My friend believes that God hates us. He argues that God hates sin, and we are sinful; therefore, God hates us to the core of our being. I pointed out John 3:16 to him, but he said the context means something other than “God is love.” Does God actually hate us?
James F. Pope
We find the answer to your question by examining the two major teachings of the Bible: the law and the gospel.
Hatred of sinners
Chances are, you have heard people comment that “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” No doubt, people who make that statement have good intentions. They likely desire to keep a balance between God’s law and gospel.
Rather than striking a balance though, that expression waters down the message of the law. The uncomfortable and horrific truth of God’s law is that God hates sin and sinners. The Bible says of God: “You hate all who do wrong” (Psalm 5:5). According to his law, God does not separate sin from the sinner. With his law, God thunders his anger at people who fall short of the perfection he demands (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48).
Love of sinners
While the law speaks of God’s hatred of sinners, the gospel presents an entirely different message: God loves sinners. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). His love is undeserved; it cannot be earned. As a free gift to sinners, he invites us to trust all that he did to overcome sin, death, and eternal punishment for our sins. The message of the gospel details how God loved sinners with actions and not mere words. Jesus came to live (1 Peter 2:22) and die (Romans 5:6,8) in place of sinners.
The content of the law and the gospel is not contradictory. These two central teachings of the Bible reveal different information about God. One teaching expresses God’s justice and his hatred for sin and sinners; the other teaching brings to light God’s gracious and genuine love for sinners.
We see the intersection of those two doctrines at the cross of Calvary. There, God punished Jesus in the place of all sinners, sparing them the punishment they deserved (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 4:10).
People of grace
So, what do these two different messages of Scripture mean for Christians? Does God hate them or love them? Thankfully, the Bible does not leave Christians in suspense. In his inspired letter to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul served as God’s spokesperson when he pointed to “this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:2). Christians are people of grace; they trust God’s grace in Jesus. Each day, we bask in the sunshine of his grace. We face each morning with fresh confidence that we are the recipients of God’s grace and mercy (Lamentations 3:22,23). We close our eyes in sleep, knowing that we are safe and secure through God’s grace (Psalm 4:8).
God’s gospel appropriately dominates our lives as Christians, but does that mean there is no place for God’s law in our lives? Certainly not. With the context of your question in mind, our rebellious sinful nature still needs to hear the harsh message of God’s law. The law’s pronouncement of God’s hatred of sin and sinners serves as a warning for Christians not to reject salvation by impenitence and unbelief.
As people of grace, Christians live with the knowledge that their natural sinfulness and actual sins deserved God’s punishment, but God has completely forgiven their sins and now views them as his dearly loved children (1 John 3:1).
Author: James F. Pope
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019