04 March, 2016

Matthew 5:44-45—"For He Maketh His Sun to Rise on the Evil and on the Good, and Sendeth Rain on the Just and on the Unjust"

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45 KJV). 

"But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35 KJV).


Rev. Angus Stewart

Of the few texts which are cited in support of common grace with any plausibility, Matthew 5:44-45 perhaps occurs the most frequently, though usually without any supporting exegesis. All agree that God does give good things to the reprobate in this life. But do these verses really teach that the earthly good things given by God to the reprobate are given by God out of love for the reprobate?

The common grace interpretation of Matthew 5:44-45, of course, creates several serious problems, problems which are largely ignored by the theory’s advocates. How can the one and undivided God love and hate the same people at the same time? How can the eternal, unchanging God have a temporal, changeable love for the reprobate? Remember this alleged "love" of God for the reprobate begins with their conception (unless it is posited that God eternally loved the reprobate) and ends with their death (unless it is posited that God loves the reprobate while He punishes them everlastingly). Various evasions, such as "paradox," have been made but no proper response has been given. In the meantime, the churches and individuals who hold this theory that God loves everybody (and those who follow them) go further away from the truth of Calvinism (which they profess to hold) and deeper and deeper into Arminianism, protesting all the while that they are Reformed.

But aside from these wider issues, we must examine the text itself. Its subject is the Christian’s treatment of his "enemies," who are also called "them that curse you," "them that hate you" and "them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (v. 44). Christ tells us here that we must do four things with respect to our enemies: we must "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" them (v. 44). Our motivation for loving, blessing, doing good and praying for our enemies is "that [we] may be the children of [our] Father which is in heaven" (v. 45). For there is a likeness between our righteous actions and those of our Father who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." To put it differently, the text makes a comparison between what believers are called to do (v. 44) and what God does (v. 45), for in our doing these things (v. 44), we show ourselves to be His children (v. 45). Thus we need to consider the similarities and dissimilarities between what we must do towards our enemies and what our Father does towards the "evil" and "unjust." What exactly is being compared?

Does Christ do any of the four things (i.e. "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray") for His enemies that we are to do to our enemies? Christ most certainly does "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" His elect enemies. His doing these very things for us is our salvation through the blood of His cross. But does Christ do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? And does God do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies?

First, Christ certainly does not pray for them, for He says in His "high priestly prayer:" "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine" (John 17:9). Second, Christ blesses the children of Israel (Gen. 48:16) and His disciples (Luke 24:50-51), but there is no word in Scripture of Christ blessing the reprobate. Third, all agree that Christ did good to the ungodly. He healed ten lepers though nine did not return to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19), and He fed 5,000 though many of them did not believe on Him (John 6). So with respect to the reprobate, Christ did not do two of the four things that we are commanded to do for our neighbours: He did not pray for nor bless the reprobate. He did do one of the four things we are commanded to do: He "did good" to the reprobate. What about the fourth one? Did He love the reprobate? We say that He did not; those who believe in common grace say that He did. This verse of itself does not determine the issue either way. Other texts will have to decide this question.

What then about God? Does He "love," "bless," "do good to" and "pray for" His reprobate enemies? First, God does not pray for the reprobate, for God does not pray!

Second, God blesses His elect (Eph. 1:3), the righteous (Ps. 5:12), His inheritance (Ps. 28:9) and those who fear Him (Ps. 115:13). Each of the beatitudes begins "Blessed are ..." (Matt. 5:3-11), and many Psalms contain the line: "Blessed is the man ..." (e.g., Ps. 1:1) or "Blessed are they ..." (e.g., Ps. 84:4). In each case it is God’s people (the meek, the godly, etc.) who are blessed. God blesses His elect people "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3-4), who is the One supremely blessed of the Father (Ps. 45:2). Our being blessed in Christ is the realization of the Abrahamic covenant in Christ with His elect (Gen. 12:2-3; Gal. 3:8-9, 14, 16, 29). This is God’s irreversible blessing of salvation (Num. 23:20) which turns us away from our iniquities (Acts 3:26). What then about the reprobate? As those who curse Christ and His people, God curses them (Gen. 12:3; Num. 24:9). Proverbs 3:33 declares, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just."

Third, all agree that God does good to the reprobate wicked in this life. Acts 14:17 states that God "did good" to the pagan nations by giving them "rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." We conclude that with respect to the reprobate, God does not do two of the four things that we are commanded to do for our neighbours: God does not pray for nor bless the reprobate. God does one of the four things we are commanded to do: He "does good" to the reprobate. What about the fourth one? Does God love the reprobate? We say that he does not; those who believe in common grace say that He does. This verse of itself does not determine the issue either way. Other texts will have to decide this question.

