20 August, 2016

FAQ — Did Christ’s obligation to fulfil the law on our behalf necessitate that He have love towards the reprobate?

Q. 1. “The command to love our neighbour was perfectly fulfilled by Christ. He was ‘made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it’ (Westminster Confession, 8:4). In order for this to be true, He must have shown love, mercy and compassion to both elect and reprobate neighbours, as God requires us to do. Moreover, to say that Christ only loved His neighbour in His human nature is heretically to divide the person of Christ, who ‘was and continueth ever to be, God and man, in two distinct nature’s, and one person, forever’ (Shorter Catechism, 21). Obviously this topic of common grace involves important issues, since our salvation (justification) demands that our Mediator perfectly fulfil the law on our behalf.”

(a) Anon. (PRCA)

Indeed, Jesus did fulfil fully the law of the loving of His enemies. In Romans 5:10 we read: “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.” We by nature are enemies and rebels against Christ and His Word. Yet the unfathomable wonder is that Christ loved us, ugly, miserable, totally depraved, totally wicked sinners. That’s the glory of the love of God for His enemies.

Christ also fulfilled the law to hate those that hate Jehovah. Jesus fulfilled the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:21, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee?” Proof of this righteous hatred of Christ for His enemies is found in Psalm 109: 

Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the Lord continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord, and of them that speak evil against my soul (vv. 6-20).

Christ fulfilled the imprecatory oaths of the Psalmist against his avowed enemies, who were enemies of Jehovah. 

Did Christ give good earthly gifts to the reprobate, as we inevitably will also do in and throughout our lifetime? He certainly did. But, the giving of good earthly gifts to the reprobate, whom He knew as reprobate, was not an indication that He loved them or desired to save them. Christ was bound by the will and purpose of God that, according to Psalm 73, the giving of the good things of this life (bread, fish, water) is governed by God’s eternal counsel, unchangeable purpose, and sovereign good pleasure. 

So, yes, Christ in His fullness fulfilled the law in perfect righteousness.

The question remains, of course, did Jesus love every one of His enemies? Jesus loves only His sheep whom the Father gave to Him in election. The Scriptures teach that Jesus did not love every one of His enemies. There are specific persons that Jesus revealed that He did not love, or that He hated. One example was Judas Iscariot. Jesus did not desire the salvation of the son of perdition, nor extend a supposed “general” or “common” goodness or love towards Judas.

The question or issue raised by the promoters of common grace, according to what you wrote, can be framed as a question this way:  Could Jesus love in His human nature those who in His divine nature He hates from eternity? Could Jesus hate in His human nature those whom Jesus in His divine nature loved? Can the man Jesus love those whom the Son of God hates from eternity?

The answers to those questions must be “no.” The Creed of Chalcedon teaches that there is no conflict between the two natures of Christ. Christ’s will is one. Christ’s love is one.

(b) Prof. David J. Engelsma:

My answer to this question is as follows.

First, both as personally God the eternal Son and as Saviour in His office, Jesus the Christ did not love all humans with whom He came into contact with the love that desired their salvation. It is this about the contemporary theory of common grace that is most offensive to the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) and to me. Not that God has a superficial favor towards all humans that results in their receiving good earthly gifts (although we deny this also), but that God loves all humans with His love in Christ, desiring their salvation and graciously offering them salvation out of this desire to save them all.

This fundamental element of the contemporary theory of common grace, Jesus Christ did not have during His earthly ministry according to the Scripture. As the eternal Son personally, He hated some humans and decreed their damnation in the way of their unbelief (Rom. 9). As the official Saviour of humans, He Himself said that He laid down His life for His sheep (the elect), not for all humans without exception (John 10). He did not have or express or act upon a (saving) love of God for all humans without exception. His gospel was not motivated by His will that all hearers should believe and be saved. But His purpose with the gospel was (as it is still today) that His sheep, or elect people, and they only, be saved by it (John 10:27, 28). Concerning the others, the reprobate, the purpose of Jesus with the gospel was, and still is, that they not truly hear it and believe (John 10:26). Notice concerning John 10:26 that Jesus teaches that some believe not, because they are not of His sheep. He has already explained that people are His sheep because the Father gave them to Him in eternity in the decree of election. The reason then why some do not believe when they hear the gospel is because they are not elect. God does not will their faith and salvation. God does not give them faith when the gospel is preached. On the contrary, He hardens them in their unbelief, which is conclusive against the notion that the gospel is a well-meant offer by God to all humans without exception. That God hardens some by the gospel is the teaching of Romans 9:18: “whom he will he hardeneth.”

