Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011 | Comments (96)

I can still remember the chair I was sitting in years ago when I read a life-changing page in John MacArthur’s book The God Who Loves. In an economy of words, John exposed, confronted, and changed my thinking on one of the most critical areas of theology, the nature of God. My understanding of God’s love—specifically His love for the non-elect—was never the same.

For months, I had been wrestling with the question of whether God’s love extends beyond those He chose for salvation. “Does God love all humanity, even the Judas Iscariots and Adolf Hitlers of the world?” At the time, I couldn’t answer that question with any degree of certainty. And although I was sitting under sound biblical teaching, I had begun entertaining the idea that God’s elect have a monopoly on His love. I couldn't reconcile the idea of God loving His enemies with the following texts:

  • Psalm 5:5, “You hate all workers of iniquity.”
  • Psalm 7:11, “God is angry with the wicked every day.”
  • Psalm 26:5, “I have hated the assembly of evil doers.”

Beyond those troubling texts, I was grappling with God’s explicit statements about hating Esau found in Romans 9 and Malachi 1. “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” You have to admit, that’s a hard verse to refute. God’s hatred was unrelated to Esau’s conduct or character. It was rooted in His eternal, sovereign purposes.

The more I pondered those verses, the more resistant I became to acknowledging God’s love to all humanity. I failed to see the tragic effects such thinking had on my evangelistic fervency. I had adopted a self-righteous mindset, thinking God was absolutely repulsed by unbelievers—probably just as repulsed as I was. I became blind to all the Scriptures speaking to God’s steadfast love and compassion for the lost. Somewhere along the way, my love and compassion for sinners waned.

I was convinced in my own mind. God loves the elect and hates the non-elect. End of discussion.

But then, I read the following words by John MacArthur:

Scripture clearly says that God is love. “The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Christ even commands us to love our enemies, and the reason He gives is this: “In order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). The clear implication is that in some sense God loves His enemies. He loves both “the evil and the good,” both “the righteous and the unrighteous” in precisely the same sense we are commanded to love our enemies.

In fact, the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31; cf. Lev. 19:18), is a commandment for us to love everyone. We can be certain the scope of this commandment is universal, because Luke 10 records that a lawyer, “wishing to justify himself … said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Lk. 10:29)—and Jesus answered with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The point? Even Samaritans, a semi-pagan race who had utterly corrupted Jewish worship and whom the Jews generally detested as enemies of God, were neighbors whom they were commanded to love. In other words, the command to love one’s “neighbor” applies to everyone. This love commanded here is clearly a universal, indiscriminate love.

Consider this: Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in every respect (Matt. 5:17–18), including this command for universal love. His love for others was surely as far-reaching as His own application of the commandment in Luke 10. Therefore, we can be certain that He loved everyone. He must have loved everyone in order to fulfill the Law. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, “The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). He reiterates this theme in Romans 13:8: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Therefore, Jesus must have loved His “neighbor.” And since He Himself defined “neighbor” in universal terms, we know that His love while on earth was universal.

Do we imagine that Jesus as perfect man loves those whom Jesus as God does not love? Would God command us to love in a way that He does not? Would God demand that our love be more far-reaching than His own? And did Christ, having loved all humanity during His earthly sojourn, then revert after His ascension to pure hatred for the non-elect? Such would be unthinkable; “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb 13:8) (John MacArthur, The God Who Loves, 102-03).

John’s simple explanation of those Scriptures compelled me to rethink my position on God’s love. Jesus was God. Jesus loved His neighbors—even His non-elect neighbors. Jesus was a friend to sinners. Jesus loved His enemies—all of them. How could I have missed that? What caused me to overlook such clear, vital truths about the character of God? The answer is pride, that hideous sin lurking in all of us, waiting for the opportunity to express itself.

If you wrestle with some of the verses I listed, or struggle to reconcile God’s love with his wrath, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of John’s book The God Who Loves.

Tommy Clayton
Content Developer and Broadcast Editor


You have 3000 characters remaining for your comment. Note: All comments must be approved before being posted.

Submit

#1  Posted by Timothy Hoy  |  Wednesday, July 06, 2011at 9:47 PM

Thanks Tommy for sharing this blog!

#2  Posted by Caleb Eaves  |  Wednesday, July 06, 2011at 11:14 PM

Awesome topic! I have recently in past months been searching and meditating on the character of God's love and hate. I think that God genuinely has love for every individual person and yet at the same time genuinely hates everyone except for those who are elect since He now sees His Son's righteous when He looks at us. I believe, and yet could very well be wrong, that because of being moral agents of sin, He hates "all workers of iniquity" as Psalm 5:5 puts it. Yet at the same time He also loves "all workers of iniquity" because they are still His creation. That's just my take. I do have a question about 1 John 2:2 where it reads

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Does this mean that there is no more wrath left in God since Christ is the propitiation of both the elect and non-elect?

/Caleb/

#3  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 1:29 AM

I myself have given much thought to this and confess as well that my pride was a factor in thinking that God's love was only reserved for those who love Him and do not reject Him. But God in His love and patience has taught me that He would not ask us to do something that He Himself does not do. Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Even though there are those who are enemies of God, He clearly instructs us to love them just as He loves them.

Now a couple of questions about this.

First. Is God's love for His enemies different than His love for His children?

Second. Is God's common grace a demonstration of His love towards unbelievers?

#4  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 6:27 AM

Post # 3

God's love is DEFINITELY different for those who are BORN AGAIN from above, and those who are not. Those who are non-repentant, who do not see themselves as poor in spirit, who do not mourn and cry out over their sins,ARE NOT children of God. They are children of the devil.

To those I say cry out to God, REPENT, throw yourself on His mercy, He is rich to save. Your sins will be punished. Either you will bear the full weight of your sins, or Christ Jesus will suffer under the full weight of YOUR sins. Meditate on that, you do not have a moment to lose,you do not know the time of your judgement.

Do not turn your back on the gospel offer, get on your knees while God still sustains you. I pray the Holy Spirit regenerates you who still are unbelieving. The whole counsel of God awaits you in His Book. May the light of the knowledge of the gospel envelope you.

#5  Posted by Austin Buckingham  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 6:32 AM

God's love is uncondtional. The meaning of that word implies that God loves us despite ourselves, or that He loves us whether or not we are loyal to Him. I think another excellent word to describe God's love is transcendent. Meaning his love is beyond us, or in other words outside of our human understanding. What an awesome God we have that His standard of love is not our own! I know this doesnt answer the questions head on, but I hope it gives some indirect insight.

#6  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 6:53 AM

It's the sin, the root of it that God hates. For God is holy and good that He can't not stand it. Our sins can't stand sight of God for it's evil, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and etc.. Praise Jesus for the price he paid to forgive our sins on the cross. Amen..

#7  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 9:12 AM

Caleb #2:

The short answer to your question is no, the apostle John was not teaching that God’s wrath has been satisfied toward both the elect and non-elect. Since the word propitiation means "appeased," we can be certain John was only talking about those who would believe in 1 John 2:2.

There is a lengthy, but extremely helpful footnote on that passage in the MacArthur Study Bible. With simplicity and clarity, John explains what the apostle meant by the phrase “the whole world.” Take a look:

for the whole world This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe. A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9). Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ. The passages which speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:3,4). “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation. God has mitigated His wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (see note on 1 Tim. 4:10). In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporal propitiation for the whole world. But He actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe. Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because He is Holy God. Thus His sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith. But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (cf. John 10:11,15; 17:9,20; Acts 20:28; Rom. 8:32,37; Eph. 5:25). The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (cf. 4:9,14; John 5:24). There is no other way to be reconciled to God. (The MacArthur Study Bible, 1 Jn. 2:2)

Concerning God’s wrath being unsatisfied toward unbelievers, Paul said this in Romans 2:5, But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds.

Also see chapters 6-19 of Revelation, which chronicle the future judgments of God. That section is characterized by one wave of wrath after another. 6:16-17 says, And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

I hope that helps answer your question, Caleb. Thanks for your comment.

#8  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 9:17 AM

Scott #3

Is God's love for His enemies different than His love for His children? YES

Is God's common grace a demonstration of His love towards unbelievers? YES

Scott, I think you would thoroughly enjoy John's book. He tackles tough questions like the ones you're asking.

-Tommy

#9  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 9:29 AM

Post #5- Austin

Unconditional love? Do you mean by that statement that everyone is saved? Is that a universalist statement?

When THE Incarnate Son Of God came into this world by the virgin birth, humanity had already been condemned.

Jesus Christ's death on the cross did not save everyone. It was a propitiation, meaning his death was SUFFICIENT to save all, not that He DID save all. Only those who truly repent and believe in all that The Christ truly IS will be saved.

Again, understand and recognize what sin truly is,the depth of it,the depravity of ourselves. Only then will we truly understand the glory and suffering of the cross. Then the love of God, made manifest in His Son, will be your treasure above all treasures.

God's SAVING love is conditional to those who have been adopted into His family by the new birth. You MUST be born again from above into a new and living hope to share in the glory of heaven.

Repent and be partakers in the love and salvation promised to all true believers.

If you disagree, examine your foundation, and STUDY scripture as if your depended on it. It does.

#10  Posted by Mark Fowler  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 9:52 AM

God commands us to love our enemies, perhaps the same way He does; with equity, patience, generosity, helpfulness, kindness, humility, grace, and Truth. However, our love for neighbor is not nor should it be the same kind of love we have for God. Love for God is an eternal absolute devotion - Nothing else by comparison of Him. Our love for God is very different in terms of accountability to that of loving our neighbor. God's love for the wicked will not last forever, therefore, God's eternal love is not the same for everyone; both God's love and Wrath are real, and neither belongs to everyone.

I will get this book, thanks!

#11  Posted by Caleb Eaves  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:02 AM

Tommy #7

It helps a little. This is what's confusing to me. If God becomes infinitely angry at just a single person and Jesus propitiates that infinite wrath for even just a single person, than isn't there no more wrath left since Jesus infinitely took it all? I am not advocating any kind of universalism by the way in case anybody was wondering.

/Caleb/

#12  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:19 AM

Caleb #11

Your question concerns the extent of Christ’s atonement, not so much the wrath of God. That’s a discussion I’d prefer to save for another blog.

I think you’ll be helped by listening to John’s series on the Doctrines of Grace, Caleb.

Blessings.

#13  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:27 AM

On a rather, not to be contentious note, but honest: I can see a colossal failure in telling the unregenerate that God loves them. If this is part of an evangelistic endeavor, then evangelism, as we know it is not necessary. If all people know and feel that God loves them, then there would be no necessity, in their minds at least, for Christ’s atoning work on the cross, and their need to be saved from God’s wrath would make no sense to them at all. However, I cannot imagine a serious student of the Word doing such a disastrous thing.