How are we to decide which view is correct? First, one could argue from the analogy between what we are called to do (v. 44) and what God does (v. 45). But since we are called to do two things (i.e., pray for and bless our enemies) which God does not do for His reprobate enemies, it cannot be proved that God loves His reprobate enemies. Second, we could look more closely at what God is said to do in verse 45: "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The "evil" and the "unjust" surely include those who are reprobate. Causing the sun to rise and the rain to fall (in moderate amounts) on the reprobate is doing good to them (cf. Acts 14:17), but it does not prove that God "loves" them. God gives earthly "prosperity" to "the wicked" (Ps. 73:3)—something which requires sunshine and rain—but this is "surely" His setting them in "slippery places" before He casts "them down into destruction" (v. 18). Though God gives them good things in His providence, He "despises" them (v. 20) as "corrupt" sinners (v. 8). Third, since the passage itself does not prove whether or not God loves His reprobate enemies, this will have to be settled on the basis of other biblical texts and doctrines.

Here are eighteen Scripture texts on God's hatred of the reprobate:

And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them (Lev. 20:23).

And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you (Lev. 26:30).

For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee (Deut. 18:12).

For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God (Deut. 25:16).

And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters (Deut. 32:19).

The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man (Ps. 5:5-6).

For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth (Ps. 10:3).

The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (Ps. 11:5).

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).

The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished (Prov. 16:4-5).

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord (Prov. 17:15).

The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein (Prov. 22:14).

Behold, ye [i.e., idols] are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you (Isa. 41:24).

Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it (Jer. 12:8).

All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house (Hos. 9:15).

Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me (Zech. 11:8).

I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel (Mal. 1:2-5).

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

But what of our calling? We are to love, bless, do good to and pray for our enemies who curse, hate, despitefully use and persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Loving our enemies is not fellowshipping with them in their sin (II Cor. 6:14-18) but desiring and "seeking their good" physically and spiritually. Out of love, we "do good" to our enemies by helping them in whatever way we can, including greeting them and being friendly towards them (Matt. 5:47). Out of love, we "pray" for them, that is, we ask God to save them from their sins and grant them eternal life through Jesus Christ, if it be His will. Our calling to "bless" our enemies does not mean that we actually confer blessedness upon them; only the Triune God can do that. Nor are we to declare that they are blessed by God, for they are living under His curse (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). Blessedness is only found in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:14). Thus we bless our enemies by pointing them to Christ, and calling them to repent and believe. As frail creatures made from the dust, as guilty sinners redeemed by grace and as rational-moral beings before God’s holy law, this is our sacred duty towards our ungodly fellow creatures and neighbours. In loving, blessing, doing good to and praying for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), we show ourselves to be the children of our heavenly Father who does good to both just and unjust by giving them the good gifts of rain and sunshine (v. 45).



Rev. Martyn McGeown

[An extract from the British Reformed Journal, Issue No. 63, Autumn/Winter 2016]

[Matthew 5:44-45 and Luke 6:35 are] the favourite texts of all those who advocate common grace. [To] quote these texts without exegesis proves nothing. [One] cannot merely quote them and then write, “That is common grace.” [Defenders of common grace] must demonstrate that exegetically!

Because these texts in Matthew and Luke are so crucial to the “common grace” cause, we offer a thorough exegesis.

Matthew 5 is part of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus Christ teaches principles that govern our lives as the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The question in verses 44-45 is how we treat our enemies, who are those who “curse” us (which means to speak evil of and upon us), who “hate” us (which means to wish evil upon us, and to be motivated by malice and spite again us), and who “despitefully use” and “persecute” us (which means to insult, revile and vilify us; and to chase after us with a view to destroying us). The Pharisees responded, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (v. 43). In fact, many Pharisees defined “neighbour” so narrowly and “enemy” so broadly that they restricted their love to fellow Jews or even to fellow Pharisees, while they justified hating everyone else.

Jesus taught us to “love” our enemies. That love must be manifested in “blessing” (which means to speak well of someone and to speak good upon them), “doing good” (which takes good speech one step further, so that we perform deeds of kindness for our enemies) and “praying for” our enemies (which means that we seek for them the blessing of God by beseeching our Father to have mercy on them in turning them from their sins to Jesus Christ). This love for our enemies is not a calling to have fellowship with them, which, as long as they remain unconverted, is impossible. The Christian comes in love, blessing, doing good, praying and calling the enemy to repentance; but the enemy responds with hatred, cursing, despiteful use and persecution. Whatever the response of the enemy, the Christian is called to love him still. William Tyndale, who was martyred in 1536, exemplified this Christian virtue of love, when, in a letter to his persecutors, he wrote, “Take away my goods, take away my good name, yet as long as Christ remaineth in me, so long I love thee not a whit the less.”

