Alright guys, let me start with a word of prayer: Father, as we look into Your Word, give us clarity of insight and discernment, understanding, and then more than that, may these truths have great impact upon our soul, shape us, mold us, conform us yet further into the image of Christ. And so, we commit this to You. I pray for those who are watching by livestream and who watch this later as it is posted. May this lesson have eternal impact. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
All right, Romans chapter 9. Here we go sports fans. We are going to look at one verse, and I don’t know whether to apologize or not, but it is probably going to be one half of one verse. So, let me just read Romans 9 and verse 13. “Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” I am slowing down, as Kent would say, “tapping the brakes,” to look at this one verse because there are so many threads of theology that are woven through this verse, which is why I don’t think I can get it all in.
This is one of those verses you open the door, you think it’s a closet door and you open it and you look in and it is the astrodome. You know, it gets bigger the more you look at it, and so it is certainly one of the most controversial verses in the entire Bible and yet here it is. And we are Bible believers so what do we do with this. And this text is hard-hitting, it is shocking, and I am not going to apologize for it. I am not going to soften the blow of what it says. There will be no censoring of this or editing of this, but the real issue is what in the world does this mean and how does this square with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” And yet here I read, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” I mean, does God love some more than others? Does God actually hate people?
Those are some real questions that arise from just anyone reading this verse, and so I really want us to take our time. And as I look at verse 13, a lot of times what I do I just take a verse and I draw a little diagonal line where I see the divisions are. And so, as I look at verse 13, I see three divisions. So, “Just as it is written,” and then there’s a little diagonal line, “Jacob I loved,” diagonal line, “but Esau I hated.” So, three sections.
Sinclair Ferguson once told me about Alexander McLaren that he had the golden hammer. He was a nineteenth century Scottish preacher. He could just tap a text and it would break out into three equal parts. So, I have unsheathed the golden hammer and I have tapped the text. And “just as it is written,” that is the authority Paul quotes. Then, “Jacob I loved,” that is the affection God showed. And then, “but Esau I hated,” that is the animosity God has. So, this verse easily divides out.
So, I think we will have time to look at the first two of those headings, and a week from today, unless I go through this more swiftly than I think, we will look at the animosity next week. But it is all woven together and we can’t even understand the second half of this verse until we understand the first half. So, here we go guys. Let us start with the authority Paul quotes.
Paul begins verse 13, “Just as it is written.” And so, he now quotes Malachi 1 verses 2 and 3. As I told you last week, this entire ninth chapter of Romans is just a series of Old Testament quotations. So, this is one of like fifteen Old Testament direct quotations in Romans chapter 9. So, Paul is like firing these Bible verses from the Old Testament like he has got two six-gun shooters in both hands and he is just firing these Old Testament passages. And this is just one of those from Malachi 1, and the impact of this is it is really a double authority. It would be enough if Paul just said it because he’s an apostle who speaks directly from the head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ; but for an apostle to quote the Old Testament, that just doubly reinforces the authority of what is being said here. And so, however we interpret this, it is irrefutable and it is authoritative because Paul is citing Old Testament Scripture, and to disagree with the rest of verse 13 would actually be to disagree with God Himself.
So, before we even try to untie the knot here and understand what is being said, I mean let us remember that this is the Word of God and we cannot play fast and loose with this and we can’t shave the rough edges off of this. This is the Word of God and Paul is quoting this as the Word of God. And so, before I go any further, let me just make this point of application. Would you be open to what this says? And will you embrace the rest of this verse after we have seen that it is a direct citation from the Old Testament? Are you willing to be taught by God? And would you be willing to set aside any preconceived notions about what you think this says and embrace whatever is the true interpretation of this passage of Scripture? That’s a question that each one of us must answer.
I graduated from seminary when I was thirty years old. I am now sixty-seven. I have found over those thirty-seven years that once someone hits forty-five years of age they have lost all capacity to think, and there is a hardening of the categories that has set in and your mind is made up. “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” And when I have taught this to people in their twenties and their thirties, they go to the mission field, they go to seminary. They are all in with what this says. So, I don’t know how old you are or where you find yourself, but once you hit a certain age you have got blinders on. And I want you, if you are over forty-five, to take those blinders off and to deal honestly with this passage of Scripture. Let the Word of God speak for itself. So that is the authority Paul quotes, which leads now into the very heart of this.
