Can a Loving God Hate Sinners?
Over the past few weeks I have been exploring what God hates. I have done this by looking to the Bible to search for those things God flat-out says he hates or things that he describes as “despicable” or “abominable.” We have seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, injustice, hypocrisy, deceit, pride, and evil thoughts. Today we will wrap up by looking at God’s hatred for the wicked.
God Hates Wicked People
Psalm 11:5 puts it bluntly: God hates wicked people. “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5). He hates wicked people from his soul, from the very depth of his being. God hates their ways (Proverbs 15:9), their thoughts (Proverbs 15:26), their worship (Proverbs 15:8), their actions (Proverbs 6:18), and their evil deeds (Psalm 5:5). He singles out as a special object of his hatred the blasphemous deeds of the Nicolaitans, those who seduced God’s people with idolatry and sexual immorality. “Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6).
Clearly, God hates the thoughts, deeds, and desires of evil people. But further, in some way he hates the evil people themselves. His soul reacts to them with righteous revulsion as his arm extends toward them in holy fury. But who are the wicked? All of us. We are all wicked, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Man will create for themselves a false god in their heart to suite themselves because they want to justify their sin.
Why God Hates Wicked People
Why does God harbor such hatred toward wicked people? God hates the wicked because their wickedness is first a mark of the deepest rebellion against him and against his rule. God created humanity to be perfect and sinless, to live in joyful submission to him, to offer him pure worship. But humanity rebelled and their disloyalty is displayed in acting contrary to God. God hates those who express their hatred toward him.
God also hates the wicked because their wickedness is expressed in ways that harm the people he has created in his image. Because sinful people cannot storm the gates of heaven to dethrone and destroy God himself, they turn on what is dearest to him and nearest to his image. And so they act out their wickedness against other people. They hurt them, harm them, main them, kill them.
Finally, God hates the wicked because their wickedness is expressed particularly against God’s elect. Wicked people turn their fury against God’s people, mocking them, persecuting them, putting them to death.
God’s Judgment on Wicked People
God must judge the wicked for their rebellion. He must judge them for their evil thoughts, their evil deeds, and even their evil desires. And he will.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends. (Psalm 7:11-16)
Said more tersely, “The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy” (Psalm 145:20). Psalm 1:5 promises, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” (5). Indeed, in Luke 13 we find Jesus speaking of that final judgment. He says that in that day some will expect to be welcomed by God into his kingdom, yet all they will hear is this terrifying judgment: “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” (Luke 13:27)! They will be consigned forever to a place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (28).
God will judge the wicked and give them the fitting punishment for their wickedness.
Hope for Wicked People
Yet there is hope for the wicked, which is to say, there is hope for all of us. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).
We will all face judgment and we will all approach that judgment with a long record of wicked thoughts and wicked deeds. Yet some will be welcomed by God into his everlasting kingdom. This will be not be on the basis of any righteousness we have earned, but only on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. There is hope for wicked people if only they will turn to Christ in repentance and faith.
If you would like to engage in some further study, here are key verses about God’s hatred of wicked people.
- God hates the workers of iniquity (Psalm 5:5)
- God hates the wicked (Psalm 11:5)
- God hates the sacrifices of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8)
- God hates the ways of the wicked (Proverbs 15:9)
- God hates the thoughts of the wicked (Proverbs 15:26)
- God hates feet that make haste to run to evil (Proverbs 6:18)
- God hated Esau (Malachi 1:1-3; Romans 9:13)
- God hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6)