The greatest threat to Christianity is not the atheists who despises God’s Word, but rather it is professing believers who use it wrongly in their evangelism. It seems that we have become a culture that thrives more on quaint little antidotes and sayings about God more than the scriptures themselves. Far too often man tends to falsely comfort himself with such quasi religous sayings instead of seeking to ask, “Did God really say that?”
In 2010, Pastor David Platt came under fire for preaching against one of these popular Christian sayings. A Birmingham Alabama newspaper columnist wrote, “We’ve all heard the truth that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. However, Pastor Platt preaches that God hates the sin as well as the sinner.”
Pastor David stood before his congregation the following Sunday when referencing the article and said, “This is one of those times where a preacher can come under fire for preaching the Bible.”
The late R.C. Sproul was asked this question at a conference. “Dr. Sproul, what do you say when people use the saying, ‘God loves the sinner but hates the sin?” Dr. Sproul replied, “The Kingdom of God is not Mr. Rogers neighborhood.”
Does God really hate the sinner as well as the sin? Have we become so zealous in our hope for sinners to be brought to Christ that we have given Jesus a makeover in order to hide His wrath and make Him more appealing to the lost world?
We must be cautious in our evangelistic passion to reach lost souls that we not preach to them a different Gospel. If the Christ we preach is changed in even the slightest way, then it is no longer the Lord of scripture that we promote, but an anathema.
In order to answer the question of God’s love or hate for sinners, we must set aside our personal emotions or feelings about the matter and resort to God’s Word as the final authority on the issue. What does the Bible say about how God feels about sinners.
To be sure, there is a sense in which God’s love has been shed abroad on sinners. For we all fall short and sin daily, despite our best efforts. However, this salvific love God has for sinners is for those that have been called of God. God’s love is for the true Christian, who’s sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.
It is crucial that we distinguish between how a Christian relates to sin as opposed to a lost person. Someone who has been regenerated by Christ and has been given a new heart cannot tolerate sin in their lives.
Although they most assuredly will sin, it is not something that they seek after. When the true believer in Christ sins, it is mournful to them. They do not seek to entertain sin in their lives, but rather to put it to death.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.
The apostle Paul addressed his great hatred for the sins in his life. He looked at his own sin as something foreign to his new nature in Christ. Paul hated his sin, and longed for the righteousness of God in his life.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15.
For the true believer, it is impossible for them to make a mockery of the grace of God, falsely thinking that because of their profession of faith that they are free to continue in rebellion against God, and that He is bound to just overlook their trespasses.
If there is a person who claims to be a Christian yet they can willingly and deliberately chase after what they know to be sin, then they prove themselves to be a liar and their faith to be a sham.
“Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.” Hebrews 10:26.
So there is a sense in which God’s love is shown to the sinner in that Christ atoned for the sins of His people on the cross. The danger we get into is when Christians revert to telling unbelievers or false converts that God loves them but hates their sin.
Pertaining to those outside of Christ, those who have not truly repented of their sins and been born again, this is not true. No where in scripture is it written that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. In fact, scripture states the exact opposite.
“The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.” Psalm 11:5.
Notice it is not only the sin that God hates with a passion. The Psalmist did not write that God merely hates the acts of the wicked. Rather, the word “wicked” in this verse is used to describe a group of people. And God’s hatred is directed at them, not just their sin.
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19.
Again we see in Proverbs that God’s hatred is directed at the one who commits these sins, not just at the actions themselves. All men sin, but the true Christians runs from evil practices of sin. The unconverted man runs towards sin with a great willingness to embrace it. These seven things that God hates are not just sinful actions, but the one who commits them.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” 1 John 3:9.
When speaking of the wicked, Job wrote, “Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed.” Job 20:26.
Again, we see that it is not only acts of wickedness that God abhors, but the wicked perpetrators themselves. Those who may claim to be Christians, but persist in adultery, in hatred, in lies, in fornication and other acts of sin. They know that what they do is an abomination to God. But with their actions, they prove that their sin is more precious to them than their desire to repent.
These people do not hate their sin, but find ways to justify it, all the while claiming to be followers of Christ. They may attend church services, they may have been baptized, and they may be well respected in the community. But none of these things merit the grace of God upon their lives.