Second, the affection God showed: “Jacob I loved,” just three words. Let me make some observations. It is an unusual sentence in that it begins with the object of the sentence, then the subject, then the verb. Normally, when we talk, we go subject, verb, object. “Jacob I loved.” But this moves Jacob to the beginning of the sentence purposefully. It is called the emphatic position. If you want to emphasize a word you move it to the very front. And so, as we look at this, Paul in quoting Malachi, the emphasis here is on Jacob. Jacob? You kidding me? The deceiver, who connived the birthright from his older brother and tricked him, conned him? God chose to love Jacob? I mean, there should be a sense of astonishment as we see even the name Jacob here. And so, it is emphasized by being moved to the beginning of the sentence.
Second word: “I.” “Jacob I.” The “I” refers to God the Father and we already talked about in Romans 8:29 and 30, “Those whom He foreknew He predestined, and those whom He predestined He called, He justified, He glorified.” The “He” refers to God the Father. So, I want you to hear me say one more time the forgotten member of the Trinity is God the Father. Strangely enough. Everything is flowing from God the Father, and it is God the Father who chose to love Jacob.
The word “loved” means God chose to set His affections upon Jacob and God did so not on the basis of anything good in Jacob’s life. I mean, he was a sinner like his brother Esau was a sinner. And a case can be made he was just as much of a sinner as his brother was a sinner. So, this choice has nothing to do with Jacob himself. It is simply the sovereign will and good pleasure of God the Father just like it was in your life in eternity past when God chose to love you and when God chose to set His heart upon you in eternity past, that you weren’t any better than your brother or your sister who is still outside of Christ. You weren’t any better than who you went to school with, who lived next door to you, who may be outside of Christ. It is simply because it pleased God. It all originates with God. It has nothing to do with any foreseen good works. I mean, he has already made that point so abundantly clear. Verse 11, “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him,” God the Father, “who calls.” So, this is all according to the discretion of God.
Now, a careful distinction needs to be made here between two aspects of God’s love. R.C. Sproul, I have told you before, has told me several times theologians have to make very careful distinctions. You can’t become an omelet in your mind. You have got to make careful distinctions. So, I want to make a distinction here between two aspects of the love of God or you are going to lose your ball on the weeds, okay? Kent?
Number one, there is God’s general love for all mankind. And then number two, there is God’s saving love that is reserved exclusively for the elect. Those are two different aspects of God’s love and I want to walk us through both of those right now. This is an important theological distinction we are making. So, number one, there is God’s general love for all mankind. It is God’s general goodness that is just poured out on the entire world, upon the world population whether you are a believer or an unbeliever. There is God’s goodness that is poured out even on the animal kingdom, upon the earth itself. God has lavished His goodness, His kindness, His general love upon all, and it gives temporal blessings, temporal blessings. And some people receive more of these temporal blessings than other people receive. Some people are born in more advantageous positions in the world. Some people are born with better health. Some people are born with better lot in life. Some people are born with a higher IQ. Some people are born with physical handicaps, etc. So, there are all different levels of this general love that God has splashed and poured out upon the human race. It is a non-saving love. There are no eternal benefits or blessings that come with this general love, okay?
Now, I want us to turn to a passage, and I want to stay here just for a minute or so, to Matthew 5, to Matthew chapter 5. And this is probably the signature text on this. Matthew 5 verse 43, Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said.” Now, stop right there. What they have heard said was the Pharisees’ wrong interpretation of the law. And so, Jesus will correct their wrong interpretation. “You have heard that it was said, but I say unto you,” and when He says, “but I say unto you,” He gives the correct interpretation. It is not a new interpretation; it is just the correct interpretation that they should have had all along. So, verse 43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor.'” That is a direct quote from Leviticus 19 verse 18. And then they throw in this, “and hate your enemy.” God never said to hate your enemy. It is a contorted twist of Deuteronomy 23:3 through 6 talking about idolaters and they are to not have any part in the land. They are to be kept out. And so, the Pharisees took that beyond the true interpretation, and they just took that to mean we are supposed to hate anyone that is not like us. And so, they have put a firewall around themselves; everyone on the inside we love, everyone on the outside we hate. And that is where the apostate Judaism had diminished to.
