At the beginning of the last book of the Old Testament, the people of God are foot-stomping, fist-pounding, voice-raising mad. They feel that God had failed them and not loved them. In fact, in Malachi 1:2 they poke God in the eye and ask, “How have you loved us?”
Rather than beating them up, God the Father builds them up by reminding them, “I have loved you” (Malachi 1:2). And, He reminds them that He has been loving their often ungodly, ungrateful, and undeserving family for generations. “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated (Malachi 1:2-3).” Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, both bad guys, and God chose to bring Jesus through Jacob instead of Esau and bless the nation of Israel that descended from Jacob in a way that He did not bless the nation of Edom that descended from Esau.
The issue is, regarding salvation, if God chooses some people and not others, does that make Him unloving? In the broadest sense, the Bible speaks to this issue with a constellation of words such as choose, chosen, elect, appointed, God’s plan, purpose, and predestined.
Perhaps the most thorough treatment of this issue is Romans 9. There, Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3 saying, “…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’. What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”
Did you catch the connection between being chosen by God and being loved by God? God is not obligated to choose, love, or save anyone. The fact that he chooses to save some shows how loving he truly is. For the Christian, knowing that God chose us is evidence of His love. This is exactly what Ephesians 1:4-5 teaches saying, “In love he predestined us”.
There are at least six ways that God choosing some for salvation is loving:
One. In love, God saves people from all nations. In most religions, their “god” only cares about people like them. The God of the Bible chooses people from all nations to form His Kingdom.
Two. In love, God can save the unborn. With miscarriages, abortions, and other lives lost in the womb through tragedy, it is comforting to know that God can choose to save a baby in the womb.
Three. In love, God can save the mentally limited. Some people do not have the capacity to fully understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as their Savior for their sins. But, if God can choose who to apply the work of Jesus to, then there is hope for those who could otherwise be hopeless.
Four. In love, God can reach the unreached. There are reports in closed Muslim countries where missionaries cannot gain access that numerous people are becoming Christians. Jesus is apparently showing up to them in visions and dreams and saving them because He has chosen to do so.
Five. In love, God can save the worst people. Perhaps the Bible writer who speaks the most about predestination is the Apostle Paul. You may remember, he was an awful man who murdered Christians before God chose to save him. If there was ever anyone who was chosen by God, it was Paul who would have never chosen God.
Six. In love, God is not obligated to save anyone. I think of it like a massive suicide pact where numerous people chain themselves in a home, set it on fire, and decide to kill themselves. This is basically what humanity has chosen to do through sin. I see Jesus coming like a firefighter who runs into the burning building to carry numerous dying people out until he dies of smoke inhalation. How anyone could look at that firefighter and accuse them of being unloving because of who they did not save is to miss the entire point.
Which of the six ways that predestination is loving do you find most compelling? Why?