Yes.

And no.

The question is deceptively difficult. The Bible speaks of God’s love in several different ways. D.A. Carson, in his excellent book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, mentions five (16-19):

1. The peculiar love of the Father for the Son, and of the Son for the Father.
2. God’s providential love over all that he has made.
3. God’s salvific stance toward his fallen world.
4. God’s particular, effective, selecting love toward his elect.
5. God’s love toward his own people in a provisional way, conditioned upon obedience.

After giving a brief biblical explanation for each way, Carson explains the danger of emphasizing one aspect of the love of God over the others.

If God’s love is defined exclusively by his intra-Trinitarian love, which is perfect and unblemished by sin, we won’t grasp the glory of God in loving rebels like us.

If God’s love is nothing but his providential care over all things, we’ll struggle to see how the gospel is any good news at all because, after all, doesn’t he love everyone already?

If God’s love is seen solely as his desire to save the world, we’ll end up with an emotionally charged God who doesn’t display the same sense of sovereignty we see in the pages of Scripture.

If God’s love is only understood as his electing love, we’ll too see easily say God hates all sorts of people, when that truth requires a good deal more nuance.

And if God’s love is bound up entirely in warnings like “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21), we’ll fall into legalism and lots of unwarranted self-doubt.

Talking about God’s love sounds like a simple theological task, but it’s actually one of the trickiest. I’ve heard of churches debating whether their kids should be taught “Jesus Loves Me” (some of the children might be reprobate, you never know). I know many more churches which so emphasize God’s all-encompassing love for everyone everywhere, that it’s hard to figure out why anyone should bother to become a Christian. The fact is that God loves everyone and he doesn’t. He hates the world and he loves the world. He can’t possibly love his adopted children any more than he does, and he is profoundly grieved by our sin. The challenge of good theology is to explain how the Bible provides warrant for all those statements and how they all fit together.

Any one truth about the love of God pressed to the exclusion of the others will make for a distorted deity and deadly discipleship. “In short,” Carson counsels, “we need all of what Scripture says on this subject, or the doctrinal and pastoral ramifications will prove disastrous” (23).

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113 thoughts on “Does God Love Everyone?”

  1. Mike Gantt says:

    Brandon,

    As an example of your taking verses out of context, consider your quotation of Matt 24:36 (“But of that day and hour no one knows”). In verses 32-33 Jesus said that His disciples would know the season. In verse 24, He confirms that it would happen before that generation passed away. Thus the context of “no one knows the day or hour” is as if I tell my Aunt Millie that we’ll be coming to visit her next spring, but I can’t be more specific than that. The day and hour would be unknown (because it would be like a thief in the night) but the season certainly would be. Thus you invalidate the word of God by virtue of using a minor point to obscure a major one.

    As for your criticism of the New Testament church, it is entirely inappropriate. While those churches had problems, they were united. At the first hint of division (e.g. 1 Cor 1), the apostles immediately provided correction. The corporate witness to Christ was critical and the church of that age was faithful to provide it. If there was a body of Christ today I would join it, but you cannot point it out to me. The very hallmark of modern Christianity is its divisions. Organized Christianity has dismembered the body of Christ. Where does the unified corporate witness to Christ meet in your city? (Rhetorical question; you don’t need to answer because we all know that there’s more than one church in your city and that those churches are not united.)

    Open your eyes and see that the Lord is faithful. He kept His promises to His glorious church. He has come in His kingdom and He reigns in our midst. All glory and honor and blessing be unto Him!

  2. Brandon E says:

    Mike Gantt,

    In the same chapter, the Lord Jesus also said concerning His coming and the end of this age:

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
    -Matt. 24:14

    And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
    And at that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
    And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His chosen together from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other end.
    -Matt. 24:30-31

    Have these things this occurred already, leaving most of the early believers unaware and still awaiting the coming kingdom and its judgment, the ingathering of the nations, etc.? I’m sure you’re aware of similar passages in both the Old and New Testament that seem to associate explicit, visible, even global signs that would indicate that the Lord’s coming, “the coming of the kingdom of God,” or “the day of the Lord,” had taken place. Note also that the Lord says that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached to the entire inhabited earth before the end of the age associated with His coming would come. Did this all happen in the first century? Why super-spiritualize or allegorize these and similar major utterances, but insist on only a strict and literal interpretation of “generation,” which, as I’ve already pointed out, can also in scriptural usage refer to a kind, type, stock, or race of people? Verses 31-32 indicate that they would know that the time is near once life returned to the fig tree and all the other signs took place, and you must be aware of interpretations that identity the fig tree with Israel that was still not ripe in the first century. And, to remind you, when questioned further on this point the resurrected Lord told the disciples “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). His word here about times and seasons should balance Matthew 24:31-32. The disciples were told the signs that would take place, but they didn’t know for sure when the signs would take place, and it wasn’t for them to know for sure.