So, verse 44, Jesus corrects that, “But I say to you,” and let me say it again, this is not a new interpretation; this is just the correct interpretation, “love your enemies.” And that is an imperative command. We are commanded to love our enemies; not just our neighbor, but our enemies. Those who do not love us, we are to love, and those who are unlovely we are to love. Even lost people can love people who are like them. The acid test for us is to love people who are against us. And then He adds, “And pray for those who persecute you.” And that is an expression of love, and many times we pray selfishly just so that they will stop the persecution. No, this prayer is for their good that they would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.
Now, verse 45, this is the key verse. “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” And the meaning of that is so you can be like your Father who is in heaven. And what is God like in heaven? God loves His enemies. God has a love even for His enemies. And what he will go on to describe here is a general love that God has for His enemies that is a non-saving love that gives temporal blessings. “For,” and now is the explanation, “He,” God the Father, “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good.” That verb “causes,” God actively, intentionally, premeditatively causes His sun…I love the way it is referred to as that is God’s sun. “That is My sun, and I am going to cause it to shine even on those who are My enemies as well as on those who are not My enemies, who are My sons.”
So, there is no discrimination here between those who are evil and those who are good as it relates to God’s general love. And then, he goes a step further just to tighten the screw and reinforce this. “And sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That is how good God is. He just opens the heavens and He pours out the rain on unbelievers, on those of totally different political affiliations, of those who even hate human life and human dignity. God is so good that He continues to pour out His goodness even on those who are enemies of the gospel and who are enemies of His cause. In fact, God often gives even greater expressions of general love to unbelievers than He even does to believers. And Psalm 73 is all about when Asaph goes into the temple and he sees the rich people coming into the temple, and they are just fat because they have so much food to eat, and they are just dressed to the nines, and they have so much money to give when they give their tithe. And Asaph was at a point where maybe it is better to be an unbeliever than to be a believer because God is pouring out more expressions of His general love upon unbelievers than He is upon believers.
I mean, this is the antithesis of the health-wealth prosperity gospel. Selah, think about that, pause and meditate. And so, God delights in showering His goodness even on His enemies. So, this is His general love and it comes under the category of what we call common grace. And common grace is different from saving grace. Common grace is just God’s general love that is extended to unbelievers and it comes in many different forms. God is so good He allows even unbelievers to enjoy life here upon the earth to different degrees. He allows the unbeliever to be married even like the believer can be married to have the pleasure of an intimate relationship with your wife, to have children, to have grandchildren. That is not restricted to believers. That is how God’s cup is just overflowing in general love even to unbelievers. He allows unbelievers to have a job and to draw a salary and to be able to buy a house, and in many cases a good house, a very nice house, to enjoy nature, to go on trips, to go on vacations. The unbeliever can enjoy art and architecture and sports and music and concerts. All of this is a direct outpouring of God’s general love upon mankind. He allows unbelievers to receive medical care, to be able to go to hospitals, to have doctors and nurses. He even allows unbelievers to hear the truth and to hear the truth of the gospel that to some extent with some unbelievers brings a sense of blessing just to be intellectually even stimulated. He allows them to go to school and to university and to have their mind expanded and taught in so many ways.
So, all of these are expressions of God’s general love that He has for all mankind. And the psalmist says God is good to all, some more so than to others, but God has lavished His general love upon this earth. In fact, God is even good to the animals. If you are still in Matthew, look at Matthew 6 and verse 26. This is how loving God is. In Matthew 6 verse 26 he says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feeds them.”
