Friday, April 29, 2011

God is Love

“Doesn’t the Bible say that God is love? Wouldn’t this mean that God must love everybody equally?”

Or so the philosophy of Arminianism would have us believe. The short response is that while God is love (1 John 4:8) this is not His only attribute. God is also a God of justice, holiness and wrath. The Arminian arrives at his conclusion by over-emphasizing the love of God to the exclusion of His other characteristics.

9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9, NASB). These words really hit home for me when I consider my upbringing in an Arminian and very anti-Calvinistic church environment. Now looking back, I see some of God’s wisdom in allowing me to have that experience. For one thing, I am better able to approach my Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ to help them understand more of God’s truth. Second, I now recognize the Lord’s complete rulership over all things, including salvation, and the great impact this can have on the Christian life. For this reason I believe it is important to address even the concerns raised by our Arminian friends.

Starting off, is God required to love everybody exactly the same? The Scriptures say this, 13Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." (Romans 9:13, NASB). God loved Jacob but hated Esau. My initial question to the Arminian is this: In light of the fact that God loved Jacob but hated Esau how can you say God is required to love everyone equally?

On another level, let’s consider ourselves – God’s creatures – who are made in the image of God. We have the ability to express different kinds of love. For example, I love my wife differently than I love my friends. And I love my parent’s dogs differently than I love my computer. I also love the triune God above everyone and everything else. Are we really to believe that God’s love is less expressive than His own creatures’ ability to love people/things differently? If so, doesn’t this reduce God to a level below His own creatures?

But the Scriptures seem to also express that the Lord is not only a God of love. He is also a God of hate. God hates sin, yes, but the Bible also says that God hates sinners. I’ve already cited the Lord hating Esau, but think on Psalm 5:5, 5The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.” (NASB). At this point a question naturally arises in the heart of man: is God unjust? Paul actually addresses this subject immediately after stating that God loved Jacob but hated Esau: 14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” (Romans 9:14, NASB). Even though the Lord loves some and hates others He is not unjust.

I was reminded recently that God is not described as “love, love, love” – three times in a row – in the Scriptures. Rather, He is called “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). The reason this is important is because the author is emphatically making a point about one of the Lord’s attributes: His holiness; His other-ness. God is utterly unique in His divine majesty, and nothing can be compared to Him. This is why when we consider our own sinfulness in light of God’s holiness we are left with despair like the prophet Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5, NASB). Our sin and our guilt has offended God infinitely beyond our understanding because we have sinned against an infinite Being, and therefore, our punishment must be terrible indeed.

Therefore, to say that God is required to love everybody the same is altogether the wrong starting point. God is not under any obligation to love anyone, and it is for this reason that we ought to be AMAZED that He has decided to love any at all. We ought not to be distressed that He did not love Esau, but rather our breath should be taken away that He decided to love Jacob! Especially in light of the fact that God’s decision to love one and hate the other was not based on anything in them! 10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,” (Romans 9:10-11, NASB). This is a humbling truth, but it also magnifies the triumphant grace of our God who does not depend on the will of man (Romans 9:16).

Thanks for reading,

Case of Base

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