Q. One question bothered me all along. When I first learned the Bible, Jn 3:16 moved me with God’s forgiveness of sinners. Yet at the same time, the Bible often mentioned “election” e.g. “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”, which led me to feel God loved some people more. Perhaps “God so loved the world” does not mean He loved everyone the same as I first thought. What’s your view?
A. Some feel either God loves everybody equally, or He wouldn’t be fair. The Bible actually does not teach this “either/or” type of love, but a “both/and” kind – God loves both the elect and the non-elect, just not in the same way. Let me show what I mean:
• Mt 5:44-45 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
• Acts 14:16-17 In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
• Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
• 1 Tim 2:3-4 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
• 1 Jn 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
At a basic level, God loves the good and the evil by sending physical provisions to both, not just the righteous but the unrighteous as well. He desires all to be saved, and does not wish any to perish, even though some do not receive Him. God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us, while we were yet sinners. Jesus’ death is not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world.
However, at a deeper level, God has a saving love for the elect, those whom He had chosen:
• Jn 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
• Jn 17:9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;
• Rom 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
• Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
• 1 Tim 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Believers are beloved of God and called as saints. The Lord knows them and asks on their behalf, not of the world. God causes all things to work together for their good, and has blessed them with every spiritual blessing. He did not do the same for those who reject Christ.
Not only did God differentiate between the elect and the non-elect, we are supposed to do the same:
• Ga 6:10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
• 1 Tim 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
We are to do good to all people as He did, but especially those of the household of the faith. This is understandable. Those with a good heart love all people, not just their own, but it is reasonable for them to love and provide for their family first. Not to do so is worse than an unbeliever. Hope this helps.