So, it is not just even reserved to people. And if we had time to go back to Job 38 to 41 and just read how God has created the animal kingdom and how God has put the instincts within them and God feeds them and God provides for them, even the animal kingdom. And you know, God will say to Job, “Job, I can’t remember where you were when we created all of this. I can’t quite remember.” And God is very sarcastic with Job and this is a just an echo of that. And then He says, “Are you not worth much more than they?” And as God says this, there are unbelievers. This is an evangelistic sermon. That is why in chapter 7 at the end of the sermon He says, “Enter by the narrow gate,” and “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, Jesus is speaking these words even to unbelievers.
In Romans 2, I think it is verse 4, says, “Even the goodness of God should lead you to repentance as God has just lavished these temporal blessings upon you. Can you not see how good God has been to you?” And then in verse 28 of Matthew 6, He says, “Observe how the lilies of the field grow; and they do not toil nor do they spin. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?” These are clear objective, demonstrative expressions of the love of God, the general love of God pouring out temporal blessings.
Let me give you one more passage. I just want to nail this down. Acts 14 and verse 17, Paul as he is preaching in, I think it is Lystra on his first missionary journey. He is in Galatia. And in Acts 14 and verse 17. Again, this is just an expression of God’s general love. “He,” meaning God, “did not leave Himself without witness in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven, fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
This is an evangelistic sermon. I mean, he’s saying this to unbelievers beginning at the widest point before he will narrow it down to the exclusivity of salvation in Christ alone. But he has just thrown open the gates to draw in the listener, “How good God has been to you! And He has satisfied you, and He has given you gladness and food and all the rest.” So that is the first aspect of God’s love and we need to understand this, God’s general non-saving love that gives temporal blessings, which leads now to the second aspect as we wade deeper into the pool. And that is God’s special saving love that is reserved exclusively for His elect.
He loves His elect in a way that He does not love the non-elect. He has a love for the non-elect, but it is not a saving love. It is not a special love. And so, we have to make this distinction, and it is just like when I used to go into the nursery at church when I first had our twin boys. And I went back and I remember there was such a baby boom, and we had to go buy baby beds and there weren’t enough baby beds. We bought more and we ran out of room. We had to build a special arm of the church just to house the nursery. And so, I would go after the worship service down to the nursery to pick up James and Andrew, and there were all of these babies. Well, there is a sense in which I loved all of them, but there were two that my heart was set upon. There was two that I would pick up and take home with me. There were two that I said, “You’re mine.” There were two that I am so committed to you I will take care of all of your needs whatever that is.
And in much the same way, God has a general love for the world, but only a special saving love for His elect. And I want to give you some verses for this and it is just out of this immediate context. So, come back to Romans 9 and specifically I want you to see Romans 8:29, what we looked at a couple weeks ago but just to remind you of what you already know. In Romans 8 and verse 29, we read, “For those whom He foreknew.” So, just stop right there.
We talked about how the word “foreknew” does not mean foresight. It means those whom God previously chose to love. That is what the word “foreknowledge” means. And to know someone is to love someone in the biblical sense. Genesis 4 verse 1, “Adam knew his wife and she conceived and gave birth to a son.” So, to foreknow is to forelove. That is God’s loving heart set upon those whom He chooses to save. So, just to remind you even in Romans 8:29 that the word “foreknowledge” means to be previously loved by God before the foundation of the world. There’s no other meaning for that.
Now in Romans 9, as we continue, we will be looking at it in future weeks, probably in two weeks, in verse 15, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” That is God’s special love. That is God’s saving love, just the abundance of mercy upon those who are ruined by the devastation of sin, God choosing to have mercy upon them and selecting them to be His own out of the fallen human race and to send His Son to redeem them and to send the Spirit to regenerate them. That is God’s special saving mercy, God’s tender compassion that goes far deeper than just His general love to clothe the birds and to give food to the body.
