What Love is That?
by Mitch Cervinka

In his book What Love is This? Dave Hunt expresses the typical Arminian reaction to Calvinistic teaching—namely, that a God who chooses only some to be saved is not a very loving God.  In reply, I wish to examine the sort of love Mr. Hunt advocates to see if it is truly worthy of our loving God.  "What love is that, Mr. Hunt, that you would offer in place of electing love?"

Arminian Love is Limited by Human "Free Will".

Both the Arminian and the Calvinist put limits on the love of God—this is required by the fact that God does not save all men.  Arminian love is one that is broad but shallow—it encompasses all men, but doesn't love anyone enough to ensure his salvation.  Calvinistic love is selective but deep—it infallibly saves each and every one embraced by it.  Arminian love is like a very wide bridge that goes halfway across a deep gorge.  Calvinistic love is like a somewhat narrower bridge that goes all the way across.

Arminian love is like the reaction of a mother who sees her child running out into a busy street and merely calls out to him to come back, not wishing to interfere with the child's free choice for self-destruction.  Calvinistic love is like that of a mother who runs after her child and restrains him from running into the street—caring more for the ultimate safety of her child than for respecting the child's free will choice.  Which of the two mothers would we consider to be more loving?  Shall we judge God's love by a different standard?[1]

In the final analysis, the Arminian exalts human free choice above salvation.  In the Arminian scheme, God's so-called "love" is bent on protecting man's free will at all costs—even if this means the man will spend eternity in hell.  The Arminian idea of love is that God desires the salvation of all, but that He stops short of overruling man's free decision to rebel against God and perish in hell.  The Arminian sees man's free choice as an insurmountable barrier that God is not allowed to cross.  God is allowed to plead, to reason, to argue, etc., but never to change a man's heart without the man's permission.  In the Arminian scheme, God may only stand outside the door of the human heart and knock, hoping someone inside will let Him come in.

The Calvinist, on the other hand, recognizes man's will to be governed by man's sinful, rebellious nature.  God's love seeks to save us from our sin, and from the destructive choices that flow from our sin.  God will overrule our sinful choices in order to bring blessing to us—this is the "amazing grace" presented to us in the gospel—that God saves sinners from their sinful, self-destructive decisions, giving them a new heart that loves and trusts God.  To the Calvinist, there are no barriers that God's omnipotent love cannot break through—God loves His elect so much that He will employ all His omnipotent power, if needed, to bring them to faith in Christ and eternal salvation from their sin.  If a man perishes, it is because of his own sinful will.  If a man is saved, it is due solely to God's sovereign, undeserved grace and mercy, overruling man's rebellious unbelief.

The Relation of Sin to Unbelief.

The Arminian fails to understand that unbelief is the natural, inevitable product of the unregenerate man's sinful heart.  There is no source, no foothold for faith in the heart of the unregenerate man.  He loves sin and hates God—not just occasionally, but constantly, perpetually.  It requires that divine miracle of grace called "regeneration" to change the unregenerate man so that he is now attracted to God.

Until his heart has been changed, the gospel has no appeal to Him.  Indeed, it is foolishness, or else he perverts it by seeing it as an excuse to continue reveling in sin—supposing that he can be saved from the penalty of sin, without being saved from the power or practice of sin.  It doesn't matter how tenderly you plead with him, nor how convincingly you argue with him, the unsaved man will never respond in genuine saving faith.  It is like trying to pick up a piece of wood with a magnet.  No matter how strong a magnet you use, it will not attract the wood, simply because there is nothing in the wood that is attracted to the magnet.  So also, there is nothing in the unregenerate human heart that would be attracted to a holy, sovereign God, nor to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture teaches this lesson often—namely, that man's will is governed by his sinful nature, and that God must change us if we are to believe in Christ.

God, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions[2].  The apostle says that this is what it means to be "saved by grace".

Ephesians 2:4-5 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
The reason why a rebellious sinner comes to faith in Christ is not because that rebellious sinner somehow, of his own "free will", is able to escape his rebellious nature, but because God first intervenes to make him alive with Christ.  We were once spiritually dead, "But God" intervened and "made us alive together with Christ" while we were still "dead in our transgressions".