In verse 45, Jesus draws a parallel between our calling and the activity of our God and Father, and it is in this parallel especially that some find proof of “common grace.” The activity of God in sending rain and sunshine on both the evil and the good is proof, say many, that God favours, loves, has mercy upon and blesses the evil and the good alike. In Luke 6:35, Jesus draws a similar parallel: “He [i.e., God] is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

To understand the parallel, we need to ask a few questions.

First, who are God’s enemies? In Scripture, God has two kinds of enemies: His reprobate enemies, whom He destroys; and His elect enemies, whom He reconciles to Himself and saves. God’s reprobate enemies are the devil, the reprobate demons and reprobate human beings. These are preordained to damnation (Rom. 9:22; I Pet. 2:8; Rev. 17:8). God has decreed not to save them. God’s attitude toward these enemies is one of hatred (Rom. 9:13). He curses them and sends them to hell (Luke 19:27). This hatred, this curse and this eternal punishment do not mean that God is evil, spiteful, malicious or cruel, for God’s hatred of the wicked is a righteous, holy hatred of their persons and their sins (Ps. 5:5; 11:5). The Canons of Dordt explain the decree of reprobation in these sobering words:

What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but only some, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but leaving them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof (Canons I:15).

But God also has elect enemies. They are “the unthankful” and “the evil” of Luke 6:35. God’s elect enemies are sinners chosen in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God’s attitude toward these enemies is love: God blesses them, God has mercy on them, God is kind to them, God delivers them from sin and death, and God brings them to everlasting life. God changes these enemies into friends. Believers were these enemies: by nature we were the enemies of God for we once lived as the enemies of God (Eph. 2:3) as those who once hated Him, cursed Him, despitefully used Him and persecuted Christ and His saints (Acts 9:4-5). Paul writes, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” (Col. 1:21-22).

Second, what does God do to His enemies according to Matthew 5 and Luke 6, and does He do these things to His elect enemies, His reprobate enemies or both?

Matthew 5:45 teaches that God sends sunshine and rain upon all men indiscriminately: “He maketh his sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The evil and the good or the just and the unjust include all kinds of men: the converted and unconverted, the believer and the unbeliever, and the elect and the reprobate. We see that all around us: God causes the sun to shine and rain to fall upon the field of both godly and ungodly farmers. Often He sends so much rain and sunshine on the ungodly that their fields produce a bumper harvest, they have tables laden with good food, bank accounts stuffed with money and good health to enjoy these things that come from God’s hand.

But does an abundance of good things (“rain and sunshine”) mean that God is blessing the ungodly in those things or that those things are evidence of God’s favour? That is the issue with “common grace.” [Common] grace is supposed to be a favourable attitude of God toward the reprobate wicked seen in the good things that God gives to them. That would mean that God, when He gives rain and sunshine and lots of other good things to the wicked, is saying to them, “In these things, I love you; I have favour upon you; I show mercy to you; and I am gracious to you. (But, at the same time, I have eternally determined not to save you; Christ did not die for you; and I will cast you into hell).”

What, then, is God saying to His own people when He sends them so much sunshine that their crops wither and die so that they starve, or when He sends them so much rain that He washes away their houses in a flood? “In these things, I hate you; in these things, I do not have favour on you; in these things, I seek your destruction; in these things, I express my displeasure against you.” God forbid!

That would mean that God, in giving good things to the wicked, is blessing them, speaking His favour upon them and seeking to do them good. But that would be a blessing of God, which does not accomplish their good, but increases their guilt; a blessing of God, which comes to an end when they die and go to hell; and a blessing of God, which changes into a curse.

But God’s mercy, grace, love and blessing are one. (There are not two kinds of graces, mercies or loves of God; one for the elect, and the other for the reprobate.) All mercy, grace and love of God are everlasting (Psalm 136). They are unchangeable (Malachi 3:6). They are attributes of God, they belong to His very Being, they are rooted in God’s decree of election and they are displayed at the cross. Rain and sunshine, in and of themselves, are not grace, mercy or blessing. God is always gracious to and blesses His people in giving to, or withholding from, them, rain and sunshine (Rom. 8:28; I Cor. 3:21). God is never gracious, but always curses, the reprobate in giving to, or withholding from, them, rain and sunshine (Psalm 73:18-20; Psalm 92:7; Prov. 3:33). Let it be clearly understood: God gives good things to elect and reprobate alike, but good things are not blessings for the reprobate.

