What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Here is a podcast answering the question, “Does God Love Everyone?”

No Bible believing Christian questions the truth that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).  “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” (Ps. 145:9). This biblical truth is simply undeniable.

However, some believers do disagree as to the extent and nature of His love. For instance, some more moderate Calvinists argue that God has a “general” or “common” love for all humanity, but a “particular” or “self-sacrificial” love for those He has chosen in eternity past. Other Calvinists find this distinction unnecessary and would not qualify God’s common provisions for the non-elect reprobates as “love.” [LINK] While I reject both forms of Calvinism, the latter does appear more consistent with itself than the former.

The issue comes down to how one defines the characteristic of love. According to Paul, “love does not seek its own,” and thus it is best described as “self-sacrificial” rather than “self-serving” (1 Cor. 13:5). As Jesus taught, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It seems safe to say that love at its very root is self-sacrificial. Anything less than that should not be called “love.”  One may refer to “kindness” or “care” in reflection of some common provisions for humanity, but unless it reaches the level of self-sacrifice it does not seem to meet the biblical definition of true love.

Given that biblical definition of love as “self-sacrifice,” let us consider Christ’s command to love our enemies. Is this an expectation Christ himself is unwilling to fulfill? In other words, is He being hypocritical in this command? Of course not. The very reason He told His followers to love their enemies is “in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” (Matt. 5:45).

The meaning is undeniable. We are to love our enemies because God loves His enemies. He loves both “the righteous and the unrighteous” in exactly the same way we are told to love our enemies. The greatest commandment instructs us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:37-38). “And who is our neighbor?” (Lk. 10:29). The pagan Samaritans, who were detested as enemies of God.

In short, Jesus is teaching us to self-sacrificially love everyone, even our worse enemies, because that reflects the very nature of God Himself.

Now, we know that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law in every way (Matt. 5:17-18), which would have to include the greatest commandment. Christ’s self-sacrificial love for His enemies was certainly as encompassing as what He demanded from His followers in Luke 10. Without a doubt, Jesus loved everyone, even his greatest, most undeserving enemies; otherwise, He would have failed to fulfill the demands of the law.

Paul taught, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  And again in Romans 13:8: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Thus, to deny Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for everyone is to deny that He fulfilled the demands of the law. This would disqualify Him as the perfect atoning sacrifice.

If we accept that Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law by self-sacrificially loving all people, then how can we conclude that God’s love is any less far-reaching than that which is reflected in the Son? Would God expect our love to be more encompassing and self-sacrificial than His own?

When God invites His enemies to be reconciled (Isa. 1:18; 2 Cor. 5:20; Mt. 11:28-30), He is making an appeal from a sincere heart of self-sacrificial love. “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11). “The Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods…” (Hosea 3:1). Obviously, God does sincerely love even those who turn from His provision and grace.

With that said, I understand that some have trouble reconciling the idea of God loving His enemies with the following texts:

  • Psalm 5:5: “You hate all workers of iniquity.”
  • Psalm 7:11: “God is angry with the wicked every day.”
  • Psalm 26:5: “I have hated the assembly of evil doers.”
  • Mal. 1 – Rom. 9: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

One must understand that the term “hatred” is sometimes a reflection of “Divine wrath” expressed against those who continue in rebellion, which would not preclude God’s longing to see those under wrath come to faith and repentance. 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 our Calvinistic brethren affirm. Both Calvinists and Traditionalists teach that all people are by nature under wrath and thus “hated enemies of God” (Eph. 2:3), but we also can affirm together that God does not desire everyone to remain in that condition.

Further, it should be noted, that the term “hate” is sometimes an expression of choosing one over another for a more honorable purpose, and does not literally mean “hatred” (despise, reject). For instance, Jesus told Peter, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

No commentator worth his salt would suggest the term “hate” in Luke 14 is literal, otherwise he would be hard pressed to explain scripture’s other teachings about loving and honor our parents. Instead, this passage is rightly understood to mean that man must choose following God’s will over the will of even the most beloved in one’s life. Could the same hermeneutical principle be applied toward understanding the biblical references to God’s “hatred?”  Of course it could. In Romans 9, for instance, Paul may simply be reflecting on God’s choice of Jacob (and his posterity) for the honorable purpose of carrying His blessing over his elder brother.

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.” Therefore, these passages which reflect on God’s hatred of some are no more or less troublesome for the non-Calvinistic interpretation.