Note that this argument does not rest on the meaning of "dead", as is sometimes supposed.  Rather, it rests upon the fact that it was God who took the initiative and made the difference by making us alive when we were still dead in our sins.  No matter what meaning you assign to the phrase "dead in our transgressions", at the very least it means that we were still unsaved when God, of His own initiative, stepped in and regenerated us.  "But God", says the apostle—"But God ... even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive ...".  In this passage, the cause of God's quickening us is not some decision we made, nor some faith that we first chose to exercise.  The only thing that we are said to bring to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary.  In this text our salvation depends on God alone for its conception and accomplishment.

The apostle is very clear about this, and, lest we still harbor any doubts, he later concludes by saying that salvation is "not of yourselves"—and that we are God's workmanship...

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The unsaved sinner, because of his sin, is unable and unwilling to come to Christ unless and until the Father sovereignly draws him by His Holy Spirit...
John 6:44 - "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

John 6:64-65 - "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.  And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."

Jesus gave this as the reason why "there are some of you who do not believe"—namely, because "no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."  If God granted this ability to all men, it would not explain why some did not believe.  Jesus' explanation only makes sense if God draws some unbelievers, and enables them to come to Christ, and justly leaves the rest in their unbelief.

God has the freedom to open hearts and grant faith and repentance.  Remember how He opened Lydia's heart, so that she responded to the things taught by Paul...

Acts 16:14 - A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.
And notice that we are to correct unbelievers with gentleness, having the confident hope that God is sometimes pleased to grant repentance to them...
2 Timothy 2:25 - with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
Or notice the promise of Ezekiel, that God would give us a new heart and a new spirit.
Ezekiel 36:26 - "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
This begs the question "What's wrong with our old heart?"  The answer, as we have already seen, is that man's old heart is rebellious and unbelieving.  Man sins because he freely chooses to sin.  Man disbelieves because he has a sinful, unbelieving heart that freely chooses to rebel against God.

Man needs a new heart in order to want to come to Christ and be saved.  To require the sinner to first come to Christ by "his own free will" in order to receive the new heart is to miss the point of what is wrong with our heart.  If we already had a heart that would willingly come to Christ, we would have no need of a new heart.  The glorious promise of the gospel is that God freely gives us the believing heart we so desperately need.

The Arminian must ultimately say that the reason why some are saved and others are not is due to some difference in the persons themselves.  Some freely, of themselves, choose to believe (and thereby prove themselves to be worthy of God's favor), whereas others are too rebellious, and hence too sinful to be saved.  Some had the good sense to believe, and others were not so wise.  God thus saves sinners, but not the worst sinners.  God saves only wise people, not foolish ones.  All such notions are denials that salvation is by God's grace and mercy alone, and all such notions introduce human merit, wisdom or virtue as the deciding factor.

A Greater Love.

The Arminian denies that God exercises His sovereign will to overrule men's rebellious decisions.  Hence, the Arminian denies that anyone is "elect" in the sense that the Calvinist understands the word "elect".  In other words, in the Calvinistic sense of the word "elect", the Arminian views all men as non-elect.  The Arminian says about all men the same thing that the Calvinist says about the non-elect—namely, that God leaves them to make their own decision regarding Christ—God will not overrule their will.

Historic, mainline Calvinists have no problem saying that God gives the non-elect the opportunity to freely come to Christ.  Where we depart from the Arminian is this:

  1. We confess that no unregenerate person ever has any desire to come to Christ, and
  2. We confess that God must first regenerate a person before he will be willing to believe
The Calvinist says about the non-elect many of the things that the Arminian says about all men.  Namely, that God sends the gospel to them, reasons with them to come to Christ, gives His evangelists a heart of compassion for them, pleading with them "Why will you die?" (Ezekiel 18:31) and warning them to "Flee the wrath to come!" (Matthew 3:7).

But if this were all there was to the love of God, then no one would ever be saved.  The great wonder of the gospel is that God goes beyond this.  The Calvinist will grant that God does everything the Arminian says[3], but that the Arminian's scheme still doesn't do enough to get totally depraved sinners saved.  Calvinistic love goes one monumental step further—God loves some unrepentant sinners enough to overrule their sinful free-will decisions in order that they might be saved.  Arminian love stops short of doing this, but Biblical, Calvinistic love seeks what is best for the individual—even if it means overruling the sinner's self-destructive free-will decision to reject Christ.  God sovereignly gives to lost, rebellious sinners the believing heart they so desperately need, so that they might trust in Christ and be saved.

