Dr. Brian Wagner raised an interesting issue in an earlier discussion that I wish to address more fully here. I’ve included his argument below my comments for your consideration as well.
On Calvinism, God is never described as hating the elect or loving the non-elect for salvation. In fact, Calvinists typically appeal to Romans 9:13 in order to show that God’s saving love is unchangeably set before anyone was even born.
However, Scripture does describe all people being under wrath and thus “hated” by God prior to their coming to faith in Christ. This is a point even Calvinistic brethren affirm. According to Calvinists, all people are born under wrath and thus hated enemies of God, yet the Calvinist attempts to maintain that Jacob was loved prior to being born.
Was not Jacob “by nature [a child] of wrath [hated], just as the others?” (Eph. 2:3). We all should affirm that Jacob remained under wrath [hated] until he came to a point of faith and forgiveness. Even if he came to that point by some “effectual” means, as proposed by the Calvinist, it does not change the fact that he was born under Divine wrath and thus God’s hatred. Would Calvinists have us believe Jacob is born both hated and loved by God?
How does the Calvinist reconcile their belief that God loved Jacob before he was born (when dealing with Romans 9:13), yet maintain their belief that all men are born hated enemies of God (when dealing with Ephesians 2:3)?
Do you remember “The Two Will of God” defense proposed by John Piper and other Calvinistic scholars? Well, there is also a Two Kinds of Divine Love defense within some forms Calvinism. They argue that there is a general or common love that God has for all creatures, but there is also a special “salvific love” reserved for His elect. These explanations allow the Calvinist to maintain their seemingly contradictory perspective of God expressing something (I love and want all) when in reality He does not mean it (I only love and want some). One can quickly understand why some “higher” forms of Calvinism debunk this approach as being “contradictory,” and as making God out to appear “schizophrenic.” <see this link>
I suppose some Calvinists would attempt to describe the ‘hatred’ for Jacob prior to his conversion, as not being the same kind of hatred he had for Esau? Maybe there is a “Two Kinds of Hate” defense for some Calvinists as well? When Paul said, “we were by nature children of wrath [hated], just as the others,” maybe he meant the “others who are elect” and not all really “all the rest?” Who knows?
For a much less confounding explanation of God’s choice of one brother over the other, please consider this interpretation instead.
Thank to Dr. Brian Wagner, one who provides regular commentary on the blog, for bringing this issue to the forefront. Below is an argument he crafted for your consideration:
It is certain that Calvinists like camping on the reverse of that phrase (in Rom 9:13) to try to prove individual election before birth and even before creation. One might initially wonder how God can hate any baby, even Esau, before it does not do anything “good or bad” (9:11). But careful observation reveals the divine hated of “Esau”, based on the context of Paul’s quote from Malachi 1:1-5, is connected to his national posterity, Edom, not to him individually.
Having done some more thinking about all this has led me to discover a new biblical twist that reveals a big contradiction in the Calvinist’s attempt to use Paul’s quote from Malachi to prove individual election before creation. That is why I say, “Esau have I loved, Jacob have I hated” is also true, Scripturally speaking.
Does God ever “hate” the elect? Does God ever “love” the non-elect for the sake of their salvation? The Calvinist would probably say, “No!” to both these questions. But Scripture says God does formerly hate those who become “elect” in Christ, but only before they become one of the elect. And it says God also does have a love for the not-yet elect because of those who are already among the elect. Can God have a type of love and a type of hate for the same person during the same time, that is, before their salvation? I believe so!
Consider Ephesians 2:3 – “…among whom also we all [now elect] once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath [hated], just as the others.” Isn’t Paul admitting that he was once hated by God, by stating he was under God’s wrath?
