God’s Love and God’s Hatred

Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’” (v. 13).

- Romans 9:6–13

The Bible says that God hates some people. Romans 9:13 says that God hated Esau before Esau was even born, because Esau had inherited Adam’s hatred of God, and God was not pleased (in His mysterious decision) to elect Esau to salvation. Psalm 5:5 says, “The arrogant cannot stand in Your presence; You hate all who do wrong.” Notice that is it not some abstract “sin” or “wickedness” that God hates in this verse; it is people whom He hates.

Psalm 139:21–22 tells us that we should join God in His holy hatred of these people: “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord …? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” The New Testament says the same in Revelation 2:6.

How are we to understand this? In some cases, hate simply means “love less.” In Luke 14:26 we find Jesus saying that we must hate the members of our own families if we want to follow Him, while in the parallel passage in Matthew 10:37, Jesus says we must love them less than we love Him. That kind of “soft” explanation, however, won’t work in the passages we cited above. God did not love Esau less than Jacob; He did not love Esau in any saving way at all.

It is Psalm 139:21–22 that gives us an important perspective on this matter. To hate someone is to count him as an enemy and to treat him as an enemy. In the Bible, hatred is not an emotion primarily, but rather a covenant action. Those who treat God as an enemy will find God treating them the same way. Since they are His enemies, and He “hates” them, He will destroy them.

The “soft” and the “hard” senses of hatred can be put together this way: When the Bible speaks of God’s loving someone, it means He has chosen to favor them; when it speaks of God’s hating someone, it means He has chosen not to favor them. Thus, we are to favor Christ and not favor the members of our families. Thus, God favored Jacob and did not favor Esau. Thus, we favor God’s friends and we do not favor God’s enemies (Psalm 139).

Favoring is a choice, not an emotion. When family members attack the church, we must choose to side with Christ. When God favors us, it means He elects us; those He disfavors, He leaves to their own damnation.

Coram Deo

When we see that love and hate boil down to favor and disfavor, we can see that they are objective and that they involve conscious decisions. How does understanding this change how you look at people? Resolve to favor those you are commanded to love and disfavor those you are commanded to hate.

Passages for Further Study

Job 4:17–19; 15:14–16
Psalm 35:1–28

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343