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Previous article in this series: November 15, 2005, p. 76.

In this article we intend to examine the free offer and the arguments of its promoters by taking into consideration various biblical passages and concepts as they are brought to bear on this controversy.

Of late the WMO (Well-Meant Offer) men have gone on record defending the notion that God not only loves the elect, but He also hates them; and that He not only hates the “non-elect,” but He also loves them.

They argue that to deny this is simply hyper-Calvinism. We contend that to maintain such a thing is simply (and grievously) unbiblical, and demonstrates the extremes to which maintaining the free offer leads one.

The WMO men are compelled to argue this astonishing thing. They too are well aware of that ‘troubling’ passage “Jacob have I loved; but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). If Scripture speaks of God from eternity having hated the Esaus of this life, how can the WMO yet speak of God having a love for them too? And if Scripture ties God’s love in with the elect, the Jacobs, (the love of a Sovereign God, which love invariably works salvation), surely one cannot then speak of God also loving the reprobate, can one? What is this but the ABC’s of logical thinking?

Behold, once again we show you a paradox, and escape the dilemma. Whom God loves, He also hates; and whom He hates, He also loves. And they have Scripture to back it up, they say.

So that it is clear that we are not misrepresenting the WMO men and their arguments, we offer you a couple of quotes lifted from another article listed on the web-sitemonergism.com, an article entitled “All house and no door: A Critique of the False Teaching of Hyper-Calvinism,” written by the Dr. C. Matthew McMahon. Dr. McMahon is sweet on the free offer, and goes on record as finding those who oppose it extremely sour to his taste. (At least he does not find us lukewarm.)

McMahon offers a list of six things that, he declares, the free offer understands and maintains, and that, if they are denied, prove one to be a hyper-Calvinist. (And some of them do.) One of the things that the free offer affirms (the opposing of which, according to McMahon, makes one a hyper-Calvinist) is:

5. The Love of God to the Reprobate and the Hatred of God to the Elect—huh? (Yes, I understand what I wrote in this heading). No doubt, Hyper-Calvinists believe that God only hates the reprobate, and only loves the elect, in any sense whatsoever. Hyper-Calvinism completely denies that God loves men generally in any way and completely denies that God hates the elect in any way. It may seem at the outset that a general love to all men is not as radical as my inference that God hates the elect in some way. But I will qualify this….

Having presented his scriptural support for his contention that God has a general love for all His creatures, including the “non-elect” (which we will briefly touch on later), McMahon goes on to support his contention that God also hates the elect (in some way). We turn to this first, not because the contention that Scripture teaches God loves even those whom He eternally hates is of little concern to us, but because if anything demonstrates to what grievous lengths and Scripture-bending the free offer forces one to go, it is the contention that God also hates those whom from all eternity He has loved in Christ,the Elect One.

In this connection, McMahon writes, “God also hates the elect in Adam,” and then he quotesEphesians 2:1-3, highlighting the words, “and were by nature children of wrath, even as others,” a phrase that refers to the regenerated, renewed elect. McMahon explains it this way:

If [God] hates or loves, it is an eternal hatred or love for sin or good work in Christ. He continually, in Adam, hates our rebellion. Yet, He eternally loves us in Jesus Christ. That is why we are not consumed as Jacob’s sons. Hyper-Calvinism teaches that the elect are not hated in Adam, but only loved in Christ. I suppose then, Paul was wrong in saying we were children of wrath like the others. Is wrath a form of love? I think not, unless Hyper-Calvinism would like to admit that God loves all! No, wrath, like others, is real wrath intended for damnation. If it were not for Christ we would not escape this. The reprobate are only hated in Adam, though generally loved by God as seen in His indiscriminate love for all men and the whole world as he upholds it. The elect are exceedingly grateful (though not as they should be) for the deliverance they have in Christ. If God did not, nor does hate their sin, then why are they grateful, and what did Christ die on the cross for?

Three things in analyzing the above quote.