Now, also in verse 18, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” So, there is a very clear distinction just like in verse 13, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.” There are some that God has mercy upon and there are some that God hardens. And the mercy in verse 18 is obviously not a general love, because He has a general love even for those whom He hardens. He has mercy, in verse 18, upon those for whom He has a special saving love who are identified in verse 23 as “vessels of mercy.” “Vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory.” That is election, but His election is not a stoic election. It is not like God is in heaven just making chess moves in eternity past and just sheer logic and analytical analysis and God is like an air traffic controller in heaven. No, no, no, no. God set His heart of blazing love that all of the oceans of the earth could not extinguish, that flaming, blazing love and affection and mercy and compassion that God has for His elect. You and I have no comprehension how much God loves us. You and I have no comprehension for how long God has loved us. And so, this special love is set upon His elect in a way that is distinguished from those whom He hardens. He doesn’t love with a saving love those whom He hardens.
Now, let me just give you a couple of more cross-references just so we can drive this nail down into the board. Ephesians 1 verses 4 and 5, a text with which you are most familiar, but let us hear it again. Ephesians 1 verse 4. I will give you a second to find it. I love seeing the Bibles here on this table where there is so much yellow marked up in your Bible. That is great. Spurgeon used to say, “Whenever you see someone with the Bible that’s falling apart, you know their life is not.” So, I love seeing your Bibles marked up. I just like seeing Bibles, period. When guys are like following me on this thing, I have no idea what you are watching, but it is not better than this, I will tell you that.
So, Ephesians 1 verse 4, “Just as He,” God the Father, “chose us,” His elect, “in Him,” Christ, “before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” Please note, we are chosen not just for heaven; we are chosen for holiness before we get to heaven. Now, please note, “In love, He,” God the Father, “predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” You know, sometimes when people first see this, they go, “That’s the harshest truth I’ve ever seen.” No, it is the total opposite. This is the most loving truth you have ever seen. God did not have to choose any of us. I mean, the whole human race could have just plummeted into the bowels of hell and God would have been perfectly holy and just. That God would choose even one of us out of this room to be saved would be an inexpressible expression of love. That was a double entendre there, “an inexpressible expression of love,” indescribable expression of love.
But for God to choose a vast multitude that no one can count in heaven, how high and deep and wide and broad must the love of God be to lavish such love on so many of His elect! This isn’t harsh. This is the most loving, gracious, kind truth you could ever hear. And if verses 4 and 5 say anything, it is “in love” and “according to the kind intention of His will.” How do you get harsh out of that?
Let me just give you a couple more in Colossians 3 and verse 12 as long as we are just here in the neighborhood. And this is a Bible study. This is different than just a Sunday morning sermon where we can trace out some of this and not lose you. In Colossians 3 verse 12, “So then, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved.” Do you see how those who are chosen are those who are deeply loved? We are the beloved of God. And then in 2 Thessalonians 2 and verse 13, it is just one other quick text to see, and Paul writes, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord because God has chosen you.” You see, He chose us in great love.
Now, the expression of this great love caused Him to do several things. It caused Him, number one, to design the gospel. God the Father is the Author and the Architect of the gospel itself, the plan of salvation. That is an expression of God’s love. And then to give us the elect to the Son in eternity past to be His chosen bride and to be His love gift. That is an expression of love of the Father that He gave us to the Son long before He even ever created the world. That was the love of the Father that did that. And then third, the Father gave the terms of condition to the Son that are necessary to redeem this chosen bride, that the Father spelled out that, “You would have to be willing to come into this world and to be born of a virgin under the law and to live a sinless perfect life and go to a cross and die on behalf of Your bride.” It was the Father that set the terms for the Son, but that was much love demonstrated towards us that the Father spelled out for the Son what He would have to do in order to secure our salvation.
And then the love of the Father was also shown in the commissioning of the Son from heaven. What a departure that was! I mean, I have read of the last breakfast David Livingstone had with his father and mother before he left Glasgow to go to the heart of Africa and to never see them again and the passage of Scripture that they prayed over at that breakfast table knowing they would never see their son again. I mean, what a tender scene that is. Ten thousand times ten thousand times ten thousand more is that scene in heaven where the Father bids the Son farewell to depart His bosom and to enter into this world of woe and darkness in order to be our Redeemer. What love was in the Father to be willing to give up His Son!
