Monthly Archives: May 2015

Does God Love Some People and Hate Others?

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As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:13)

Jesus tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may never perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Peter tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).  And Paul tells us that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).   It sounds to me like God loves everyone.  However, to be clear, He hates all evil deeds and actions of people.  In other words, God always loves the person (because He wants him or her to be saved and not destroyed) but hates the sin that person commits.  God does not delight in the death of anyone: “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God (Ezek. 18:32).

So then, what about the passage about God “hating” Esau? We know that Esau despised his birthright and had no regard for God while his brother Jacob responded to God’s voice and desired to follow Him.  Paul tells us that before Esau and Jacob were born that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau.

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:10-13)

Some feel bad for Esau and say “that isn’t fair,” as if Paul is somehow saying that God predetermined one for evil and one for good and they had no free choice in the matter.  But the context of that passage is concerning Israel and the Gentiles and God’s willingness to save anyone who comes to Him by faith in Jesus Christ.  The very lesson there is that God calls us based on our faith and obedience to the gospel and not based on our lineage or the works of the law.  Here is how the chapter ends:

Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Rom. 9:33).

Like Esau, everyone has the choice to stumble over the truth and reject God or like Jacob, to choose to put their faith in God and His promises.  Let’s understand that God is love and as such He desires to demonstrate His love and kindness to everyone.  He did not desire that Esau would be godless and reject Him, but since God has perfect foreknowledge of the future, He knew the choices that both Jacob and Esau would make.  He knew that Esau would choose to reject Him and that Jacob would choose to accept and follow Him.  So, since Esau chose by free will to reject God, God then rejected Esau.  If we deny him, he also will deny us (2 Tim. 2:12).  But if Esau would have repented and chosen to follow God, he would have then been accepted by God.  “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you” (Zech. 1:3).  So, God favored Jacob over Esau not by some arbitrary, random choice, but because Jacob responded to God’s grace and Esau did not.  The best way to understand this passage then, is to say that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau.  He favored Jacob.  He loved the fact that Jacob chose to follow Him and bring Him glory but hated the fact that Esau rejected Him and treated the things of God so cheaply.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Heb. 12:14-17)

How can I verify or confirm this interpretation? Well, Jesus says that unless we “hate” our mother, father, wife, and children we cannot be His disciples (see Luke 14:26).  Yet, Jesus tells us to love one another and that to treat each other as we want to be treated sums up all the Law and the Prophets.  Loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments.  We are never to hate anyone.  In fact, we are even to love our enemies because God does too!

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

So, what does Jesus mean by “hate”?  Simply, we are to love Jesus more than anyone else.  We are to obey Him and follow Him, even if that means that family members or friends will leave, reject, mistreat, or not respect us because of our faith in Christ.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 10:34-40)

But that doesn’t mean Jesus is asking us to stop loving our families!  It means to love Jesus first and put Him above everyone else.  We can then conclude that God favored Jacob above Esau, as we should favor Jesus above all others.

So, does God love some and hate others? No. He loves everyone.  But He favors those who love Him and follow Him and even calls them His own children!

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. (1 John 3:2)

Those that do not know God and have rejected Him are not favored by Him, but if they repent and believe in Christ and follow Him as their Lord and Savior, they too can become favored.  Praise God for His kindness!

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

The Type of Faith That Saves

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We know that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ Jesus alone and in His finished work (Eph. 2:8-9).  Our good works can never save us, only faith in the One who obeyed God perfectly can.  By the works of the law we understand that no one will be justified in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20).  The question then, is what type of faith saves someone? What is true faith in Christ? James tells us that the type of faith that saves is the type that has good deeds or actions as its fruit and evidence.  He tells us that faith that is by itself (just a mental ascent or agreement that “I believe in Christ”), without the accompanying deeds of love and obedience, is “dead” or not a saving faith.  In other words, when we really believe in Christ we are transformed and become people of good works.  In fact, this is how we are recognized as Christians.  I can say that I have faith, but I can show you that I have faith by my good works.  Good works are the evidence of true faith.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (James 2:14-24)

“A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone”:

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. (Heb. 11:4)

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Heb. 11:7)

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Heb. 11:8)

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. (Heb. 11:17)

 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Heb. 11:24-25)

 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. (Heb. 11:20)

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Heb. 11:31)

Faith is always tied to obedience.  True faith is proven by obedience:

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Heb. 11:16-19)

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24)

When we repent and confess our sins, God forgives us and cleanses us and forgets our sin (1 John 1:9).  On the other hand, we can’t rely on the things of our past to keep us in good standing with God.  He demands that we continue to walk in righteousness.  The picture here is how the Israelites’ could not rely on yesterday’s manna.  It would rot.  Only their “daily bread” or the “fresh manna’ was edible.

“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29 Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezek. 18:24-32)

So, the type of faith that saves is demonstrated by the fruit of good works in our lives.  We may have periods of being “fruitless” but because our faith is genuine and the seed of the gospel in us produces godly fruit, the pattern of fruit bearing will continue to be evident throughout our Christian walk.

We can’t rely on yesterdays harvest!

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest
’ ” (Heb. 3:6-11)