Thus, Calvinistic love is the greater love.  Arminian love is little more than a universal benevolence and good-will toward men that is insufficient to save anyone.  Calvinistic love goes beyond this, willing to step in and overrule man's sinful, rebellious free choice to disbelieve the gospel.

God's universal benevolence can be compared to the starlight that falls on the earth.  Starlight provides a witness of the existence, power and beauty of God, but starlight cannot warm us on an icy winter's night.  God's electing love is like the sunlight that falls on the earth—warm, brilliant and life-giving.  Sunlight causes plants to grow and thrive, whereas starlight is far too feeble to sustain life.

The sun strikes only one-half of the earth's surface at any given moment, but starlight is constantly falling on all parts of the earth.  However, on the daylit side of the earth, the starlight is entirely drowned out by the exceedingly greater brilliance of the sun.  In the same way, God's electing love is directed toward some men, not all, but it so exceeds God's universal "love" that the latter hardly deserves to be called "love" (which is why Scripture rarely speaks of God's universal kindness as "love").

It is as though the Arminian knows only the night sky, full of cold, twinkling stars, and supposes that this is all there is to God's love.  The Calvinist acknowledges the existence of the twinkling stars, but has also seen the brilliant light of the sun—a light that produces searing heat, dispels shadows and illuminates everything it strikes.  Apart from God's electing love, no one would ever be saved.  Hence, God's sovereign, electing love is, by far, the greater love.

The Testimony of Scripture.

God's beloved people.
The apostle Paul often referred to His fellow-Christians by the distinctive name: "beloved of God"...

Romans 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.

Ephesians 5:1 - Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

Colossians 3:12 - So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

1 Thessalonians 1:4 - knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;

2 Thessalonians 2:13 - But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

This phrase would be inappropriate to apply to believers only if all men were loved by God. The Greek word here is agapetos, which is simply the adjective form of the noun agape, which means "love".  It would be a mistake for us to suppose that God's people merely become "beloved" when they believe in Christ, for Scripture plainly says that God loved us while we were still unregenerate (indeed, He loved us in eternity past, before we were yet born).
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:4-5 - just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

The benefits of God's love.
Look again at the passages where God's people are called "beloved of God".  Whenever the apostle calls them "beloved of God", he always reminds them of their privileges as God's beloved people:  that God has chosen them to receive salvation and has called them to be saints, and they are His beloved children...

Romans 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.

Ephesians 5:1 - Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

Colossians 3:12 - So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

1 Thessalonians 1:4 - knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;

2 Thessalonians 2:13 - But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

This demonstrates that (1) not all men are "beloved", but God's chosen people only;  (2) not all men are "chosen", but God's own people only; (3) there is an intimate relationship between God choosing them and His loving them—God mercifully chose them as the special objects of His love, that they might be eternally saved from their sins.  God did not choose us because we were more lovely than others, nor because we were more deserving of His love than others, nor because He could look down through the corridors of time and see that we, unlike the rest, would have the "good sense" to put our faith in Christ.
Romans 9:16 - So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
God loved us and chose us for no reason in ourselves, but only because of His own sovereign good pleasure.  We are "beloved" simply because a sovereign God was pleased to set His love upon us and thereby distinguish us from the rest of fallen humanity.  We did not deserve His loving favor more than any of the rest, but out of God's amazing, distinguishing mercy and grace, He put a difference between us and them, lovingly choosing us to become His own beloved children, to be redeemed by the death of His beloved Son, and to be quickened by His Holy Spirit that we might freely come to Christ in faith and repentance.

Scripture limits the love of God to Christians.
Scripture speaks often of the distinguishing love that God has for His own people alone.  God loves only those who ultimately come to love His Son, Jesus.

John 14:21 - "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

John 16:27 - for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.

John 17:23 - I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Why would Jesus say "... he who loves Me will be loved by My Father ..." if all men are loved by the Father?  Why would He say specifically of His followers that the Father "loved them", if He loves all the rest of humanity as well?

God loves some and not others.
Scripture plainly says that God's love toward Jacob and Esau was not the same, but that he loved one and hated the other...

Romans 9:13 - Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."
The miracle here is not that God hated Esau.  Rather, it is a miracle that God loved Jacob!  God is absolutely holy, and it is most appropriate that He should hate every sinner.  What is truly remarkable is that God would set His love upon any rebellious, hell-deserving child of Adam.  Those who suppose that God loves all men underestimate the perfect holiness of God, and the depths of man's utter sinfulness and depravity.

