My wife heard a speaker the other day say:
“We say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin, but the Bible says that God hates sinners.”
This declaration was startling and unsettling to my wife and others and it got us talking. She posed the question to me, and told me the references the speaker quoted were from the Psalms.
Here is what we found in Psalm 5 and 11:
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.**
Psalms 5:5-6 NASB
The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Psalms 11:4-5 NASB
In pondering this question, my first reaction was to go to the revelation in the New Testament of God’s love. We have clear teaching in the New Testament that God loved us while we were sinners:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. - Romans 5:8, 10 NASB
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16 NASB
What do we do with this?
I want to approach this question from two sides.
First we will look at love and hate from a biblical perspective.
Then we must look at how the Father views sin and sinners.
Let me first state that when I approach a subject like this, I take the Bible to be authoritative – both Old and New Testament. If I don’t understand what is going on, the shortfall is on my side, not in the Word.
The great thing is that God has told us if we lack wisdom, we can ask of Him and He will give it liberally and without recourse. (That makes me happy!)
Love and Hate
Back to the question at hand. How can an unchanging God love sinners in the NT and hate them in the OT? Did He change? Nope. In fact you will find a reference to God hating even in the NT:
Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." - Romans 9:13 NASB
We can’t say that the blood of Jesus made it possible for God to love us, because the blood was shed not to allow God’s love but as a result of God’s love.
Where do we go?
I believe the difficulty here is that we have broken the word love. We have taken our definition of love from Hallmark rather than the holy and pure Word of God.
I fully believe that God has emotions. He has compassion, pity, anger, sadness, and joy. But what if love and hate are not emotions? What if they were not feelings at all? What if they are actions – attitudes - choices?
What if love is a deliberate choice to behave like this:
Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB
God’s definition of love is not feeling based but choice based. This is why He can command us to love. He does not command us to feel, but to do, to be loving. In a recent sermon on this topic, my friend Todd Lukas made the statement "Hate is not the opposite of Love, Pride is," which when you are working with this Bible definition of Love, makes a ton of sense.
And what if hate was a deliberate choice to exercise wrath? If you take the time to read more than just the favorite verses above in Romans 5 and John 3 you will find that each passage mentions not only the love of God but also the wrath of God.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. - Romans 5:9 NKJV
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ... "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." - John 3:18, 36 NKJV
I can tell you authoritatively that God loves sinners, and that an unrepentant sinner faces the wrath of God even while God loves him.
I can tell you for sure that Jesus drank the cup of the Father’s wrath that was stored up against all sinners – for me – for you – for us – for them. He paid the price for our sin. He took the wrath of God – the reality of God’s hatred toward sinners – the outward expression of God’s hatred for sin – upon Himself.
I can tell you for sure that because of this – Jesus’ amazing act of love – the Father’s amazing act of love – there is no longer anything keeping a sinner from coming to the Father. The Father’s hatred was swallowed up by His love.
Sin and Sinners
I do want to take one further approach to this question. It is on the front of how the Father views sin and sinners.
Let’s go back to the common truism passed off as scripture these days – “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” We have seen that God loved us in our sin and offered up Jesus. But how did He offer Him up?
Check this out:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB
Notice here that the Father made Christ sin – He did not make Him a sinner – He did not make Him sinful – He made Him sin.
Notice also that the Father made us the righteousness of God – He did not make us righteous people, but He made us righteousness. We were not just sinners – we were sin. You have heard it called a sin nature. Your very nature was a nature of sin. When God looked at you without the blood of Christ He did not see a sinner – He saw sin.
This is why Christ had to become sin – this is the great substitution. Christ became sin and you and I become righteousness.
Now God can look at us and delight in us! He can rejoice over us! He can look at us and say “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” You are righteousness in human form.
Perhaps you get an idea of why I so abhor the label of sinner being applied to those of us who have been born again. Christ’s atonement is complete and effectual. It leaves nothing of the old man behind. [Tweet This] He is dead and in the grave. He was left there when Christ rose from the dead.
Let me close with this passage from Romans 6.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. - Romans 6:3-7 NASB
Talk to me about this?
What do you think?
How do you understand these things?
See you again soon.
** As an aside - I wonder if David's understanding of God's abhorrence for liars and those who shed blood changed after his encounter with Bathsheba and Uriah? Was this written before he learned of how God would forgive and love David even after he committed these very sins?