Does Matthew 5:44-45 Teach Common Grace?
Rev. Angus Stewart
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 (Matt.
Of the few texts which are cited in support of common
grace with any plausibility, Matthew 5:44-45 perhaps
occurs the most frequently, though usually without any
supporting exegesis. All agree that God does give good
things to the reprobate in this life. But do these
verses really teach that the earthly good things given
by God to the reprobate are given by God out of love for
The common grace interpretation of Matthew 5:44-45, of
course, creates several serious problems, problems which
are largely ignored by the theory’s advocates. How can
the one and undivided God love and hate the same people
at the same time? How can the eternal, unchanging God
have a temporal, changeable love for the reprobate?
Remember this alleged "love" of God for the
reprobate begins with their conception (unless it is
posited that God eternally loved the reprobate) and ends
with their death (unless it is posited that God loves
the reprobate while He punishes them everlastingly). Various evasions, such as
"paradox," have been made but no proper response has
been given. In the meantime, the churches and
individuals who hold this theory that God loves
everybody (and those who follow
them) go further away from the truth of Calvinism (which
they profess to hold) and deeper and deeper into Arminianism, protesting all the while that they are
But aside from these wider issues, we must examine the
text itself. Its subject is the Christian’s treatment of
his "enemies," who are also called "them that curse
you," "them that hate you" and "them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you" (v. 44). Christ tells us here that
we must do four things with respect to our enemies: we
must "love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" them (v.
motivation for loving, blessing, doing good and praying
for our enemies is "that [we] may be the children of
[our] Father which is in heaven" (v. 45). For there is a
likeness between our righteous actions and those of our
Father who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on
the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the
unjust." To put it differently, the text makes a
comparison between what believers are called to do (v.
44) and what God does (v. 45), for in our doing these
things (v. 44), we show ourselves to be His children (v.
45). Thus we need to consider the similarities and
dissimilarities between what we must do towards our
enemies and what our Father does towards the "evil" and
"unjust." What exactly is being compared?
Does Christ do any of the four things (i.e. "love,"
"bless," "do good" and "pray") for His enemies that we
are to do to our enemies? Christ most certainly does
"love," "bless," "do good" and "pray for" His elect
enemies. His doing these very things for us is our
salvation through the blood of His cross. But does
Christ do any, all or some of these things for His reprobate enemies? And does God do any, all or some
of these things for His reprobate enemies?
First, Christ certainly does not pray for them, for
He says in His "high priestly prayer:" "I pray not for
the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for
they are thine" (John 17:9). Second, Christ blesses the
children of Israel (Gen. 48:16) and His disciples (Luke
24:50-51), but there is no word in Scripture of Christ
blessing the reprobate. Third, all agree that Christ did
good to the ungodly. He healed ten lepers though nine did
not return to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19), and He fed 5,000 though many of
them did not believe on Him (John 6). So with respect to the
reprobate, Christ did not do two of the four things that
we are commanded to do for our neighbours: He did not
pray for nor bless the reprobate. He did do one of the
four things we are commanded to do: He "did good" to the
reprobate. What about the fourth one? Did He love the
reprobate? We say that He did not; those who believe in
common grace say that He did. This verse of itself does
not determine the issue either way. Other texts will
have to decide this question.
What then about God? Does He "love," "bless," "do good
to" and "pray for" His reprobate enemies? First, God
does not pray for the reprobate, for God does not
Second, God blesses His elect (Eph. 1:3), the righteous
(Ps. 5:12), His inheritance (Ps. 28:9) and those who
fear Him (Ps. 115:13). Each of the beatitudes begins
"Blessed are ..." (Matt. 5:3-11), and many Psalms
contain the line: "Blessed is the man ..." (e.g., Ps.
1:1) or "Blessed are they ..." (e.g., Ps. 84:4). In each
case it is God’s people (the meek, the godly, etc.) who
are blessed. God blesses His elect people "with all
spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph.
1:3-4), who is the One supremely blessed of the Father
(Ps. 45:2). Our being blessed in Christ is the
realization of the Abrahamic covenant in Christ with His
elect (Gen. 12:2-3; Gal. 3:8-9, 14, 16, 29). This is
God’s irreversible blessing of salvation (Num. 23:20)
which turns us away from our iniquities (Acts 3:26).