Other passages of Scripture likewise affirm that there are people whom God hates.

Psalm 5:5 - The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.

Psalm 11:5 - The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Again, it should come as no surprise to us that a holy God would hate sinners.  Hell stands as a somber, eternal testimony to the awful hatred that God bears toward the unrepentant sinner.  It is utterly inconsistent to believe that God would send to eternal hell sinners whom He loves.  Such a love would be a very worthless, meaningless "love"—one that is unworthy of our magnificent God.

God's "love for mankind" saved us.
When the apostle speaks of God's "love for mankind", he says that, when this love appeared, "He saved us".  He did not merely "make us savable", as some teach, but He actually, assuredly saved us.  How did He accomplish this?  —"by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit"...

Titus 3:4-5 - But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
This demonstrates that the phrase "His love for mankind" is not to be understood to mean "God's love for every individual member of mankind", but rather "God's love for certain individual members of humankind".  In other words, the phrase cannot be taken in a universal sense, as though God loves all people without exception, for that would mean that He saves all people without exception.  Instead, the phrase signifies that there exist members of mankind whom God loves.  The great wonder of God's love is not that He loves all, but that He loves any!  We must never forget that all humans are wicked sinners who deserve an eternity of hell.  It is truly amazing that God would set His love on anyone as wretched and evil as ourselves.  As a result of this distinguishing love for certain members of mankind, God saved those whom he thus loved, washing, regenerating and renewing them by His Holy Spirit.  The basis for this choice was not our righteous deeds (we had none!), but His own mercy and kindness.

God bestowed His love upon us, making us His children.
The apostle John likewise speaks of the distinguishing love of God when he says...

1 John 3:1 - See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
This passage clearly limits the love of God to the children of God, and says that God's love was "bestowed on us".  God thus set His love on us, and chose us to become His beloved children.  John makes it clear that God's love has not been bestowed on the world at large, for this is what distinguishes the children of God from the rest.  They do not know us or understand us because they have not been given the special privileges that God gives to those whom He loves.

God's love purposed salvation only for those who believe in Christ.
If God loves all men, then why does John 3:16 say that the grand goal of God's love is to save "whoever believes in Him"?

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God knew from eternity past who these "whosoever believeth" would be.  Indeed, the only reason why these people are willing to believe is that God graciously changes their hearts, taking away their stony, rebellious hearts of sin and unbelief.

We are too easily blinded by the word "world" in this context, that we fail to see what the passage is actually saying.  It teaches us that God's love is determined to save those who believe in Christ.  What about the rest—those who never believe in Christ?  Does John 3:16 say that God's love provides any benefit for them?  Not at all!  If God's love provides no benefit for those who never believe, then on what ground may we conclude from John 3:16 that He has any love for them?

People often read into John 3:16 something that the passage does not say.  They suppose that what it really means is "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that anyone can obtain eternal life, simply by putting their faith in Christ."  But this is a distortion of the passage.  It does not say that God's love merely puts salvation within reach of all men, thereby making all men hypothetically "savable".  The phrase "whoever believes" (or, as the KJV puts it: "whosoever believeth") denotes a particular group of specific people, known to God—indeed, predetermined by God—from all eternity.  John 3:16 says that God's love designed to save these specific people whom God, from all eternity, had purposed to save.

The word "world" here is a stumbling block to those who blindly suppose that it means "all people of all ages".  It is gratuitious to merely assume that this is the meaning of the word in John 3:16, for it rarely if ever has this meaning anywhere else in all of Scripture.  Instead, "world" here simply denotes either the sphere in which God exercises His love—the "world of mankind", in which He has chosen certain people to receive faith and salvation in Christ—or else denotes the ethnic and geographic extent of God's love—that God loves certain people of every race and nation of mankind—that God has chosen, not Jews alone, but multitudes from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Revelation 5:9).

God disciplines only those whom He loves.
Scripture also speaks of God's distinguishing love when it says that God disciplines and reproves only those whom He loves...

