Q & A: Does God hate sinners or does He hate sin?

Back in August of this year I preached my second sermon.  The first was when I was a teen in Youth Group.

For the second, I chose for my text Isaiah 6.

In that sermon I challenged a frequently expressed sentiment (at least in our church) that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’

I recognize that there are many messages being sent when this phrase is put forward.  I do not desire to trample on anyone’s appreciation of God’s love for those He came to save.  I REJOICE in this gracious merciful reality!  Yet, there is a flaw in this proposition.  Here we are essentially led to believe that God loves all sinners… while hating their sin.  How does this sit with you?  How does this sit with God’s spoken Word? 

 Does God tell us that He loves all sinners while hating their sin?

(…here is where I crazily entrust myself to the internet to render a response… much like the 8-ball… that little plastic ball which apparently answered all our requests for knowledge… back in the day.  hahah)

Further, in the message, I made the statement that God never forgives sinIs this a correct understanding?  How about Psalm 103:12?  Does this verse teach forgiveness of sin or forgiveness of a sinner?

I could dismiss this all as being unimportant… but that would disclude the very real questions being asked.  I have some thoughts, but here is where I am listening to the thoughts of others from their understanding of the Word.

Please speak up for Truth here, with humility… and thank you.

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6 Responses to Q & A: Does God hate sinners or does He hate sin?

  1. Wow! Good questions! I’ve had trouble with the “hate the sin, love the sinner” statement as well, just because Scripture seems to indicate quite clearly that people who are unrepentant are under God’s wrath. Psalm 7:11 says that God is angry (indignant) every day with sinners and that if they don’t turn, he’ll sharpen His sword. ZOIKS! Indeed, God’s love is waiting to be lavished on the person who gives up their sin and stubborn pride, and even to the unrepentant He is merciful, holding back His wrath for a time, and it is this kind of “kindness that leads us to repentance.” Romans 9:22 says he “bears with great patience THE OBJECTS OF HIS WRATH.” Wow. Hate sin? You bet? Hate sinners? It would seem so, since the sin is theirs and the fruit of their own evil hearts – but we must also remember that WE “were once darkness.” And that’s where the compassion comes in – not excusing sin, but pleading with others to repent and surrender and find forgiveness and the love of an adopting Father.

    As to the other question – does God really forgive sin…is this a technical question? 🙂 Sure, He forgives, in the legal sense that He commutes our (just) sentence and Jesus becomes our substitute. Sin MUST be paid for obviously, and isn’t ‘forgiven’ in the sense that God doesn’t just go *POOF* and make it go away without a just sentence being paid. That’s why Jesus’ substitutionary atonement is SOOO important, and I think that’s the point you’re getting at, unless I miss your point. Which is highly likely, considering my feeble powers of deduction! Oh, and regarding Ps 103 – I think the Holy Spirit, through David, is using a powerful, descriptive, metaphor to show the freedom of forgiveness, since East to West is really an infinite distance. We’ll never see those sins again or face the sentence for them! …because Jesus did…. Wow again. To the praise of His glorious grace!

  2. TimWitten says:

    Hi Blaine, and thanks for this reply… my black & white tendency pushes me to review my sermon comments to address any error. When I started to look at my statement “God does hate sin; and, because God is holy he hates all sin… (Prov 3:32; 15:26) It’s also true that God has forgiven many sinners… but He never forgives sin. We sinners are forgiven because Jesus Christ shed his blood and bore our punishment.” So, it is a ‘techical question’. Is ‘sin’ the object of His mercy or is the ‘sinner’? There are passages such as Mark 2 where Jesus clearly is saying “My son, your sins are forgiven.” And the response is equally… “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” So here, the sin seems identified rather than the sinner… at least in the english translation. But, in the overall reality.. Christ died to save sinners… sinners are redeemed…purchased back by His blood. Sin or sins have no place in God’s eternal kingdom… so then, my finite technical mind interprets what I see/understand and spits out a comment that “God never forgives sin” even though its right there on the pages of my Bible. 🙂 As I get at the ‘technical’ truth… it seems that sin is judged and the penalty required is assigned to the sinner… and, by Grace alone, the sinner who repents at the Cross has ‘his guilt removed and his sin atoned for'(Is6). The sin and the penalty of the sin is covered by the Blood of Jesus Christ… He is our propitiation. The unrepentant sinner also has his sin judged and the penalty of those sins remains on that sinner… hence, God’s wrath abides on the sinner and not just the sin. A loving holy God is clearly put on display as both hating and loving sinners. This causes a wrestling in my own mind as I only ever heard of a God who loves sinners… not a God who hates sinners and so it becomes a man-made filter in my reading and understanding of God’s word.

