Matthew 5:44, 45 an Universalism
Larry Ray Hafley
The doctrine of Universalism was once actively and aggressively advanced by those who claimed to believe the Bible. Their belief is that God will save all men regardless of their character and life. One of the Scriptures they use as a proof text is Matthew 5:44, 45, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
God urges us to love, bless, do good, and pray for the wicked. Will God turn and hate, curse, do evil, and damn those we must receive? Observe that, despite their wickedness, God does good to them in this life. Are we to understand that God will suddenly do evil to them in the end? If so, this is hypocrisy. God will eternally love them that hate Him; He will everlastingly bless them that curse Him.
God's blessings in this text are temporal, not eternal. All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3). God sends the sun and rain, temporal blessings, to the just and the unjust. To whom? To the "just" and the "unjust." This shows there are two classes of men, which the universalist will freely grant. Morally speaking, they are considered as the "just" and "unjust." But why so classify men and actions if there is no moral or spiritual accountability?
Even these earthly blessings are conditionally appropriated. One must act, or he will not be blessed by the sunshine and rain. "The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing" (Prov. 13:4). "And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God" (Eccl. 3:13). What man does to reap the benefits of God's gracious gifts in nature does not mean man has earned his food and drink. "It is the gift of God." It is the same in the moral realm. God loves, blesses, and makes provision for the salvation of the unjust. However, he must respond to the overtures of Divine grace and mercy. If he does not do so, he will spiritually starve just as he will physically famish if he does not act when the sunshine and rain are provided.
God's pure grace is matched by His pure righteousness and justice. Sin demands retribution. Righteousness demands reward. All men sin (Rom. 3:23). Through the blood of the cross, God forgives those who believe in Jesus. One must accept God's free gift by faith, by obeying the truth (1 Pet. 1:22). When one does so, he becomes a servant of righteousness, free from sin (Rom. 6:17, 18, 23). Those who neglect or ignore the blessings contained in sunshine and rain will starve-"if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). Likewise, those who refuse the generous gift of God in Christ will perish. It is not hypocrisy. Neither is it hypocrisy when God gives the sun and the rain but man refuses to sow, plow and reap. It is love unbounded which goes unaccepted. God's eventual cursing and condemnation of the unjust is not arbitrary and capricious. He will not suddenly turn and damn certain ones any more than he will suddenly turn and starve those who will not work. Their end is the just reward of their deeds. God is not hypocritical in his nature, purposes, or actions. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). God is not willing that any should starve, but one must work, reap and eat. God's goodness provides sunshine and rain, but man must act or die. God's grace gives Christ and the gospel, but man must obey or perish (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8, 9; 2 Thess. 1:7-9).
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
Truth Magazine, XX:12, p. 12-13