Oh, yes, God does love everyone -in one sense. that is. God loves the bad as well as the good; the evil as well as the righteous; the unbeliever as well as the believer; the reprobate as well as the elect. Christ commanded his followers to love all men and not only their friends. “Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). The ground for this command, he said, is the Christian’s relationship to God. Since the Christian is a son of God, he should be like him. And since the Father loves his enemies. the sons of God should do the same. In thus reasoning, Jesus declared that the Father has enemies and yet he loves them. He shows this love, said Jesus. by giving them rain and sunshine. Thus. the Bible teaches that God loves everyone and that he shows it by giving them certain non-salvational blessings, such as rain and sunshine.
But in another sense, God does not love everyone. Romans 8:29 is clear on this: “For those whom he foreknew he foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son…”
In order to understand this verse, remember that foreknow cannot mean simply knowing ahead of time, intellectual foreknowledge. If it meant that, then Paul would be teaching here that God has foreordained everybody to eternal life, for God certainly knows everybody intellectually. But the foreordination of everyone to eternal life contradicts the rest of the Bible.
Rather, “foreknow” should be taken in the common Biblical sense of love. Consider some examples:
1. Genesis 4:1: “Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.”
2. Psalm 1:6: “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
3. Hosea 13:5: “It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought.”
4. Amos 3:2: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.”
5. Matthew 7:23: In the day of judgment Jesus will say to hypocrites: “I never knew you; depart from me, you evil-doers.”
6. Romans 11:2: “God did not cast off/his people whom he foreknew.”
7. 1 Corinthians 8:3: “But if one loves God, one is known by him.”
8. Galatians 4:9: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God.”
9. II Timothy 2:19: “The Lord knows them that are his.”
When we recognize that foreknow has this fuller sense of forelove, Paul’s meaning becomes clear and beautiful. Paul teaches the golden chain of salvation: From eternity God loved some with a special love; these he ordained to life eternal; these whom he ordained he called efficaciously with his Holy Spirit; because he called them so that they believed, he justified them, i.e., declared them to be holy and perfect for the sake of Christ; and these whom he justified he will certainly glorify completely. Thus, there is a golden, unbreakable chain from God’s love to the final glorification of the believer.
It should be clear that those whom God loves are not all people, but arc only the Christians—past, present and future. We say this for two reasons:
1. There is an unbroken series of consequences running from the love of God to the glorification of those loved. Only those who are loved are glorified. Unless someone is a universalist, teaching that everyone is glorified, it is necessary to restrict God’s love to only some people. No other interpretation is possible.
2. The definition of the loved ones is restricted by the context. The previous verse (8:28) states that all things work together for good only for those who love God—not for everybody, not for the unbeliever as well as the believer. Then to give a reason for this, Paul says in 8:29, “For whom he foreknew (or foreloved), he also foreordained…and glorified.” The objects of God’s love in verse 29 are exactly the same as the objects of God’s favor in verse 28, for 8:29 is only giving a reason for 8:28. God’s favor (v. 28) and love (v. 29) are restricted to only those who love him.1
Thus it is possible to say that God loves all to the extent of giving them, for example. rain and sunshine (Matt. 5). On the other hand, it is equally Biblical to say that God does not love all in the sense or being willing to ordain them unto life eternal. Rom. 8:29 plainly leaves most people outside of that love of God which ordains people to glorification. In other words, in one Biblical sense God does not love everybody.
1. If anyone loves God, it is God who first loved them and caused them to love him.