Having said that, I, too, Tommy, have wrestled with this long-standing debate of whether God loves all people. I, too, systematically gathered all the verses you mentioned (and then some), and then added all the verses found that advocates separation from unbelievers. Looked seriously at the command to not cast our pearls before swine, how we should dust our feet off from those who reject Christ’s message, all the way to having nothing to do with the workers of iniquity. Then to top it all off, I factored in that hell is a monumental reality of God’s PURE HATRED for sinners (how can this possibly be denied?) All these things stood before me as an impenetrable wall, in the room of my (little do I know anything), thinking. So, to sum up my particular findings (at least up until this post of yours), it was a pretty for-gone conclusion that God did not love everyone.

But thank you SO much for posting your findings on this much-debated topic. I need to buy John MacArthur’s book. What you posted here (below) is actually the clincher for me and helped me to understand that God does in fact love all people, **but not all people eternally the same**: “Consider this: Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in every respect (Matt. 5:17–18), including this command for universal love. His love for others was surely as far-reaching as His own application of the commandment in Luke 10. Therefore, we can be certain that He loved everyone. He must have loved everyone in order to fulfill the Law. After all, the apostle Paul wrote, “The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). He reiterates this theme in Romans 13:8: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Therefore, Jesus must have loved His “neighbor.” And since He Himself defined “neighbor” in universal terms, we know that His love while on earth was universal.”

There is simply **NO** disputing this, is there? Thank you, Tommy, and Dr. MacArthur.

#14  Posted by Austin Buckingham  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:27 AM

Post #9 Sanford

I said nothing of salvation or "saving love" but of God's love for all men. It's amazing how far you took your assumption and even so far as to doubt my salvation. Christ came to save ALL men thus proving His love for them, but because of our rejection of Him not all will be saved. Your statments were all made in truth and are valid. However, I dont really see where my error was. I fully unsderstand God's love does not necessarily equal salvation. For God is justice as much as He is love. Although doesn't a father still love his child even if he goes astray? The prodigal son parable is a excellent example for this. God's love for us does not diminish in our rejection, which is why in His compassion for the lost he so adamantly calls us to evangelize. His heart is that now will be lost. Is it wrong to say God's love for man is unconditional? Isn't agape love divine, self-sacrifical, and unconditional? Please rebuke me if I am in error.

#15  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:41 AM

So let me see if I understand Pastor John's position: God loves all humanity in some general, "common grace" sort of way... But he does not love all in a redemptive way? It seems to me that God loves all in a redemptive way - for example, Christ laments that the children of Jerusalem (the inhabitants of the city) would not come to Him. He obviously desired that the wicked would turn from their wicked ways and live (a verse from Ezekiel). The Apostle Paul demostrated a loving attitude toward non-believers, and had anguish in his heart, desiring their salvation (Romans 9:1) ... if Paul had the ability to save them, he obviously would have. Isn't this the same attitude that God has - a desire that the sinner turn to Him? As you can tell, I am not a monergist, in that I believe that the sinner must exercise faith (without the coercion of God, only persuasion) in order for regeneration to occur.

#16  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 10:47 AM

I've never wrestled with the idea of God loving the unsaved. If he didn't love sinners we would never have been saved to begin with:

Titus 3:3 - "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another."

Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

However, there is a difference between loving everyone and saving everyone. Like a parent who loves a disobedient child, the transgression must still be punished. But this does not deminish that the parent still loves the child.

The part I'm unclear on is maybe hair-splitting:

It's been stated here that Jesus ONLY paid for the sins of those who are saved. However, I've always been taught that Jesus paid the price for the sins of EVERYONE, but only those who repent and have faith in JC get their "account credited" so to speak. EX: If God's wrath is a storm, JC built the shelter for everyone, but you have to go inside to be safe.

#17  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 11:06 AM

Aurelio writes,

As you can tell, I am not a monergist, in that I believe that the sinner must exercise faith (without the coercion of God, only persuasion) in order for regeneration to occur.

This will be a problem with attempting to answer your objections. This has been ground we have covered before in previous series - I am thinking primarily of our study on eternal security from a few months ago.

I would just ask this one question of you: When God restrains sinners, is he coercing them against their wills? For example, God preventing Abimelech from sinning against Him (Genesis 17:6)?

Moving along to your objections:

You write,

It seems to me that God loves all in a redemptive way

Well then, why aren't all redeemed? Seems to me that if God loves all equally in such a way, then all will be redeemed. But I reckon that comes back to your insistence that God doesn't coerce anyone to redemption against their will. Thus, according to your perspective, God's desires of equal love to all are frustrated.

Moving along,

Christ laments that the children of Jerusalem (the inhabitants of the city) would not come to Him.

Actually, if you read the passage carefully, Jesus isn't lamenting over the inhabitants because they wouldn't come to him. He was lamenting the fact the religious leaders of Israel would not let them come. In other words, their works oriented view of salvation blinded the people as to the truth of who Christ was.

Then skipping to Romans 9:1, Paul's focus is not toward all humanity without exception, but specifically his people, the Jews, whom Paul eventually says two chapters later will be saved according to God's purposes in election. So I am not sure that passage proves your case.

#18  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 11:18 AM

#14 Austin

I am not calling into your salvation. My post was to you but also to anyone who may read it who may not be saved. Only the Spirit within a man knows the heart of a man.

When talking about the love of God for man, the logical question is to ask- Does God love everyone in the same way? Does God love the unbeliever in the same way as the believer?

Dr. MacArthur has had a lot to say on this subject. As has John Piper, R.C. Sproul, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, to name just a few. But as with everything the final authority is scripture. Don't let bloggers like me upset you. My quest for wisdom, knowledge,and discernment is ongoing as well, and will continue till God call me home.

#19  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 11:42 AM

# 14 Austin

Please checkout the free sermons of Dr. MacArthur on this website. Specifically #'s 90-289, 90-290, 90-292, 90-293. They deal with this topic about God's love towards all men biblically.

Thank You GTY and its' supporters for the resources made available to wretched sinners like me.

#20  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 12:20 PM

Fred, I appreciate your comments, even though I disagree with them and think You mischaracterized mine. Thank you for taking time to discuss this topic with me, even though I may have strayed a little bit from the preceise topic. But I think this is good, since ultimately, our view on God's sovereignty and saving plan will play a part in our view of God's love... so it's good to stray a little from the topic!

I do not believe that God loves all equally, but simply that he offers redemption for all. "He tasted death for every man" Hebrews states. "He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe" 1Tim 4:10 further states. Now I know what Pastor John's exegesis is regarding 1Tim 4:10, but it appears to be more eisegesis than exegesis, since that verse clearly is referring to the hope of afterlife (i.e., salvation), not common graces.

Many Calvinists today display shock when someone like me actually claims that God has desires that are not fulfilled - as if this makes God less sovereign. God was sovereign when Satan, in his free will, rebelled. God was sovereign when a perfect Adam and Eve, in their free will rebelled. The Calvinist is forced to claim that God must have DECREED these events, making God the ultimate cause for rebelling against Himself. Or the Calvinist must agree that free wills existed at some point in time past, and God was still sovereign alongside them.

We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin - in other words, a desire of God is not fulfilled, namely, that we sin not.

So Jesus longed to gather the "children" of Jerusalem, but that did not ever happen. Here's why Calvinists have such a hard time with this passage: Jesus pours out His heart in lamentation over these inhabitants who will not come to him, but Christ in actuality decreed the opposite of His desire? Why display the longing to gather these people if Your true desire is to send them to everlasting torment? Same point in another way: God desires that people do not committ adultery, but decrees that some do. This does not seem logical or coherent.

Yes, I believe God prevents certain sins from occurring for His sovereign purpose. Abimelech is such an example. I don't think this disproves anything I said, since my point was that God does not coerce sinners into the Kingdom, but strongly persuades them. Of couse, without the strong intervention and wooing of God, no one would ever be saved. But this is much different than saying He implants saving faith into hearts (a teaching which I do not see in Scripture).

Furthermore, I would lead everyone here to James White's debate with Michael Brown on the issue of Calvinism. James White is an amazing theologian/apologist/exegete and a friend of Grace to You. The debate is sold on White's website and they tackle the Matthew/Luke "oh Jerusalem how often i wanted to gather your children..." verse. I believe Michael Brown dismantles James White's argumentation quite clearly and easily on that verse.

#21  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 1:02 PM

#20 Aurelio

God does not decree that I commit adultery or any other sin. I choose to sin. I can NEVER say God made(decreed) me to sin. NEVER. Blasphemy!!

I choose sin(immediate gratification). I failed a testing, which turned into temptation, which turn into a sin of MY choosing.

You are confusing free will , with REASONING. Satan reasoned in his mind that he should be like the most high. Satan reasoned- obey,not obey. My will is only free to choose my sin.

"implanting saving faith into hearts" is not in scripture,true.

How about Regeneration;Justification;Actual Atonement;Imputation;Divine Election;Grace;Saving Faith;Depravity;Assurance. Get one doctrine wrong,or misunderstood, the rest will inevitably fall like dominoes.

Getting the love of God understood correctly affects other doctrines as well.

#22  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 1:18 PM

Aurelio,

I would certainly implore you to go back and read our articles (I wrote them, btw) on eternal security.

The one on regeneration would be pertinent in this case,

http://www.gty.org/Blog/B110321

1Tim 4:10 further states. Now I know what Pastor John's exegesis is regarding 1Tim 4:10, but it appears to be more eisegesis than exegesis, since that verse clearly is referring to the hope of afterlife (i.e., salvation), not common graces.

Can you explain how that verse is "clearly referring to the hope of afterlife"? If John is "eisegeting" this text, you're going to have to demonstrate your assertion.

The Calvinist is forced to claim that God must have DECREED these events, making God the ultimate cause for rebelling against Himself. Or the Calvinist must agree that free wills existed at some point in time past, and God was still sovereign alongside them.

I have no problem with God decreeing events we would deem "evil." God decreed the death of Jesus by the hands of wicked men who acted freely to accomplish his predetermined task. (Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27, 28). Was God the ultimate cause for rebelling against Himself in this instance? Would God be just in holding those sinful men accountable for their predetermined actions?

Moving down to Abimelech,

Yes, I believe God prevents certain sins from occurring for His sovereign purpose. Abimelech is such an example. I don't think this disproves anything I said, since my point was that God does not coerce sinners into the Kingdom, but strongly persuades them. Of couse, without the strong intervention and wooing of God, no one would ever be saved. But this is much different than saying He implants saving faith into hearts (a teaching which I do not see in Scripture).

Working backwards:

How exactly is strong intervention and wooing different than implanting saving faith? I would imagine for you it is in degree of effectiveness. I believe God woos, but that his wooing is effectual.