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Other passages for consideration:

Romans 5:8 : But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Psalms 117:1-2: Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!

Matthew 18:14: So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

Isaiah 63:7-10: I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, According to all that the Lord has granted us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them according to His compassion And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses… In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them.

Romans 10:1: Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

Romans 10:21: But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

Romans 11:32: For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Matthew 23:37: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

Luke 19:41-42: As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

38 thoughts on “What’s Love Got to Do With It?

  1. Dr. Flowers writes, “If we accept that Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law by self-sacrificially loving all people, then how can we conclude that God’s love is any less far-reaching than that which is reflected in the Son? Would God expect our love to be more encompassing and self-sacrificial than His own?”

    That is the logic that the universalist uses. Over against the universalists are the non-universalists who say that God will not save all people. So, we have the conundrum – God seemingly loves all people equally but God will not save all people. In the final analysis, the person whom God does not save cannot be said to be loved by God – at least, not in the same way as God loves those He does save. If God chooses not to save those that He has the power to save, then how can it be said that God loves them?

    OK No one has figured it out. It’s not an issue unique to Calvinism but must be faced by all non-universalists.

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      1. Dr. Flowers writes, “Both Universalists and Calvinists treat men as if they are the stones.”

        I think you meant that Unis and Cals treat them like “men” as it is their refusal to worship Christ (because they are like the Pharisees) that results in stones doing so. However, if you meant to equate “stones” with God’s elect, then OK. I was confused about the point you were trying to make.

        For context, Jesus said this – If men refuse then the stones will worship him – on His entry into Jerusalem to be crucified.

        Luke 19
        37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
        38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
        39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
        40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

        I think Christ’s reference to stones tells us that His message is so obvious – that He is God – that all should worship Him even as His disciples. The Pharisees only saw Christ as a blasphemer.

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    1. rhutchin You said “If God chooses not to save those that He has the power to save, then how can it be said that God loves them?”
      Does a parent not love the child that rebels and rejects him/her? The fact is that children are people and people – real people, can make choices for themselves and reject the love of the parent. This does not mean that the parent must therefore not love them. Love necessitates voluntary vulnerability or it is not love. To pretend that God cannot be vulnerable to sadness and loss is to limit God’s love. Why did God over and over again call upon Israel to repent if He was not concerned for their lives and souls? Why did He warn Cain to conquer the sin that crouched at his door? Why then did He protect Cain from revenge by the mark placed on him? Why too did Jesus mourn over Jerusalem and bemoan its coming fate if God didn’t love them?
      The fact is that humans, who cannot be other than self-determining according to God’s will, that is if they are truly human and truly people, are given choices. That’s why in Romans 1 God points out that men choose to be their own gods and turn their backs on truths that are obvious to any human that desires truth. Therefore God knew when He decided to create mankind, that man must have the option to choose the right path or reject it. Is God a lesser parent than humans who for the most part hate to see their children go wrong and continue to love them in spite of their wrong-doing?
      I don’t see that it really is an issue rhutchin.

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      1. First, “rhutchin You said ‘If God chooses not to save those that He has the power to save, then how can it be said that God loves them?'”

        I pointed out the argument made by the universalists. I think they make an interesting argument even if I disagree with it.

        Then, “The fact is that children are people and people – real people, can make choices for themselves and reject the love of the parent. This does not mean that the parent must therefore not love them.”

        No problem. So, in that situation, if the parent knows that the child he loves will die as a result of the his choices and the parent has the ability to save the child, does the parent, as an act of love, save his child? Isn’t the answer, Yes?

        Then, “Love necessitates voluntary vulnerability or it is not love. To pretend that God cannot be vulnerable to sadness and loss is to limit God’s love.”

        I think these statements represent your particular worldview and cannot be proved through the Scriptures. God did not create people to fulfill some unmet need or provide some gain to Him. As there is no gain to God, there can be no loss. Those God creates take as much advantage of God’s promises to them as they choose and then die having accomplished all they wanted (which may be restrained because they sought to do everything on their own without asking God for help). Is God sad about this? Why should He be? God was willing to help each person fulfill their dreams and to the extent that they avail themselves of God’s help, they do so. God created people free to choose and to accomplish all they wanted whether Cain or Israel or anyone else. There is nothing for God to be sad about. If anything, God might look at the people He created and think how stupid people are to try to do anything without Him.

