Episode 204 - Does God Hate People?

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Hello and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for your Christian convictions. A question that may come up as we read the Scriptures is what is God? Who is God? What is God like? And in fact, from one perspective, the whole Bible is a revelation of who God is. God sacrifices His privacy and reveals Himself to us. It's His self-disclosure to us. Divinely inspired, revealed throughout time. And it tells us about who He is and what His saving plans are for us.

But a part of that revelation actually says things that probably makes us uncomfortable. We all like the 1 John passage and others that say God is light or God is love. Or those sorts of things. And those are definitely true. The Bible tells it to us, so it's true. But the Bible says other things about God and His relationship to people and how He has a disposition towards people. And so let's look at a couple Psalms today and ask and answer the question does God hate people?

And, if we believe that God loves people, because Scripture says it, we must also say, "Well, what does Scripture also say about this hate question?" So, let's look at Psalm 5. David says in verse four,

“Certainly, you are not a God who approves of people. Evil people cannot dwell with you."

Okay, most of us would be on board with that. So, God can't tolerate evil in His presence and then we have to ask the question, well, where is His presence? Isn't He omnipresent? Doesn't He know everything? Okay?

And he goes on in verse five,

“Arrogant people cannot stand in your presence."

And he says,

“You hate all who behave wickedly. You destroy liars, the Lord despises violent and deceitful people. But as for me, because of your great faithfulness, I will enter your house. I will bow down towards your holy temple as I worship you."

In the middle there are some words that many people probably do not think are in the Bible or maybe they say, "Well, that's that Old Testament God, that's not the New Testament God." But it does say,

“You hate all who behave wickedly. You despise violent and deceitful people."

Somehow, our conception of God must include a place for these verses. It cannot be too narrow so as not to accommodate these verses. This is not an isolated thing and even if it were, even if this were the only place it were in the Bible, that would be enough for our doctrine of God to have to have a place for this. But it is multiple places in the Bible. Both by explicit description or words and by example or illustration.

So Psalm 11 says in verse 5,

”The Lord approves of the godly but He hates the wicked and those who love to do violence. May He rain down burning coals and brimstone on the wicked. A whirlwind is what they deserve, certainly the Lord is just."

Now, there is a type of preaching that's called fire and brimstone preaching and this is, supposedly, looked at as bad today, often by Christians. But, David doesn't seem to have a problem. The Bible doesn't seem to have a problem likening God as one who rains down fire and brimstone on the wicked. And in fact, what would a gospel be, what would the good news be if not that God is going to rain down coals on you, turn and repent?

There is no reason to hear the good news if you don't understand the plight you're in and the bad news. But once again, this passage in verse 5 says that God hates the wicked and that He is opposed to them. He will rain down justice on them. But, isn't it interesting in verse 7 it actually says,

“The Lord is just."

So two verses removed from it saying He hates people we see a reaffirmation of the justice, another word to say that would be the righteousness of God. These fit together according the Scriptures.

And, of course, we know the passages often because they're more popular, because they resonate with our emotions better that say that God is love and in Him there is no darkness and that is true. But somehow, we must fit together that God hates some people and that He loves some people, that He can do both simultaneously. What we cannot do is what some have done throughout history like Pelagius and others and say, "The God of the Old Testament is a different God. The God of the New Testament is the true God, He's loving." Or, "The God of the Old Testament's a lower deity and the God of the New Testament is actually like the truer, higher form of deity." That's not an option to us.

Jesus claims to be the Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. So, you're stuck with the Old Testament because Jesus says you're stuck with the Old Testament. And the Old Testament shouldn't be something we're simply stuck with. It should actually be something that more fully reveals who God is. And since Jesus said that not a single mark in the Old Testament would pass away, since He claimed to be that same God who here, He is saying, hates sinners, then what we see Jesus revealing must fit with what we see in the Old Testament.

Now, here's another principle of interpretation as we're trying to make sense of this. We shouldn't have to have everything repeated in the New Testament. It's not only true and valid if it's repeated in the New Testament. The New Testament church, as they're getting formed, they are relying on the Old Testament Scriptures. And in the famous passage that says that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, reproof and training in righteousness, that passage, that's actually referring to the Old Testament. That is a part of our New Testament that is referring to the Old Testament. The New Testament is full of quotations and allusions and references to the Old Testament because that was their foundation.