The notion of God implanting saving faith is certainly in scripture. That is the whole purpose of being "born again." You will note that John specifically describes the act as a work of God's Spirit in John 3.

Your point, as I understood it, was that God does not violate a person's freewill. Now you seem to suggest God does, at least for dissuading sinners from sinning. It is only to salvation God doesn't coerce. Well, either God coerces or doesn't coerce. Which one is it?

I believe Michael Brown dismantles James White's argumentation quite clearly and easily on that verse.

I would encourage people to get that debate as well. I listened to both hours, and though I respect Michael Brown, my recollection of his argument in this instance is much different than yours. I didn't find them persuasive at all. Folks will have to listen in order to make up their minds who is right.

#23  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 2:47 PM

Caleb,

Wrath of God remains on the unbelievers, from the time Adam and Eve ate the fruit to the Coming of Christ at the white throne in Rev 20.

God bless.

#24  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 3:06 PM

Tommy, Fred

What does the bible say about how far we are to take this concept of love in regards to truth?

I believe our will is both free and bound to sin, I believe our nature is transformed by the grace of God based on His predetermined plan to glorify Himself. I am both humbled and encouraged by the doctrines of grace, election and the sovereignty of God. However, I find myself, at times, being frustrated by people in the church (my church) who only focus on God’s love, to the point of saying there are no elect. “God love everyone and he wants everyone to be saved and it’s up to us to make that choice”. Furthermore, they have a lot of zeal for “reaching people for Christ” but, there’s no depth in the presentation of the gospel. I’ve suggested we have someone preach the gospel message when we host events for unbelievers in our community, outside of Sunday morning worship, and the reaction is that "preaching will drive people away”. Yet they always use God’s love to justify their efforts.

I’ll admit Tommy, I was confronted by your blog and had to, and will continue to, do some self-examination to resist my own self-righteous mindset temptation. Would you say this becomes a doctrinal issue which needs correction when people go too far with God’s love? Can you take it too far? Or, is it unloving to question this?

#25  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 3:35 PM

Steve,

I'm going to hijack your question to Tommy and Fred :)

I think the answer is this: It's not a matter of taking it too far, it's a matter of understanding it rightly.

God's love is not a substance that, if you have much or little results in a different outcome. It's not a liquid God pours some on the non-elect and a lot on the elect. God's love is a volition--a decision--to act toward the benefit of another.

God's love (decision for their good) results in Him being gracious to unbelievers in a multitude of ways. God's love for the elect results in Him giving saving grace to believers. It's not that one receives more love than the other, but that one is loved differently than the other.

One analogy would be that I love my wife, and I love my sister, but I don't love them both in the same way. It's not correct to say I love my wife more than my sister, because love is not a measurable substance--it is a decision. So I [should] treat my wife according to God's commands for her good, and I [should] treat my sister according to God's commands for her good--because I love them both. Because God's commands are different for how I treat each one, so ought to be my actions toward them. (side note: emotions are not the same as love)

I think many people attribute false concepts of love (bringing in human emotions) and attribute them to God. They translate John 3:16, "For God soooooooo loved the world..." rather than what it should be, "For God loved the world in this way..."

Hope that helps a little...

#26  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 3:42 PM

As an addendum, I think understanding what love is will clear up a lot of confusion.

How can you put "God is angry with the wicked" side-by-side with "Jesus loved His enemies"? You can do that by understanding that love is not an emotion and God is not an emotional wreck. No, God is angry with the wicked, but He chooses to love sinners by acting for their good (complete grace).

And that is one very good reason we may be angry with those who hurt us, but we are called to forgive and love our enemies.

#27  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 4:24 PM

God's love is different than ours. right? for we don't have it without Christ.

#28  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 4:40 PM

Fred, I want to address the issue of 1Tim 4:10. But before I do, I want to say that I am a firm believer in Eternal Security, and believe the Bible is abundantly clear that He who began a good work will complete it (Philippians 1). I am NOT an champion of Free Will, and I do not like promote it, since I understand that humanity is under slavery, not freedom - under slavery either to Satan (before justification) or to God (after justification). Please don't miconstrue my comments to be Arminian. I DO believe that humans can exercise faith, and that faith is not a work, thus this is not works-salvation. My beliefs on this discussion are most closely (but not 100%) associated with those of Norman Geisler in his book Chosen But Free, or his Systematic Theologies.

Regarding 1Tim 4:10... Paul clearly has a heavenly hope in mind, not earthly blessings from God or social preservation, since in verse 8 he speaks of "the life to come," and in verse 10 he uses the word "Savior" (Gr. 'soter')... is "Savior" ever used by Paul (or anywhere else in the N.T.) in a non-spiritual salvific way? Please demonstrate. Furthermore, a couple chapters earlier, Paul had asked Timothy to pray for all men, and mentioned that God desires all men to be saved. (I understand the typical Calvinist intepretation of this passage to be something like "All men doesn't mean every individual human, only every KIND of human..." -- but this is BAD exegesis. Even Spurgeon mocked Calvinist attempts to make "all men" mean "some men.") Furthermore, "those who believe" in 1Tim 4:10 have done something that "all men" have not - namely, believed (exercised saving faith).

1Tim4:10 is clear when exegeted without forcing upon the text a contradictory theological construct. To see this verse as John Gill did, and Pastor John does, seems to butcher Paul's use of the word Savior in the New Testament, I think. Of course, I am open to correction if this can be more clearly explained.

So then, HOW is Christ the Savior of all men? I am certainly not a universalist. Since all are not saved, what does this mean? It must mean that Christ is the Savior of unbelievers POTENTIALLY. The verse continues to say He is especially the Savior of those who believe. This means that He is Savior for believers ACTUALLY. In other words, Christ is the Savior to "all men" in that He genuinely offers salvation to each person. However, He is Savior to believers differently - i.e., they've accepted the offer and he has saved them.

#29  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 5:10 PM

#28 Aurelio

"Since all are not saved, what does this mean? It must mean that Christ is the Savior of unbelievers POTENTIALLY. The verse continues to say He is especially the Savior of those who believe. This means that He is Savior for believers ACTUALLY." - Your words not mine.-

To say that salvation is only a POTENTIAL one for unbelievers, is to say the reason an unbeliever is not saved is because he CHOSE not to be saved.

To say a that salvation is an ACTUAL salvation for believers is because they CHOSE to be saved.

Are you saying the difference between POTENTIAL and ACTUAL is the SINNER"S choice?

Jacobus Arminus (Arminianism) anyone?

#30  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 5:51 PM

Even though Paul could say some fairly brutal things about false teachers (Gal 5:12, Titus 1:12, Phil 3:2), he explains that his being beside himself with indignation was motivated by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:13-14). He still had a certain amount of compassion even for these people (Phil 3:18). But at some point he wrote them off as a lost cause (Phil 3:19, Titus 3:10-11) and advised Christians to have nothing to do with certain people (2 Thes 3:14-15). Jesus taught the same thing (Matt 10:14-15). So clearly, we need to make distinctions about people and how we relate to them.

The story of the good Samaritan I think shows us that there is always a certain level of common human compassion we should have, so that even if we treat someone as a tax collector, we should not treat him as non-human.

#32  Posted by Barbara Laurie  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 7:53 PM

#16 and anyone else, There are some good blogs out there that discuss the "whosoever" of John 3:16. One is John Samson's Dec 2010 Blog post. It goes into the Greek words used, it's translation into English and it's difficulty in expressing a thought into English: I'll say this, "whosoever" are those that are "being saved.(This sounds strange but it is saying:"those that are being saved (elected) are going to be saved and are being saved...") Okay, I would reiterate the whole blog here, but I'd mess it up! Also, check out "No Compromise Radio" for interesting and sometimes funny talks about this topic.

One thing I know, if God did not save me I would not be saved. Before I was saved by his Grace, through faith (and that not of myself, it was a gift of God) in Jesus Christ, I was a dead person. Spiritually dead. No matter how much persuasion you use, you cannot persuade a dead person to get over to the hospital and get the electric paddles applied to their chest. "um, sir could you just walk on over here and I'll save you with these really effective electric paddles..." "hello sir?, sir?" dead people are just ummm dead, dead, well... dead. I was a slave to Satan and dead in my trespasses. You could not "persuade" me to BE saved. I heard the truth and then, at the perfect time for God, He saved me.

There are no verses in the bible that say we have "free will". We are slaves to Sin or slaves of Christ. (like Paul, Peter, James..) I apologize that that's all I can explain. I'm not that smart otherwise.

But I look at it this way. mankind screams for his free will and then is offended by the idea that God is the only Person who actually can exercise free will. It NOT about "robots.." it's worse than that.. we are NOT robots... we are "CLAY" and He is the potter. That He loves all that He creates is another awesome reason to tell everyone I meet the Good News. I remember, when I get steamed at an unbeliever, they are are Image bearers, and that's all I need to set my mind straight. Thanks Tommy for a neat post, hey all..have a great weekend.

PS #28 thanks for clearing up your comments, really, your first comments gave more than one of us the impression you thought just the opposite of what you wrote in this post! God Bless.

#33  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Thursday, July 07, 2011at 8:37 PM

Since we are discussing God's love, let me try to bring the conversation back to basics and simplify things with a question:

The blog post above states that God loves His enemies. I agree. But does God desire that all humans be saved?

#34  Posted by Scott Davidson  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:10 AM

@post #8 Tommy, I fully agree with you as well. I was curious how others would respond to those questions. I have benefited tremendously from John Macarthurs sermons and the several books I have. The new book you mention is not the one about the history of his ministry is it. If not what is the name of his new book?

#35  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 4:50 AM

#28 Aurelio

What IS your position: ARE you saying the difference between POTENTIAL and ACTUAL salvation is the SINNER'S choice?

The answer is important.

#36  Posted by Orlando Delgado  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 6:19 AM

Hi everyone, may the Lord fill our hearts with love.

#29 Sanford,

In your conclusion to your reply to Aurelio’s point, and this most difficult and complex subject, one ought not to see this from the Arminian Christian world view because you would have to deal with Romans 9; Ephesians 1; 1-2 Peter; Exodus 4:21, 7:13; Isaiah 63:17, etc. My point is that neither Calvinism nor Arminianism has the answer, those are manmade theological views in light of each camp’s desire to explain God from their heart. Both uses the Bible to explain their point of view from an allegedly biblical view, one says God Creator of everything is Sovereign and He Himself is the determining factor for certain people to get into His kingdom; and the other view relies in the all mighty power of man to accept or deny God based on man’s free-will (respectively).

I believe the point of the blog is what God’s position is regarding those who either God’s grace brought in and already belong to Christ’s Church, and those that impose their volition on God and are part of the church, where is their love for those not partaking (unbelievers, to include everyone). There are unregenerate/un-repented sinners out there that do/do not know God who eventually will be under the grace of God by His will, and that grace will claim back their hearts in loving kindness transformation towards the Kingdom of God.