        Finally, “The fact is that humans, who cannot be other than self-determining according to God’s will, that is if they are truly human and truly people, are given choices. That’s why in Romans 1 God points out that men choose to be their own gods and turn their backs on truths that are obvious to any human that desires truth. Therefore God knew when He decided to create mankind, that man must have the option to choose the right path or reject it. Is God a lesser parent than humans who for the most part hate to see their children go wrong and continue to love them in spite of their wrong-doing?”

        These questions apply to the lives people live. No disagreement there. Now when people are on their deathbed and only God can save them, does God’s love for His creation lead Him to save all? He has the power to do so. None of us would complain if God choose to save everyone – even the Stalins and Hitlers. If God chooses not to save any sinner, then the universalists say that we need a definition of love that provides for that outcome.

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  2. So, I love all my children equally. I offer them all ice cream, but one of them chooses not to take it. Does his choice mean I love him less? And how is saving someone against their will loving?
    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

    ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

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    1. Wildswanderer writes, “I offer them all ice cream, but one of them chooses not to take it.”

      This example denies “libertarian” free will as it portrays people without knowledge of the “otherwise” choice. If people are truly aware of the choice before them – eternal life vs eternal death (maybe ice cream and excrement in your example) – no one chooses excrement. To make that choice tells us that the person is irrational – and totally depraved as the Calvinists conclude. As Lewis correctly states, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

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      1. To which I always reply with some variation of “Hogwash!” The fact is, we all choose wrong at times even as Children of the King. Choosing sin is never rational, yet we still do it, knowing it leads only to misery. That is the reality of living in a world where we have the ability to listen to the serpents lies. Choosing life is not some mental exercise that doesn’t involve the soul and spirit and will. When I choose death, the part of me that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit cringes, but He does not force me to choose Him. You seem to conclude that the depraved soul can not desire joy, which is also nonsense. Who doesn’t desire joy? There is no human who wants to be miserable. But many who choose to believe that they can grab the joy by themselves without God. All sin is ultimately pride, and at the pinnacle of the spiritual war, what we really choose is our way or Gods. It’s not about rational or irrational so much as it is about being willing to bend the knee. It’s not about hell and heaven so much as it is about surrender or rebellion. Someone who has no concept of hell whatsoever can still choose salvation or damnation, because it’s not about understanding, its about submission.

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      2. wildswanderer rambles, “To which I always reply with some variation of “Hogwash!” The fact is, we all choose wrong at times even as Children of the King. Choosing sin is never rational, yet we still do it, knowing it leads only to misery. That is the reality of living in a world where we have the ability to listen to the serpents lies. Choosing life is not some mental exercise that doesn’t involve the soul and spirit and will. When I choose death, the part of me that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit cringes, but He does not force me to choose Him. You seem to conclude that the depraved soul can not desire joy, which is also nonsense. Who doesn’t desire joy? There is no human who wants to be miserable. But many who choose to believe that they can grab the joy by themselves without God. All sin is ultimately pride, and at the pinnacle of the spiritual war, what we really choose is our way or Gods. It’s not about rational or irrational so much as it is about being willing to bend the knee. It’s not about hell and heaven so much as it is about surrender or rebellion. ”

        I have no idea what you are trying to say. The original context is of salvation. You make a comment about ice cream (which I presumed to be analogous to salvation). So, in defending yourself above, you seem to be talking about believers making choices and not about unbelievers choosing salvation. You describe actions of the will that are free (but not related to salvation) but not libertarian free as non-Calvinists insist be true for salvation decisions.

        In your inability to write something coherent and on topic, you ramble.

        Finally, you write, “Someone who has no concept of hell whatsoever can still choose salvation or damnation, because it’s not about understanding, its about submission.”

        This makes no sense. If a person has no concept of hell, he cannot know what damnation is all about or choose it except through ignorance – which I do not think you meant to argue even though what you are trying to argue is not clear by any means.

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      3. Perhaps it isn’t clear to you, but it’s pretty simple, salvation is not merely mental assent. It’s not a math equation. Choosing God only to avoid hell is still a selfish choice. Did Adam and Eve even understand what death meant? The choice is obedience or rebellion. You insist that men will always choose life once they understand the choice, but it’s not about understanding, it’s about submitting to God’s will. Put another way, it’s a choice to love our Creator more then we love having our own way. In a lot of ways, choosing to trust seems irrational, not the other way around. Seems like Calvinists want to reduce it to a formula with only one outcome, but that’s not the reality of being in the midst of a spiritual war.