Third, which pattern are we called to follow? Do we treat our enemies the way God deals with His elect or His reprobate enemies? If we want a pattern on how to treat our enemies, we only need to consider how He treated us, who were His enemies, and who are still sinful, even after He has reconciled us to Himself. This is especially clear in Luke 6:35, in which Jesus says that God is kind to “the unthankful” and “the evil.” In Luke 6, Jesus does not speak merely of sunshine and rain, which of themselves are neither God’s blessing nor curse, but He speaks of God’s kindness and mercy. The kindness in Luke 6:35 is, and can only be, a saving kindness. There is no other kindness in God. God’s kindness is infinitely more than God being “nice” to people. Kindness is God’s gentleness, His careful handling of His delicate precious people. God is not kind to the reprobate. He breaks them with a rod of iron and He dashes them in pieces as a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:9). God’s kindness is called goodness or graciousness in other passages and is only ever directed toward the elect (Rom. 11:22; I Pet. 2:3). This kindness is shown to the unthankful and to the evil, to us; we who believe in Jesus Christ are the unthankful and the evil.

We are to be merciful because God has been merciful to us. This saving kindness and mercy shown to us who were, and in many ways still are, unthankful and evil, comes to us from the cross of Christ, a cross that is for the elect alone and not for the reprobate. We see kindness and mercy at the cross where God poured out His wrath upon Jesus Christ, crushing Him under His curse, so that He could be gentle and compassionate to His elect children.

If God was so good to you in sending Christ to die for your sins, not when you were good and thankful, but when you were unthankful and evil, how much more ought you to love those who are evil and unthankful to you? And if God can still bless you, who are still unthankful and evil, how much more ought you not continue to love, bless, do good to and pray for those who are still unthankful and evil to you? And when we love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us we are reflecting in a very small way the great love, mercy, grace, kindness and blessing that God has for us.

But that has nothing, I repeat, nothing, to do with “common grace”!



Prof. Herman Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered—readable onlinepp. 80–85]

An important question that arises from the text is: Whom does Jesus mean by “the just and unjust” upon whom God sends rain? Does Jesus mean: good men in this world and bad men in this world? That is, men who deserve rain and sunshine and men who do not? The answer, very obviously, is: The text cannot mean that, for there are no just people in the world, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10).

Does it then mean to distinguish between those who are righteous because the perfect satisfaction for sin earned on the cross has been imputed to them, and those who are still in their sins and not righteous in Christ? That is, is the distinction between just and unjust a distinction between elect and reprobate? It would seem that the latter would have to be the meaning. But then the text means only, as we have repeatedly observed, that God manifests that He is a good God by giving good things to men, something no one denies. The question still remains: What is God’s attitude and purpose behind these good gifts? And then Psalm 73 and Proverbs 3:33 give us the answer.

But the whole idea that God loves the reprobate is an imposition on the text of man’s own devising. A positive explanation of the text would, I think, be helpful.

Before I take our journey through this text, it is necessary to put the text into its context. In the broader context Scripture gives us Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is spoken to the disciples and, more broadly, to all citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The Sermon on the Mount has frequently and rightly been called, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven.” After describing the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom in the Beatitudes, the Lord lays down fundamental principles that govern the lives of these citizens while they are still in this world. Note this: Jesus is laying down principles of conduct to be observed by those who are citizens of the kingdom.

In the section of which verses 44, 45 are a part, beginning with verse 21, Jesus is explaining how He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. And in connection with His calling and work to fulfill the law, He condemns the keeping of the law as it was explained by the scribes and Pharisees. They saw the law only as an external code of conduct and paid no attention to the spiritual demands of the law: Love God, and love thy neighbor. Even to the command, Love thy neighbor, the Pharisees had added the command, Hate thy enemy (verse 43). This interpretation was indeed what the Pharisees taught, for in verses 46 and 47 the Lord adds, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans the same?”

The evil interpretation of the law by the Pharisees was basically a self-centered conceit: I will be nice only to those who are nice to me . . . .

In other words, the command of God to love our neighbors as ourselves had been corrupted and abused by the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes. They had interpreted “neighbor” as referring to their brethren, and, even more narrowly, to those who loved them. The Lord warns the citizens of the kingdom not to do as the Pharisees, for that is not the law of God.

But the Pharisees forgot that the command to love our neighbor is rooted in and flows from the command to love God. We cannot love our neighbor without loving God. And, indeed, our love for our neighbor is a manifestation of our love for God. Furthermore, the love the citizens of the kingdom who love God must show to others is a manifestation of the fact that they are loved by God (I John 4:19). The Pharisees, when they interpreted the command, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and interpreted it to mean that we are to love those who love us, immediately had to face the question: Does God love those who love Him? What a foolish question to ask. The answer obviously is, He does not! Jesus’ answer demonstrates that God loves those who hate Him, though they be elect.

The term “neighbor” in the law of God is broader by far than our brethren and those who love us. That it has a broader connotation is evident from the parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). In this parable Jesus explains that we are neighbors to anyone whom we meet or walk with on our life’s pathway, who is in need of our help. That means that our neighbors are not only those who unexpectedly cross our pathway and need our help, but also those with whom we walk on life’s pathway every moment of our lives, but who need our help: our wives or husbands, our children, our fellow saints . . . . Quite frankly, I have a great deal of difficulty accepting the hypocritically pious prating of the ministers who are continuously telling us to love our neighbor, but who divorce their own wives and marry others. Let them first love their neighbor nearest to them, their wives and their children.

