:22-23; Hebrews:12:22-23). This common scriptural term applied to the first part of a harvest, a portion given to God. God's human firstfruits are few in number (Luke:12:32). Their invitation to eternal life comes now. A beautiful part of God's plan, however, is that, after the return of Jesus Christ, God's calling—His invitation to enter into a personal relationship with Him—will extend to all of humanity. Many, many others will then be part of God's much greater harvest.
When God extends to us the gift of His calling, He must offer us another special gift before we can respond to Him in this relationship.
What does God offer in conjunction with His calling?
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy:2:24-25).
Repentance is a gift God grants to those who willingly accept His invitation or calling. In granting us repentance, God gives us the ability to see ourselvesas He sees us—as we really are rather than how we perceive ourselves. Without this important spiritual insight, we remain spiritually blinded and cannot respond to God's calling.
It is only when we come to see our shortcomings and our unimportance in comparison to God and in the light of His Word that we may genuinely repent. "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah:66:2).
When we realistically see our insignificance and helplessness compared with the greatness and power of God, we should be humbled. This humbling leads us to want to change, to repent.
When we repent God forgives us and covers our sins with the gift of forgiveness. Notice John's explanation in his first epistle: " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John:1:8-9).
Notice that little word if . Some of God's actions toward us are conditional, based on our behavior. He expects positive responses from us if our relationship with Him is to progress. Just as in human relationships, the more positively we respond to Him, the more He graciously responds to us. Thus our relationship with Him deepens and grows.
For example, when God forgives us He forgets our past sins. "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews:8:12; compare Psalm:103:11-13).
What gift follows repentance and forgiveness?
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'" (Acts:2:38).
Jesus Christ promised the gift of God's Spirit (Acts:10:45) just before His crucifixion: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, . . . will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John:14:26). God provides this gift to aid and comfort Christ's true disciples (John:14:16-17).
God will give us His Spirit if we respond positively to His calling and repent. He also instructs us to be baptized that we may receive this gift.
This illustrates something we read earlier. Expectations exist within any relationship. God expects us to respond to His gift of repentance by committing ourselves to Him through water baptism.
The Bible shows that, after baptism, God gives His Spirit through the laying on of hands (Acts:8:14-19). Paul encouraged Timothy, "stir up the gift of God [His Spirit] which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy:1:6-7). This laying on of hands normally should occur immediately after water baptism.
God said we become a part of His Church—the Body of Christ—through baptism. "For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians:12:13).
God simply does not make His Spirit available to the unrepentant. Jesus Christ describes God's Spirit as something "the world cannot receive" (John:14:17). God gives it only to those He calls and chooses. Those whom He is not now calling will have their opportunity later. (For a fuller understanding of repentance and baptism and God's calling and choosing of His servants, please request our free booklet The Road to Eternal Life .)
Does God impose another condition for giving us His Spirit?
"And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts:5:32).
Again we read of responsibilities for those who enter a special relationship with God. He expects them to make every effort to obey Him.
Obedience to God's ways leads to a positive fellowship with Him (1 John:1:3, 7). Having God's Spirit will help us seek God's will and follow His ways, developing His nature and character in us. Christ promised the Father would send a "Helper" (the Holy Spirit) that would assist His disciples in discerning between sin and righteousness and lead them into truth (John:14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).
What important gift does God promise us if we are genuinely repentant and become converted?
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans:6:23).
Paul tells us God imparts eternal life as a gift. God looks forward to sharing this gift with us because He has planned this gift for mankind since the "foundation of the world" (Matthew:25:34). Eternal life in God's family is the hope of all those who follow God (1 John:3:1-3; Titus:1:2).
God has many gifts for us. They range from His calling to His priceless gift of eternal life. His gifts naturally follow one another as we begin to respond to Him and our relationship with Him grows (Romans:8:30).
Commitments and promises make up a major part of any edifying relationship. What commitments and promises does God offer us?