Part one.

#37  Posted by Orlando Delgado  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 6:20 AM

Part two:

Now, the question one must pose is what is the meaning of love in this content? Is it a good feeling whimsical kind of emotion or is it a deep concern for the un-saved? I am convinced that the love for the un-saved has to be shown in terms of equivalence as if it were one of your loved ones. In other words it is as if one of your loved ones is about to lose his and her life and you are there doing the very impossible to save them. A great example for those of us that are parents and one of our children need a kidney and you are the best candidate you are willing to give both of yours and not only one. That is exactly the love described here; it is matter of literally life or death. Do you love your enemy as yourself or one of yours? That is the challenge. Are you afraid to tell someone that Jesus does love them, or afraid to confront someone’s sinful lifestyle, or afraid that you be unpopular or the world out there will not like you, or that your enemy will hate you even more, I really can on and on.

This is not about Reformed theology or Arminianism, or any other theological system it is about God and He alone. If I were pushed to say which camp I belong or answers best what the Bible really means for what says, I would unequivocally say Reformed theology just for the fact that Arminianism in its good intentions addresses human total depravity of a spiritual death as something hypothetical and not a reality of the human condition.

I listened to Arminianism for over 20 years, and at times walked the down to the pulpit in response to the music and a calling for me to make a ‘decision’ and ‘just believe’ that seemed so real but had no conviction behind it, no desire to know God or Jesus through the scriptures, nothing. One day, by myself, the Spirit of God took me and claimed me for Himself, thus I find it arrogant in terms that I would be the one to tell the all mighty God “I accept you” versus as Scripture promised from Old Times, it is God who will give me a new heart. This is not the forum to settle the differences of both camps; it has gone over a couple of centuries now. God will decide out of His will for sure who is right.

May the Lord continues blessing GTY. Amen.

#38  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 7:41 AM

#33 Aurelio:

***********************

This question feels like a baited trap into which I gladly cast myself.

***********************

You said:
"But does God desire that all humans be saved?"

Yes! 2 Peter 3:9

You can see this truth illustrated in the parable Jesus taught of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14.

Both passages highlight God's forbearance.

I recommend you also study Romans 9:16-24 to balance out the two passages above.

David Platt in the book Radical provides the following outline of baseline truths regarding our fallen condition to answer the common question/misconception about "the innocent tribal people group in Africa who never heard about Jesus." No one is "innocent":

1. All People Have Knowledge of God

2. All People Reject God

3. All People are Guilty Before God

4. All People are Condemned for Rejecting God

5. God Has Made a Way of Salvation For the Lost

6. People Cannot Come to God Apart From Faith in Christ

Imagine if this list ended at #4?

I think it is also important to point out that God's love is balanced by all His other attributes which are the sum of His glory. The Bible clearly states that God is love and the author of love (1 John 4:8,16,19). Notably, nowhere is God called Love, Love, Love. However, He is called Holy, Holy, Holy all day and night forever. (Rev 4:8)

#39  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 7:59 AM

#35 Sanford

It is simple:

We can only choose because we are first chosen -- God's initiation, man's response. Two sides of the same theological coin.

We were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, redeemed by the Son at the cross and...here's the key...we were included in Christ when we HEARD the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation and BELIEVED, then we were sealed by the Holy Spirit as our guarantee.

(Eph 1:4-14)

From Eph 2:8-9, we learn that saving faith is a gift from God and there is nothing for us to boast about in ourselves regarding our salvation.

Barbara in #32 made it clear: Dead men don't choose. (Eph 2:1)

I've never heard of one conversion from within the doors of the morgue. You can preach to those cadavers all day... the altar call will still be empty. Play "Just as I am" one more time....

#40  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 8:10 AM

Sanford,

I have no issue tackling the topics of the sinner's choice, the actualization of salvation on the cross, etc... Of course I believe that God's salvation is actualized at the moment of justification, and that event is both predestined AND a free choice by the sinner. Like I said earlier, my position is closely associated with that of Norman Geisler, which is that the mystery of all this is that both are true - presdestination AND man's faith. As Pastor John has taught: All major doctrines have apparent paradoxes that are only resolved in the mind and plan of God. Pastor John has said that many times.

But I was trying to bring the conversation to a more focused discussion of God's love. That's why I asked the question: Does God desire that all men be saved? Can you please answer that question? Thanks,

#41  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 8:11 AM

#29 & 30 Orlando

From Sanford

On my comment to Aurelio, it was to help him and others not to have an Arminian view and that it is a man-made,unbiblical view.

When I talk to unbeliever's, especially friends and family, the most gracious and loving thing I can do to explain the LOVE of God to them is to start with a thorough biblical doctrine of sin.

Conviction must always precede conversion.The gospel of Christ must condemn before it releases.- Martyn Lloyd-Jones(Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

Let's face it, unbeliever's are spiritually dead. The bible is foolishness to them. Before family and friends understand the love of God towards them while they are yet sinners, they need to know WHY they are sinners, Why God calls them sinners, and how God defines sin as His word reveals it.

Then the MAGNIFICENT LOVE of GOD towards ALL humanity will hopefully come shining through the human heart by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

I hope this clarifies somewhat my position on "Does God Love his enemies?"

All believers were once enemies of God. I thank God that He sent His Son to die for me while I was yet still his enemy. I thank The Holy Spirit for the GIFT of GRACE. Without that gift I would still be at enmity with God.

#42  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 8:51 AM

#41 Sanford,

Agreed, share law before grace. There is bad news to share before sharing the good news. Our society today needs to understand that they are sinners, have offended a holy God and need a Savior. Most have no idea....

#43  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 8:53 AM

Sanford,

If you're asking me if I believe the sinner must cooperate with God in order to receive salvation... i already said i am not a monergist. I believe that without God's aiding and helping and wooing, no man would approach God for forgiveness, but this does not mean that the sinner isn't called on to repent. I believe when the Bible says we "ought" to do something, that implies we can do it. Ought implies the ability to do it. You obviously disagree and that's fine.

John L.,

Ephesians 2:8-9 does not teach that faith is a gift. Ironically, John Calvin himself explained that this passage does not mean that faith is a gift of God:

"he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God." from Calvin's Commentaries vol.11, pg 145

In fact, the Greek construction of the passage doesnt allow for your interpretation. I will quote from AT Robertson on this passage:

"Grace is God's part, 'faith' ours. And that ["it"] (kai touto). neuter, not feminine "taute", and so refers not to pistis [faith] or to "charis" [grace] (feminine also), but to THE ACT OF BEING SAVED by grace conditioned on faith on our part." See Words pIctures in the New Testament, 4:525 - emphasis mine

Did you catch that? Faith cannot be referred to as a gift in this passage, nor grace, but salvation is the gift.

Now a quote from Gregory Sapaugh:

"If Paul wanted to refer to "pistis" (faith), he could have written the feminine "haute," instead of the neuter, "touto," and his meaning would have been clear.... This position is further supported by the parallelism between "ouk hymon" ('and that not of yourselves') in 2:8 and "ouk ex ergon" ('not of works') in 2:9. The latter phrase would not be meaningfulif it referred to "pisteos" (faith). Instead, it clearly meant salvation is 'not of works.'" See "Is Faith a Gift" A STudy in Ephesians 2:8" Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 7, no. 12, pgs 39-40.

And as far as this analogy that Calvinists love - "We were dead like Lazurus and Jesus had to breathe life into us because we were totally dead in the bottom of the ocean, eaten by sharks..." Well, I agree that we were spiritually dead. What does this mean? It doesn't mean what the Calvinist definition - true, dead people cannot choose God...but by that kind of "dead" i would say dead people don't reject Him either. Spiritual death does not have wrapped up in its meaning an inability to exercise the "outstretched hand of faith." We have been granted by God the ability to believe in Him.

#44  Posted by John Linak  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:00 AM

#16 Marc,

The atoning, sacrificial, substitionary death of Jesus was complete, satisfactory to God (hence the resurrection) and sufficient for all mankind. But, it is efficacious only to the elect. Clearly, Christ died for all (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

The "credit to our account" would happen at the moment of regeneration/belief. When we are born again we are spiritually transported 2,000 years back to the cross where our old man is crucified with Christ, buried and we rise with Him as a new creation. (Gal 2:20, Romans 6:2-9)

I recommend you study Colossians 2:13-15. That vivid picture of the written charge against us being wiped out is awesome! The charges of those crucified were nailed to their cross above their heads.

Remember what Pilate wrote for the charge against Jesus? According to Colossians 2:13-15, God Himself nailed the charges against us to the cross above His Son's head. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

#45  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:15 AM

Scott #34

Let me clarify. The book I mentioned is not new. I think you’re referring to Ian Murray’s biography of John MacArthur, just recently released. It’s titled John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock.

The book I featured in the blog article is titled The God Who Loves.

Both books are available here on the GTY website.

#46  Posted by Caleb Eaves  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:20 AM

Thanks Tommy! Again, great topic!

/Caleb/

#47  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:34 AM

Aurelio writes,

I am NOT an champion of Free Will, and I do not like promote it, since I understand that humanity is under slavery, not freedom - under slavery either to Satan (before justification) or to God (after justification).

Well, that is interesting in that it is inconsistent with what you originally wrote in your first comment (#15). You spoke of coercion, which means people being "forced" against their wills, and the term persuasion, suggesting that God merely persuades people. You claim here that you are not a champion of free-will, but your initial comment suggests you have the concept in the background of your argument.

Now you are defining the condition of humanity as being "under slavery," but how exactly are you defining the idea of "slavery" and to what extent is a person "enslaved?" From what you have been arguing so far, that enslavement is not entire, or perhaps does not extend to man's reason and volition as it relates to salvation.

Moving to 1 Tim. 4:10

Regarding 1Tim 4:10... etc.

A couple of things I will note:

First, John's message on this passage can be read here: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/54-31_Qualities-of-an-Excellent-Servant-Part-2

The reason John takes the position he does has to do with the word "especially." He writes,

However, that cannot be the treatment indicated in this particular passage. And I'll point out why. The use of the word "especially" is a very vital thing to consider. It is the adverb malista and it has a very significant sense. What it means is that all men enjoy salvation to some degree. Therefore it must be talking about the same salvation, or God is the Savior of all men in the same sense to all men as to believing men. It's just that in the case of believing men it is an especial way.

Now that may be a little bit unclear to you but the idea is that all men enjoy to some degree the saving that believers enjoy. Malista ties the two together. It can't be contrastive, or adversative, it can't be saying all men are saved in this sense but believers are saved in this sense. What it's saying is all men are saved in this total sense but especially do believers experience it. So whatever salvation it's referring to, it refers to all men experiencing in some way to some degree the same kind of salvation that believers experience.