    So, I guess I’m looking for corrective lenses. If my understanding in the past has been seen through a man-made filter… then I want to let the Holy Spirit correct me through the Word of God. And I want to answer well the questions asked of me.

    Thankfully, I also enjoy the simplicity of the Gospel too! 🙂 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

  3. cavman says:

    You’ve limited your search too narrowly. Sounds like you’re basing your point on 1 text (never a good thing to do, especially poetry).
    Mt. 26:28- this is the blood of the new covenant shed for the forgiveness of sins
    Mk. 1:4- John preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins
    Lk 1:77 talks about the knowledge of salvation, the forgiveness of their sins
    Jn. 20:23 the apostles (and therefore elders) are given declarative power to announce the forgiveness of sins.
    Acts 5:31 Jesus gives repentance and the forgiveness of sins
    Col. 1:4 redemption is defined as the forgiveness of sins (see also Eph. 1)
    1 Jn. 1:9 when we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

    I could go on. Our debt has been released. We are forgiven for committing numerous and various treasonous acts.
    Just as you don’t want to split hairs between the sinner and sin (as in love the one and hate the other), you don’t want to split hairs between forgiving the sin and sinner.
    Yes, God is just to pass over those sins because of the atonement provided by Messiah. But we don’t want to rationalize beyond Scripture.
    Funny (odd) that this term is the same one used for divorce in Scripture. Our sins have been sent away, and we have been set free.

    Now, in terms of the love part…
    There is a tremendous tension in Scripture. God loves all his creation, particularly humanity which is made in his image (defaced but not erased by sin). As such, we can say God loves sinners (even if not all of them savingly). Yet, the Psalms also declare that he hates the wicked. I suppose that could be used comparatively as in “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” or “if you do not hate your mother and father you cannot be my disciple,” rather than absolutely. But biblical, we should affirm God’s love for sinners AND God’s righteous wrath toward the unrepentant who are still apart from Christ.
    SO there is some truth to love the sin, hate the sinner. Just as we, like God, are to love our enemies- sin does not put anyone beyond our love (just as our sin did not put us beyond his love), even though we must be honest about sin and hate it (absolutely).

    This is one of those places we prefer either/or, but Scripture points us to both/and (which can only be reconciled on account of the gospel).
    That may or not be helpful.

  4. cavman says:

    Read this from the footnotes in Keller’s latest book. He refers to D.A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
    “Carson shows that neither a very conservative view (“God loves only those who are saved”) nor a very liberal view (“God loves all people without distinction”) does justice to the nuanced Biblical doctrine of the love of God.”

    See, I’m not a complete heretic.

  5. TimWitten says:

    Comeon now Steve… nobody was thinking you’re a “complete” heretic! Haha… just kidding. How are you? and how are things at your church in Tucson?

    I guess my question above is primarily two-pronged. One is that it addresses a commonly used phrase that devalues/de-emphasizes the very clear but rarely spoken truth that a Holy God does hate sinners(Ps5:5),
    that the devious person is an abomination to the LORD (Prov 3:32),
    that the thoughts of the the wicked are an abomination to the LORD (Prov 15:26), that the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.”(Nah1:2-3)

    The phrase shifts out of balance or out of tension what must necessarily remain in right tension for us to properly see God in his holiness. You identified a significant part of the confusion… that God loves different things differently. God’s love is not just a single-dimensioned catch-all.

    The second part of my question is the technical piece…. and maybe it is ‘splitting hairs’ but I can’t get my hands around ‘forgiving sin’ apart from the application of forgiveness to the sinner. I can understand forgiveness granted to sinners. Only God can forgive sin… but would the Father send the Son to die for ‘sin’ if there were not a sinner needing forgiveness? Seems like a stupid question, but it demonstrates to me that what I currently understand is still the fact that Jesus Christ died for sinners… not for sin.

    If you can help me split this hair a little better or a little further… I’m all ears… and thank you! I appreciate your help in thinking through this.

  6. TimWitten says:

    My brief thoughts on this after letting is sit a while is that I recognize that God’s word clearly speaks of his love for all of His creation. He clearly tells us He is not willing that any should perish and His glory which He displays in Creation and in His Word is available to all who would believe. God loves… and no theological argument ever needs to minimize or set that aside.

    God also saves. In His special affection for those He calls.. His sheep…His church, He sovereignly, graciously, mercifully and completely saves unto Eternal Life. All of Grace. I cannot boast in responding, understanding, or doing anything that He did not bring into reality by His own power and purpose and choosing.

    God is Holy. In His holiness and for the sake of His name, He will execute justice. He is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, yet He hates sin and He will pour out His wrath on all those who do not believe. He will do this in perfect holiness, righteousness, love and justice. He will do it for the sake of His name… His glory.

    Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so. Jesus commands, Repent and believe.

    Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

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