I mean, I remember when I took my two twins to college out in Los Angeles and I am pastoring in Mobile, Alabama. I mean my wife and I just went back to the hotel and just wept, just wept, couldn’t stop crying over at giving them to this school to no longer be at our side. Think of the love of the Father to give up His Son and to give up His Son for rebels and enemies. What love must there be in the Father to do this!
And then on top of that, to send the Holy Spirit into this world to conceive in the womb of Mary the humanity and the body of Christ, and then to anoint Him in the River Jordan to empower Him for the rest of His life. And to keep Him secure on the cross, the Spirit of God empowering Christ in His humanity to remain steadfast upon that cross, “as He learned obedience through the things He suffered,” Hebrews 5:8.
What great love the Father has! And then to send the Holy Spirit into the world to find you and to find me and to search out this world until He found each of His elect and then to convict us and to call us and to regenerate us, birth us into the kingdom, what love the Father has for us! And when He says, “Jacob I loved,” there is a world of truth behind that. This goes far beyond “He loved me, He loved me not,” and just pealing petals off of a flower. The heart of God, not just the mind and the will of God, but even the heart and the affections of God is so involved in all of this. As I said, we have no comprehension how much God the Father loves us. And then, throughout our Christian life, every step of the way, He has gone before us, He has guided us, He has led us, He has provided us, He has supported us, He has defended us. You know, it is beyond comprehension. So, that is the affection God has, deep galaxies of affection for us that whatever we feel for our own children is like one drop in all of the oceans of the world. It is but nothing compared to His infinite love.
Now, I want to make one last theological point with you and then we will stop for questions. And the point that I want to make here is that though the elect were loved by the Father in eternity past, before they were converted, they were nevertheless under the wrath of God. So, I want you to turn to Ephesians 2 and this will be our last passage. Ephesians 2, and I want you to see this in light of everything that we have just discussed. Yes, God loved us from eternity past, but as we came into this world and before we experientially received the love of the Father in the new birth, we were under the wrath of God, even we the elect.
So, in Ephesians 2 verse 1, I just want to draw this to your attention so that we can get as much of the full counsel of God on the table as we can. Beginning at verse 1 Ephesians 2, “And you.” Just stop right there. Who is the “you?” The “you” goes back to chapter 1. It has to go back to chapter 1 because it is first verse of chapter 2. It goes back to verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 16; the whole of chapter 1. The “you” is those who were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, who in love were predestined according to the kind intention of His will. That is who the “you” is. “And you were in the past dead in your trespasses and sins.” Though we were loved by the Father in eternity past, we were born without any spiritual life when we came into this world.
And then verse 2, “in which you,” again referring to those who are the elect. “In which you formerly,” these are your BC days, Before Christ. “Formally walked according to the course of this world.” There was no saving grace in you. You were just like dead fish floating downstream just like everybody else in the world. You were going the same way on the same path with the same priorities. And then it gets worse, not better. He says in the middle of verse 2, “According to the prince of the power of the air.” Well, you know who that is. That is the evil one. That is Satan. That is the devil. And you were going according to the prince of the power of the air. You were held captive by a personal devil. You were in chains of darkness. That is why you didn’t have freedom of will. The devil had a hold of you and he wouldn’t let you go.
And then he adds, “Of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” You were disobedient to the Father just like the whole rest of the global population. Yes, you were chosen before the foundation of the world. But before you were regenerated and born again, even if your parents brought you to church, even if you were baptized, even if you went through a confirmation class, even if you were in Awana, even if you memorized all the verses, until you were converted you were dead in your sins. D-E-A-D. And you were held by the prince of the power of the air and you were a son of disobedience. You were not a son of obedience to God; you were a son of disobedience. You went your own way, you did your own thing when you wanted to do it, how you wanted to do it.
