This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
I saw a picture posted on facebook the other day that said, “God is not mad at you. He’s mad about you!”
Is this a true statement? Not entirely. D.A. Carson helps shed some light on the issue for us:
The thesis that God hates sin but loves sinners:
There is a small element of truth in this thesis. God always *hates sin; he is invariably and implacably opposed to it. And it is true that God loves sinners: God ‘demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8; cf. John 3:16). Nevertheless the thesis, with its simplistic antithesis between the personal sinner and sin in the abstract, is mistaken. The same apostle who declares that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against ‘all the godlessness and wickedness of men’ (Rom. 1:18) also speaks of God’s wrath against individuals (Rom. 2:5); indeed we are all ‘by nature children of wrath’ (NRSV). The first fifty Psalms repeatedly describe the kinds of people on whom God’s wrath rests, not just the kinds of sin. Indeed, the language can move from God’s wrath to God’s hate and abhorrence: ‘The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors’ (Ps. 5:5-6, NIV).
None of this means that God’s wrath is arbitrary or whimsical. In Scripture, God’s wrath, however affective, is the willed and *righteous response of his holiness to sin. God’s holiness, like God’s love, is intrinsic to the very being of God; his wrath is not. To put the point another way: God has always been holy, as he has always been love; he has not always been wrathful. But where his holiness confronts the rebellion of his creatures, he must be wrathful (and the entire sweep of the Bible’s storyline insists he is), or his holiness is anemic. Yet for all that he is not less the God of love.
Do you understand? God indeed hates sin and loves sinners; but, He also hates sinners. God hates sinners so much that He poured out His hate toward sin and toward sinners on His Son; so that those who come to Him through Jesus will not experience the hate of God, but only His merciful love.
If you only tell people, “God hates sin, but loves sinners” or “God is not mad at you. He is mad about you.” You necessarily diminish the gospel and the awfulness of the cross of Christ. And thus, you indirectly diminish the wonder, grace, and love proven through the cross. Through the cross God saved people that He formerly hated; through the cross God hated His Son so that He could love sinners. God looked at Christ with all His hatred toward sin and sinners, so that He could look on sinners with all His love for His Son.
The cross: what a horribly wonderful salvation!
What are your thoughts?
Resource: “Love” by D.A. Carson in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, pg. 647.