It is commonly taught that "God hates the sin but loves the sinner." Few ever examine, let alone challenge, that statement. Yet not only do we read of God's hatred toward evil-doers ("You hate all workers of iniquity" [Ps. 5:5]), but we know that it is upon men, not their sins, that God's hatred poured His wrath. And it is human beings, not their sins, who will suffer forever in hell. Doesn't it seem wrong, therefore, to say God hates sin but loves the sinner?
"Well, when you put it that way, yes. I guess so. But that creates problems too." Of course it does. But we must not assert a falsehood or reject truth merely because doing so raises new problems the error (wrongly) avoided.
Think for a moment. How is it possible to hate an abstraction-sin? A moment's reflection will make it clear that sin is a function of sinners; sin does not exist as a separate entity. In those passages where God says He hates lying, etc., it must mean He hates it in persons because there is no lying anywhere else. Lying is only done by liars. That is why He tells us, "Outside will be male prostitutes and those involved in magic and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and all who love to tell lies" (Rev. 22:15). It is not lies that will be excluded from the heavenly city, but liars and all others who have never been forgiven for their sins. It is sometimes said that Christ died for our sins, which means He died for sinners who committed those sins; so too it is said that God hates this or that sin, which means He hates those who are guilty of committing those sins. On the cross Christ died for me, not merely for my sins. There is no desire to distinguish between sins and sinner by using such language.
The truth that God is a God of love must never be denied, nor must it be sublimated by any other teaching. Always, it must be given the prominent place the Scriptures ascribe to it. Not only is God love, but love is the sum of all of God's commandments. Love is the aim of all the Scriptures teach, because love is the basic nature of God's covenant, which itself reveals so vividly the positive side of His nature.
The great love God has demonstrated toward us in sending His Son, in addition to all of the greatness of His loving-kindness manifested in His creation, all the more shows us how nothing less than pure hatred could be shown toward ungrateful and rebellious sinners. Remember, God also loves His Son with a perfect love. How, therefore, can He lightly overlook those who tread underfoot the blood He shed? Saving love does not preclude hatred; it demands it. The cross was not only the greatest demonstration of God's love for sinful men; it also most certainly implies that those who have no part in such great love stand in a place of dreadful jeopardy. This antithesis between love and hatred is set forth most plainly, perhaps, in Romans 9:13: "As it is written, 'I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.' "
It is a terrible thing to think of the hatred of God toward sinners who have rebelled against Him and who have rejected His Son. But it is also a terrible thing to think of their violating God's commandments and rejecting the love gift of His Son. Only when the hatred of God is isolated from the rebellion of sinners does it seem improper. You will never more clearly see the glory of Christ's salvation than when you realize what Christ has saved you from. It was from nothing less than the hatred of God, poured out everlastingly in hell. That is the whole point.
Do not make a distinction the Bible refuses to make. It is true that while we were sinners Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. But that love was not some sort of emotion inconsistent with His hatred for us as rebellious sinners. In pure mercy Christ determined to set His love on undeserving enemies, indeed, enemies that deserved the opposite-that is what grace is all about. That love was a determination to save those for whom He died in spite of His revulsion toward them. We have such difficulty with this concept largely because we have a modern, feeling-oriented view of love. The plainest fact of all is this: When it came to dealing with sin, God did not separate the sin from the person. Christ Himself, not some abstraction known as "our sins," was punished on the cross. All of the fury of God's hatred was poured out on Him in the stead of guilty sinners. There was no artificial separation of the sin from the One Who was counted a sinner. Indeed, here is how Paul puts it: "for our sake He made him Who didn't know sin to be sin"(1 Corinthians 5:21). Surely, in that statement the two, sin and person, are inextricably fused.
It is dangerous to tell an unconverted sinner that God loves him and hates only his sin. He might easily infer from your words that he is not in such a bad position after all. The assertion pulls the stinger out of death and may even relieve him of the burden of facing the fact that, like a cloud that is ready to burst, every day God's wrath hangs over him (cf. John 3:36).
Christian, thank God that on the cross He did not separate the sin from the Person, but in the matchless love gift of His Son He made your salvation from His everlasting hatred a reality. The hatred of God should enlarge both your view of God's love for you and your love for Him in response.
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