And then verse 3, “And among them.” The “them” refers to this whole world unconverted. “We too.” The “we” refers to the elect of God, okay? “We too all.” In other words, we were thrown in with the world, all of us together, before we were converted. We weren’t any better. We may have been worse. “We too formerly,” BC days, “lived in the lusts of our flesh.” Listen, we were swimming in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh. And this is a global statement for all of the elect, every single one in that church in Ephesus as Paul is writing this letter and it is to be a circulated letter to go to Colossae and then from there to the rest of the Roman Empire, every one of the elect. It says, “Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” You weren’t Mr. Goody Two Shoes. You were indulging the desires of your flesh.
Now, here is what I want you to see. All this is for this. “And were by nature.” That is talking about your sinful nature, your sinful flesh, not just what you did on the outside; it is what you were on the inside. “Were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” So, what does that mean, children of wrath? It is a Hebraism for children deserving wrath. I mean, there was no covering over you. You were deserving wrath. You were under wrath. The Reformation Study Bible, alright that is as Reformed as you’re going to get in theology, okay? The Reformation Study Bible footnote says, “exposed to the just anger of God.”
Though you were loved with a special saving love from all eternity past, before the reality of this saving grace was applied to your life, you were exposed to the just anger of God just like everybody else. And the ESV Study Bible, which is theologically very sound, says in its footnote, “You were subject to God’s condemnation.” That is what that means, “children of wrath.” You weren’t in neutral zone. You weren’t in no man’s land. There is no such theological category. You were in darkness, and you were under divine wrath.
So, as we preach the gospel, as we share Christ with our children, with our family members, with our next-door neighbor, we don’t know who the elect are. Spurgeon said, “God hasn’t put a big “E” on their forehead to make this easy for us.” I mean, we just have to go tell the gospel to everybody, but even the elect. So, as we witness Christ to everyone, if you are outside of Christ whether you are elect or not elect, you are under the wrath of God and you are children of wrath even as the rest.
So, let us maintain this theological distinction. And hyper-Calvinism, of which we are not, says that the elect were never under this wrath, that they were in fact justified in eternity past and that they were in essence saved in eternity past. That is rubbish. No, this text clearly says that even the elect within time were dead in trespasses and sin, walking according to the course of this world, were walking according to the prince of the power of the air, were indulging the desires of the flesh and the lusts of the flesh, and were by nature children deserving wrath until that day God called you by name to Himself. In great love, God set His heart upon us in eternity past, we who are the elect of God, and then within time called us to Himself out of wrath and out of the great danger of condemnation. That is what makes the miracle of the new birth so extraordinary.
Now, I am going to end with this. How do you know if you are elect? It is very simple. Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. And if you will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and commit your life to Him, you are numbered among the elect. And that took place in eternity past. And the illustration has been given that as you approach this door, over the door it says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is all you need to know. You are “whosoever.” That is broad enough for the entire human race. You can drive a semi-truck through that door and you see, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” You go, “That’s what I want to do. That’s me,” and you take that step of faith and you come through that door and you enter into the kingdom of heaven. You leave the evil world system and you enter into the kingdom of light. And you turn around and you look at that door, and on the other side of the door as you look back at it, it says, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of world.”
Well, that was on that backside of the door all along. You just couldn’t see it. You just didn’t know it. You can only see this side of the door. Only God knows what is on the other side of the door. That is a closed book on the other side of the door. All you need to know is the free offer of the gospel that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. And if you have truly believed in Christ, it will make a difference in your life. It will change your life. There is no way you can commit your life to Christ and stay committed to the world. You commit your life to Christ, He becomes the Lord of your life and He now is the one who is directing and leading everything.
So, as I close this, here’s the question: Have you called upon the name of the Lord for salvation? No one else can do that for you. Your wife can’t do it for you. Your children can’t do it for you. Even God can’t do that for you. You yourself must believe in Jesus Christ. And so, may God give you the grace to do that. And for those watching by livestream, wherever you are geographically, wherever you are spiritually, if you have never called on the name of Christ do so this very moment. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time. Behold, today is the day of salvation.” You may never have an opportunity like this again to hear the gospel presented to you, and so I plead with you to commit your life to Christ this very moment. And Jesus says, “He who comes unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.”