You don't really seem to take that grammatical nuisance into consideration and it has a major impact upon how we understand what Paul is saying as John goes on to explain in his message.

Second, regarding your mention of 1 Tim. 2:4, the previous verses identify the "all" men that Paul is saying God desires to be saved: they're kings and those in authority. Later in 2:7, Paul says he is a preacher and teacher to the gentiles, again, identifying "all men." Hence, Calvinists are not pulling their understanding of this text out of thin air. There is a reason they draw the conclusion they do with this passage.

#48  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:35 AM

#43 Aurelio

from Sanford

First, I like you posts', they get me thinking- thanks for that. I am always ready to think and rethink.

I believe the gift of Grace is first given to the unbeliever, then the gift of seeing myself as I truly am is given. This then leads to Faith and repentance. I think we all agree on that.

Your question on "Does God desire all men to be saved? " really set me pondering.

I believe God "desires" that no man should PERISH.

Should the question be about "desire" or "purpose".

We all know not everyone will be saved, just reference the NARROW way and the BROAD way.

I know my decisions, or anyone's decision, will not thwart God's purpose.

The word "desire" connotes man's selfishness and pride to me. " My desire is this" or " My desire is that". That's a struggle for me.

I am having a hard time using the word "desire" with God instead of "purpose" that's all.

#49  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:58 AM

Aurelio writes,

Ephesians 2:8-9 does not teach that faith is a gift. Ironically, John Calvin himself explained that this passage does not mean that faith is a gift of God:

"he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God."

I would agree with you, however, the point of what Paul writes is that faith, which is part of the package of salvation, is also given to the sinner. Hence, the faith we exercise to believe salvifically is not intrinsic to the sinner's nature. It's given to him when God saves him.

Continuing,

It doesn't mean what the Calvinist definition - true, dead people cannot choose God...but by that kind of "dead" i would say dead people don't reject Him either... Spiritual death does not have wrapped up in its meaning an inability to exercise the "outstretched hand of faith."

It would be helpful, then, for you to define what you understand about man's condition as a sinner. From what I read in Scripture, like Romans 3:10-18 and Romans 8:6-8, men have a natural hostility and enmity against God and righteousness. They are "dead" in the sense they have neither the understanding or desire to know God and submit to his Lordship.

We have been granted by God the ability to believe in Him.

This is classic Wesleyan prevenient grace and is contrary to what you seemed to affirm above regarding man's condition of slavery. How do they relate?

#50  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 10:52 AM

Fred and Sanford, thanks for your clarity, openness, passion, and time you've spent in our discussion thus far. Let me try to clarify some things that seem to have caused you both confusion:

Sanford,

The word "desire" seems perfectly acceptable to use of God, not simply our earthly cravings, since Paul uses the word of God in 1Tim. 2:4. I think my question is important. Do YOU desire that all men be saved? I mean, if you strike up a conversation with a random guy at the grocery store, do you desire his salvation? Did you desire the salvation of Osama Bin Laden before he was killed? I do, and I did, and I suspect you do (and did), too. Do you pray for the salvation of specific people? If we desire the salvation of all humanity, where did that desire come from? It's not from our own sinful nature, so it must be from the Holy Spirit sanctifying us, MAKING US MORE LIKE CHRIST. I doubt that we desire the salvation of all humans but Christ does not?... and to throw on top of that the idea that He decreed their damnation with pleasure, as Calvin said? Let me quote Calvin:

John Calvin: "We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, IT WAS HIS PLEASURE TO DOOM TO DESTRUCTION." (see Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 7)

I don't agree with that statement, although I would agree that it was God's PREDESTINED that we would FREELY choose Him. I do not believe that God looked into the future at those who would choose Him, and determined to make them the elect. That is bad Arminian doctrine. God doesn't "look into the future" since His mind is not sequential but simultaneous. Thus, the apparent paradox is that God predestined our free choice.

Geisler: "...whatever God forchooses cannot be based on what He foreknows. Nor can what He foreknows be based on what He forechose. Both must be simultaneous, eternal, and coordinate acts of God." see Chosen But Free, pg. 53

Fred,

I said I was not a "champion" of free will... i didn't say I didn't believe in some sort of liberatarian freedom.

Regarding being in slavery as sinners... slaves cannot free themselves, true, but they can DESIRE TO BE FREE. In regards to our deparaved condition, we do not seek God, no man does without God first working on that person. God must initiate because we are totally depraved. I do not believe that total depravity means that total inability. As Augustine believed: We are born with a PROPENSITY to sin, but not a NECESSESITY to sin. To quote Geisler:

"It makes sin unavoidable,rather than inevitable. That is, it is inevitable that we WILL sin, but it is not inevitable that we MUST sin.

Fred, I have studied Pastor John's position on 1Tim 4:10 seriously... It is an historic Calvinist position. I understand WHY they take this position. I just think it doesn't hold water.

#51  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 11:09 AM

I'm way behind and don't recall who posted what, so please forgive the lack of quoting.

I have found most helpful whoever quoted JM's statement about right doctrines containing paradoxes.

There are verses which seem to straight out state that God chooses who gets saved. Then we see verses smattered all throughout about us needing to repent, confess, believe, put on, forsake, etc ... many things which refer to an action taken by the person.

And one thing I cannot reconcile is how, if we are completely and totally dead and unable to even recognize or WANT the things of God, then why did He even bother giving us the Law to show us our sin if we wouldn't be capable of learning it's lesson in the first place?

Like I said, predestination and election are plainly stated in scripture, but also clearly stated is that we are to DO something.

My faith in Christ that He has provided forgiveness of my sins and reconciled me to God is a choice that I made. I was made aware of my sin, and I heard that Christ paid the price. Knowing there is nothing worthy or good in me, I am left with no choice but to, through faith, trust in Him.

I understand the intellectual arguments of predestination, but the fact remains that in my own experience there was a choice that I made to believe and have faith.

I may not be able to adequately work that out in my mind, but praise God He has it worked out already.

#52  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 11:53 AM

#51 Marc

From Sanford

God's sovereignty and human accountability.

How do they come together? Always a good question to study, meditate,and pray on.

John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, "If YOU ABIDE in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free."

Jesus is Sovereign and yet I must do something. I must abide in His Word. How must I DO this thing, this abiding? By the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:10 - But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, YET NOT I ,but the grace of God with me.

I DO SOMETHING, nevertheless NOT I.

God's Sovereignty and Human accountability.

That's my poor man's way of trying to help explain it.

#53  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 12:12 PM

It's hard to use logic on love isn't it. For you who are married. Out of hundreds adoring you :-), you chose one. Is it unfair? Or fair?

#54  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 1:40 PM

Aurelio writes,

I said I was not a "champion" of free will... i didn't say I didn't believe in some sort of liberatarian freedom.

But it is helpful to define what that is. I believe in "free will" as I understand it revealed in Scripture: Men freely acting according to their nature. The issue is there nature is corrupted in sin, hence, they freely choose sin always.

Continuing,

Regarding being in slavery as sinners... slaves cannot free themselves, true, but they can DESIRE TO BE FREE.

Doesn't matter what a slave desires, he is still a slave with no ability within himself to free himself. Additionally, you point assumes men have the desire to want to be free. Biblically speaking, they don't.

Continuing,

In regards to our deparaved condition, we do not seek God, no man does without God first working on that person. God must initiate because we are totally depraved. I do not believe that total depravity means that total inability.

How can one be totally depraved but still have ability within themselves? Doesn't make sense.

Continuing,

Fred, I have studied Pastor John's position on 1Tim 4:10 seriously... It is an historic Calvinist position. I understand WHY they take this position. I just think it doesn't hold water.

So nothing in response to his appeal to the grammar I noted? Nothing at all? It's the historic Calvinist position because Calvinists have historically understood the significance of the language here. You seem to suggest they are making it up to hold up their theology, where as you haven't truly demonstrated linguistically why they are wrong. Just that the position rubs against your presuppositions about salvation.

#55  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 2:23 PM

I want to give my two cents regarding 1Timothy 2:4, and why I believe it clearly demonstrates that God loves all humanity REDEMPTIVELY.

The verse says: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

I recommend for all to read the passage in context, from verse 1 through verse 7, at least.

Before I offer my perspective, let me quote Charles Spurgeon (a Calvinist), referring to this passage:

Here is how "our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. 'All men,' they say,-'that is, some men': as if the Holy Ghost could not have said 'some men' if He had meant some men. 'All men,' say they; that is, 'some of all sorts of men;' as if the Lord could not have said 'All sorts of men' if He had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written 'all men,' and unquestionably he means all men."

He further adds: "I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away: he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it.... I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read: 'Who WILL NOT have all men to be saved, NOR come to a knowledge of the truth.'"

I think these words by Spurgeon address very poignantly the comments by Fred about this passage in Post #47.

Spurgeon realized his Calvinist worldview was inconsistent, since he further said:

"I do not know how that squares with this...I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God."

I believe that "all" in verses 4 and 6 means the entire human race. This is the plain reading and uses the best exegesis.

Here is Geisler's explanation as to why "all" means "all" and not "some:

1) Paul could have used the word "some"

2) his reference to "men" in verse 5 is clearly generic--meaning all men, since it is used as the otehr pole from God that the Mediator, Christ, brings together. But generic usages of "all" in a redemptive context are usually, if not always, of the entire human race.

3) the desire for "all men" to be saved is parallel with that same desire expressed in other passages"

The book of Ezekiel tells us that God does not desire the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn and live. (The Calvinist would have us think that God decreed the opposite of this plea.)

Peter tells us that God "is not willing that ANY should perish."

Clearly, God loves all humanity REDEMPTIVELY!

#56  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 2:41 PM

#55 Aurelio

What then keeps all men(humanity) from actually being redeemed?

Sanford

#57  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 2:47 PM

If God did'nt love his enemies, He would'nt die for us and rise from the dead... He did die on the cross and rose to life... Death can't hold Jesus.

#58  Posted by Brandon Davison  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:01 PM

God Bless you Brother Clayton for writing this!

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

#59  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:01 PM

Regarding 1Peter 3:9 - here's the verse: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." ESV

I recommend all to read the entire context, as always.

Peter tells us that God "is not willing that ANY should perish." The typical Calvinist interpretation is that this verse is explaining the condition of Christians, since Peter uses "us" or "you"... they then add an imaginary "of us" so that the verse should read "is not willing that any OF US should perish." But clearly this is eisegesis, since the "all" who need to repent cannot mean the "beloved" of verse 8, since they were already saved and in no need of repenting (and not threatened by hell, since "perish" here is being used of hell). God clearly wants and calls on "all people everywhere to repent" (acts 17:30) and this verse compliments that Biblical concept.

