Is it true that God “loves the sinner but hates the sin”?

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You hear this statement all the time. It comes under the category of us trying to help out God. There are elements of the revelation of God that are difficult for us to take. One of these is anytime we associate the word “hate” with God. It’s hard for us to do that, but we have it in Scripture.

This idea that God hates the sin but loves the sinner is contrary to two Psalms (Pss. 5:5; 11:5) and the opening verses of the book of Malachi: “Esau have I hated, Jacob have I loved” (Mal. 1:2–3). We have to be very careful that we don’t think we are somehow helping God by improving His PR. We have to be governed by the text.

Now, I don’t think this means we run around saying, “God hates these particular sinners,” or, “God hates this particular group,” and hold banners up, parading up and down the street, saying, “God hates (fill in the social group).” I don’t think that’s the call for us, but neither do I think there is merit in saying “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.”

What we do need to talk about is this: I was a worse sinner than anyone whom we say God hates. We all were. We need to understand, as R.C. said many times, that the smallest sin is an affront to the holiness of God and brings down the thundering wrath of God upon us.

When we slip into these kinds of statements we think we’re doing God a favor, but we’re not doing sinners a favor because we’re not helping them see the wrath of God or what that means. Until they see that, they don’t see their true need for a substitute, and they don’t fully understand what Christ was doing on the cross. So, sometimes we have to be careful about how we want to help God’s PR.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Stephen Nichols and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.