Consider Romans 11:28 – “Concerning the gospel [they are] [non-elect] enemies for your sake, but concerning the election [they are] beloved [non-elect] for the sake of the fathers.” And this is a love with the hope of some of them being “grafted in” again to the covenant blessings of Israel, bringing the opportunity for individual salvation. [I take the “branches” in this passage not as individuals, but as individual “generations” of Israel and Gentile nations who are being given gospel awakenings as people groups, or who are being hardened from such opportunities because of national rejection of God’s truth.]
Consider also Rom 8:33, 35 – “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? [It is] God who justifies…. Who shall separate us [the elect] from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” The Calvinist must have the elect being loved before creation, then separated from that love at their birth, and placed under God’s wrath (hated, if you will), and then loved once again after their moment of regeneration. But this passage infers that once elect, then always loved. In my view, the elect are always loved, never unloved. But the not-yet elect are loved for the gospel sake, though hated for their sin sake. This love/hate has nothing to do with individual mental choice by God before creation.
Consider now Genesis 33:10 – “And Jacob said, ‘No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight [Esau], then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face [Esau] as though I had seen the face of God, and you [Esau] were pleased with me.’” What does such a reaction by Esau tell someone about the state of his heart? I believe it points to Esau having become one of the elect!
In support of this think of Jesus’ words found in Luke 7:47 – “Therefore I say to you, her sins, [which are] many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loves little.” Did not Esau demonstrate that he was in possession of divine forgiveness, because he obviously demonstrated loving forgiveness to Jacob? Did not he run to Jacob, fall on his neck and kiss him (33:4)? Who does that remind you of? (cf. Luke 15:20)
So what is my conclusion? If Jacob had been loved as an elect individual before creation, according to Calvinism, then he would have been “hated” at least from his birth to his conversion, which I think was up to the night before he met Esau. Jacob would have been under God’s wrath until then.
Let’s grant that Esau was “hated” as an individual, being a profane man, filled with hatred from being tricked by Jacob, and rejected from his father Isaac’s blessing, which he sought afterwards with tears, but found no change of mind (repentance) in Isaac. However, he then must have later humbly accepted God’s mercy for his own soul, and became one of the “elect”, as seen in his loving forgiveness towards Jacob. Though Esau’s lineage was never to be used in God’s redemptive plan, he himself, and other individuals from Edom, would still be “loved” by God because of Abraham and Isaac (their elect/saved fore-fathers). God would still draw individuals of Edom to have an opportunity of salvation, and to individually become part of the elect, even if their nation would corporately always represent rejection by God!
So my argument is that elect individuals are never hated! I believe no Scripture teaches any individual is elect before creation, except Christ, and that no other individuals existed before creation to be loved (or hated), except the members of the Godhead. When anyone is born, they then enter the state of being under God’s wrath, and all become “hated” in that sense. When anyone is saved, they then enter the state of being one of God’s elect, and all of them are loved with a special everlasting love that begins at that point, never to be discontinued.
There is however, also, a gracious divine love offered to the not-yet elect that comes from their connection to the elect, which flows out from God to their family/nation, designed to provide opportunities for members of their family/nation to be offered individual salvation.
Consider Romans 11:13-14 – “For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles [and one of the remnant elect of Israel], I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy [those who are] my flesh and save some of them.” Paul, as one of the elect, was being used an expression of God’s love to all the Israelites (9:1-3, 10:1), who are all “beloved,” for the elect sake, to lead as many as possible to salvation.
Compare with – 1Corinthians 7:14, 16 – “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife [but not yet saved], and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy [but not yet saved].….For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save [your] husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save [your] wife? [Or your children?” One sees in this final passage of this discussion how God’s special love for the elect/saved spouse brings a unique love and opportunity for salvation to their unsaved spouse and children, and for them to become one of the elect also, when they place their personal trust in Jesus.
Yes, every not-yet saved person is under God’s wrath, because of their unbelief (John 3:36), so that they are “hated” in that sense. But they are also loved, because of the Elect One – Jesus, so that God is reaching out to all of them, giving them adequate opportunity for repentance, to escape His wrath and forever become one of His specially loved elect in Christ!