For all that, we are also called to love the neighbor who is quite obviously an unbeliever. That is, we are called to love our neighbor without discriminating between those who love us and those who persecute us. We are not to love those only who love us. God does not love those who love Him. God does not love those who make themselves worthy of His love. He loves us, the worst of sinners. If we are children of our Father, therefore, we love those who do not love us. But those whom God loves are those wicked and undeserving people who are nevertheless those for whom Christ died.

The point of comparison between God’s love and our love is: God loves unworthy sinners (though they are the elect whom God knows) and we are to love unworthy sinners (though we do not know elect from reprobate.) In doing so we imitate our Father in heaven.

We may very well ask the question: Why does God want us to love our neighbor and not only our brethren? The very obvious answer to that question is: We do not know who are our brethren (or will become our brethren), and who are not. That is why the Pharisees interpreted the command to love our neighbor as referring to those who love them. If, said the Pharisees, a person loves us, he must be one of our brethren and we ought to love him.

This was very perverse and wicked. We do not even know with absolute certainty who among our brethren are truly people of God; much less do we know of those outside the circle of our brethren who are true people of God. Luther was right when he said that there would be many in heaven who surprised him by their presence, and there would be many he thought to meet in heaven who were not there. Hypocrites are to be found in the church and God’s people are to be found outside the circle of “brethren”, though they may as yet be unconverted. God knows who are His own; we do not know with absolute certainty. Nor need we know. It is enough for us to live in fellowship with those who manifest themselves as faithful servants of Christ, with whom we live in our homes and in the communion of the saints. Going back all the way to Calvin and our Reformed fathers after him and following them, we must exercise towards those who profess to be believers “the judgment of charity,” or “the judgment of love.”

But God is pleased to save His church from the world of unbelief. He is pleased to save His church by the preaching of the gospel. The effect of the preaching of the gospel is that God’s people are His witnesses in the world of sin; and the witness of God’s people is itself the power of the preaching within them. God uses the witness of Christians to bring His people outside the church into the fellowship of the saints and under the preaching. This is God’s reason for the command to love our neighbor.

As Jesus makes clear, our neighbor is anyone who comes in our pathway: our wives or husbands, our children, our fellow saints, the man next to us in the shop, the man who knocks on our door to ask for food, the man who threatens us with harm, the man who persecutes us – these and all the rest who, if only fleetingly, enter our lives. God brings them there. God has His purpose in bringing them there. That purpose is to hear our witness of what God has done for us. We do good to those on our pathway whom God has put there.

We who are husbands surely seek the salvation of our wives. We do all we can to help them fulfill their own calling in the home and in the church. We surely seek the salvation of our children, for we teach them the ways of God’s covenant and insist that they walk in those ways. We surely seek the salvation of our fellow saints, for we earnestly desire to go to heaven with them.

The command to love our neighbor is broader than showing love to our acquaintances. We are to love those whose pathway crosses our pathway and who, like the wounded Samaritan, block our path so that we have to go around them if we are to ignore them. God put him on our pathway and did so for a good purpose.

Our neighbor is emphatically someone on our pathway. To love my neighbor who lives in Zaire is very easy. Even if occasionally I have to write out a check because famine is stalking Africa; to love these neighbors is the easiest thing in the world. But to love the unkempt and stinking man who knocks on my door for some food when I am in a rush to meet an appointment with a parishioner who has just lost a loved one – that is something more difficult.

We must love the neighbor. Love is not sentimental and syrupy do-goodism. Paul defines love as being the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14). Paul means that love binds two people together in a friendship that is characterized by holiness. So it is within the church. When that love is to be extended to our neighbor, it means that we earnestly desire the salvation of our neighbor, that he may, through faith in Christ, be perfect also; and that, saved by God’s grace, he may be one with whom we live in the communion of the saints. Love always seeks the salvation even of those that hate and curse us, despitefully use us and persecute us, for they may very well be brought to faith in Christ by our love for them.

Love is not, therefore, having fellowship with them in their sins, going to parties and sporting events with them, visiting them in their homes for amiable chats in front of the fireplace, or having a beer with them at the local pub. To seek their salvation is to reprove their sins, call them to repentance and faith in Christ, and point them to the way of salvation. When God shows mercy to us, He shows mercy to the unthankful and evil. We, moved deeply by such a mercy, do likewise.

To love them is therefore to do good to them and to pray for them, for this is what the Lord enjoins. Our concern for their salvation must be earnest, heart-felt and rooted in a genuine desire to see them one with us. But it is always a reflection in our lives of God’s love for us, undeserving sinners. God does not love those who do good to Him, who deserve His love. He loves the unthankful and evil But He loves them in Christ, seeks their salvation by sending His own Son into the world to suffer and die, and does all that is necessary to bring them to heaven.

