For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment (Deut. 10:17-18). The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (Ps. 11:5). Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Rom. 9:13).
The writer also quotes Matthew 5:44-45 and Acts 14:17, and asks, "Does God have a compassionate love, if not a redemptive love, towards all his creatures? Or does he have only hatred towards the reprobate?"
Anyone engaged in the battle for the defence of the sovereignty of God in the work of salvation will recognize immediately that these passages are crucial in the on-going debate. Even those who profess to be Calvinists and who defend the fact that the elect are the objects of God's love, which love brings them to heaven, will frequently speak of another love of God for all men which love is not a saving love at all. These people do not want a God who loves only some and hates others. I wish to make a few remarks about the problem in general first, and then address the texts which seem to support a universal love of God.
Scripture specifically states that God hates some. Psalm 11:5 and Romans 9:13 (a quotation from Malachi 1:2-3) emphatically assert that truth. It is impossible to deny. One must either repudiate the Bible or accept what these passages say. But there are many who, while paying lip service to these passages, nevertheless insist that Scripture also teaches that God loves all men. Their position raises the question: Does God love and hate the same person at the same time and in the same way? So it would seem.
To avoid such nonsense, various ploys are used. One says, “These only seem to us to be contradictory, but in the mind of God there is harmony between them.” This is a pretty lame way of getting out of the problem, although it is frequently used. Those who do not accept such nonsense are called rationalists. And those who defend contradictions in the Bible are frequently referred to as unusually pious. For they are willing to bow before teachings in Scripture which are flatly opposed to each other.
What they forget is that they are not merely saying something about our ability to understand things; they are saying something about God. At the very least they are saying that God does not know how to make things clear to us, so He speaks in flat contradictions so that we can understand Him better. But usually these people are saying that in some sense of the word God truly loves some people and hates these same people at the same time. That kind of a god is strange and ultimately an idol.
Another evasion is to say that when Scripture says God hates Esau and the workers of iniquity, it means that God loves Esau and the workers of iniquity less than others. How I could justify myself to my wife by telling her that I love another woman less than I love her is a dilemma which only these men can explain. My wife, I know with certainty, would not buy that. Yet, I had a philosophy teacher in college, a Reformed Calvinist, a theologian of great ability, who tried to defend this very position.
Taking a slightly different tack, some speak of different kinds of love: a saving love and a love of compassion. But love is "the bond of perfectness" (Col. 3:14). As a bond, love is joyful and blessed fellowship. Moreover, as a bond of perfectness, it can only exist between perfect people. This is indeed God's love for His people for they are perfect in Christ. But how can that be for wicked sinners? What kind of a love is a love of compassion which differs from saving love? Nowhere does Scripture even so much as suggest this notion. And is a love of God which does not save really a love of God at all? How can God love anyone and send that person to hell? How can God shower a person with tokens of His love as long as he lives in the world, and then, when he dies, send him directly to hell? How can anyone imagine a God like that?
One response is to describe God as changeable. God can indeed love a person one moment and hate him the next. Does anyone with even a modicum of reverence dare to say anything like that about God? Another way to avoid so obvious a caricature of God is to say that God loves all men in the same way after all; that Christ died for all men; and that salvation is now available to all men. The rest is up to man himself. Indeed, this is the way almost all defenders of a universal love of God go, whether they really intended to go that way or not. The very weight of the position carries them down that forbidden path—a path which is that of accursed free-willism.
One question I shall never understand: Why do some men want to be more loving, more merciful, more gracious, than God? Can mere man tell God that He is insufficiently kind because His love is towards only a few? That sort of a thing takes more courage than anyone who is saturated with the glory of God can manage.
Moreover, God's attributes are all one in Him. If God loves all men, no matter what the "kind" of love, then God is also gracious, benevolent, merciful and filled with compassion and longsuffering towards all men including Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, serial rapists, the worst of the popes, and even Satan and his demons.
Do you not see that it is better just to say what Scripture says? May we tell God whom He should love? Let us not transfer our own sinful, puny notions to Him who made heaven and earth and who does all His good pleasure. Instead, cry out, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways part finding out!" (Rom. 11:33). And fall on your face and confess the great wonder of sovereign grace shown to the greatest of sinners!
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 4
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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