ev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.
A matter of vital interest to believers is that of God’s attitude toward them in all that God does and sends in their lives. The concern of the child of God in all the circumstances and experiences of his life is that God loves him, and never deals with him in hatred. But is it true that God always loves us? Does He still love us when we sin grievously against Him? Does He still love us when He sends severe trials and troubles upon us? Or are there times when, for legitimate reasons, God’s attitude (even if it is only for a short while) changes from love to hatred?
In order to answer these questions and in order to have a clear understanding of this matter, we also need to consider God’s attitude toward the reprobate. Can it be said that God’s attitude toward them is always hatred, and never anything else? Or does God sometimes send them things in love and favor? Does God in some sense and at certain times deal with them in love?
First of all, what is God’s love? And what is His hatred?
To understand the love of God we must first consider God’s love for Himself. That He loves Himself means that God delights in Himself. The Father and Son and Spirit take delight in and enjoy each other. They do so within an intimate bond of loving fellowship. And in that love for each other, they constantly seek each other’s good.
That love of God for Himself is reflected in His love for men. God’s love as an attitude toward men is God’s delight in them. God regards those He loves as precious and dear to Him. He therefore draws them into loving fellowship with Himself. And loving them, He is good to them. He is gracious toward them, showing them His undeserved favor. He is kind and merciful toward them, helping them in all their needs.
God also hates. That hatred of God is an aspect of God’s love of Himself. Hatred is the opposite of love. As such, hatred is not simply, as some claim, that God “loves less.” But hatred is God’s attitude of abhorrence. It means that God detests and despises some. And He must, for He is holy and cannot love unholy sinners. Therefore His wrath is upon them. He finds them offensive and loathsome. And in His hatred of them He thrusts them far away from Himself.
Now the truth of Scripture concerning God’s attitudes toward men is that God loves some (the elect), and hates others (the reprobate). But that is not all. Having said this, it is crucial that we define more precisely what Scripture teaches concerning God’s love and hatred by adding two important adverbs, “only” and “always.” God’s love is only for the elect—His hatred only for the reprobate. God always loves the elect—He always hates the reprobate.
Why does God only and always love the elect? Why does God only and always love you and me who are His?
The reason for this is that God’s love always was, always is, and always will be a particular love. God’s love is never general. God never loves all men. God’s love is limited always only to the elect.
The particularity of God’s love can be understood and explained as follows. A particular love means a particular election—God eternally choosing to Himself a limited number of people whom He loved in Christ. A particular election means a particular atonement—Christ dying only for those whom God loves. And a particular atonement means a particular attitude of God shown toward men—God loving only those who are in Christ Jesus.
We see from this that the possibility and basis of God’s particular love for us is Christ.
The question needs to be asked by each believer, How can God love me? How can God be gracious to me, for by nature I am no better than those He hates? How can God always love me when I, a sinner, ought to be the object of His wrath?
The answer is Christ. From all eternity, in all time, and to all eternity, the elect belong to Christ. That is something that never changes. And therefore God’s love and grace to the elect are also unchanging. Never for a moment, either now in this life or to all eternity, are the elect apart from Christ. Thus, never for a moment is love removed from them, and hatred shown instead.
God shows this love in everything He sovereignly sends us. He is loving and gracious in all His dealings with us, and through all the circumstances of life in which He places us. He is loving in all the good things He sends—rain, sunshine, children, family, health, strength, and prosperity. But it is also in His love that He sends so-called “evil” things upon us—cancer, poverty, death, floods, war, and family troubles.
God also deals with us in love (and what a wonder that is!) when we fall into sin. It is true that God is not pleased with us when we sin. And God causes us to know that, for He makes us feel, as David did, His heavy hand upon us (Ps. 32). But that heavy hand is never placed on us in hatred. Instead it chastises us and is used by God to lead us to repentance. Though heavy, it is always a loving hand of God.
We who belong to Christ may know that, because of Christ, God’s attitude is always one of love. Never hatred. Never! For all the wrath of God that we deserve for sin was placed upon Christ. Through His sacrifice and death on the cross, He satisfied the justice of God. He canceled forever the wrath of God against us.
How blessed we are to be those who are always and only loved by God.
God’s attitude toward the reprobate, on the other hand, is always and only one of hatred.
Just as love is particular, so also hatred is particular. These two are closely related to each other. The fact that God loves only the elect proves sufficiently that God hates only the reprobate. Likewise, the fact that God always loves the elect is sufficient proof that God always hates the reprobate. Particular love means particular hatred.
This is scriptural, for the Word of God speaks clearly of God’s hatred of the wicked. “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Ps. 5:5). “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). God hates specific people. God always did and always will hate them. Esau, and all the reprobate with him, are hated by God from all eternity, in all time, and to all eternity.
The reason for God’s hatred of the reprobate is that they are outside of Christ. God loves and can love only those who belong to Christ. The reprobate, therefore, can only know His hatred. It is impossible for Him to love them. He hates them, and that hatred is rooted in eternity. From all eternity God determined that they would be “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22).
God’s hatred of the wicked is constant. He hates them in all His dealings with them.
He hates them when He sends “evils” upon them—punishment for sin, sickness, war, floods, and death. He hates them when He gives “good” things to them—rain, sunshine, health, prosperity, and family. He also hates them by withholding things from them—such as hiding the truth from them (Matt. 11:25, 26), blinding them (Rom. 11:7, 8), hardening them (Ex. 4:21), sending them delusions (II Thess. 2:11-12), and causing them to stumble (I Pet. 2:7, 8). And, of course, He hates them when they sin.
God’s attitude toward the reprobate wicked is always hatred and never love.
God deals with men in particular love and particular hatred. What wretchedness that implies for the reprobate! But what unsurpassed comfort that gives to the child of God!
…to be continued.