Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota. (Preceding article in this series can be found in the June issue, p. 398.)

The Scriptures teach and we firmly believe that God’s attitudes of love and hatred toward men are particular and unchanging. God always and only loves the elect. God always and only hates the reprobate.

Some object to this. The main objection comes from those who hold to the theory of common grace. Various passages are immediately mentioned and appealed to by those who defend this theory, such as Psalm 145:9 and Matthew 5:45. The argument presented is that God shows favor to all men in this life when He gives them good things. Indiscriminately God sends rain, sunshine, plentiful harvests, prosperity, and health. Not only do the elect receive these things, the reprobate do as well. Therefore, it is argued, God shows favor also to the reprobate. The fact that He gives good things to them is proof of His love for them.

The theory of common grace is a serious error. It is so for various reasons. Here we mention two of those reasons.

It is a serious error first of all because it is an attack upon God Himself. It is a theory that denies God’s immutability. For while God hated the reprobate in eternity (when He determined that they would be sent to hell), and while God will again hate the reprobate at the end of time (when He actually sends them to hell), in time itself He supposedly loves and is gracious toward them. That makes God a changing God.

The truth of the matter is that the attitude of hatred that God has toward the reprobate is constant. It began in eternity. It is the same throughout all time and history. It will be the same on the judgment day when God sends the wicked to hell. And it will be the same to all eternity. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God always hates the reprobate wicked.

The other serious error of the theory of common grace is that it confuses grace with things. It isargued by the proponents of common grace that the fact that God gives good things to the wicked means God has an attitude of favor toward them. That is not so. And the reason is that grace is not in things. Grace is an attitude. Grace is an attitude that God shows regardless of the things He gives or sends.

If this were not true, the child of God would be thrown often into despair. For if grace is in things, that would mean God’s grace and love are present only when we are receiving good things from Him. God’s attitude would change according to the things He sends. But the truth of the matter is that God’s attitude is not determined by things. God’s attitudes of love and hatred are shown to the elect and reprobate respectively regardless of the actual things God gives or sends them.

In this connection, we certainly do not deny that God gives “good gifts” to the reprobate wicked. Everything comes from God, and all that comes from Him is good. The wicked also receive good things from the hand of God, such as rain and sunshine (Matt. 5:45). But it simply is not true that these good things are evidences of God’s grace toward them. Rather, the good gifts that God gives the wicked are given in hatred and are therefore evidences of God’s unchanging attitude of hatred toward them.

This is very clearly set forth in Psalm 73. In that Psalm it is mentioned, first of all, that the wicked do indeed receive many good things. In fact, as the psalmist points out, the ungodly often receive more good things than the elect do. But the Psalm also makes clear that these things are not given in favor, for the wicked are on a slippery slope that leads to eternal destruction in hell. When God sends rain and sunshine on the farm of your ungodly neighbor, and when that man, as a result, has a bumper crop, that rain and that sunshine are really just an extra coating of ice on that slippery slope to hell.

Proverbs 3:33 makes this clear too. God’s curse is always in the house of the wicked. Even though the wicked may be enjoying health and luxury, still the curse of God is upon him.

There is only one way to understand properly the things that happen in time. They must be understood in the light of eternity.

How God deals with men during their earthly lives is directly related to the truth of sovereign predestination. The truth of predestination means that God eternally determined who are the elect and who are the reprobate, who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. That truth determines not only how God will deal with each man on the judgment day and to all eternity thereafter, but it also determines how God deals with men now in time and history.

God in time is carrying out His eternal decree of predestination. This means that all He does, sends, and gives serves the goal He has to bring the elect to glory and to send the reprobate to hell. If God has determined that one will spend eternity in hell, everything in that person’s life is a means to that end, hell. If, however, God has determined that one will spend eternity in heaven, everything in that person’s life is a means to that end, heaven. And that is true even when the elect child of God experiences the greatest misery and trouble in this life, and the wicked the greatest prosperity and ease.

That God’s attitude toward men is particular has certain implications, first of all, for the reprobate. We have seen that God is never loving or kind toward them. All the things that God sends or gives to the reprobate add, therefore, to their condemnation. Whether those things be viewed as “good” or “bad,” through them God sets the wicked on the slippery slope that speeds them on their way to eternal destruction and desolation.

Why is that? Why do these things add to their condemnation? For at least three reasons. First, because the reprobate do not acknowledge God as the Giver. Secondly, because they do not thank God for the things He gives them. And thirdly, because they use whatever God gives them, not for God’s glory, but for their own selfish and sinful ends. God is perfectly just, therefore, in sending them eternally to hell.

On the other hand, the particularity of God’s attitude toward men is a truth that gives untold comfort to the elect. God is always gracious to us. God never has, towards us, an attitude of hatred or wrath. Even when God sends adversities, God does it in love. Cancer and sickness, pain and death are evidences of His love and grace. All things work together for our eternal good.

It is true that we do not always (or even often) see how all things are for our good. But that makes no difference. For nothing can separate us from God’s great love toward us in Christ Jesus. Not even our sins can do that. Constant and unchanging is His love. And constant and unchanging is His glorious purpose to work all things for our salvation.

We ought to be humbled when we think of God’s love for us, for we deserve it no more than the reprobate wicked who will spend eternity in hell. We all deserve to be hated by God. We all deserve to experience to all eternity His wrath. It is alone by the wonder of His grace that we will not. May we be always thankful for God’s amazing love.