Tuesday, January 01, 2008

DOES GOD LOVE EVERYONE?


Derek Dunn in the Ballymena Times (15 February, 2006) repeated the myth that God loves everybody. God loves the world, but in Scripture that rarely means the entire human race (John 7:4; 12:19; Acts 17:6; 1 Corinthians 11:32). In the Old Testament, God loved only the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 7:7), but even then not every Israelite, because "they are not all Israel which are of Israel" (Romans 9:6).

In the New Testament God loves sinners from every nation, hence the term "world." What is often denied is that God hates some sinners, both them and their sins. For example, God hated Esau (Romans 9:13) and He "hates all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5).

Christ came to save only those whom God loves, not Judas, Herod, Pilate or any "whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 17:8). Rather, Christ came to save those the Father had given Him (John 6:37-39; 17:2).

Christ "loved his own which were in the world" (John 13:1), not everybody in the world. In Christ elect sinners are loved (Ephesians 1:4-6), but outside of Christ, sinners are hated by God, for God has "no pleasure in wickedness" (Psalm 5:4) but "loves righteousness" (Psalm 11:7). Christ in love died for His beloved sheep, but He neither died nor prayed for the goats (John 10:26-27; 17:9).

God's love is effectual. He actually saves the objects of His love. God's love seeks out those whom He loves, and causes the recipients of that love to love Him in return (1 John 4:19). Since God is obliged to love nobody but freely chooses to love whom He will, man cannot complain (Romans 9:13-20). To teach that God loves everyone (even those who end up in hell) is to rob the child of God of comfort and "strengthen the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life" (Ezekiel 13:22).

Some may wonder, if God does not love everybody, why the Bible uses universal language such as the Lord is "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9) or "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Such objections disregard context and show ignorance of language. We often use universal language. When the teacher asks, "Has everybody got a pen?" he only means his class. When a father says, "Everybody get into the car," he refers only to his own family.

Consider Matthew 10:22 ("ye shall be hated of all men"), John 3:26 ("all men come to him"), Acts 19:19 ("they burned [their books] before all men") and Romans 16:19 ("your obedience is come abroad unto all men"). In these Scriptures, "all men" cannot be taken to mean the entire human race. Similarly, whosoever means "all those who ..." It does not mean everybody. "Whosoever believeth" (John 3:16) means all those who believe, or "all believers."

2 Peter 3:9 is written as an answer to scoffers and to give comfort concerning the perceived delay of the return of Christ. The Lord has not returned because God is longsuffering to "usward." God is not longsuffering towards everybody. God does not want His people ("us") to perish, and since the "longsuffering of God is salvation" (2 Peter 3:15) all those towards whom God is longsuffering shall be saved.

Similarly, "whosoever [all those who] shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13), does not mean that everybody can or shall call upon the name of the Lord. The Word of God teaches that sinners hate God (Romans 8:7) and will not call on His name.

Isaiah laments "there is none that calleth upon thy [i.e., God's] name" (Isaiah 64:7) and Paul writes, "there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11).

That some call upon God is the work of God's Spirit, who graciously gives faith and repentance unto some (Acts 11:18; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29) but blinds and hardens others (Joshua 11:20; Matthew 11:25; John 12:40; Romans 9:18).

Martyn McGeown