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      4. wildswanderer writes, “…it’s pretty simple, salvation is not merely mental assent. It’s not a math equation. Choosing God only to avoid hell is still a selfish choice.”

        Paul describes the thinking of the person who comes to Christ. First comes basic knowledge, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Then, “if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Following this, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Finally, “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” One chooses salvation because he understands that his sin has made him detestable to God and worthy of hell. The choice is obvious and quick for such people.

        Then you ask, “Did Adam and Eve even understand what death meant?”

        Obviously, they did not. If Adam and Eve had understood what death meant, they would not have eaten the fruit. Clearly, Eve was deceived, so she ate the fruit.

        Then, “The choice is obedience or rebellion.”

        In part. People are naturally in rebellion against God. The choice is to leave that rebellion (or make a non choice to do nothing). When God opens the eyes of the depraved person – freeing them from the tyranny of their sin – and he/she sees that they are in rebellion against God and that they must stand before Him to give account of their actions, they begin look for a way to escape that judgment. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” Then Paul explains, “if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Then “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” When people have their eyes opened and see the death that they face because of their open rebellion against God, the decision is quick – they choose Christ.

        You say, “You insist that men will always choose life once they understand the choice, but it’s not about understanding, it’s about submitting to God’s will. Put another way, it’s a choice to love our Creator more then we love having our own way. In a lot of ways, choosing to trust seems irrational, not the other way around. Seems like Calvinists want to reduce it to a formula with only one outcome, but that’s not the reality of being in the midst of a spiritual war.”

        Paul said, “[The unsaved] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” John said, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” There is no submission without understanding. Abraham believed God and it was accounted as righteousness to him. From Hebrews, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” There is nothing irrational about trusting in Christ. It is those who are without understanding who are among those described by Christ as living on rocky places or among thorns.

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      5. Robert already explained it well, so I suggest you read his post. He saved me a bunch of typing… and I just might have to use that Dylan quote! But I wanted to comment on this verse you mentioned: “Paul said, “[The unsaved] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

        Notice why they don’t become saved. Because they have hardened their hearts and in verse 19: they, having “become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.…”
        Why don’t they embrace what God has for them? Clearly, because they refuse to submit and have instead given themselves over to their own selfish desires. Their ignorance is the result of their rebellion. It is a self imposed ignorance. We all have probably met people like this, who know the plan of salvation very well, but refuse to submit to it, so they choose disbelief. You can preach the gospel till your blue in the face to them, but until they lay down their stubborn wills, and bow their stiff necks, it’s all in vain.

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      6. wildswanderer writes, “You can preach the gospel till your blue in the face to them, but until they lay down their stubborn wills, and bow their stiff necks, it’s all in vain.”

        Jesus was much more succinct telling us in John 10, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” No one can lay down his stubborn will of himself; he needs God’s help. If we wait for people to lay down their stubborn wills without God’s help, it will never happen.

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      7. It’s sad how the beauty of the gospel is lost when one lays determinism on all the scripture he reads. Instead of seeing Jesus’ gracious invitation to become one of his sheep, you see him saying “Nah, nah, you are on the outside and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
        37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

        If they were pre-destined for damnation, one has to wonder why Jesus was encouraging them to believe.

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      8. wildswandere writes, “If they were pre-destined for damnation, one has to wonder why Jesus was encouraging them to believe.”

        Let’s put your verses and mine in context.

        John 10
        25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and you believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
        26 But you believe not, because you are not of my sheep, as I said unto you….
        31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
        32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?
        33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.
        34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods?
        35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
        36 Say you of him, whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, You blaspheme; because I said, I am the Son of God?
        37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
        38 But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works: that you may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
        39 Therefore they sought again to take him:

        Following the raising of Lazarus from the dead, we read this:

        John 11
        47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.
        48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation…”
        53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

        Jesus was telling them to be reasonable and do what a reasonable person would do. However, they are depraved and depraved people do not think or act reasonably. Jesus has prepared them for the judgment to which they were predestined.

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      9. So, Jesus was telling them to do something they were not capable of doing, because God had determined not to create them with the capability to do it? Sure, makes perfect sense….not.

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      10. wildswanderer writes, “So, Jesus was telling them to do something they were not capable of doing, because God had determined not to create them with the capability to do it?”