Other Calvinists see this verse as speaking of "all classes of men," which means the elect from around the world. Why Calvinists butcher language the way they do shocks me. Geisler points out that Calvinists wouldn't tolerate someone taking the word "all" and making it mean "some" in verses like "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," for example.

John Murray, Westminster Seminary professor back in the day:

"God does not wish that any men should perish. His wish is rather that all should enter upon life eternal by coming to repentance. The language is this part of the verse is so absolute that it is highly unnatural to envisage Peter as meaning merely that God does not wish that any believers should perish...."

#60  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:05 PM

Here’s a word from Errol Hulse, a British Baptist leader, on how our view of God’s love influences our evangelism:

We will not be disposed to invite wayward transgressors to Christ, or reason with them, or bring to them the overtures of the gospel, unless we are convinced that God is favorably disposed to them. Only if we are genuinely persuaded that He will have them to be saved are we likely to make the effort. If God does not love them it is hardly likely that we will make it our business to love them. Especially is this the case when there is so much that is repulsive in the ungodliness and sinfulness of Christ-rejecters. (Erroll Hulse, “The Love of God for All Mankind,” 18).

#61  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:09 PM

Just because God desires all men to be saved does not mean all will be saved, obviously. Because most men will not come to Christ. I surely don't get all of my desires and I thank the Lord for that. I think human finite brain power is spinning in circles here. God knows who are His. Our charge is to preach the Gospel to them and let the Holy Spirit drawl them or not. Spurgeon said "He didn't lift up shirt tails to see who had a yellow "ELECT" printed on their backside,he preached the Gospel to all he could.

#62  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 3:35 PM

Just wondering Tommy if you can explain to me who is the "us" in Romans 4:24? the NASB MacArthur Bible skips this commentary. By coincidence I am reading Romans tonight and I thought in light of this current flow of debate I should know who the "us" are refering to. Thank you in advanced.

#63  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 4:11 PM

Keith #62:

Paul explains who he has in mind in that very verse. He says, “to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.”

That passage in Romans 4 is all about justification by faith alone. Paul is proving that God has always saved men through faith—case in point, Abraham.

So the us refers to believers in both Paul’s day and ours. Glad to hear you're reading Romans, brother. Drink deep, or taste not the Berean Well!

#64  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 4:19 PM

Just a general thought:

I was wondering how many SERMONS we have HEARD that focused more on the LOVE of God, than on the WRATH of God?

And if that has any impact on the opinions posted on this topic?

#65  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 4:21 PM

Does God really offer His gospel to all?

Here is Pink's answer in his exposition on Hebrews 6:7-8 (not in its entirety, though) from pbministries.org.

"For the earth which drinketh in the rain". The prime reference is to the Jewish nation. They were God’s vineyard (see Isaiah 5:7,8; Jeremiah 2:21 etc.). It was unto them God had sent all His servants, the prophets, and last of all His Son (see Matthew 21:35-37). The "rain" here signifies the Word, or Doctrine which the Lord sent unto Israel: "My doctrine shall drop as the rain" (Deut. 32:2 and cf. Isaiah 55:10, 11). Note how when Ezekiel was to prophesy or preach, his message would "drop" as the rain does (Ezek. 21:2 and cf. Amos 7:16). The figure is very beautiful. The rain is something which no man can manufacture, nor is the Word of human origin. Rain comes down from above, so is the Gospel a heavenly gift. The rain refreshes vegetation, and causes it to grow, so too the Doctrine of God revives His people and makes them fruitful. The rain quickens living seeds in the ground, though it imparts no life to dead ones; so the Word is the Spirit’s instrument for quickening God’s elect (John 3:5; James 1:18), who previously had life in Christ.

There is nothing in nature that God assumes the more into His own prerogative than the giving of rain. The first reference to it in Scripture is as follows, "For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth" (Gen. 2:5). All rain is from God, who gives or withholds it at His pleasure. The sending of rain He appeals to as a great pledge of His promises and goodness: "Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven" etc. (Acts 14:17). Whatever conclusions men may draw from the commonness of it, and however they may imagine they are acquainted with its causes, nevertheless God distinguishes Himself from all the idols of the world in that none of them can give rain: "Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain?" (Jer. 14:22). Hence the prophet said, "Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain" (Jer. 5:24).

cont...

#66  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 4:23 PM

PAge two...

The high sovereignty of God is also exhibited in the manner of His bestowal and non-bestowal of rain: "Also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereon it rained not withered" (Amos 4:7). Thus it is absolutely in connection with His providential sending of the Gospel to nations, cities, and individuals: it is of God’s disposal alone, and He exercises a distinguishing authority thereon. "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts 16:6, 7). God sends His Gospel to one nation and not to another, to one city and not to another—there are many large towns both in England and the United States where there is no real Gospel preached today—and at one season and not at another."

#67  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 5:19 PM

Thank you Tommy. With all of the debating of words like Us, Whosoever,All etc, I just wanted to make sure I was reading in right context. Have a great weekend brother.

#68  Posted by Orlando Delgado  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 6:13 PM

#41 sanford.

You and believe on the same theological biblical view. Forgive me for not following the entire thread. You are spot on. God bless you.

#69  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Friday, July 08, 2011at 9:25 PM

Tommy/Fred and the hijacker

Reading over the original blog and all the comments brings me to a few questions.

First, thank you Gabriel, for hijacking my question. Excellent point on the "so" in John 3:16.

Now, about the enemy. Who is the enemy? While extending love, when and how do we guard against error? I recently listened to John MacArthur's message on Jude. He seemed to speak pretty strongly against false teaches. Of course never encouraging being unloving but very definitive on discerning truth from error. My question is directed to "in the church", not "in the world".

#70  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Saturday, July 09, 2011at 10:04 AM

Hi Steve. Wouldn't the "enemy" be anyone not truly reconciled to God? That includes those in the Church who are deceived, being deceived and willfuly deceiving i.e.,false teachers?(Romans 5:10)

#71  Posted by Lorraine Fuerst  |  Sunday, July 10, 2011at 5:05 AM

Tommy,

Thank you for yet another humbling reminder of the Lord's great and powerful love for me.

I may never understand why God chose to save me, since I am so undeserving of such an honor and blessing. But as He has saved me, I am happy to be reminded that He did so at a cost, and that I have responsibilities as a result.

The author of Romans reminds us of the warning given by the prophet Isaiah: "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?" (Romans 9:21)

Whatever God does with us, the clay, is His own concern, and we have no right to contend with Him about it. He always does what is best. Period.

While I may strive to understand this, I ask God to make me like the one described in Psalm 131:1-2 NASB

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;

Nor do I involve myself in great matters,

Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child rests against his mother,

My soul is like a weaned child within me.

These tend to be contentious matters. My prayer is that we may seek God's truth and will without becoming exasperated with or creating exasperation in another believer.

May the Lord richly bless you all.

#72  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 7:37 AM

Aurelio Cortez #28 said: "I DO believe that humans can exercise faith, and that faith is not a work, thus this is not works-salvation."

How does your assertion fit with what Jesus Himself said in John 6:55? "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." But that aside let's look at your logic:

a) I DO believe that humans can exercise faith

b) That faith (exercised by fallen creatures) is not a work

c) Thus, this is not works-salvation

1) Where from scripture do you secure the assertion you make in a)?

2) Your assertion in b) is merely arbitrary (which I assert all you have stated in the above is arbitrary with no foundation)...I say if if God does not gift faith at regeneration then it is a contingency resulting in fallen man contributing something to Christ's finished work.

3) Your conclusion is based upon faulty premises and is untenable. I assert that if fallen man adds to Christ's finished work then by simple logical deduction that effort is a work.

You cannot make arbitrary assertions with no foundation then draw an arbitrary false conclusion and be reasonable...this is classic fallacious argumentation that looks convincing but is WRONG.

NEXT-

"My beliefs on this discussion are most closely (but not 100%) associated with those of Norman Geisler in his book Chosen But Free,"

Perhaps that is the problem here...you have been "infected", to quote Ergun Caner (perish the thought of using HIM as a resource), by the synergistic mindset proffered by Geisler and his followers/contemporaries (such as Caner). James White has written THE definitive refutation of Geisler's book in his work The Potter's Freedom. Many of the errors presented by Geisler (and that you have presented here) are covered fairly and refuted thoroughly by Dr White in that book...I highly recommend it to you.

NEXT-

"I believe that without God's aiding and helping and wooing, no man would approach God for forgiveness, but this does not mean that the sinner isn't called on to repent. I believe when the Bible says we "ought" to do something, that implies we can do it. Ought implies the ability to do it."

I assert that men do not have the ability to "do it" (repent) apart from regeneration. The following scriptures indicate clearly that God must grant repentance...and He does so according to His perfect will as described in Romans 9:15

2 Timothy 2:25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,

ACTS 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

You mentioned Spurgeon previously. I love CHS but with regards to the 1 Timothy sermon you referenced I believe he was mistaken. He asserted in that sermon that a knowledge of the truth brings salvation. However, as seen above repentance (after regeneration) leads to knowledge of the truth.

#73  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 8:03 AM

Continuing with my discussion of Mr Cortez's assertions:

With regards to Spurgeon:

Charles Spurgeon said this: "We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it."

Spurgeon was no champion of free will, fallen men practicing saving repentance/faith, or a universal atonement/potential redemption such as is proffered by Normon Geisler and yourself.

NEXT-

"So then, HOW is Christ the Savior of all men? I am certainly not a universalist. Since all are not saved, what does this mean? It must mean that Christ is the Savior of unbelievers POTENTIALLY."

Already covering the "potential" aspect of your presuppositions somewhat in my previous assertions let me move to a few texts that refute the idea of any "potentiality" in Christ's work but a reality of completion and perfection...

1) Isaiah 53:10-11 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,

he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

Notice that "he WILL see his offspring" This is not a potentiality but an assertion of fact. Notice that the ones (the many) he WILL justify are the self-same ones for whom he WILL bear their iniquities. He is not viewed here as bearing the iniquities (dying for, atoning for, making redemption possible for) those which are not justified by him.

2)- Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

This is a clear passage of scripture which absolutely teaches that Christ's work is complete and requires no other additions (such as the faith synergists say is a contingency for completing redemption).

With regards specifically to 1 Timothy 2:4 John Gill writes:

"...wherefore the will of God, that all men should be saved, is not a conditional will, or what depends on the will of man, or on anything to be performed by him, for then none might be saved; and if any should, it would be of him that willeth, contrary to the express words of Scripture;"

It is interesting...I listened to 90 minutes of James White refuting Ergun Caner's sermon on 1 Timothy 2:4 last night. That show is available on youtube for anyone interested.

