DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
3. “GOD SO LOVED”
Verse 15 is the same as 16b and will be considered there. But now that we have determined the reason for the “for,” we shall move on to “God so loved.” God’s love for His elect dates from all eternity. Christ said that the Father loved Him in eternity (John 17:24) and with this same eternal love, the Father loved the elect (verse 23). As God’s blessings and grace upon the elect were given to them in eternity in Christ (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9), so also was this love given them in Christ (Romans 8:39). God loved us before we loved Him (1 John 4:19), in other words, before we were regenerated, for all the regenerate love God (Romans 8:28).
The Scriptures stress the fact that at the cross of Christ this love was manifested, as well as those to whom this love is extended. This is important, for it determines whom this “world” of John 3:16 actually is. God’s elect are the objects of His peculiar and special love, not the reprobate. If this be true, which shall be demonstrated, then the world is clearly God’s elect, not every single individual that has appeared on the face of this planet.
Somewhat parallel to the context of John 3:16 is 1 John 4:9, where it is stated, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” Here we have the sending of the Son into the world by the Father, as we do in John 3:16, as well as the purpose, being eternal life, here showing that this life is through Him. It also shows the object of God’s love, here defined as “us” and that is none but the elect of God. Going even further, it is said, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (verse 10). This same love is emphasized again in verse 11.
As God’s love is manifested upon the cross, so “perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). We clearly perceive God’s love in the fact that He sent His Son to die “for us.” So that it won’t be mistaken regarding who the “us” are, 3:16b gives us the same “we” in context of the brethren loving each other, being further described as those that “have passed from death unto life” (verse 14). No mistake should be made regarding the extent of God’s love on the cross. The apostle John defines for us in his epistle what he meant by the “world” in the soteriological contexts of his gospel. It’s not all and every individual, but all the elect of God.
We won’t stop here, but give more Scripture that abundantly prove God’s love for the elect is what is displayed by the giving of the Son by the Father to die and bare the sins of His people. Christ Himself says that the greatest love is a man laying down his life for his friends, speaking of Himself in the context (John 15:13). Lest one say that Judas was Christ’s friend (Matthew 26:50), hence Christ loved and died for one that perished, let it be noticed that Judas was only a friend in outward appearance and Christ was addressing him as such. Further, the very context of John 15 has Christ stating that His real friends are those that keep His commandments (John 15:14), those being the elect of God (1 John 3:24).
Now back from our digression, the apostle Paul also informs us that, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). By commending is meant manifesting and proving. The “us” is defined as those that are justified by His blood and those that will be saved from wrath through Him (verse 9). Notice that this also defines who the “ungodly” of verse 6 are, not all and every single individual (for all are ungodly), but God’s people. The Apostle Peter tells us that God’s people “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Peter 1:18-21). For whom was He manifested? For those whom Peter was addressing, and they were the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1:2). God the Father sent His Son out of love, God’s Son came to save out of love, not for every single individual, but for God’s people, God’s elect.
I pray that it is apparent that the love of God manifested on the cross was extended to none but the elect people of God. Before moving on from this fact, we’ll go back to the apostle Paul, in which he, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, expounds upon Christ’s love for His spouse, the church, and His sacrifice for her. Paul tells us that “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2). The motive of Christ was love, the object of that love being the elect (see verse 1 for verification, other than the fact the context is speaking of His church and bride). Christ was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19) who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:14) and it is by “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” that “we are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10). Christ “had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12) and “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
This sacrifice of Himself was for us and actually accomplishes our sanctification, not a mere making it possible. This is important, for the context of Ephesians 5 deals with God loving us and sacrificing Himself for us, and that this work was for our sanctification. “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). This love is peculiar to the church, and this peculiar love caused Christ to die for His church. If the loving sacrifice of the Son of God was for all outside the church, then this love isn’t peculiar and men are to love and do all for other women that which is to be peculiar to their wives. Away with such non-sense!
The text is clear. Christ actually accomplished this sanctification, as was before seen. All praise, honor and glory be unto God! His sacrifice had an end in mind, and that is stated in verses 26 and 27, and praise His Holy Name, it was accomplished. To say that this loving sacrifice of Christ still doesn’t save without the “freewill” of man is to make Christ a failure and man a “finisher” of the perfect work of Christ when it is only Christ who is the “author of eternal salvation” and “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 5:9; 12:2). It is my prayer that God’s people would “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). It is clear to those who have been given spiritual understanding by God’s grace that the love of God displayed at Calvary was extended to the elect of God.
Above, we stated that the love of God is towards the elect and them alone. Stating from Scripture that God loves the elect doesn’t necessarily negate that God loves the reprobate. Because of this, we will demonstrate from Scripture that God doesn’t love the reprobate, but hates them. Such is a doctrine that is not liked by many and many ‘Calvinists’ themselves disagree with this. Some call it a form of hyper-Calvinism. Call us what you will, but we ask you to honestly review the context of Scripture and see whether these things be so.
In the greatest chapter displaying God’s sovereignty in election and reprobation, it is said, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13). Esau was only one of many that were hated of God. But the example serves the purpose of representing all the elect and reprobate. God set His sovereign love and affection upon the elect, but those whom He chose to damn, He hated. God desires to make known His wrath, so He made “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Romans 9:22). Out of one lump of clay, God had two people: the elect and the reprobate. The latter was made unto dishonor (Romans 9:21), the former unto honor. These same were “made to be taken and destroyed” and “shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (2 Peter 2:12). Not only that, but “the LORD hath made…the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). By making the wicked for the purpose of damning them is only a subordinate end to the great and ultimate end of all creation: God’s glory! “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
Those that ultimately will perish are known as they “that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23) and are the reprobate. It is them God hates, as it says in Psalm 5:5, 6, “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity…the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” We’re not only speaking of hating, but abhorring, which is a strong hatred. The same wicked God made for the day of evil He hated as well. “The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Psalm 11:5). In Leviticus 20, God is said to abhor such as committed adultery, sodomy, cursed their mother or father, and other abominable sins (20:23). God’s hatred for them is further affirmed in Proverbs 6:16, 19, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” To be an abomination unto God is to be extremely hated of Him. God says that the forward is abomination unto Him (Proverbs 3:32). Even “all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 25:16). Those whom God chose to damn became objects of His hatred, not objects of His love. So in saying that God’s love is limited to the elect is only affirming what the Scriptures themselves teach. I still have yet to find one Scripture that says God loves the reprobate, but may I can find which affirm God’s hatred for them!