As I said, witnessing has the same power as preaching. Preaching brings to faith in Christ; so does witnessing. Preaching is directed to far more people than the elect; so is witnessing. Preaching condemns sin and calls to faith in Christ; so does witnessing. Preaching is a twoedged sword that hardens as well as saves; so is witnessing. Witnessing is a sort of echo or reverberation of the preaching – preaching that we have heard and by which we have a faith that echoes in our witnessing. The two belong together. God uses promiscuous preaching to save His elect; so also He uses witnessing to bring His elect to the preaching of the gospel, to the fellowship of the church and to faith in Christ. We must not be as the Pharisees; we must be children of our Father in heaven.

Considering these things, we can understand the words: “That ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The point Jesus is making is that we must do to others what God has done to us. This is always a theme in Scripture, as Jesus makes clear in the parable of the two debtors (Matt. 18:21-35). God loves us and has shown His love for us by giving us Christ and salvation in Him. We are undeserving sinners who have no claim at all on God’s mercy. We receive what we do not deserve. If we fail to show this great blessing to our neighbor, we are thankless and unappreciative, not worthy of the blessings we are given. If we are aware of the amazing wonder of our salvation and if we have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, then we will also be inwardly compelled by the power of that love to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is Jesus’ point in this passage.

If you say that Jesus points us to the fact that God sends His rain and sunshine on men indiscriminately, you are, of course, correct. The point of the terms “just and unjust” is precisely to demonstrate that God’s love does not depend on the worthiness of the object. But, further, God always gives only good gifts […] for He is good in Himself. The good gifts He gives show beyond question the wickedness of the world, for they despise God’s good gifts and use them in the service of Satan. In this way God Himself demonstrates that His judgment on the wicked is a judgment they deserve. In His good gifts to the reprobate, God sets them on slippery places where they slide rapidly into everlasting destruction (Psalm 73:18, 19). Behind this just judgment stands the eternal and unchangeable decree of sovereign predestination.

But God’s goodness is a manifestation of His grace to those whom He has chosen in Christ and for whom Christ died. We are unthankful and evil and deserve nothing. But God knows us as His own and knows all who are His own. He saves us sovereignly. We do not know who are elect and who are not. We are called to be witnesses of what God has done for us in the hope that God will do the same to those to whom we witness. And God will do what He has eternally planned to do, but in such a way that our witnessing always accomplishes His purpose whether that means to save or to harden. Or, to put it a little differently, God who knows His own in this world, gives good gifts to them for their salvation; but He also gives good gifts so that the wicked may be without excuse and God’s purpose in reprobation accomplished. We do not know who are elect and who are reprobate, but our manifestations of love have the same affect: they save (by God’s grace) the elect and harden and condemn the wicked.

You say, But God gives rain and sunshine to the just and unjust. That is, of course, true. But it is a false assumption to interpret giving rain to just and unjust as tokens of God’s love for the wicked. He gives rain and sunshine to the unjust reprobate for their condemnation, and to the just elect for their salvation. So we, the objects of such undeserved favor, must love our enemies and do good to them that hate us. That is, we must seek their salvation, not knowing whom God will be pleased to save through our goodness. God will use that very love for our neighbor to harden and condemn the wicked, but also to save those whom He has chosen to everlasting life.

One correspondent asks whether it is an accurate statement of God’s attitude towards the reprobate to say, “The good gifts of providence that he gives to them (the wicked, HH) are meant as a testimony to them that he is a good God, full of kindness and love, and therefore one worthy to be worshipped and before whom they should repent were they in their right mind, and that if they were to do so they would experience his loving fellowship as sweet.” My response to that summary is a hearty “Amen.”

This is Biblical and what we must believe.



Rev. Herman Hoeksema

[Source: God’s Goodness Always Particular—Chapter 13: "The Triple Cord"]

[According] to the current teaching of the Bible, we may not consider earthly things per se—rain and sunshine and riches and prosperity—as proofs of God’s love and grace with respect to the reprobate ungodly. On the contrary, they are slippery places on which God causes them to fall into eternal destruction [Psalm 73:18]. The ungodly flourish in order to be destroyed forever [Psalm 92:7. When we remember this, we are inclined to look at Matthew 5:44 more closely before we accept [with defenders of common grace] that it teaches that rain and sunshine are manifestations of God’s gracious disposition to all the ungodly. When we study the text more closely and in its context, our objection to [the common grace] interpretation becomes more serious.

In Matthew 5:44 we read, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” We are exhorted to do these things to our enemies because we must follow the example of our heavenly Father: “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). If we take the text in its context, it means that we must love our enemies because and even as God loves his enemies. We must really love them, seek their real good, bless them, pray for them, and seek their salvation, even as God really loves them, seeks their good, and saves them to the very end. . . .