The conclusion is, then, that Jesus did not, and does not, love all humans with the love that purposes their salvation and did not, and does not, offer salvation to all with the well-meant desire that all be saved by the gospel. As God, Jesus does not have “neighbours,” whom He must love, but only creatures whom He may love or hate as seems good to Him. He is not subject to the law, as we are, but is the lawgiver.

This, for the PRC, is the main issue in the controversy over common grace. Common grace, as officially taught by the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in 1924, when the PRC began, and as taught by many today, including the Banner of Truth in Great Britain, is the doctrine, above all else, that Jesus as the Saviour sincerely desires the salvation of all humans without exception and in this desire offers salvation to all humans in the gospel. This is Arminian heresy, condemned by the Canons of Dordt with its “five points of Calvinism.”

Then the question remains: Did Jesus as a human, as a real man, in His human nature love all His neighbours in any sense at all?

In the sense that He obeyed perfectly the second table of the law, the essence of which is loving the neighbour as oneself, He did. His behaviour towards even His reprobate enemies was righteous, a returning good for their evil, the behaviour of love in His dealings with them. An example is His behaviour before Pilate. He honoured the authoritative position the Roman magistrate occupied, despite the unjust treatment of Himself by Pilate. This was a keeping of the fifth commandment of the law of God as the behaviour of love towards that reprobate unbeliever. But even this was not the grace of the contemporary theory of common grace. For in this obedient behaviour of Jesus towards Pilate, God was at work—and Jesus Himself was at work as God the Son—to leave Pilate without excuse and to render him worthy of judgment. There was no grace of God towards Pilate in Jesus’ behaviour of love towards His neighbour for God’s sake.

If someone objects that this has Jesus hating and loving one and the same person at the same time, hating as God the Son and as Saviour, and loving as a human in that His behaviour was upright and honourable, my response is that there is an important sense in which even we do the same. As a believer, I must love my wicked neighbour, by doing good to him and not retaliating for evil by evil myself. At the same time, I hate him as the enemy of God (Psalm 139).

At the same time, in His human nature Jesus is in perfect accord with the will of God that Jesus is the loving Saviour of some only and that the end of His ministry be the hardening of some humans.

Also, the neighbours who are truly close, or near, to Him—His elect out of the human race, Jesus as a man loves with the full, profound love of the will to save.


Q. 2. “Romans 13:10 states, ‘Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Christ ‘did no ill’ to any of His neighbours who were reprobate. But how can we say that Christ did not ‘love’ those (reprobate) neighbours whom He did no ill, when the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that ‘working no ill’ toward our neighbour IS ‘love’? If it’s not love, did Christ then do them no ill out of hatred toward them?”

(a) Anon. (PRCA)

What does “ill” according to the original Greek mean? The word means “evil.” Christ did not commit any evil or sin towards others because He is holy and righteous.

You ask:  “… If it’s not love, did Christ then do them no ill (i.e. evil, RJS) out of hatred toward them?” We could ask a similar question: If the law requires “love your neighbor,” and Christ hated reprobate neighbors in His earthly life, then did not He violate the second table of the law so that there is unrighteousness and disobedience with Him? 

First, we know that there is no unrighteousness with Him, even in His hatred of the reprobate.

Second, we know that He could not love every one of His neighbors because of His knowledge of the Triune God’s election and reprobation.

