Love and Hate in Romans 9

So, this post is an attempt to clarify my answer to one of the big questions that came from a sermon I preached on Romans 9, namely, “Why does (or how can) God love Jacob and hate Esau?”

Here is the short answer: God mercifully loves Jacob in spite of his wickedness, and God justly hates hates Esau due to his wickedness.

Also remember that God alone has the authority to make these distinctions – as his children we are called to love everyone.

Furthermore, be careful not to load these two terms, “love”and “hate”, with an excess of your own personal and cultural baggage.

When Paul talks about love and hate in Romans 9, he is talking about election — about freely choosing a wicked being to whom he will show mercy and justly rejecting another wicked being because they are wicked.

Here is how John Piper helpfully explains this passage: “What does love mean here? Love means that I have chosen Jacob for myself as my covenant people. And hatred means being angry forever because of wickedness.” Piper shows us the exegetical process that led him to this conclusion in this video:

So, let me sum this up. God is faithful to his word and he is free to do as pleases. In his freedom he is never unjust.

God is also sovereign. Yet, somehow in his sovereignty, he allows humans to be really and truly responsible for how they respond to his calling with repentance and faith.

These truths should increase your evangelistic passion by reminding you that God is in control and that he can save whomever he will, but that he chooses to do so through our own faithful preaching of the gospel and through the obedient response of those to whom we preach.


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