What then about the reprobate? As those who curse Christ
and His people, God curses them (Gen. 12:3; Num. 24:9). Proverbs
3:33 declares, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of
the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just."
Third, all agree that God does good to the reprobate
wicked in this life. Acts 14:17 states that God "did
good" to the pagan nations by giving them "rain from
heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with
food and gladness." We conclude that with respect to the
reprobate, God does not do two of the four things that
we are commanded to do for our neighbours: God does not
pray for nor bless the reprobate. God does one of the
four things we are commanded to do: He "does good" to
the reprobate. What about the fourth one? Does God love
the reprobate? We say that he does not; those who
believe in common grace say that He does. This verse of
itself does not determine the issue either way. Other
texts will have to decide this question.
How are we to decide which view is correct? First, one
could argue from the analogy between what we
are called to do (v. 44) and what God does (v. 45). But
since we are called to do two things (i.e., pray for and
bless our enemies) which God does not do for His
reprobate enemies, it cannot be proved that God loves
His reprobate enemies. Second, we could look more
closely at what God is said to do in verse 45: "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The "evil"
and the "unjust" surely include those who are reprobate.
Causing the sun to rise and the rain to fall (in
moderate amounts) on the reprobate is doing good to them
(cf. Acts 14:17), but it does not prove that God "loves"
them. God gives earthly "prosperity" to "the wicked"
(Ps. 73:3)—something which requires sunshine and
rain—but this is "surely" His setting them in "slippery
places" before He casts "them down into destruction" (v.
18). Though God gives them good things in His
providence, He "despises" them (v. 20) as "corrupt"
sinners (v. 8). Third, since the passage itself does not
prove whether or not God loves His reprobate enemies,
this will have to be settled on the basis of other
biblical texts and doctrines.
Here are eighteen Scripture texts on God's hatred of the
And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation,
which I cast out before you: for they committed all
these things, and therefore I abhorred them (Lev.
And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your
images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your
idols, and my soul shall abhor you (Lev. 26:30).
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the
Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God
doth drive them out from before thee (Deut.
For all that do such things, and all that do
unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God
And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of
the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters (Deut. 32:19).
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest
all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that
speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and
deceitful man (Ps. 5:5-6).
For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and
blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth (Ps.
The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him
that loveth violence his soul hateth (Ps. 11:5).
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an
abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and
hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth
wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to
mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he
that soweth discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the
wicked for the day of evil. Every one that is proud in
heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in
hand, he shall not be unpunished (Prov. 16:4-5).
He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth
the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is
abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein (Prov.
Behold, ye [i.e., idols] are of nothing, and your work
of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you (Isa. 41:24).
Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it
crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it (Jer. 12:8).
All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated
them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive
them out of mine house (Hos. 9:15).
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed
them, and their soul also abhorred me (Zech. 11:8).
I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein
hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith
the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid
his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of
the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished,
but we will return and build the desolate places; thus
saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will
throw down; and they shall call them, The border of
wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath
indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye
shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of
Israel (Mal. 1:2-5).
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I
hated (Rom. 9:13).
But what of our calling? We are to love, bless, do good
to and pray for our enemies who curse, hate,
despitefully use and persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Loving
our enemies is not fellowshipping with them in their sin
(II Cor. 6:14-18) but desiring and "seeking their good"
physically and spiritually. Out of love, we "do good" to
our enemies by helping them in whatever way we can,
including greeting them and being friendly towards them
(Matt. 5:47). Out of love, we "pray" for them, that is,
we ask God to save them from their sins and grant them
eternal life through Jesus Christ, if it be His will.
Our calling to "bless" our enemies does not mean that we
actually confer blessedness upon them; only the Triune
God can do that. Nor are we to declare that they are
blessed by God, for they are living under His curse
(Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). Blessedness is only found in
Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:14). Thus we bless our enemies by
pointing them to Christ, and calling them to repent and
believe. As frail creatures made from the dust, as
guilty sinners redeemed by grace and as rational-moral
beings before God’s holy law, this is our sacred duty
towards our ungodly fellow creatures and neighbours. In
loving, blessing, doing good to and praying for our
enemies (Matt. 5:44), we show ourselves to be the
children of our heavenly Father who does good to both
just and unjust by giving them the good gifts of rain
and sunshine (v. 45).