Proverbs 3:12 - For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Revelation 3:19 - Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

It would be meaningless to speak of "whom the Lord loves" or "those whom I love" if He loved all without exception.  The writer of Hebrews identifies "whom the Lord loves" as being "every son whom He receives", and says that those who are without such discipline are "illegitimate children and not sons"...
Hebrews 12:6-8 - FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES." It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
The phrase "of which all have become partakers" does not mean that all men without exception have become partakers of God's discipline, for the passage is clearly distinguishing "sons" from "illegitimate children", and acknowledges that only the sons receive discipline.  Rather the "all" here speaks of "all sons"—he is saying that all sons have become partakers of God's discipline.  It is only the sons of God who are loved by God, and so it is they alone who are disciplined by God.

God predestines, redeems and quickens all those whom he loves.
Scripture teaches that all of God's works of salvation are directed specifically toward those whom He has chosen to receive it.  God's love is so strong and deep that He predestines, redeems, and quickens every single person whom He loves.  If you are truly loved by God, then you will assuredly be saved by God.  It is unthinkable—yes, even blasphemous—to suggest that God would send to hell anyone whom He truly loves.

Everyone whom the Lord loves, He predestined to become His sons.  If He loved all men, then He would have predestined all men to become His sons.  Yet Scripture is clear that He makes only some men to be His sons.  Only some are identified as His "elect".

Ephesians 1:4-5 - ... In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Christ loved His church, and that is why He gave up His life for her.  Christ's love for the church is to be the model for the husband's love for his wife.  Is Christ an adulterer?  Does Christ truly love all men?  Wouldn't this suggest that each man is supposed to love all women the same way he loves his own wife?
Ephesians 5:25 - Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
Everyone whom God loves, He makes alive with Christ.  If He loved all men, then He would quicken all men.  But Scripture makes it clear that He quickens only some, not all.
Ephesians 2:4-5 - But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
The love of God is directed solely toward those whom God has predestined to adoption as Sons.  These whom He loves are exclusively loved and redeemed by Christ, and it is these alone whom God, because of His great love for them, makes alive with Christ.  God's "great love" for us is one that does everything needed to procure and ensure our ultimate salvation.  God will never permit anyone He loves to perish in hell!

God's love guarantees our salvation.
If God loved all men, He would save all men.  To say that He loves all but saves only some is to say that He sends to hell people whom He loves, which means that His love isn't very loving at all!  But what does Scripture say?

Romans 8:38-39 -  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When the apostle assures us, in Romans 8:38-39, that God's people can never be lost, He says that nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God".  —Once loved, always loved!  But what assurance would this afford us if God loves the lost who are burning in hell?  This passage is nonsense unless God loves only those whom He saves.  The phrase "loved by God" is equivalent to "chosen by God unto salvation", and so every truly saved person can have the utmost confidence that, because he is loved by God, he can never perish!


Scripture repeatedly, in numerous passages, teaches us that God loves only His elect, and not all men without exception.  Those whom God loves are predestined, redeemed and eventually quickened by God, and will assuredly be actually saved from eternal hell.  Biblical love is electing love—a love so pure, so deep and so sincere that it infallibly saves each and every person embraced by it.  This love is so much more intense than the Arminian's universal love, that it outshines the Arminian's concept of "love" as brightly as the noonday sun outshines the nighttime stars in brilliance.

Universal love has never saved anyone.  Indeed, it cannot save, for it stops short of providing that which we most desperately need—saving faith in Christ.  If this were the only love that God had for mankind, we would all perish in hell.  What is needed is a love that will overrule man's sinful will to rebel against God.  God's love for His elect does this very thing—overpowering man's free decision to disbelieve—in order that He might bring sinful, rebellious men to Christ to receive forgiveness, cleansing, sonship and eternal life.  Apart from electing love, we would all spend eternity in hell.  Praise God that He has a far greater love than the Arminian's shallow, impotent "universal love"!


[1] Some would counter that a loving mother would not allow any child to run out into the street.  But here we need to make a clear distinction between those whom God graciously considers "children" (i.e. His own elect), and the rest, who are considered full-grown sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:1 - Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;
Ephesians 5:6 - Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
A loving woman would not allow her own children, nor anyone else's children, to run out into a busy street.  But if, instead of a child, suppose a dangerous, armed criminal who wanted to attack her child ran out into the path of a speeding automobile.  It is not likely that she would be quick to stop him.  God does not regard the non-elect as innocent children to be pitied, but as guilty sinners who richly deserve His eternal wrath.