        Jesus is not telling them to do anything – you read that into the passage because that is your worldview. Jesus merely explains that He is the good shepherd and what this means in terms of His sheep – I know my sheep and my sheep know me and My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Jesus also explains why some do not believe – you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

        This passage is a statement of fact as to the identity of Jesus and believers (His sheep). Jesus speaks clearly on this issue. One believes only because he is one of the sheep; if not one of the sheep, a person will not believe.

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      11. You read that into the passage because that is your worldview. This passage is a statement of fact as to the identity of Jesus and believers. (His sheep). Jesus speaks clearly on this issue. One is one of the sheep only because he believes; if a person will not believe, he not one of the sheep.

        “But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
        How much clearer do you need it laid out? The order here, is: Believe and you will understand. They thought they were saved by being “elect” and Jesus is saying the exact opposite of that, he is saying that they become one of his sheep when they believe, not because they are one the chosen ones. It’s clear to me from this passage that Jesus wasn’t a Calvinist.

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      12. wildswanderer writes, “‘But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

        How much clearer do you need it laid out? The order here, is: Believe and you will understand. They thought they were saved by being “elect” …

        The issue is not whether there was sufficient evidence for a person to believe. There certainly was. So, Jesus is telling them to evaluate the evidence and make a decision. Had they done so, they would naturally have believed.

        Your point was, ” Jesus was telling them to do something they were not capable of doing,” If a person evaluates the evidence and makes a decision based on that evidence, he believes. People have minds; they can reason from the evidence, they can choose to believe. Yet, people don’t believe. How can this be explained? The only explanation the Scriptures give us is, “you believe not, because you are not of my sheep.”

        Then, “Jesus is saying the exact opposite of that, he is saying that they become one of his sheep when they believe, not because they are one the chosen ones.”

        This is where your worldview blinds you to that which the Scriptures actually say. Read it again, “…you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” Why do they not believe? Because they are not one of the sheep. One must be a sheep first; then one believes.

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      13. That’s called cherry picking. Pick out one line that seems to match your theology if read a certain way. But, when we read the whole passage, we see that Jesus is showing them how to become his sheep, first, by telling them no one enters except through him, shattering all their assumptions about being in like Flinn, simply because they were Jewish, and then explaining that he and the father are one, thus he has the authority to lay down his life. First, he has to show them that they are lost, then he gives them the good news that if they believe, they will see that he and the father are one. They were so entrenched in their faulty theology that most of them only wanted to kill him to shut him up, but you’ll notice that they were divided and some did wonder if he could be who he said he was. We don’t know how many came to believe because of what he spoke here, but we can be assured he wasn’t just explaining all this to tick them off. He was explaining so that some hearts might soften and believe. Again, you have it backwards. Does a non-believer understand the scriptures?
        John 5: 39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

        Again, Jesus is saying, come to me, then your eyes will be opened and you can understand. Of course, they didn’t understand, a person can’t understand without first opening himself to the work of the Spirit.

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      14. wildswanderer writes, “That’s called cherry picking. Pick out one line that seems to match your theology if read a certain way.”

        The Scriptures present us with truth. We have a truth expressed in John 10 where Jesus explains the reason people do not believe in Him. Jesus explains, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” Your dyslexic worldview wants to read this as, “you are not my sheep because you do not believe.” Even you know that it doesn’t read that way, thus your deflection to the charge of cherry picking. Regardless what you want, the statement by Jesus is truth and you must deal with it as truth.

        Then, “But, when we read the whole passage, we see that Jesus is showing them how to become his sheep,…”

        The passage does no more than distinguish between believers (sheep) and non-believers. Your worldview extrapolates beyond that. It is clear that Jesus is speaking of His sheep (believers) from the beginning – “…the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

        At one point, Jesus refers to Himself as the “gate” saying, “whoever enters through me will be saved.” That also is a statement of truth. However, Jesus does not expand on this to explain why one person chooses to enter through Him and another does not other than to say, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” We can extrapolate from this and say that His sheep enter through Him and it is His sheep who, because they are sheep, believe in Him. Jesus does not explain how they came to be His sheep.

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      15. Only Jesus isn’t writing a lecture here. He is talking to real flesh and blood people about how to come to God. Like I already stated, it’s your world view that makes you read the passage in such a way as to limit grace, instead of expanding it. The same thing ya’ll do to Romans, you do here, read it backwards to get limited atonement, when it’s all about opening the gate to whoever will enter through Christ. Seems we are at a stalemate, so no need to continue making the same points in different words…

        Like

      16. “Perhaps it isn’t clear to you, but it’s pretty simple, salvation is not merely mental assent.”