#74  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 8:19 AM

One more thing...After Ergun Caner's sermon on 1 Timothy 2:4 Jerry Falwell (who obviously was alive at the time :-) ) prayed the closing prayer. Now this prayer followed a huge diatribe by Caner against God's sovereignty in coercing men in terms of their free will...here is what Dr Falwell prayed :

"Heavenly Father, help every man, women, boy, girl here...do not let one person say no to your precious will"

What inconsistency...but that is consistent with the synergistic world-view. Here is another example from Charles Wesley:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

fast bound in sin and nature's night;

thine eye diffused a quickening ray;

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

my chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

#75  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 9:10 AM

When you examine Malachi 1:2-5 closely, you find that "I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated" is an answer to a question. The question is "How have you loved us?". So the answer tells us the nature of God's love: it is exclusive, focused on certain people and not on others. This is in contrast to God's kindness and goodness, which has a more general and diffuse distribution among people.

God's love is expressed in salvation. We see that thought expressed over and over again in Psalms (Ps 13:5, Ps 18:50, Ps 40:10, etc.). If God loves everyone, that means that his love has failed in most cases, and he has forsaken some whom he has loved. But we can exult in his love because it is unstoppable in its purpose. It is not just mere sentiment. It is a love that says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." (1 Sam 12:22)

#76  Posted by Marc Lambert  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 11:08 AM

Mark 2:17

When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.

Luke 5:32

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.

Acts 3:19

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

Romans 10:9-13

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.

I'm really not wanting to be contrary, and I understand what many of you are saying and the scripture you are quoting, but these verses seem to very plainly state that there is an action being required by the person, in these cases, a "sinner." ... how does this reconcile with your other claims?

#77  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 5:16 PM

The commands from God one finds throughout scripture do not always dictate ability on the part of the creature to comply...apart from God's sovereign intervention.

Here are a couple of examples:

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done--burn with no one to quench it.

The men of Judah and people of Jerusalem could not circumcise their hearts. One finds that this is only done by God:

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Ezekiel 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

AND-

1 Peter 1:16 For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy."

Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit no man can be holy (see Romans 3:10-18)

ALSO-

Our Lord was plied with questions much like those posed here for teaching exactly what is being taught here...His answer was always to point back to the sovereignty of God. For example:

Matthew 19:25-26 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

#78  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 7:20 PM

So God loves His enemies...but He doesn't love them enough to give all of them salvation? How is it love to give temporal, earthly blessings like rain for crops or wealth, etc, but then to decree them to eternal torment? This does not seem like love, but hate.

#79  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 7:50 PM

keith,

I am extremely familiar with James White - I own dozens of his debates! I think he is a great apologist, but dead wrong on the Calvinism stuff.

Regarding "potentiality" - Your view of atonement has an apect of potentiality, too, since you were not yet born at the time of the crucifixion - thus, faith had not been exercised. If you believe you were absolutely saved at the cross in perfect completion, then you are denying "sola fide", since you couldn't have been redeemed before faith. Of course, I know you believe in sola fide, as I do... and I am sure we both believe that Christ's sacrifice atoned for all believers, past, present, and future (being God, His atonement could look backward and forward in time). However, without faith being exercised, the Gospel teaches that you are not yet saved. (Some say that the cross made us all "savable," but I am a bit uncomfortable using that word, since I recognize that the atonement made me more than "savable"... it purchased my salvation, which is actualized after faith is exercised. Christ paid for my sin, thus guaranteeing that I would be regenerated in the future.)

The reason I believe that faith is not a work, is because that's what the Apostle Paul taught in Romans 4:4-5. Faith is not a work, it is an outstretched hand that receives the gift of God. I believe that the Fall of Adam did not erase this ability from our nature, since we are in the image of God, even after the Fall.

#80  Posted by Steve Nuhn  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 8:08 PM

Aurelio,

You stated above

"So God loves His enemies...but He doesn't love them enough to give all of them salvation? How is it love"... and ..."This does not seem like love, but hate."

Remember, the confusion or resistance to understand is not God's problem, it's yours, and it's mine. God didn't ask our opinion, He didn’t clear His plan with us first, He did not ask us to edit the Bible, and He did not seek our input on whether or not we could sell such a message. We have to resist the temptation to view our own wisdom above Gods. Just because we have difficulty getting our heads wrapped around something like this, which is all over scripture, and these gentlemen have patiently and thoroughly explained again based on scripture, doesn’t mean we throw it out. You should read Romans 8:28-39. Paul specifically address these questions, as if he knew people would ask them after explaining God's sovereignty. I've been listening to a series Dr. MacArthur has done on these passages. Sermon #90-178 thru 90-184 in the sermon archives of gty.org. I trust you will be encouraged.

#81  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 8:33 PM

Keith,

I want to address the passages that you've brought forth, but they will take us off topic a little and it may not be helpful to everyone here (and I am sure the moderator would like us to edify the readers). I have dealt with all those passages before, and am very familiar with the Reformed exegesis.

Basically, we are talking about God's love - and I want to know the EXTENT of God's love. God's love is infinitely above ours, and yet I (a wretched miserable sinner) desire that all are saved. How did I get that desire? Was it granted to me by God? Why would He give me a desire that isn't in correspondance with His desires? Please address.

As far as the Big 3 verses about repentance being giving by God (Acts 5:31, Acts 11:18, and 2Tim 2:25):

There are educated non-Calvinist interpretations for all three, and as much as I would LOVE to articulate them... again, it would lead us off topic.

Oh yeah, I own The Potter's Freedom and The God Who Justifies (among other James White books). I find his arguments on God's sovereignty and total depravity weak and non-Biblical, since I think sovereignty can co-exist with libertarian freedom, and total deparavity does not wipe out the ability to exercise faith.

#82  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Monday, July 11, 2011at 9:33 PM

I believe the temporal blessings God gives to mankind is what is called common grace. God bestows this grace and blessings upon ALL mankind. Hopefully, the sinner, benefiting by His goodness, leads him to repentance. (Romans 2:4,Matthew 5:45, Acts 14:17, Job:12:10, Psalm 119:68, Psalm 145:9 NASB) The New Testament clearly teaches that eternal separation from God is the judgement man will face for rejecting His free offer of salvation through His Son. I will also add, that true Christians today not only benefit from His grace, but we also suffer the evil in the world as well. i.e., murders, crimes, hunger, disease, natural disasters. So to say that God ultimately decrees people to hell seems inconsistant with His nature. We assign ourself to hell by unrepentance and unbelief. He has no obligation to bless any of us. So His common grace is a blessing we don't deserve. To me, Romans 2:4 NASB did exactly what Paul claims it's purpose was. It made me stop and wonder why a God I didn't want to submit to, would still bless me with the same blessings He provided His children.

#83  Posted by Keith Farmer  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 5:11 AM

Aurelio,

Just a couple of things: Your position regarding the autonomy of fallen man does not comport with the totality of scripture in terms of the extent of the fall, the desires of men's hearts "continually", and the message of grace seen throughout the bible. I suspect, however, that presenting you with more "evidence" will only serve to feed your desire to present your side of the passage(s) as if there exists more than one way to understand the truth.

With regards to Calvinists denying sola fide in order to hold to God's total sovereignty (which is a redundancy...if God is sovereign He is totally sovereign or else He is not sovereign) I think that is preposterous. You are simply being disingenuous with such an assertion as any cursory study would reveal.

Finally, the inconsistency existing within synergism, as demonstrated by the two references I gave in #74, sum up the truth that lies deep within the redeemed soul. Aurilio, you may desire to be autonomous because that feeds your human pride and gives you a sense of control over things. In reality, if you are intellectually honest, you know deep down that you are wrong; that God sovereignly snatched you out of the fallen world you used to live in and has now graciously set your feet on the correct path. The challenge is for you to abandon the presuppositions and prideful worldview that dominates synergism.

God speed my brother.

#84  Posted by David Kolis  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 4:47 PM

This is an interesting article to say the least, but I don't think it really answers the question, that being "does God love his enemies?" You started off with verses that speak to God's hate for the wicked and evil doers and then say that your view was changed by scripture that said God is love. The way you set the flow of logic in your article leaves me with the question "if you started out thinking that God loves His enemies and then listed verses that said that He hated his enemies, couldn't you have come to the opposite conclusion that God hates his enemies." It seems that your logic in this article is that because you listed the "love verses" last they must be right. So if you listed the "hate verses" last would that make them right. I guess the root of the problem I see here is that you never reconciled the verses with each other, thus leaving the verses in conflict with each other, but I know that the Bible does not contradict itself. I guess I'm asking, how do you reconcile the verses together, I honestly don't know. Please realize that I am not arguing that God hates sinners, quite the contrary actually. I just don't understand how you came to that conclusion.

#85  Posted by Sanford Doyle  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 5:22 PM

Aurelio,

From Sanford

Does God "DECREE" sinners to hell?

Christ Jesus was sent to be our Savior because all humanity was/is at enmity with God.

Those who believe in ALL that Jesus is and repents will endure to the end and be glorified.

Those who reject, in fact "decree" their own way. THEY "decree" themselves to hell by their rejection of Christ.

Jesus talked about AND taught about hell more than anyone.

Does God love His enemies? He must. God even manifested His love to us by sending His Son to us. The God-man, The Incarnation.

The real question should be "Does the enemy love God?"

#86  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Tuesday, July 12, 2011at 11:18 PM

Greg #75:

You said: God’s love is expressed in salvation.

True, God ultimately expresses His love in the act of redemption. And we must distinguish God’s common grace from His saving grace. But my point—and one of the points John makes in his book—is that God bestows His love on the nonelect too. You seem uncomfortable acknowledging that truth for some reason, unless I’m misunderstanding your comment.

I wholeheartedly embrace and teach the doctrines of grace, yet I find no inconsistency between what Paul teaches in Romans 9:6-13 and what this blog series is advocating. God chose Jacob for salvation and passed over Esau. Back in Malachi 1, God is reaffirming His covenantal love toward Jacob. Esau was not included in God’s saving covenant. That’s the point of the verse. However, to say God expresses no love for those outside his saving covenant violates the very truth Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-46.

Consider it:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Matthew 5:43-46

Christ is clearly emphasizing love in those verses. That word appears 4 times, marking the beginning and the end of the passage. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. He lists, as the primary reason, our imitating our heavenly Father, who loves his enemies in this way—He provides for them, lavishing them with sunshine and rain. Now look at the next verse. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" Jesus is saying, Be like your heavenly Father and love your enemies, those who hate, malign, and persecute you.

To write off or dismiss God’s expressions of love toward unbelievers as simply acts of kindness and goodness is to completely miss the point of that passage. I can act kindly toward my enemies. I can shake their hand, smile at them, say nice things to them and about them. But loving them is impossible without divine grace. And verse 48 is a slam-dunk for that interpretation. Jesus concludes that section with this outrageous statement, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

#87  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 7:53 AM

Tommy: I'll just address a few points you made in #86.