Jonathan Edwards said in his infamous sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, “Some have imagined and pretended that God’s promises are effectual for a man in his natural state, if that man is truly earnest in his seeking and knocking. But it is visibly clear that God is under no obligation to keep such a person from eternal destruction, not even for one moment. It doesn’t matter how religious the man is or how many prayers he makes. Until he believes in Christ, God is not obligated in any way to protect him.”
Not everyone who thinks themselves to be a Christian is truly saved. Sadly, there will be many people who vehemently professed Jesus Christ as Lord while they had breath who will spend their eternity in Hell.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23.
As R.C.Sproul once said, “It is not the sin that God will cast into Hell, but the sinner.”
Jesus said in Mark 1:15 that in order to be saved, a person must do two things; believe and repent. Professing believers have no problem with the belief portion of this verse. However, when it comes to repenting of our sins, not one time but as a daily practice, we conveniently forget this.
As Paul Washer once said, “Repentance is not a flu shot or something we do one time. Repentance is an ongoing and daily thing.”
If we are truly believer sin Christ, it is our mission to seek out and destroy any remnants of sin that remain in our lives. And we do this be examining ourselves daily. It is to look at our lives through the lens of God’s Word, and ask of ourselves if there is any sin that has not been put away.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5.
It is the wayward sinner that abides under the wrath of God. Contrary to what some would say, the love of God does not abide on all people regardless of their spiritual condition. The stark reality is that those outside of Christ are heaping upon themselves the fearce anger and wrath of God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36.
It is not the love of God that remains upon the wicked, but the wrath of God. Unfortunately, there are many who will not preach this to their hearers. There are those who conduct their evangelism with sayings such as, “God loves you just as you are, He just wishes you would stop running from Him.”
When we tell sinners that God loves them just the way they are, what is being heard is that because God is so loving, there is no fear in sin. So why would anyone adhere to the Biblical mandate to repent? It is often said that because God is love He must forgive, therefore the more we sin, the greater His grace is upon our lives. But the Apostle Paul greatly opposed this false notion.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? “Romans 6:1-2.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when God saves a man, he literally becomes as a new creation. The implications of this are staggering. Salvation is not merely a decision man decides to make. It is a miraculous supernatural miracle of God in which God forgoes to make a person totally new. Their desires are different. The sins that they once loved, they now despise. And the righteousness of God that they once ran from, they now run to.
Does a Christian sin? Sadly, the do. But can a Christ persist in a practice and deliberate pursuit of sin. As the Apostle said, by no means. It is in a person’s practice of repentance that it becomes obvious as to if they are saved or not.
It is often said that as Christians, we are not to judge the salvation of others. It is true that only God can judge a person regarding the condemnation of their sins. However, it is false that Christians are not to judge. In fact, we can weed out false believers from true by inspecting the fruit of their lives.
Are they striving after Christ, or striving after sin? Is there a genuine desire for repentance in their lives? Do they hate their sin and long for Christlikeness? These are all fruits that Christians are called to discern in others.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16-20.
If your child were standing in the middle a busy street in the midst of oncoming traffic, you wouldn’t scream at him how much you love him in order to get him to realize his danger. Rather you would make the child aware of the danger by saying something like, “Get out of the road, or you will get hit by a car!”
We are to preach the wrath of God to sinners. We don’t sugar coat their grave condition or entreat them with false politically correct statements about God. We are to call them to flee from the wrath that abides upon them.
Because although it is a wonderful truth that God is love, the lost man does not reside under His grace. In his spiritually dead state, he is in great danger, and it is the fear of the Lord that leads people to see His great love. It is the fear of the Lord that leads to knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:11.
Dr. John MacArthur once said, “Grace means nothing to a person who does not know he is sinful and that such sinfulness means he is separated from God and damned. It is therefore pointless to preach grace until the impossible demands of the law and the reality of guilt before God are preached.”
Truth be told, the God never said “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” Rather Ghandi said this. When we mix our Christian beliefs with man’s opinions, it becomes a powerless and false Gospel.
In our evangelism and desire to see others be saved, let us not be ashamed of the truth of man’s spiritual state. Unless sinful man understands the bad news of his own depravity, it is impossible to marvel in the good news of the grace of God. Preach the full council of the Gospel. Tell lost men that they preside under the fearful wrath of God, so that they may come to know His amazing grace.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12.