For some reason or another, in my newsfeed I keep seeing sermons and articles that talk about God hating some people and loving others. Its a teaching that quite frankly, frustrates me to my core. Here something I wrote in response to one of the verses that many are misunderstanding when teaching that God doesn’t love everyone...
Have you ever read Romans 9:13?
“Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
If you’ve read that before or just now for the first time, you might be a little confused. Most people get that way when reading something that sounds contrary to what we know to be true. This verse is God’s Word, so it is certainly true, but it might not mean what it appears to mean. That’s why this verse is the subject of numerous debates and the basis for faulty doctrine. Based on Romans 9:13, some very popular pastors and professors teach that God doesn’t love everyone. I think they are making a terrible mistake.
If you jump right into Romans 9, like we just did, you may be led to believe that God does not love all people. You might even think that some people never get the chance to be saved because God has hated them from the womb (Romans 9:11-13). The reason for this is simple…a surface reading of Romans 9:13 makes it seem as though God chooses some people for heaven and some people for hell. Is that what the Scripture really teaches?
The short answer is “No!”. There are two major factors we need to consider in order to have a proper understanding of Romans 9:13.
First, context. If you miss the context you miss the message. If we get a bigger and better view of the context here, we see that the subject of this passage is not salvation, but rather the role God had for the nation of Israel in His plan for salvation. There is a huge difference. One has to do with a person’s eternal destination and the other has to do with a people group’s role in redemptive history. That distinction is critical.
In Romans 9, Paul is not talking about two children named Jacob and Esau; he is talking about two nations named after Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s descendants are known as Israel and Esau’s descendants are knows as Edom. Paul is actually quoting from the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Malachi. As you read Malachi’s first chapter, you see clearly that Malachi is using the word “Jacob” to refer to the nation of Israel and the word “Esau” to refer to the nation of Edom. Ironically, the rest of Malachi is about God’s disdain for Israel, not Edom.
This context is essential if we are going to understand what Paul is saying in Romans 9. Taking it a step further, Romans 9, 10, and 11 are about the nation of Israel and its role in God’s plan for salvation. Romans 9 takes a look at how God has used Israel in the past, Romans 10 address the present way God was using Israel in Paul’s day, and in Romans 11 Paul reveals some of the future plans God has for Israel. The only way to miss that would be to remove Romans 9:13 from its context.
Interpreting Romans 9 as a passage that deals with a person’s salvation is a major mistake. Paul is clearly talking about the doctrine of election in Romans 9-11, but only in regards to nations, not individuals. Israel was the nation chosen to bring the eternal blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ. That blessing is offered to all people, not just a select few (John 3:16). And what is even more interesting is that Paul makes it clear in chapter 11 that even though God’s plan for the nation required a temporary rejection, the individuals in that nation could still be saved (Romans 11:23-24).
God works in many ways. One of the ways He works is through nations, just as He works through individuals. Israel was the chosen nation but certainly not the only nation God has chosen to use. In Scripture, we see God using other nations to carry out His plans all the time. For example, in addition to Israel, Egypt, Assyria and Rome were all vitally important to the Biblical narrative. God’s use of nations had nothing to do with the salvation of those within the nation. Just because Israel was the chosen nation to bring forth the Messiah did not mean that every Israelite would end up in heaven. It also didn’t mean that everyone from other nations would end up in hell. Right standing with God is not based on nationality. Confusing God’s plan for the nations with God’s plan for salvation is an error we cannot afford to make. I believe it is clear that Paul is talking about God’s sovereign choice regarding the nations, not individuals. Its about being selected for a purpose and not for salvation.
The second major factor we need to consider is the usage of the word “hate” in the Bible. In Luke 14:26, Jesus tells us that unless we “hate” our parents, we cannot be real disciples. I don’t think any of us take that literally even though it is the same terminology used Romans 9:13. One of the reasons is because Jesus also tells us in Matthew 22, that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is to love everyone else. Does any Bible scholar really think that Jesus’ words in Luke 14 and Matthew 22 contradict each other? Of course not. And it is also important to remember the same Greek word in Luke 14 for “hate” is the exact same word Paul uses in Romans 9. Apparently, the Bible uses the word as a type of contrast. Jesus was certainly doing that in Luke 14. He was saying that we should love Him more than our own parents. Or, put it another way, we are to choose Jesus over our own family. Its exactly what Paul was saying about the nation of Israel in Romans 9. God chose the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom.
Another way we see the word hate used is in verses like Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.” If we are to take the word hate here literally, we must believe that God hates everyone because everyone does iniquity (Romans 3:23). If we go with that kind of understanding, then when God says He hated Esau, He also had to hate Jacob because Jacob was also a sinner. But does the Bible teach that God really hates everyone? I don’t think it does.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. The reason for this is simple...God loves His enemies. Think about it, if God doesn’t love His enemies (sinners), how can we love our enemies? Better yet, since we are incapable of godly love, apart from the Holy Spirit, how could the Holy Spirit empower us to love in a way that God doesn’t love? The answer is an easy one…He couldn’t.
We are imperfect beings, saved by grace, being perfected by the Holy Spirit. That perfecting is the process in which God makes us look more and more like Jesus. Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3; John 14:9). So if we are being made to look like Jesus, we are being made to love everyone, even our enemies. And if we are being made into the image of God’s Son and that means we are to love everyone, doesn’t that mean God loves everyone too? Wouldn’t that include the man named Esau? I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “YES”! I do not think Paul was saying God hated the man named Esau. I believe the proper understanding of Romans 9 is that Paul was showing that God chose Jacob’s descendants (the nation of Israel) and not Esau’s descendants (Edom). To teach that God hates individuals based on Romans 9:13 is unwise.
We haven’t even explored other Biblical issues that arise from teaching that God hates individuals. Quickly let me point out some things. Jesus said that it is a sin to “hate” an individual (Matthew 5:21-23). The Apostle John makes it clear that God is “love” (1 John 4:8), and he also states that if we hate others we live in darkness (1 John 2:9) and that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). God tells us that He doesn’t want the wicked to go to hell (Ezekiel 33:11) and Peter affirms this when he tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). It is clear, a wider view of the Scriptures shows that God does indeed love everyone.
The only thing that makes sense in Romans 9:13 is that Paul is using the word “hate” as a contrast between two nations. He is not talking about individuals and he is not talking about personal salvation. God does not hate anyone. He actually loves everyone. We can say that God chooses some people over others just as He chooses some nations over others. God even loves some people differently than He loves others. His children are a good example of that. All of us can also become a child of God if we put our faith in Christ. God has different plans for each of us on this earth, but His ultimate desire is for all of us to be with Him in heaven one day. That’s why He sent us His Son.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but so that the world could be saved through Him (John 3:16-17).
Yep, its confirmed...God loves you!
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AuthorJackie Hill