    They had a hope and expectation that the Lord’s coming would be in their lifetimes, but Scripture and history also shows that they expected the Lord’s coming to be public and visible. Christ visibly ascended from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) and both the Old and New Testaments indicate that He will return visibly to the Mount of Olives. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you beheld Him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “And His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split at its middle toward the east and toward the west into a very great valley, so that half of the mountain will remove to the north and half of it to the south”(Zech. 14:4)

    As for invalidating the Lord’s word, I could just as easily say that you invalidate the Lord’s word in Matthew 16:18 and other places for the sake of your agenda. Suppose that you’re severely mistaken and that the Lord is still interested in building His church (not dead organization, of course)–would this not mean that you are misguidedly opposing God’s interests?

    —-
    While those churches had problems, they were united.
    —-
    One universal church with one church in each city is pretty much what was practiced in both eastern and western Christianity until the east-west schism, which exposed the centralization and hierarchy that had developed around the papal and eastern patriarchal systems especially since the time of Constantine. When exactly and on what grounds are you suggesting that the church became apostate and obsolete and replaced by the kingdom?
    —-
    Where does the unified corporate witness to Christ meet in your city? (Rhetorical question; you don’t need to answer because we all know that there’s more than one church in your city and that those churches are not united.)
    —-
    Let’s say there was a church that practiced one church in one city and received all the believers. Would that mean that this and all the congregations in that city are wrong, or just the ones that insisted on continuing to denominate themselves and meet separately? And you’re still not showing what Scriptural passages say that the church would become totally apostate and obsolete and replaced by the kingdom.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    Brandon,

    Your fleshly thinking is causing you to look for physical Second Coming. The thrust of the New Testament is to get us to think spiritually (see especially 1 Cor 1-3). You have been taught to denigrate spiritual-mindedness but this is the same sort of thinking that deprives so many sincere Jews today from knowing that their Messiah came long ago. Ask such a Jew how they know Messiah has not come and they will say because there is not peace in the world (“Messiah brings peace”). Thus they overlook the peace that Jesus brings to human hearts. Don’t make the same mistake regarding Jesus’ Second Coming that they make regarding His first.

    I don’t invalidate Matt 16:18 – I celebrate it! Indeed the gates of Hades were fully overcome when its captives were taken to the new heavens promised by God.

    Note that the New Testament church pursued both unity and purity of doctrine. Yet today, if a church pursues ecumenism, it must sacrifice purity of doctrine. Conversely, if a church pursues purity of doctrine it moves farther from ecumenism. Ask yourself how it was possible that the New Testament church could pursue both, but today’s church cannot? The explanation is that the kingdom has come and is in our midst. God is not building churches because He has he kingdom. Those who honor and obey Jesus are yielded to it.

  4. kyle says:

    Obviously God’s love is a multifaceted revelation in the Bible and has different expressions in the unfolding of His purpose. I think the most interesting point of this post is the following quote:

    “The challenge of good theology is to explain how the Bible provides warrant for all those statements and how they all fit together. Any one truth about the love of God pressed to the exclusion of the others will make for a distorted deity and deadly discipleship.”

    Certainly Robert Govett, who set forth the principle of the twofoldness of divine truth, would agree to this. I am happy to see this here on a Gospel Coalition blog because it allows for other seemingly contradictory truths to be accepted, most notoriously that 1) the resurrected Christ has a body of flesh and bones and is seated at the right hand of God AND that 2) the resurrected Christ became a life-giving Spirit, is the Spirit, to indwell the believers. These revealed truths are complimentary, not contradictory.

    I echo Kevin in saying, one truth about the resurection of Christ pressed to the exclusion of the others will make for a distorted deity and deadly discipleship.

  5. Brandon E says:

    Mike Gantt,
    But you believe that the believers will have bodies in the resurrection, even as the Lord has a visible, glorified body, right? And do you believe Acts 1:9-11 that indicates that the disciples beheld the Lord’s visible bodily ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives, and that He will return in the same way? So why is it fleshly to say that the Lord’s second coming will be visible in the same way, even as the Scriptures taken in their plain meaning predict? There’s plenty of evidence within Scripture and in history that the regenerate believers in the first and early centuries believed that the Lord’s second coming in full would be public and invisible, i.e., that when it happens even the spiritually blind and unbelieving nations will realize it, that all the tribes of the land (not just the “spiritually-minded”) will “see Him coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30), that when “He comes with the clouds, every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the land will mourn over Him,” (Rev. 1:7), etc. You’re saying that only the “spiritually-minded” will be aware of His coming, but the Scripture emphasizes “every eye” and “all the tribes of the land.”

    Am I not accurate in saying that your doctrine sweepingly “spiritualizes” and allegorizes away much of the signs and events surrounding the Lord’s coming in His kingdom, and yet insists on a literal, physical interpretation of the word “generation,” which was used poetically and symbolically in the Old and New Testaments?