        One of my favorite ways to make this point, and I have done this in sermons, bible studies, etc. Is to talk about the Devil, I call him the greatest theologian in the world because He knows all of it, knows its all true, has inside knowledge it is true, completely understands it to be true: AND YET HE IS NOT SAVED! I then make my punchline: what is the difference between you and him? The main difference is that he refuses to submit, and you are in submission to the Lord.

        “The choice is obedience or rebellion.”

        I like to frame it the way Dylan does in that song: who you gonna serve? You have to serve somebody, it is either God or Satan, but it will be somebody
        .
        “ You insist that men will always choose life once they understand the choice, but it’s not about understanding, it’s about submitting to God’s will.”

        Exactly! The angels ought to be a vivid lesson on this for us: some understood the choice much more than we ever understood spiritual things when we make our choice, and yet some of them chose not to submit to God but to rebel.

        I like the description of Christians that a friend of mine likes to use: “tamed rebels”! That conveys it very well. Rebels who rebelled against God who now have given up the rebellion and got on their knees begging God to forgive them.

        “Put another way, it’s a choice to love our Creator more then we love having our own way.”

        This is why Jesus was the great example, when in Gethsemanae he said “not my will but your will be done”.

        Here the great C. S. Lewis quote applies:

        ““There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”.” (The Great Divorce)

        “In a lot of ways, choosing to trust seems irrational, not the other way around.”

        Again for many people the choice is either to trust in the Lord or trust in themselves (ever hear someone say something like: “Nobody tells me what to say, do or think”, that is the mantra of the hell bound person, or to quote Sinatra “I did it my way”). This is why religion is so popular with many, in religions you trust in what you have done as that is what you think saves you. In religions you get to “stay in control” (at least you think you are in control when you really are not).

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      17. Robert writes, “I then make my punchline: what is the difference between you and him? The main difference is that he refuses to submit, and you are in submission to the Lord.”

        The difference can only be that which God has done. It is God who regenerates a person whereby they hear the word preached, receive faith, and believe confessing Christ to be Lord. Robert gives glory to man and not to God.

        Like

      18. “Perhaps it isn’t clear to you, but it’s pretty simple, salvation is not merely mental assent.”

        One of my favorite ways to make this point, and I have done this in sermons, bible studies, etc. Is to talk about the Devil, I call him the greatest theologian in the world because He knows all of it, knows its all true, has inside knowledge it is true, has seen every miracle that Jesus did, completely understands it to be true: AND YET HE IS NOT SAVED! I then make my punchline: what is the difference between you and him? The main difference is that he refuses to submit, and you are in submission to the Lord.

        “The choice is obedience or rebellion.”

        I like to frame it the way Dylan does in that song: who you gonna serve? You have to serve somebody, it is either God or Satan, but it will be somebody.

        “ You insist that men will always choose life once they understand the choice, but it’s not about understanding, it’s about submitting to God’s will.”

        Exactly! The angels ought to be a vivid lesson on this for us: some understood the choice much more than we ever understood spiritual things when we make our choice, and yet some of them chose not to submit to God but to rebel.

        I like the description of Christians that a friend of mine likes to use: “tamed rebels”! That conveys it very well. Rebels who rebelled against God who now have given up the rebellion and got on their knees begging God to forgive them.

        “Put another way, it’s a choice to love our Creator more then we love having our own way.”

        This is why Jesus was the great example, when in Gethsemane he said “not my will but your will be done”.

        Here the C. S. Lewis quote already mentioned again applies:

        ““There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”.” (The Great Divorce)

        “In a lot of ways, choosing to trust seems irrational, not the other way around.”

        Again for many people the choice is either to trust in the Lord or trust in themselves (ever hear someone say something like: “NOBODY tells me what to say, do or think”, that is the mantra of the hell bound person, or to quote Sinatra “I did it my way”). This is why religion is so popular with many, in religions you trust in what you have done as that is what supposedly saves you. In religions you get to “stay in control” (at least you think you are in control when you really are not).

        Like

  3. Great. As I was listening to one of your recent podcasts on being “man-centered” and contemplating the beauty of Christ’s love I couldn’t help but think… we are being “conformed to the image” of God’s Son… as we meditate and preach on his universal salvific love, we are literally being conformed into that same image of Jesus, that same love he displayed, by the Holy Spirit. Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent article, soon-to-be Dr. Leighton!