First, we note that the Doctor speaks of God ” in Adam, hat[ing] our rebellion,” and then of God hating the sins of the elect. But what does that prove? That, therefore, God hates the elect themselves? Surely it is possible to hate one’s sins and foolish rebellion without hating the person. Parents do it with their children all the time, especially if a child in cruelty has hurt someone else—hating the deed, not the child. So with God. Yes, even His elect children yet living in unbelief, whom God “foreknows” in love, such as Saul of Tarsus, hating his pride and cruelty, but not Saul himself, whom in everlasting love God intended to adopt and save. It was exactly because God so loved Saul (seeing him in Christ) that He would separate him from the sins that He so hated. God would not have this young fool destroyed. He was a vessel of mercy, loved in Christ.

But second, what about God’s wrath—of the elect being under wrath even as others? The simple fact is that “wrath” and “hatred” are two different concepts, and it is possible to be filled with wrath towards someone, and to deal with one in just wrath, without hating that person at all. Wrath towards one whom one yet loves. A judge in a small community may have to sentence his own daughter to a lengthy prison term because she drove while drunk and killed a family coming the other way. That is just wrath. And then that judge visits that daughter in prison with tears week after week. An elder votes to excommunicate his own son, who as a young man is living in fornication and wasting his living. Anger, wrath, and what? Hatred? No, rather praying to God to have mercy, and to make the son a prodigal who comes home in time.

Shall we mention David, who had Uriah murdered? There came upon David a divine wrath for all to see. God was grieved, as any father would be; but did God hate him? If God hates you, He never brings you back, no, not from the fall of Adam itself.

All of us, Cains and Abels, in Adam in common were children of wrath, forfeiting life and under the sentence of death. The difference is that some are vessels of wrath fitted to destruction(Rom. 9:22), hated by God; but the others, though under God’s just wrath, are vessels of mercy, to be fitted to honor. McMahon asks, in rhetorical fashion, “Is wrath a form of love?” But that is not the question. The question is, is wrath always an expression of hate? That is what McMahon is contending. And to that the answer is “No,” as is plain even from human life. There are times when, indeed, it proceeds from hatred, when one’s intention is to see another destroyed (and perhaps forever—read Malachi 1:1-4), but it can also be visited on one whom one loves, justice demanding it and one’s own righteous character, though the object of the wrath is one whom you love, is precious to you, but is to be cut off from that love’s expression, until the wrong doing is properly addressed and dealt with.

Consider Christ crucified, the object of God’s wrath for those three dreadful hours, cut off from every expression of love. Did God then hate His Son? If McMahon is correct, He must still hate His Son in some sense even now. Be careful what you say here, lest you speak with a rashness completely out of place.

One of the passages McMahon quotes to support the contention that the God who eternally hates a person also loves them, and whom He loves in Christ eternally He also hates, is Psalm 5:5: “The foolish shall not stand with thee; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”

The WMO men argue that since the elect can also be guilty of iniquity, therefore they too are hated by God. Really? One must then ask what God meant when He through His Spirit has wicked Balaam say concerning His true Israel, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Israel”? (It is this, of course, that explains God’s longsuffering love for a sinful, damn-worthy people).

While it is true that the elect can live wickedly for a time in unbelief, and even have to be converted from amongst the wicked, this is not the perspective of this Psalm and others that use similar language. The Psalms have a practice of drawing up absolute contrasts between the righteous and the wicked, those who are God’s own in Christ the righteous one, and those who are not and never will be. Do not forget that the Psalm goes on to plead with God concerning these wicked, “Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsel; cast them out….” Remember, in the Psalms, Christ speaks. And we are to believe that Christ speaks this way concerning His sheep, including those “other sheep” given Him, yet lost in darkness? Hating them as the wicked, praying for their utter destruction? Nonsense. Because if He did, it is a prayer not answered. How fortunate for us!

Psalm 11 uses the same language. It speaks of “the wicked and him that loveth violence,” whom God’s soul hateth (v. 5). It then goes on to say, “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone…, this shall be the portion of their cup”(v. 6). This is what the Spirit of Christ in the psalmist wills for the elect? For those whom He sees as righteous in Christ according to His “foreknowing” love? Not so. But this is what happens when as a professing Calvinist and interpreter of Scripture you lose sight of the truth of God’s being the God of a predestinating will and people, which truth is revealed to us for the sake of reading Scripture aright—as Paul found to be true when he wrote the Book of Romans, for instance—whether one knows who the elect are or not. We do not have to. God does, in Christ. And that is enough to know to interpret such passages.