Besides, we must not forget that sunshine and rain are not always blessings. Sometimes the sun causes a scorching heat, and crops dry up and wither. When rain is too abundant, everything rots in the field. Also then God causes his sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and on the unjust alike, and to both he also sends hail and fire, earthquakes and destruction, and pestilence and death.

At the most we can say that Mathew 5:44–45 refers to God’s providential care in sending rain and causing his sun to shine on the just and the unjust as examples for the children of God to follow. When in this dispensation God sends good gifts and means to men, he does not limit them to the righteous, but he sends them promiscuously to the godly and to the ungodly, to the just and to the unjust alike. He does not leave himself without witness. This is revealed in its most general form in rain and sunshine. With the rain and sunshine comes the calling and obligation to glorify the living God and to give thanks to him who does all these things. When this is done by the righteous man, he receives favour and blessing from God. When the ungodly man fails to give God the glory, he receives no blessing, nor is he the object of God’s favour, even though he receives rain and sunshine. The wrath of God abides on him.

The child of God, who must be perfect even as his Father in heaven is perfect, must follow his example in this. He received the love of God and experienced and tasted that love of God as a love to his enemies. Because he also was God’s enemy even as others, he must manifest this love to his enemies. He must not greet only those who greet him and bless those who bless him, but he must do good to all, even to his enemies.

He cannot reveal this love of God by loving the enemies of God and having fellowship with them, but he must do good to them by telling them the truth, by blessing them and praying for them, and by showing them the way of life. He must not hate those who hate him, and never must he avenge himself by doing evil to his enemies, for then he would not manifest the love of God, but the sinful love of the ungodly. He must be a child of his Father in heaven and be perfect.

The most general example of this he can see in God’s causing his sun to rise and the rain to descend on the just and the unjust in common. And did he not send Christ to die in due time for the ungodly?

Of a gracious disposition to every man, particularly to the reprobate ungodly, there is no mention at all in Matthew 5:44–45. . . . The passages [Matt. 5:44-45 and Luke 6:35] certainly exhort us truly to love our enemies. This does not mean that in a general sense we must be nice to them in regard to temporal things, but that we must love them to the end, bless them, and pray for them. If in this we must be children of our Father in heaven and reflect his love, which, it must be admitted, is always infinitely greater and more perfect than ours, it follows that he also loves his enemies to the end, answers our prayers when we pray for them, blesses them, and saves them. How could [one] possibly apply this to all men, specifically to the reprobate ungodly?



Rev. Henry Danhof

[Source: The Standard Bearer, quoted in chapter 13 of God’s Goodness AlwaysParticular, by Herman Hoeksema]

Both texts [Matt. 5:44-45; Luke 6:35] have the same tendency and purpose. They would have the believers be followers of God as dear children. Their love also they must bring into practice according to the example of God. This thought is expressed in both passages in almost the same words. We have here a part of the sermon on the mount, in which Christ teaches his disciples how they must conduct themselves according to the precepts of his kingdom, written by the Spirit in their hearts. Christ’s followers must not walk and act as the ungodly, but must be like their Father who is in heaven. The example he gives they must follow. Such is the thought. This is admitted by all and is evident from the words of Jesus, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:44-45). “Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

All the other elements in these passages are subordinate to this main thought, and we may pass them by for the present to attend to the main questions in these declarations of Jesus. What does God do according to these words? In what must we imitate him? In answering these questions we must be careful lest we turn the order of the two elements around. The synod [of 1924] proceeded from the thought that God loves all his enemies, also the reprobate, because Christ would have his disciples love their enemies. In this way synod arrived at the conclusion that God shows a certain grace, or favour, to the reprobate.

That this method of reasoning is erroneous is evident. We would have the right to draw such a conclusion if the texts mentioned a twofold love of God. Such a conclusion would be permissible if these passages spoke of the love of God for his elect from eternity, according to which he draws them in time with cords of loving-kindness; and of another love of God, in distinction from and in contrast to the love mentioned above, that he shows to his creatures in general, specifically to the reprobate. But the text speaks of only one love of God.

According to these passages, Christ notices among men two different kinds of love. Ungodly and sinners do love, and the disciples of Jesus must also love. Now it is the will of Christ that there is an essential difference between the love of the ungodly and the love of his disciples. Sinners love sinners, those who are like them, with the purpose of receiving from them. Therefore, their love in its deepest root is only selfishness. It is not real love. According to the standard of this love, which is no love, the love of the disciples may not manifest itself.