    And, about those Calvinists who “argue that God has a ‘general’ or ‘common’ love for all humanity, but a ‘particular’ or ‘self-sacrificial’ love for those He has chosen in eternity past,” they often cite Matthew 5:45 as an example of “common grace.” Basically the claim is that God only “loves” most people enough to shine the sun on them and water their crops, but not enough to want them saved.

    I remember a Pastor who responded to that by bringing up Matthew 16:26, when Jesus said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus is clearly saying that material blessings in this world are nothing compared to the salvation of the soul. Thus, if God “only” loves most people enough to water their crops, but doesn’t “love” them enough to want them saved, then He doesn’t really “love” them at all. We know God is Love. And love wants what’s best for folks. Obviously salvation is what’s best for all people, so God can’t possibly love the world in any meaningful sense of the word if He doesn’t want the world saved.

    Yet, as we know, He will never force Himself on people, since FORCED “intimacy” or FORCED “love” is an oxymoron. That’s NOT “love,” it’s spiritual rape. I loving relationship is, by definition, RECIPROCAL. God wants a LOVING relationship with us, and He knows He can never have that unless we CHOOSE it; that’s why He granted us free will and the power of choice. He loves us all, wants us all, calls us all to repentance, and will accept anyone who comes. But if people choose to reject Him, that’s on them, not on Him.

    No Calvinist can ever say their version of God is loving or just, since He damns people for making choices they supposedly couldn’t help but make. Or for rejecting that which they supposedly had no power to accept. Calvinists can claim til they’re blue in the face that God can pick/choose folks to forcefully save and still be “just,” but I bet most of them know better deep down.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Amyrabatya writes, “He will never force Himself on people, since FORCED “intimacy” or FORCED “love” is an oxymoron. That’s NOT “love,” it’s spiritual rape.”

    Of course, no one who thereby escapes hell would describe it that way. Maybe you should look at this from the perspective of those who are bound for hell and can do nothing about it.

    Then, “No Calvinist can ever say their version of God is loving or just, since He damns people for making choices they supposedly couldn’t help but make.”

    On this point the Scriptures are clear – “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…”

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  6. P.S. No self-respecting God would want to force, program, predetermine anyone to love Him, since God knows forced love can never actually be love in any real sense. He wants real relationships, not puppets on a string that He merely uses to love and worship Himself (how pathetic would that be if it were actually true? lol). Love, by definition, is reciprocal and mutual from the start. Anything less than that is nothin’ but a farce.

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    1. P.P.S. Oh, and, for the record, Hutch, there are many youngsters who get statutorily raped by grown-ups who carefully groomed and manipulated them. They wouldn’t characterize the situation as “rape,” either, but that doesn’t change what it is… The argument that it’s not “rape” just because the victims wouldn’t “characterize” it that way is, well, transparently fallacious.

      Even if the rest of creation is clueless, GOD would know. And a God who is LOVE could never do that, let alone be satisfied with it — an eternal farce with a bunch of muppets who never actually chose Him. He would know the truth, which is that, in reality, NO ONE is actually adoring or worshiping Him, but rather we are mere props that He is using to adore and worship Himself.

      What a pathetic, sad, and perverse state of affairs. Thank God it’s a lie from hell, lol. Praise God He has so much more dignity than what Calvinism tries to reduce Him to! 🙂

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  7. Wildswanderer,

    “It’s not about rational or irrational so much as it is about being willing to bend the knee. It’s not about hell and heaven so much as it is about surrender or rebellion. Someone who has no concept of hell whatsoever can still choose salvation or damnation, because it’s not about understanding, its about submission.”

    That is a very true observation.

    I do a lot of evangelism and have lots of staff that I have trained to do evangelism. And what we run into (after having witnessed to a person and made the claims of Christ clear and shared the gospel with them) most often for the reason they do not want to believe. Is not an intellectual problem (say the problem of evil) or a problem with the Christian faith (it is not true, the evidence is not there for it, etc.). No, over and over again, it is **the issue of submission**. They just do not want to submit to God, bow the knee to Christ. They will not say it is false, instead it is a case of “I will not submit to anyone, I want to be in control of my life.” Jesus alluded to this in one of his parables where he has the antagonists explicitly say: “This man will not rule over us!” And this reminds me of the Bob Dylan song, “You gotta serve somebody, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”

    Liked by 1 person

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