Third, we also know that He did obey authority, did not murder neighbors, did not commit fornication, did not steal, did not lie, did not covet any of His neighbors things, but obeyed wicked Caiphas under oath, honored Caesar with tax money, fed the 5,000, remained chaste for His bride, the church, was always filled with a zeal for the glory of God and stole from none, was honest and truthful, and was entirely content with the Father, His Word, His Will, and His provision of daily bread.
Fourth, all of Christ’s obedience was done in submission to His Father’s will. He did the will of His Father. The will of His Father meant that some of His obedience to the second table of the law meant the destruction and condemnation of the reprobate, while His obedience to the second table of the law is the perfection and righteousness earned for the elect and imputed to them by faith alone in our justification.
Fifth, let us remember that Christ did not have two contradictory wills. Instead of that incorrect view of the will of Christ, we believe that His will was one (united). For example, in the case of wicked Caiphas, Christ obeyed Caiphas according to the fifth commandment in love to the Father but out of the knowledge of His eternal purpose with Caiphas and according to His eternal good pleasure, according to which Christ hated whom the Father hated from eternity. He obeyed Caiphas out of His eternal hatred for Caiphas, because Christ knew the mind of the Father, as His Counsellor, with regard to Caiphas. According to the Father’s will, Christ obeyed Caiphas and told the truth under oath, but did so in hatred for Caiphas for His condemnation and eternal ruin. Christ willed not to love any of the reprobate. If Jesus of Nazareth had loved any of Satan and any of his reprobate seed, Jesus of Nazareth would have violated and would have rejected the eternal will and sovereign good pleasure of His Father. That violation of the Father’s will would have revealed that Jesus of Nazareth was not God. But, as the Scriptures state, Jesus of Nazareth is in the flesh the I AM, and the I AM THAT I AM is the eternal and unchangeable God, His covenant in Christ with His elect seed.
Finally, in distinction from Christ, our love is vastly different. We obey the wicked, but we cannot judge as God does or make the same conclusions Christ did regarding His neighbors. We cannot judge or conclude that any particular wicked neighbor is indeed reprobate. We can judge their works and their confession as wicked, warn them that they walk the path of the reprobate to destruction, but we cannot judge that they are indeed reprobate. Our love to them is the call to repent and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. Our desire is that the wicked repent from their sin and turn to Christ for deliverance and salvation. We might even pray for their conversion simply because we don’t know if they are reprobate or not. Only God knows that. Even our desire and prayers we submit to the will of the Father because ultimately His will of double predestination ordains and determines whether one believes or does not believe the call of the Gospel.
Further, our love towards the wicked neighbor in our daily life is used by the Father to teach us a little in this life the profound magnitude of Christ’s unconditional, undeserved, unmerited, and wondrous love and grace for His elect. The kind of people that Christ loves are just as wicked and unworthy as those who fill up the jail cells in the federal prisons and those who live a wicked life to the fullest. That is the kind of people that Christ loves: totally depraved, worthless, despicable, God-hating sinners. That’s the kind of people we are. And, yet, Christ loved us according to and in fulfilment of the Father’s eternal good pleasure.
As a result, I am opposed to a statement that Christ loved His reprobate neighbors in any sense. The Scriptures do not teach that the Immanuel, God with us, loved reprobate people that He dealt with in His earthly ministry. John 13:1 states that “when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” This text implies that Christ loved His own but hated the world. Christ knew His sheep by name, and thus also knew who were not His elect sheep. He loved His sheep only, and hated those not His sheep. With regard to those who were not His sheep, we do not read later in John 13 (even with respect to Judas Iscariot) that Christ may have had some kind of love (or mercy or grace or goodness or intention to desire their salvation) for those who were not His own (i.e. reprobate).

That, I believe, is in harmony with the Scriptures and our Reformed confessions, especially the Canons of Dordtrecht.


Q. 3. “Can we not say that Christ did love His reprobate neighbours, but that it was a love that was void of affection or emotion, since such affection or emotion is not required in order to fulfil the law, i.e to love our neighbours?”

(a) Anon. (PRCA)

“Can we not say that Christ did love His reprobate neighbors …?”   May we say that at all?  What do the Scriptures and Confessions give us permission to confess about the love of Christ? May we say that Christ loved or showed mercy or a little grace to the reprobate in any way? No we may not, especially when there is no proof for such ideas from Scripture or in the Three Forms of Unity

When Christ fed 5,000 with bread and fish, did He in any way love those whom He knew were reprobate, would reject His preaching and miracle as the Bread of Life, and turn away from Him? Jesus later rejoiced to the Father that the Father had hid from those wise and prudent the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He in His sovereign good pleasure did not love them, and had no intentions of saving them by the good gifts of food and drink that He gave them, and even by the preaching of the Gospel to them from the boat on the Sea of Galilee. Even in His obedience to the second table of the law, He hated the Esaus among His neighbors, and loved only His Jacobs.

Christ did not love the reprobate because He was sent and determined to do the will of His heavenly Father, which included both the commandments of God and the ordinances of God’s eternal counsel, including election and reprobation.
This understanding seems to be in harmony with the Scriptures and within the boundaries of our Reformed Confessions regarding the love of Christ, even in His earthly life.

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