    Simply because something can be said to be more “spiritual” than physical doesn’t mean it is biblically spiritual or that it is the better interpretation of Scripture. Some have thought it more “spiritual” to believe that Jesus having a physical body was an illusion, or that the events in the gospels did not actually happen in space-time, or that the Lord’s resurrection was only spiritual and not also bodily, or that the material world is an illusion not worth redeeming because only “spiritual” things are real. Do you disagree with them? If not, what would you say to them? To say that they’re over-spiritualizing or over-allegorizing isn’t to denigrate genuine, biblical spiritual-mindedness but to point out where absolutizing the “spiritual” over the visible or material is not appropriate.

    The Jewish people also believed that the Messiah’s coming would be physical not invisible, and indeed it was–the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Should the Jews have expected an invisible Messiah and an invisible coming, simply because expecting invisible things is supposedly “spiritually-minded” and expecting visible things is fleshly? Of course not. As far as the interpretation of the Scriptures was concerned, their mistake was to insist that the Messiah would have only a single coming in which He would do everything that was prophesied. Christ will indeed establish peace in the world; He will purge and restore the entire creation (Rom. 8:21-23; Rev. 21-22), all things in the heavens and the earth will be headed up in Him (Eph. 1:10). The inward peace in Christ in this age and the visible restoration of creation, on account of all things in the heavens and on earth being headed up in Christ, complement one another. They’re not supposed to be pitted against one another such that we have to choose between the two or emphasize one over and against the other.

    Whether a “spiritual” interpretation of the words of Scripture is appropriate depends on the context. For instance, you think–along which much of evangelical Christianity–that John 14:2 refers to going to a place (the old KJV translated the abodes as “mansions”) in heaven, but I believe that in context of the chapter refers to the believers in Christ abiding in God and God in Christ abiding in the believers–a “spiritual” interpretation. Also, since the New Jerusalem is the bride, the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:2-9-11) and throughout the Bible God’s corporate people are presented as His spouse and dwelling place, the New Jerusalem must not be a literal, physical city but redeemed people dwelling in God and God in them–also a “spiritual” interpretation.

    So where have you actually shown that those who don’t agree with you therefore have in fact been trained to think in a “fleshly” way as opposed to a “spiritual” one or to denigrate spiritual-mindedness? You’re simply assigning moral and spiritual flaws to others based on the assumption that your doctrines are correct.

    Besides, your judgments about the church in toto being apostate and obsolete and replaced by the kingdom are according to what you see with your eyes. It doesn’t take any faith to see the historical fact that Christendom is divided, but you have yet to identify which passages in Scripture predict that all the church will become apostate and obsolete and replaced by the kingdom. You only provided more of your own reasonings based on your assessment of the outward situation, but you’ve made logical leaps there as well. Why would ecumenicism not working on account of some groups insisting upon impure doctrine as criterion for fellowship show that the entire church is apostate and obsolete? Wouldn’t that really only show that those who insist upon impure or non-essential doctrine as a criterion for fellowship are wrong?

    I also pointed out that the church–organizationally and practically–was still one church, with one church recognized in each city, well past the first century. But when do you claim that the church became apostate and obsolete and replaced by the kingdom? Around 70 AD? Does that make any sense? And, more to the point, where is this predicted in the Bible?

  6. Mike Gantt says:

    Brandon,

    As you know I have generally given summary responses to your lengthy comments. In this case, I thought a detailed response might be helpful. You will find it at http://wp.me/p1eZz8-1tP

  7. I appreciate how Carson explained what it means that God loves the world. See: God so loved the world? http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/does-god-so-loved-the-world-only-mean-the-elect/

  8. William Sutherland says:

    I believe God loves everyone even if it is not apparent. His love is undeniable when scriptures from the different religions are utilized and the Universal Savior is considered.

    “God is Love” illustrates just how great God’s love is for each and every one of us. For only $1, it is well worth the investment especially since it is transformative, portrays unlimited hope and will change you forever.

    http://www.amazon.com/God-is-Love-ebook/dp/B009EGHXVK/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1348594736&sr=1-5&keywords=God+is+love

  9. paul says:

    you said that God loves the and he doesn’t…so what’s the point in this topic? will talking about this topic bring about the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of the believers? will this topic make the believers passionate in sharing the gospel of grace?

  10. paul says:

    If you can show me a single verse where Jesus says “I don’t love everyone” then I’ll rest my case….

  11. aush says:

    Paul,

    Psalm 5:5
    Psalm 11:5
    Lev 20:23
    Prov 6:16-19
    Hosea 9:15
    Matt 10:34 (not hate, but Jesus reaffirming His Holiness by stating the clear division that will exist between those who choose to allow Him to make them righteous and those who don’t.

  12. Mohammed Wahid says:

    So God loves Pagans, Athiests, Wiccans, Drug dealers, drug addicts, Alcoholics, woman beaters, adulterers, Rapists, Murderers, Those who slander him, those who worship partners beside him, those who reject him and his messengers? If God loves EVERYONE, what is the purpose of the Hell fire? If he loves everyone he wouldn’t have a need for the hell fire to cast into those who disobey him and disbelieve in him. And I’m not even going to address the rediculousness of the trinitarian beliefs… God loves those who are obedient and worship him alone and don’t slander him by accusing him of begetting a son.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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