This does not mean that such a psalm has little to say to the child of God. It is exactly God’s hatred of wickedness, and then of His perpetual hatred of those impenitently committed to wickedness, that gives one the strong incentive to depart from the wicked and their ways.

There is one other matter that we must address yet before we conclude this article, and that is the strange and completely unwarranted way in which the WMO men go about proving that there are different degrees of love by which God loves different men, and then use this to justify the free offer and its declaration that God has a saving love for every sinner, loving them with a saving desire.

It is a rather interesting logical jump, and really a wonderful sleight of hand. McMahon does it, and so does Phil Johnson in his article supporting the free offer (referred to in a previous article).

Both criticize those who claim that God “only hates the reprobate” and those who “completely den[y] that God loves men generally in any way…” (cf. above quotes). They charge that such is the mark of a hyper-Calvinist. Both insist that none can deny that Scripture teaches that God loves all men in some general way. And to support this general love of God towards everyone, they quote the same texts that are used in support of common grace. For example, “The Lord is good to all, his tender mercies are over all his works,” and “…for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Ps. 145:9 & Matt. 5:45). Texts that prove, it is said, a general benevolence and favor (a lovingkindness) of God to everyone in general, reprobate as well as elect.

We are not interested in the theory of common grace at this point. In fact, for the sake of argument, let us play the fool, and say, we grant it. You have convinced us. Scripture teaches that God has a general favor and lovingkindness toward all, as shown in His good ness even towards the reprobate. Now what?

We want simply to remind everyone of what the WMO men are doing. They are doing all this not simply to establish that God loves different men to different degrees, but as biblical proof for the preaching of the free offer. But the free offer does not have to do with some general love shown in the good things of this life; rather, it is the declaring of a saving love, a divine love that desires everyone’s salvation in Christ. Our question is, what right does one have to take this so-called general love and use it to turn the gospel into a free offer, which offer now declares that God has the greatest of all loves for everyone, a love that would save?

This is the jump that the WMO men make. Suddenly this general lovingkindness that God might have even for the Esaus and Herods of the race blossoms into, and becomes irrefutable evidence for, the notion that He must also love them with a love that would save them in Christ. What gives? As if once you have ‘proved’ common grace, and are convinced certain texts speak of a general, nonsaving benevolence of God towards all, you have the right to bring Christ into the picture with His cross and declare, “God yearns for the salvation of every sinner. Let every man addressed by the gospel know that Christ died for him!”

This is why we stated above that we find McMahon’s contention that God also loves the reprobate whom He hates astonishing! Because, say what he will, though McMahon badgers those who deny the free offer for not being willing to concede that God loves the reprobate in any way at all (with a different, lesser kind of love), the fact is that McMahon, in the end, is not talking about God having merely a more general, non-saving sort of love for the reprobate. What he and other WMO men are talking about is God loving the reprobate with the same sort of love, a ‘desire-to-save’ sort of love, one that has to do with Christ, one that finds its evidence and power in the cross.

This is what the free offer is all about.

As should be evident, the WMO men realize that, once you have conceded this general lovingkindness of God towards all, you have placed your foot irretrievably on a road that leads to accepting the free offer as well. Concede the one, and you have for all intents and purposes adopted the other. The one rather subtly transforms itself into the other. If nothing else, such should give every Reformed man pause before simply adopting the contemporary view of common grace and its lesser love. There is reason why we disavow it at every turn.

That God is good to all, no one denies. He was good to Esau, giving him greater health and strength than Jacob himself, and a better personality besides. But is this proof that God therefore loved him, and desired with deepest yearnings his salvation? Esau, whom God hated? Think about it.

There is more, of course, that can be said on the issue of the free offer. There are questions put to us by WMO men that they would like answered—for instance, are we not commanded to love all those with whom we have contact? Why would God require this of us … if He does not do the same? Matthew 5:44, 45 is inevitably raised. Worth considering. But explanations of various biblical passages can wait until a later date.