In Matt 5:43-46, Jesus is drawing a correlation between God's kindness to us, and our love for one another. Because Jesus made a connection between our love and God's kindness does not necessarily mean that God's kindness is actually love.

I think the passage in 1 John 4:16-21 explains clearly the proper connection between God's love and our love. "We love because he first loved us". Notice he does not say, "We love everyone because he first loved everyone." Again in 1 John 4:10, the stress is that God loved us first specifically in regard to salvation. That is our model and inspiration for Christian love.

The story of the good Samaritan illustrates the baseline of human love: helping the sick and the dying. Our moral responsibility to love our neighbor is at the very least to help those we encounter who are sick or dying. Because we lack the sovereign freedom that God enjoys, we are not in a position to "play God" and make distinctions about who should be helped in this way. This is where human love diverges from God's love. We are morally responsible to help any human being, when we can, who is sick or dying. God does not have that moral responsibility (Luke 4:27). We must show ordinary human compassion without partiality (James 2:8-9). God, although omnipotent, does not show compassion to everyone (Luke 4:26). There are other things that take precedence with him, namely, revealing his plan of salvation.

I do not interpret Matt 5:48 to mean that we must be like God in all ways when it comes to love. It simply means that love must be perfected in us as human beings, just as it is perfect in God as a divine being. But I think you fall into serious error when you teach that we must be like God the Father in every conceivable way when it comes to love.

When you say that loving your enemies means to actually feel kindly toward them and to love everyone indiscriminately, you diverge from the model of Jesus, who had no kind words for the Pharisees, nor kind actions for the moneychangers. "Be angry, and do not sin" (Eph 4:26) means to not harbor personal animosity toward anyone, but yes, go ahead and withhold your kindness when necessary. Get righteously angry when appropriate. Behave differently toward the pigs and the dogs than you do to the lambs (Matt 7:6). Not exactly indiscriminate love! I see lots of discrimination commanded in scripture. What is forbidden is partiality, which is a wrong kind of discrimination based on selfish advantage or appearances only.

#88  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 9:03 AM

Greg #87:

Your conclusions on Matt. 5:43-46 aren’t exegetically driven. Jesus is not drawing a correlation between God’s kindness to us and our love for one another. Quite the opposite. He’s commanding us to model our love toward our enemies after God’s love for His enemies.

Moreover, if you don’t see the impossibility of fulfilling that command without divine enablement then I question whether you understand the purpose of the sermon on the mount, which is summed up in 5:48. Jesus is not calling us to adopt all the incommunicable attributes of God the Father. He is calling us to be perfect like God the Father.

1 John is an entirely different context. As you know, Scripture has much to say about our love toward other believers. That’s the thrust of John’s epistle. Love for the brethren is one of John’s tests of authentic salvation. He is not making a statement about how we love our enemies in the passage you cited.

No time to argue with you on what I believe it a clear matter in Scripture. I recommend John’s book to you if you’re willing and have the time to read it. I think you’ll find it both challenging and enjoyable.

I’d also recommend you take your implied question “In what way did God express love toward the Pharisees” to the audio blog we just posted yesterday.

Greg, if you’re arguing that God only expresses love for humanity in His act of salvation, and thus God loves only the elect, I disagree with you. Maybe that helps cut through the chase. Thanks for the interaction.

#89  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 10:22 AM

Greg,

I appreciate that you have followed your theological construct to its logical conclusion, even though I strongly disagree with you. Your view of God's love is logical and coherent, since you start off with the belief that God does not offer salvation to all. If salvation is not offered to all, God must not truly love all, since it would hardly be considered love to bless sinners with fleeting, temporal, common grace, but then deny them saving grace.

However, I believe that God has expressed His love toward ALL His creatures in many ways, but especially by offering His Son as the Savior from hell to ANY who would believe.

The audio blog just posted yesterday here on gty.org does a great job explaining the way that God demonstrates His love to the world.

#90  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 11:33 AM

Aurelio #89

I’m not sure what “theological construct” you had in mind with your response to Greg. If you’re claiming Calvinists do not believe God offers the gospel to all, then you’re mistaken. Those who dispute the doctrines of grace frequently employ that straw-man tactic in their writings. Therefore, people who limit their exposure to the polemical material follow suit. If that’s the case with you, my advice is to read those who best understand and represent the position you oppose. Based on my interaction with Greg on the GTY blog, he doesn’t qualify. (No offense, Greg)

Of course I don’t agree with everything John Calvin taught, but here’s an excerpt from his exposition of 1 Timothy 2:4 that might surprise you:

The Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. Calvin on 1 Timothy 2:4.

#91  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 11:56 AM

Tommy: How do you know that "He’s commanding us to model our love toward our enemies after God’s love for His enemies."? I don't see the words "God's love" in the text. So I say, hold on, most of your sentence is correct, except for the words "God's love". Those are your words, not God's. I say, you need to look elsewhere in scripture to find out which attribute of God is associated with nice things like rain and sun. I maintain it is kindness not love.

Not just to quibble over words, but I think the consequences of "God loves every individual" is a theology riddled with contradictions. Most people don't mind the contradictions, because they can simply explain them away through slippery definitions. I prefer well-defined words so that I understand as fully as possible what God is saying, rather than understanding someone's paraphrase of what God is saying.

Aurelio: I agree that God has expressed his love to ANY who believe, but who exactly are those ANY (Acts 13:48, Eph 1:3-5)? He loved them first, selectively, exclusively.

#92  Posted by Aurelio Cortez  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 12:26 PM

I am not claiming that Calvinists believe that God doesn't offer the Gospel to all. I know they believe in God's offer to all. I also know they believe in preaching. MANY of the greatest preachers were Calvinist. I agree that many non-Calvinists build straw-men and tear them down. However, I was saying that the logical conclusion in Calvinism is that they shouldn't believe that God loves all, since He doesn't grant all "saving grace" even though He could. Thus, it seems to me, God's love is only truly/ultimately/actually demonstrated toward the elect.

I am not surprised by the John Calvin quote, and I disagree with his comment - he has taken a verse that clearly states God love for all because he desires that all would be saved without EXCEPTION, and Calvin has made it say that God desires all be saved without DISTINCTION ("rank in the world" or as others say "'All' means classes of men"). Not to debate you on 1Tim 2:4, since I am sure we disagree and that's cool, even though I wish you would change your position.

This blog was great since it has made us think through our theology.

Greg,

The Scripture teaches, in my analysis, that God's love is for each human. Some people obviously never experience that love - in fact, God's love appears as hate to many non-believers. It's as if we are standing under a waterfall with our cup turned upside down - no water will fill our cup. God's love (Niagara Falls) is there for any to experience, but sinners choose to reject. I believe that when sinners respond to God's Gospel, illuminated by the Spirit, and wooed by the Spirit, they are regenerated. I believe that faith precedes regeneration because of John 1:12.

The reason I believe God loves all individuals, saved and non-saved, is because of many verses such as John 3:16. I understand the approach many Reformed theologians have taken to it, but I think they eisegete the text. That being said, I do not believe that God necessarily loves all EQUALLY, but that He does love all REDEMPTIVELY.

I know we disagree, but I appreciate your position and understand completely how you have arrived at it.

#93  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 3:54 PM

Greg:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Matthew 5:43-46

It doesn’t take a lieutenant Columbo to see the dominant theme in that passage. I think the burden of proof is on you to show how that passage is not focusing on God’s general love for mankind, expressed through His care and provision. We're to imitate that love through desiring and seeking our neighbor's welfare.

You mentioned prefering well-defined words. A study of the primary verb in that passage for love, agape, won’t disappoint. Those are my final words. Blessings.

#94  Posted by Greg Corron  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 5:16 PM

Tommy: Every verb should have a subject. I see the word "love" and I can study the Greek, but if I ignore the subject that goes with the verb I lose the meaning. The passage is describing the love of human beings for each other. It is not describing God's love. It gives us a reason to love each other: God's sending rain and sun to everyone. Just because the word "love" is somewhere in the vicinity does not mean it that rain and sun come to us as a result of God's love. It is very tempting to assume it, but since I can't find any support for this idea elsewhere in the Bible I don't accept it.

Now I'm not contending just to be contentious. I'm not the contentious type; I'd just as soon get along with everyone, but I see some real problems with this belief that God loves every individual. It is a very short step from believing that God loves you to God approves of you or will at least deal kindly with you. Once you take that step, you have fallen off the cliff; you are no longer concerned with having God's righteousness, because love covers it all. When I see most people being led over this cliff I have to speak up.

The whole point of being a Christian is not to gain God's love, but to gain his righteousness. If we hope to lure people into church by assuring them that God loves them, then we are attracting exactly the wrong people. We need to attract people who thirst for righteousness, not love. Everyone wants to be loved, but not many are burdened by a lack of righteousness. But those few are exactly the ones whom God is calling. We should make sure that the gospel message is tailored to them.

#95  Posted by Tommy Clayton  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 5:26 PM

David Kolis #84

Great question, David. Thanks for asking.

Maybe I should have titled the article How I became convinced God loves His enemies.

I certainly wasn’t led to that conclusion by ignoring the verses that previously troubled me. Rather, I began to see the teaching of the totality of Scripture. And at the same time I was growing in my understanding of biblical and systematic theology.

My pastor, along with the writing and preaching of John MacArthur helped me to understand the difference between God’s covenantal, redemptive love, and His general love for mankind. Previously, I had viewed God’s love in a very narrow, limited sense.

I can see how you read the article and disputed my logic. It’s hard to describe in a short blog piece how John’s book confronted my somewhat one-sided understanding of God’s love. But it did—through Scripture. My point was not to reconcile those verses, but to show why I never saw the need. I agree with Spurgeon that every major doctrine has within it an apparent paradox, a tension. We must learn to live within that tension and let God be God. That’s where I’m at, thanks be to God, my pastor, and John MacArthur.

Blessings.

#96  Posted by Gabriel Powell  |  Wednesday, July 13, 2011at 5:30 PM

Greg #94,

You're looking so closely at the trees that you're missing the forest.

You're correct that the subject of love is "you". But the basis for the command is God's actions toward unbelievers (unrighteous and evil people as He calls them). Furthermore, by loving our enemies, we are "sons of your Father" which is another way of saying that we are imitating our Father.

Jesus goes on to illustrate how the Father acts--being gracious and doing loving things for unrighteous and evil people by giving them sun and rain (good things in an agricultural society).

Jesus' point is don't be like tax collectors who only love those who love them, love your enemies like your Father does.

Does that make sense Greg? Do you see how the context is demands the conclusion that God loves His enemies?

#97  Posted by Keith Stokes  |  Thursday, July 14, 2011at 6:33 AM

Just finished reading Dr. MacArthur's Q&A#193. The title is:Does God Love Whom He Does Not Save?