The children of the kingdom must love as God loves, and God’s love is more than the love of sinners. They can only love those who love them; their enemies they are unable to love. But God is able to love his enemies. If this were not the case, we would all be lost, for by nature we are all enemies of God. God is able to love those who do not love him. From this viewpoint is implied the possibility of our salvation. God loved us while we were yet his enemies. Therefore, we can now also love. Our love harmonizes with God’s love. Through the love of God we are able to love our enemies. In this we excel the unregenerate.

That this is the correct conception of the texts is manifest from the contexts of both Matthew and Luke. Nowhere do these passages speak of a twofold love of God, the love of God to the elect and another love to the reprobate. Throughout, the love of Jesus’ disciples is contrasted with the conception of “those of old time” and with the love of sinners. Their righteousness must be greater than that of the scribes, and only then are they blessed when men hate them, separate them, revile them, and reject their names as evil for the sake of the Son of man. The love of sinners, therefore, must be manifested as hate with respect to Jesus’ disciples.

Therefore, Jesus does not hesitate one moment to condemn the love of sinners. This would have been absurd if it had been his intention to teach that the Father also loves his reprobate enemies, and that sinners do really love, and that the disciples must also love sinners who are enemies of God. In that case Jesus’ act would have directly contradicted his instruction to his disciples and the example of God.

The thought here is that his disciples must not love as sinners love, for they do not truly love, but they must love as the Father loves. They must be perfect, even as their Father in heaven is perfect.



Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema

[Source: The Standard Bearer, 1 June, 1974, vol. 50, Issue 17]

1. You must not simply appeal to isolated passages in Scripture. You must read the Scriptures in the light of the current teaching of Scripture. And that current teaching of Scripture in many, many places is that God does not love and bless all men, but that He hates and curses some.

2. Notice carefully that the text does not say that God blesses all. This is a conclusion — and an incorrect one — from the statement of the text that God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Incidentally, the presupposition in this conclusion is that blessing (and cursing) is in things as such. This is a grave mistake. For if you conclude that good things are as such blessing and bad things are as such curses, then you must also conclude not only that God blesses the wicked reprobate, but that He curses His people when He sends them evil things.

3. The point of the text is this: we must love our enemies, which does not mean simply that we do them some good, bestow some good things on them, but that we show them the love of Christ. We bless when they curse; we do good to them when they hate; we pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. The text means, therefore, that we must seek their genuine good. And that means that we must seek their repentance, seek their salvation. In that sense we must show them love. And in the case of those enemies, that love toward a wicked man is, so to speak, a one-way street; it is not a mutual love. It extends from you toward your enemy, but not from him toward you.

4. The point is, further, that we must do this for God's sake. We must manifest to our enemies the love of God that is in us and that we have tasted. And the character of the love of God is exactly such that it is a love that is capable of being merciful and kind to His enemies. Notice that I do not say that it is a love that is merciful and kind to all His enemies. But the character of the love of God is such that He loved us while we were yet enemies

5. As a most general example of this fact that we must love our enemies, the Lord Jesus here points to God's work in nature, where He causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.



Rev. Christopher J. Connors

[Source: TheBiblical Offer of the Gospel—available to read online.
Rev. Connors is a minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia]

In these passages God's redeemed and regenerated elect are commanded to "do good" and show mercy and kindness to all men in order that we may be perfect as is God our Father. The verses direct attention to God's ultimate perfection, His overflowing goodness. The point is, that God according to His perfection of goodness always does good, never evil; so must we! The striking nature of God's goodness is that God is good to all without exception and regardless of their nature or attitude toward Himself. This is the pattern for our love. This universal goodness of God showered upon all men is the pattern for our conduct toward our fellow man. We must love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us etc., (Matthew 5:44). Only in this way do we, as children, reflect the image of our Father in heaven. God loved us as His elect even while we hated Him. How could we then do any less toward our fellow man, any one of whom could be God's elect? Thus, the command is, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

We may not assume, however, that the rule for God's goodness and the rule for man's love are identical. God as the sovereign Lord of all, necessarily does good to all, but always in harmony with His own perfection, and freely according to His own good pleasure. We however, as creatures redeemed into the service of Christ, are given God's law (the preceptive will) as the rule for our perfection. This law requires that we love our fellow man. God's revealed will must govern all our actions toward our fellow man. Obedience to the second table of the law, as summarized in loving our neighbor as ourselves, is the God-ordained way believers must fulfill their calling as children of God. This calling is universal, is to be shown in a disinterested love in fulfillment of God's law and has God's universal goodness as its pattern.

We remind ourselves, however, that the fact that God commands US to love all men, does NOT mean, nor may we legitimately conclude from it, that GOD must love all men. As we have seen, we may not argue back from man's duty revealed in the precept to God's purpose and attitude of grace. What we can conclude from these verses, however, is that God's perfection of goodness according to which He does nothing but good, even to the unthankful sinner, must be the pattern for all our dealings with our neighbour, if we are to reflect the perfection of our heavenly Father."



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