I have a good friend and we debate our theologies on occasion. Recently, she made a claim that in order for one to be a true Calvinist they would have to believe God does not love everybody. In fact, she seemed to imply that God would have to even hate those whom He does not choose for salvation. As a “true” Calvinist myself, I disagree with her assessment and wrote a brief article basically explaining why and how those in Reformed theological circles can indeed believe God does love all people.

However, there are many Calvinists that actually do hold the position she presented, so I thought I’d play “devil’s advocate” and present a case from that view as well. How are they able to believe God hates people? How can they claim He has the ability to hate any of His creation? If God is love, then how can He possibly hate anyone, or anything for that matter?

Well, let’s take a look. Before we get into the body of this short article, let me start with a quote from the famous Presbyterian pastor and theologian, John Knox: “You make the love of God common to all men, and that we constantly do deny.” At first glance one immediately thinks, “Why did he write that?” Let me attempt to explain how one can believe this way.

Characteristics of God: Love, Holiness, and Righteousness –
Clearly, love is a characteristic of God. We see this in the following Scripture passages:

1 John 4:8, 16 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (ESV).

(See also Romans 5:8)

Holiness and righteousness are just as much characteristics of God. Joshua 24:19, “But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins” (ESV).

Acts 17:31 – “because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (ESV).

(See also Psalm 99:5; 145:7; Revelation 4:8)

The only way God can love sinners is if His justice has been completely satisfied. Exodus, “who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (NASB).

God does love some sinners because His justice and mercy have intersected in the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf.

Romans 5:8 – “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV).

(See also Psalm 85:10)

God Has No need or Obligation to Love Even a Single Sinner:
There is not one thing about us sinners that urges God to love a single one of us. Psalm 14:2-3, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (ESV).

Psalm 144:3 – “O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?” (ESV)

Genesis 6:5 – “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (ESV).

(See also Romans 3:10-19)

It is nothing other than God’s own good pleasure that causes Him to have mercy and show love to any specific sinner. Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11, “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (ESV).

Romans 9:15-16 – “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (ESV).

(See also Exodus 33:19; Deuteronomy 7:7-9)

Election is the Apex of God’s Love for Sinners:
Before God even laid the foundation of the world, He focused His love on some sinners by way of unconditional election. 2 Timothy 1:9, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” (ESV).

(See also Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:4)

“Electing love gives the elect to Christ, and Christ to the elect, as the gift of love to save the elect” (Chris Conners). John 17:6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (ESV).
(See also John 17:11; Ephesians 1:4)

In order to show the glory of His justice, God also leaves others in their sins as objects of His righteous hatred. Romans 9:21-23, “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,” (NASB).

(See also Matthew 11:25-26; Romans 9:13, 15, 18)

God’s Love Always Saves:
This is true because the elect are loved in Christ (Ephesians 1:3ff.); because Christ was sacrificed on the cross to save the elect (Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” ESV. – See also John 10:11, 26-29; 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Timothy 1:9); because God’s love brings forth an effectual calling producing justification and glorification (Jeremiah 31:3, “the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” ESV. – See also Romans 8:28-31; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:9).

God Loves The Elect and Hates The Reprobate:
God’s love for the elect saves them, it is eternal, and it is unchangeable. Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (ESV).

Malachi 3:6 – “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (ESV).

God in His sovereign justice hates the reprobate. Romans 9:13, 18, 22, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’…So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills…What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (ESV).

(See also 2 Peter 2:8 et. al.)

God’s hatred is sovereign in that He passes by for no reason other than His own good pleasure. God’s hatred is righteous because He “hates them as guilty sinners and purposes that, in the way of their own sins, they should be condemned and damned” (Conners).

False Cliche’: God Loves All Sinners but Hates Their Sin –
It is not possible to separate the sinner from the sin because it is the very nature of humanity that is sinful. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV).

Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV)

(See also Matthew 12:34-35; Luke 6:44-45)

The Bible tells us of God hating people who do wickedness. Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (ESV).

Psalm 11:5-6, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup” (ESV).

(See also Psalm 5:4-6)

The cliché above is only true to the extent that it applies to the elect as God loves them in Christ. Romans 5:8-10, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (ESV).

(See also Ephesians 2:1-10)

God loves them because He predestined them to be adopted as His children in and through Jesus. His justice against them has been satisfied by Jesus dying in their place on the cross. God loves them in a particular and special way so that ALL are united to His Son for justification, sanctification, and glorification.

(See Ephesians 1:4-5; Galatians 2:20)

Giving the Non-Elect Good Things, or Even Sending the Gospel to Them, Does Not Mean God Actively Loves Them:
Being prosperous – or receiving good things financially, materially, in health – is no indication that God has love for that particular sinner. Luke 12:20-21, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (ESV).

(See also Psalm 73:18-19)

Hearing the message of the gospel is no indication that God loves any specific sinner. Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (ESV).

1 Peter 2:8 – “’A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (ESV).

(See also Matthew 13:10-15; 2 Corinthians 2:14ff.)

The only way a sinner can be certain that God loves them is if that love produces a saving faith which results in repentance and obedience. Also, one can be assured by the promises in God’s Word of His love for the elect.

Calvinist/Reformed and biblical faith teaches that God’s love is poured out upon His elect, and only on His elect, in and through the “filter” of Jesus Christ.

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