Psalm 5:4-7 (NIV)
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.
Did you spot the glaring contradiction? In verse 5, David says that God hates “all who do wrong,” but in John 3:16, perhaps the most well-known verse in the New Testament, is says that God “loves the whole world.” So, which is it? Does God hate sinners…or does he love them? One of the more popular evangelistic sayings in the modern world is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Is that a bold-faced lie…cowardice…ignorance…or something else?
Christians are given to say that God “loves the sinner but hates the sin,” but that is a dangerously incomplete thought. Sure, it takes the edge off the conversation by distancing the sinner from their sin, and therefore the wrath of God against them personally, but it also lessens the severity of their offense against a perfectly holy God as well as their culpability for each and every sin they commit. In fact, it was God’s hatred towards the sinner that He used via Jonathan Edwards sermon – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – to spark the First Great Awakening in America during the 1730s and 1740s…
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire…”
John Calvin, in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, explains this perceived “contradiction” by saying that we need the verses about God’s hatred of sinners (Ps. 5:5; Pr. 6:19; Hos. 9:15) so that we will be properly overwhelmed by what He did for us in Christ. The great Augustine stated simply that, “God loved us even when he hated us. He hated us for our sin and rebellion, but He loved us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
How does one escape not only God’s hatred, but God’s wrath, as well? David shares the simple and glorious answer in verse 7 – by God’s great love. In your sin, God hates you and condemns you, but through Christ’s sacrifice, He loves you and wants to save you (Rom. 5:6). It is a hard truth to hear, let alone speak, but it is one that must be addressed if anyone is to fully grasp the Glory of the Gospel. The power of God’s hatred towards sin and sinners is only eclipsed by the overwhelming power of His love and mercy found in Christ.