God treats the non-elect just as they deserveas hardened criminals who despise God's holiness and authority.  God treats His elect in a loving way that they do not deserve—adopting them as His own beloved children. We were no different than the non-elect, yet God in mercy chose to save us in spite of ourselves.  The wonder of salvation lies in the fact that we cannot claim to have been any better, smarter, wiser, humbler or more cooperative than other unbelievers.  God did not save us because of some difference in us or done by us, but because of His own undeserved kindnesschoosing out of the mass of fallen, rebellious mankind a vast company of unbelieving rebels to be redeemed by Christ, quickened by His Holy Spirit and ultimately to be eternally glorified in heaven.  Salvation is entirely of graceGod's unmerited kindness.

We need to remember that the Arminian's idea of divine love is that God will not lift a finger to stop any sinner from pursuing his free-will choice to reject Christ and perish in hell. According to the Arminian, God may try to warn, coax, woo or persuade the sinner to repent, but, unlike the loving mother in the illustration above, He will not grab hold of the perishing sinner to pull him out of harm's way unless or until the sinner has a change of heart and decides to put his trust in Christ.

The beauty of the Calvinistic concept of God's love is that God saves us in spite of our rebellious unbelief.  God takes the initiative while we are still dead in our sins, following our own lustful desires.  If He had to wait for totally depraved sinners to turn to Him, He would wait forever!  Because of our sin, we see nothing truly desirable about God or Christ until He has changed our hearts through the miracle of regeneration.  The true child of God confesses that his sinful heart would never have embraced Christ in faith if God had not first taken away his stony heart and given him a new heart pulsating with spiritual life.

[2] It is sometimes argued that unregenerate men are not so dead that they cannot believe.  However, the apostle makes it clear what he means by the phrase "dead in transgressions"...

Ephesians 2:1-3 -And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
The following phrases define what it means to be "dead in your trespasses and sins":
  1. "walking" according to the course of this world,
  2. "walking" according to Satanthe same spirit who works in the sons of disobedience.
  3. living in the lusts of our flesh,
  4. indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
  5. being by nature children of wrath.
To be "dead in your trespasses and sins" is to be living and thinking like all other hell-bound unbelievers, indulging our sinful desires and being energized by Satan's wicked, deceitful power.  We were still spiritually dead, in unbelief and rebellion, when God reached down and "made us alive in Christ" (verse 4).  There is no room here for the possibility of a person to have faith in Christ while still unregenerate.  The miracle of regeneration must occur first, and faith will then flow from the regenerate heart.

[3] Let me be clear on this point:  With regard to the proclamation of the gospel, the Calvinist and the Arminian are in agreement that God outwardly calls to faith in Christ all those who physically hear the gospel.  The difference is in the inward call, not the outward call.

God has commanded us to take the gospel to all people throughout the world, and to encourage them to trust in Christ.  The Calvinist agrees with the Arminian that the cross is sufficient in value to save all men—the non-elect included.  The limitation in the work of Christ is in its purpose and its application, not in its value.  We do not need to present the gospel half-heartedly to the lost, as though God's freedom to save the non-elect is limited by some deficiency in the value of Christ's sacrifice.  Salvation is in God's sovereign hand to give or withhold as He sees fit, and He has the perfect freedom to save as many or as few as He is pleased to save.

If the impossible were ever to happen—namely if a non-elect, unregenerate man did come to genuine faith in Christ by His own sinful heart, then God would assuredly accept Him.  Our Lord plainly says "... the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37).  God wouldn't turn him away merely on the basis of "I didn't choose you", or "Christ didn't bear your sins".  There is merit enough in the cross to save millions of universes filled with Adam's fallen descendants, and God freely promises salvation to all who genuinely trust in Christ.

There is no inconsistency in affirming both 1) that the unregenerate man is unable to savingly believe, and 2) that God freely offers salvation to all men, whether elect or not.  This is because of the nature of their inability.  Unregenerate men could believe if they wanted to.  Their problem is that they don't want to—they hate God and refuse to submit His Lordship and authority.  Their inability is a moral and spiritual inability that only makes them more guilty for their unbelief—not less guilty.

The only remedy for man's sinful depravity is God's grace of regeneration, which He gives only to His elect whom He chose from eternity past.  Only a regenerate man possesses a heart that would desire God and righteousness, and would be willing to come to Christ in faith.  The wondrous love and grace of God is displayed in the fact that He breaks through all barriers—even human unbelief—in order to bring the blessings of salvation to those whom He loves.

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