Many months ago I began this post. It started as just a title. I was studying the attributes of God last year for Sunday school and the Love of God was the final topic. One of the questions I pondered was this: Does God love the non-elect, and, if so, how? That is to say, if He does, then what is the nature of that Love, since it certainly manifests differently from His love for His elect.
A few assumptions need to be made which I will declare without providing proof.
- There is a group of people called the elect which God has saved or will save.
- Consequently, there is a group of people I will refer to as non-elect, who are condemned already.
- God clearly loves the elect, and the elect are beneficiaries of saving grace.
- The Bible is the only possible source for revelation and must be the source for the answer to this question. That is, logic of men cannot be used to derive the answer, only God’s Word.
- If the answer is not clearly implied, we may use good rules of interpretation to infer, but we ought not be too dogmatic about our conclusion if this is the case
Arguments AGAINST God loving the non-elect:
I have read and watched and heard arguments against God loving the non-elect. They are basically summed up in this way.
Romans 9:13 ESV As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
THEREFORE, since God hated Esau, God did not love Esau. QED.
Now that was easy, wasn’t it? Then we can tack on that if God loves the non-elect so much, why is He sending them to Hell? Again, the arguer believes he has clearly demonstrated that God does not love the non-elect. I am not convinced.
I see a couple of problems with these arguments.
An assumption is made for which I cannot find biblical support. (Please contact me if you do!) That assumption is that God cannot simultaneously Love and Hate the same person. The scripture does not say that God cannot love and hate. Granted, the Romans 9 reference may seem to imply that God either loves or hates, but I am not sure it must mean that God does one or the other. If there is a place in scripture where God says that it is impossible for Him to love and hate at the same time, please show it to me.
E.G., the Bible also has several instances of God “repenting,” yet He is clear in 1 Sam 15:29 that he repenteth NOT, he is not like a man. So it seems that God frequently CONDESCENDS to use language that makes sense to us so that we can understand him, even just a little.
I do not find scripturally an argument which says, God cannot Love and Hate the same creature. So I deny the God must not love Esau because of the “He hated him” argument.
Furthermore, the word for hated in Esau have I hated is from a primary word μῖσος misos (hatred); to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less: – hate (-ful). Jesus uses it in Luke 14:26 and it is commonly translated hate. But I think most people understand that verse to mean that we must love our family LESS than the Lord. That our love for our family must be less than our love for the Lord! Jesus wasn’t commanding us to HATE as the OPPOSITE of LOVE in this passage. He would have been commanding us to break His ten commandments if so!
I also deny the argument that states: “God must not love some because they are not elected to salvation.” God had made a legitimate offer to ever creature to obey Him and we all fell in Adam; and He’s made a legitimate offer to all who will accept Christ, even if He knows some will not. This is the argument that really says:
If God loves someone, it will manifest in this way.
Compelling as this argument sounds, I do not believe the scripture defines love as “will manifest in providing salvation.” We men make the assumption that God’s love must compel Him to do that which we define as good, or “the best” for that person who is the object of God’s love.
This argument fails because it won’t apply universally. Every time you encounter a various trial or evil, you could say, God must not love me because He has allowed this. In fact, God cannot love anyone by the logic provided, because He would be forced to have created us all perfect, not allowed Satan nor man to fall, nor anyone to die. But clearly that is not the case. As hard as it is to understand, in the wisdom of God, this was the best way…the only way.
Now, let’s explore some arguments that seem to support the idea that God does, in fact, love the non-elect.
Review a couple verses:
Matthew 22:39 ESV And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 5:44 ESV But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I don’t see God asking us to do that which He doesn’t already do, with the exception of obvious “we’re not gods, we’re creatures” actions. There are some things that we cannot do that He can do. So for example, we cannot “be sovereign;” we are subject to the law whereas He is not. So he requires us to “do something” (obey the law) when He, in fact, doesn’t do the same thing in the same sense.
God clearly “kills”, whereas we are told not to. He can do this as the result of sovereign ownership over creation, something He has that we do not possess.
In general, when God commands us to be patient, loving, kind, merciful…etc, He also provides the example. In Christ, He’s offered a perfect example.
I am open to the idea that God does not LOVE the non-elect, but in my brief study of the topic, I have come to the conclusion that God certainly loves Himself perfectly, and that He also takes great pleasure in the works of His hands, e.g., His creation. As part of His creation, it could be inferred that He loves all His creatures, including the very vessels created for destruction.
And finally, I believe God is far more complex than we know, and He is capable of many seemingly contradictory ideas that our feeble and finite minds do not grasp.
With all that being said, I bring a scripture I found that caused me to pause in my earlier quick assertion that God doesn’t love the non-elect:
Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Anyone who reads the rest of the story will notice that the man “was not saved.” Yet the bible declares that Jesus “loved him.” This is agape love in the Greek. This leads me to the conclusion that God, who loves His creation, may also have a form of love toward the non-elect that doesn’t necessarily result in the same action toward them.
God’s very nature is Love. It is based on His perfection, not on the object of His love anyway, so it matters not how He treats every object of His love. That is why I reject the argument that God must only love those He saves.
John 3:16 KJV For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.