There are still some texts which Prof. Kuiper quotes in his article which I must briefly discuss.
The first of these is Matthew 5:43-45. On this Kuiper writes: “To state the matter briefly, they taught that God loves only the elect and, proceeding from that basic tenet, they made several denials. In spite of such B passage, among others, as Matthew 5:43-45, where citizens of the kingdom are commanded to love their enemies in order that they may prove themselves’ children of the heavenly Father, who does that very thing, they denied that there is in God an attitude of favor toward the non-elect.”
Now, the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924 also quoted the text as a proof that God is gracious to the wicked as well as to the righteous. It is too bad that the Synod merely quotes without even attempting to explain it. And the reader may find an interpretation in my book The Protestant Reformed Churches. In view of the fact, however, that many of our readers do not have this book, I will quote from it here.
I wrote as follows:
“If the Synod’s interpretation of this text were the correct one, it would prove far too much and, besides, it would lead to absurdity. It is deplorable that the Synod merely quoted without even an attempt at explanation; otherwise it would soon have discovered how untenable this position is that in these verses we have a proof that God is gracious to all men. The interpretation which, evidently, Synod would offer, runs as follows:
“a. We must love our enemies.
“b. If we do, we will be children of God and reflect His love, for He loves all His enemies, as well as the good, in this present life.
“c. This love of God is manifested in the rain and sunshine on all without distinction.
“Of this interpretation we assert that, first, it proves too much, and, secondly, that it leads to absurdity and is untenable. It proves too much, for all the Scriptures witness that God does not love but hates His enemies and purposes to destroy them, except them that He chose in Christ Jesus, and not as His enemies, but as His redeemed people, justified and sanctified in Christ. God does, indeed love His enemies, but not as such, but as His children in Christ. And it leads to absurdity, for if rain and sunshine were a manifestation of God’s love to all men, the just and the unjust, what are floods and droughts, pestilences and earthquakes, and all destructive forces and evils sent to all through nature, but manifestations of His hatred for all, the just and the unjust? But it is absurd to say that God hates the just, for He loves them. It is also absurd to say that God changes, now loving the just and the unjust, and manifesting this love in rain and sunshine, now hating them and revealing His hatred in upheavals and destruction. Hence, the interpretation that leads to this evident absurdity is itself absurd.
“Besides, it must not be overlooked that the text does not at all state that God is gracious to the just and to the unjust, but He sends rain and causes His sun to shine on all.
“How then must the text be interpreted?”
We must take our starting point from vs. 44. The Lord admonishes His people that they shall love their enemies. Now, love is not a sentimental feeling or affection. It is, according to Scripture, the bond of perfectness. It is, therefore, the bond between two parties or persons that are ethically perfect, that seek each other and find delight in each other because of their ethical perfection, and that, in the sphere of ethical perfection seek each other’s good. It is in this true sense that God is love.
“However, it stands to reason that, in the case of loving our enemies, that despitefully use us, curse us and persecute us, love must needs be one-sided. There cannot be a bond of fellowship between the wicked and the perfect in Christ. To love our enemy, therefore, is not to flatter him, to have fellowship with him, to play games with him and to speak sweetly to him; but rather to rebuke him, to demand that he leave his wicked way and thus to bless him and to pray for him. It is to bestow good things upon him, walk in the light and thus to have fellowship with him. If he heed our love, which will be the case if he be of God’s elect, and receive grace, he will turn from darkness into light and our love assumes the nature of a bond of perfectness. If he despises our love, our very act of love will be to his greater damnation. But the cursing and persecution of the wicked may never tempt the child of God to live and act from the principle of hatred, to reward evil for evil, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
“As a single illustration from actual life and experience, the Lord points to the fact, that God rains and causes His sun to shine upon the just and upon the unjust alike, thus bestowing good things upon them all, demanding that they shall employ them as means to walk in righteousness and light. For with God is delight in perfection in the highest sense of the word. If now the wicked receive grace with rain and sunshine, they will walk in the light and have fellowship with God. If they do not receive grace they will employ the rain and sunshine in the service of sin and receive the greater damnation.
“But rain and sunshine is never grace, and Matthew 5:44, 45does not prove the contention of the first point.”
This was my interpretation of this passage several years ago, and in the main, I still agree with this explanation.
Prof. Kuiper also mentions the text in Luke 6:33: “If ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for also sinners do even the same.” This passage is quoted, not so much to prove that God loves all men, but to show that natural men are able to do good works through the power of common grace, something which, ever since 1924 and even before that, we deny.
But let us see.
Of course, it stands to reason, as I remarked before and more than once, we may never quote a single passage from Scripture all by itself, for then we can make Scripture prove almost anything. Always we must quote and explain a certain text in its immediate context as well as in the context of the whole Bible.
Now, the main question in this connection is whether sinners or natural men do good. And this brings up the further question: what is good?
The immediate context reads as follows: “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you. that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them which curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smites thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take away thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the highest, for he is kind to the unthankful and evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful.”
Now the question which we must answer is: What is good and what good do sinners, that is, the wicked and ungodly reprobate do?
These questions I would answer as follows:
1. Negatively, the text does not say that the wicked or sinners, natural men do good. I am referring now, first of all, to vs. 33, the text that is quoted by Prof. Kuiper. The very contrary is true. For the text plainly states that sinners do good to those that do good to them. They do not do good to all their fellowmen. In other words, their doing good is pure selfishness. They do no good before God. They do not good to please God. They do not even good in the natural sense of the word. The so-called good they do they do not even do to help or to please their fellowmen. They seek and please themselves. This is corroborated in the entire context. Sinners, natural men, love those that love them, vs. 32. They lend to those from whom they receive again, vs. 34. They do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, nor those that belong to Him and walk in His ways. On the contrary, they hate them, they curse them, they despitefully use them, they smite them on the cheek, they take away their goods, vss. 25-30.
Now, would you say that the text in Luke 6:33 means that sinners do good? O, it is true that the Lord Jesus literally says they do good, butt do not forget the Lord adds that they do good only to those that do good to them.
Also this text was quoted by the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, as a would-be proof for the Third Point, and also this text I explained in my book The Protestant Reformed Churches. There I wrote as follows:
“But does not the text from Luke 6:33 plainly state that sinners do good?
“On the contrary, it plainly states that they do no good. That Synod could quote passages such as this only proves how desperately hard pressed they were for even a semblance of evidence for the truth of the third point. It appears that in quoting this text the learned committee that presented their report to the Synod on this matter were led astray by the mere sound of the word good, and without even seriously reading the text, they concluded that here they had, indeed, found indubitable proof for the theory that the wicked can do good. What does the text teach? That sinners can do good? That there is an influence of the Holy Spirit upon them by which they are somewhat improved? To be sure there is not the slightest reference for these gross errors in the text. The Lord does not declare that sinners do good. It does not even state that they do good to man. Still more, He does not assert that they do good to one another. What it does state is that they do good to them that will reward them with good, that they love those that love them. And what is this? Is it good? No, it is mere selfishness of the sinful man. And the Lord uses their examples to warn His disciples not to do good in like manner. I suppose that the more earnest minded of the synodical delegates, looking back upon 1924, are ashamed of themselves that they could be led astray by the mere sound of words!”
The positive idea implied in the text of Luke 6:33, taken in its entire context, I must discuss in our next editorial, D.V.