They didn't unhitch from it, they didn't have a hard right turn. No, the picture of God that was presented there was the God they understood to be the saving God who sent Jesus Christ to the cross. So, what the Old Testament says about God is true and what the New Testament says about God is true. And the don't contradict, they must fit together. So how does that work? Well, often as evangelicals, if you are one, you've probably heard the phrase that God (or we) should love the sinner and hate the sin.

And maybe for us, that's a good tactic. But that doesn't fit very well with these passages we've looked at. That doesn't fit very well with God raining down coals on people or how the book of Revelation says it will go in the end, although it's in figurative language, it likens Jesus coming back with the sword out of His mouth and the blood from the carnage going up above the horse. I don't know what that means exactly. But, it's not going to be pleasant. And it's not positive.

He comes, when He comes again, He comes in judgment. That's not fire and brimstone, that's just the Scriptures. That's not me having animus or hatred towards anyone, that's just simply, that's what the Bible says. And it would be unloving not to tell people that that is coming. So, somehow, this version and this picture of Jesus we see at the end times, this picture of Jesus we see when He was on His earthly ministry and what we see in the Old Testament all fits together. So how do we do it?

Well, the first thing is simply to say that the passages we've looked at don't speak of God simply hating sin. They actually say He hates the sinner. And that probably doesn't sit well with us. Now, we could ask ourselves the question, why would we be more comfortable with saying that God hates the sinful things someone does and not the person who does them? This distinction between what I do and who I am, at least as it results from desires that come from my heart, it's not as firm as we might like it to be there. Jesus says in the New Testament that it's things that come out of a man, from his heart, that defile him. So actually, the evil is in your heart. You do evil deeds because you are evil. It wouldn't make sense to only hate the evil deeds, only oppose the evil deeds and not also oppose and hate the one that is evil, that is doing the evil deeds.

And perhaps there is the distinction that we need to spend a little time thinking on just personally. Because, it's not that we are good people who do evil deeds. We are evil people who do evil deeds. We sin because we're sinners. We're not neutral and have faux pas and make mistakes. We're actually bad people and that's why we do bad things. Bad trees produce bad fruit.

So, it's not just love the sinner, hate the sin. God is actually opposed to the sin and the sinner. But, more than that, this should strike us as something that doesn't make much sense because sin isn't punished. Sins are not punished, sinners are punished. We looked at that verse a minute ago, He's going to rain down coals and brimstone on the wicked or when Jesus comes back in judgment, he's actually judging someone. He's not just coming back in judgment and not judging anyone. And He's not just coming back in judgment and judging actions, He's actually judging people because of their actions and because of their hearts and because they actually are evil. As all of us would be without Christ.

So, it's the actual perpetrator of the evil that is punished. The evil is not punished. So God is obviously opposed to the person. And what does this mean to hate someone? Now, there are different views on this and what it can mean. I do think there is some passages, especially in the New Testament, when Jesus says we must hate our mother and father that He actually means love less. Okay, so from that, you could probably surmise that maybe God loves some people more than others, I do think there is some other ways to look at that. Like from Romans 9.

But, in these verses here, specifically, when it describes His disposition towards the wicked person, when it describes the judgment that's coming, I don't think you can simply say love less. I think you have to say He regards them as an enemy. That He is on the opposite side of a positive relationship, that there is no neutrality here. You could probably also say that He has hostile actions and intent towards them. He has extreme dislike, intense hostility. All of these are synonyms and definitions for hatred and I think they fit the context here well in the Psalms.

And we can't just discount it because it's in the Psalms and we can't just discount it because of what happens to be in 1 John or somewhere else. We have to fit all of these together. So, God regards sinners as people He hates, that He is adamantly opposed to, that He will come in judgment against. Now, we often, like I said, like to talk about God being love. But the prime attribute of God that the Scripture is concerned with is not love, though that is certainly true and I don't exactly want to set up a hierarchy here. But holiness. I think you can look at all of the other attributes of God through the lens of holiness.

Now, you can look at most of the attributes through the lens of each of them. But holiness is the only attribute of God that is raised to the third degree. Where God is said to be holy, holy, holy. And there is no other way to say more holy than that. And that means that He is pure. He is righteous. He is a consuming fire, the Scriptures say. And because of that, He is jealous for what is rightly His, but He is wrathful towards those who perpetrate in justice, that He is opposed to those who rebel against Him. All of that is true.

And would He actually be a good God if He did not hate injustice? If He did not oppose those who rebelled against Him? No, He wouldn't. Everyone is concerned, it seems like today, with the evil in the world. Now, we might disagree on what exactly are evil actions and that sort of thing. And maybe what should be done about them. But everyone agrees there is such a thing as right and wrong and some people are doing the wrong. They might be the people who vote differently than you, depending on who you listen to. But, we all believe something is wrong in the world and things that are wrong and people who do wrong things deserve to be punished. We all get that.

So what would it be and how would it work if God were actually claimed to be a just judge and did not opposed those who do evil? He would not be a just judge. He would not be holy. And He actually would not be loving. So, for example, is it loving, let's say that your family member has a grievous wrong done to them and they go before a judge and the judge says, "You know, I'm not going to discipline this person, I'm not going to punish them. I'm not opposed to the person who did this to you." Is that loving to the victim? No, it's not. It's not at all. It's weak, it's unjust, it's not righteous. It's actually evil itself.

So because God is holy, because He is perfectly good and right, He does oppose sin, He does oppose sinners, He has a strong, intense, passionate opposition to them. In other words, He has a hatred for them. And I think one of the other reasons why this is hard for us to understand is because we're one thing. We have one emotion at a time. And perhaps we'll do a podcast on God. God does not experience emotions the way we experience emotions. But God, according to the Scriptures, can both love and hate at the same time. He can both be wrathful and jealous and kind and gracious all at the same time. Sometimes to different people, but all at the same time. He's not like us, we should not think of God just like He's a man but bigger or more powerful. He is a very different, totally different kind of being.

And He reveals Himself in human language to us as an accommodation so we can understand Him and He tries to use many different metaphors so we can more fully grasp, though we won't fully and completely grasp, who He is. But all that means that He's not like us just a little different. And it's only after understanding God's hatred of sin and sinners that we can actually understand His love. If sin weren't that big of a deal, if He weren't ultimately that opposed to it, why would His grace be that great? Why would He actually go to the cross if He weren't disgusted by and repulsed by sin and sinners?

There is nothing to ... Why would He suffer that fate, right? In order to, and here is the love part, show us and actually redeem a people for Himself. That's what it shows us. So when we understand the depth of His hatred of sin and sinners, we actually see, "Oh my gosh, His love is so much more robust than we thought." If He actually is that opposed to people and that He'd go to the cross and die for them to save them, to save His people, wow. If you're kind of opposed to someone, yeah, you might do something nice for them. But if you have a settled disposition of hatred towards them and opposition and you will still die for them, that's the greatest form of love that could ever be seen.

And so it's only against the correctly formed biblical backdrop of God's wrath and hatred and settled disposition against sinners that we can understand the depth and begin to understand the depth of His sacrificial love and dying for those same people while they were rebelling against Him. And just remember, so we've talked about, and this is probably a very negative episode, I apologize, when we talk about defending our Christian convictions, probably the conviction that you may not even hold or definitely want to defend is that God hates people.

But we must, whether we use those words exactly or not, we must present the idea that God is fundamentally opposed to those who oppose Him. That there is not a neutrality. That the wages of sin is death and by death, it's not just like, oh you seize to have physical life. No, it will be eternal, perpetual destruction. Conscious torment is what the Bible presents. And yet, as we see in these passages, God is certainly just, so the Psalmist says in Psalm 11. And let's not forget, I think any time you talk about wrath today it feels out of balance with God's love. But, the Bible does speak about His love and it does speak of the only way people go from being those who are under wrath to those who are under grace. And it's what? David says, back in our Psalm, back in Psalm 5:7, he says,

“But as for me, because of your great faithfulness, I will enter your house. I will bow down towards your holy temple and I will worship you."

It's only by the grace and faithfulness, really, that the covenantal love that God has for us, His loving kindness, that anyone goes from child of wrath, rebel, hated by God to loved and adopted. There is no middle ground. I think we often talk like people are neutral and then God adopts them into His family. No, they are rebels and He's opposed to them. And then, He adopts them into His family.

Well, that's probably enough said on this topic. I hope it's been helpful in helping us have a more fully orbed view of God and who He is so that we can more deeply understand the glory of His grace that He has poured out in His love towards us. I'll talk with you next time on Unapologetic.