It is very popular in our modern society to call God all-loving. But is this true? Is God all-loving? And if he is all-loving, what exactly does that mean?
God, of course, is all-loving. 1 John 4:8 says “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” And to say “God is love” is to say that everything God is is God’s love. All his eternity, all his justice, all his goodness, all his acts – all are God’s love. God is God’s love.
Few would disagree with this statement, but many would misunderstand its true meaning.
Our modern society believes to call God all-loving must therefore mean that he loves all. This is precisely incorrect. To call God all-loving means that all of God is love, not that the objects of his love includes everyone.
The incorrect view that states God loves everyone has dire consequences. If the world believes God loves everyone, this leads to two damnable conclusions:
1. God loves everyone, therefore everyone can live however they want to live. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
2. God loves everyone, therefore God does not exist.
The first error takes the premise that God loves everyone and immediately jumps to its most practical conclusion. Since God loves everyone, God must love me no matter how I act, behave, or live my life. In the end, my sin does not matter because God is love, and if God is love he must accept me for who I am.
This first error often leads to universalism. All paths lead to God. He isn’t angry with injustices, and everything is going to work out in the end. I can live however I want, and I can tolerate everything. Some will go so far as to say that in the end, even Satan will be welcomed into heaven.
The second error takes the premise that God loves everyone and immediately jumps to its most rational conclusion. Given the assertion that God loves everyone, we must conclude the world would be a peaceful, safe, and an everlasting utopia without any suffering. Since the world is filled with misery, death, mayhem and suffering, an all-loving God cannot exist. God cannot exist since God is said to be the all-loving, and clearly he does not love all.
This second error is the error of the skeptic. Sometimes you may encounter a variation on this theme. The skeptic may conclude that if God exists, he is not loving.
Both of these errors will harden the unbeliever in sin and faithlessness. The truth is the only cure.
When we say God is all-loving, we do not mean that he loves all. God does not love all. He hates many people.
I know this is a shocking statement. It certainly offends our modern senses. It stands against everything we have been raised to believe. It sounds unkind and it is not seeker-friendly at all. However, it is the clear teaching of the Bible.
Let me cite some examples to persuade you that God really does hate many people:
Psalm 5:4ff “You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”
Psalm 11:5ff “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves injustice. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.”
Romans 1:18ff “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to their impurity… Therefore God gave them up to dishonorable passions… Therefore God gave them up to a debased mind.”
Be aware, however, that God’s hate is not malicious. God’s hatred is not like our hatred. Our hatred comes out of our unjust and selfish dislike of others and leads to murderous attitudes (and sometimes murderous deeds). God’s hatred comes from his sense of righteous justice.
So What Is Love?
Love is an act whereby one gives himself for the objects of his love. In other words, love means to give oneself for others. God does not give himself for, or to, the wicked – they are not the objects of his love. He gives them up to their own sin. But God does give himself for those he chooses to love. He saves them from their sin.
God does love Christ. He has given everything to his Son (John 5:26). And if he loves Christ, then he loves those who are united to Christ, for they are one body with him (1 Cor 12:12-13).
To say God is all-loving, therefore, does not mean he loves all. It does, however, mean that God loves the objects of his love with his whole being. Everything that God is, is God’s love. His eternal goodness, his creation, his judgment on sinners worthy of death, and his grace in Christ, forgiveness of sin – all are acts of his love. But they are not acts of love toward the condemned. They are acts of love toward the objects of his love – Christ and those united to Christ by faith.
Having made clear the truth about God’s love, it raises many important concerns. Let me address them in order.
1. If God hates the wicked, does that give me freedom to hate? No.
God commands us to love our enemies because we were once enemies of God, but he loved us in Christ.
2. If God will judge the wicked, does that give me freedom to judge them as well? No.
A day of judgment is coming, but it has not come yet, so God commands us to withhold vengeance on those who hate us. Instead, we should be patient, hopeful that we may yet have the opportunity to love them in Christ.
3. Doesn’t God love the sinner and hate the sin?
You have heard it said “God loves the sinner and hates the sin” but I say to you “God hates the sinner absolutely, but he loves Christ and those in Christ for Christ’s sake”. All who forsake sin to be united to Christ by faith, God loves them as he loves Christ.
4. Doesn’t this idea of God’s hate discourage God’s people and turn people away from the kingdom? No.
If you already believe in Christ, know this: all that God is – all his power, knowledge, wisdom, goodness, truth, acts, and justice – are working in your favor for your eternal happiness with the hope of an everlasting sinless existence.
If you do not believe in Christ, know this: you are a sinner worthy of death. God’s wrath is hanging over your head. The only way to escape God’s hate, is to flee to Christ. By faith, and in time, you will then know what the Bible means when it says “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he first loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”
Not all receive propitiation for sins because God does not love all.
5. Aren’t hate and love incompatible with one another? How can God love and hate?
God does not love all, because the nature of love is its exclusivity. God’s love is exclusive to the objects of love. Therefore, God does not love all precisely because his love is true love.
In addition to this, God does not love all because he intends to make all fully aware that he both loves and hates, and that his hate is just and glorious while his love includes all that he is in all his glory.
This truth is extremely difficult to come to terms with. For the one who continues to rebel against the truth of God’s hate, and refuses to come to terms with it, their destiny is eternal destruction at the hands of an angry God. For the one who lays down their enmity against God, and by God’s power come to terms with the truth of his love, their destiny is eternal life through Christ Jesus, the hope for glory (Col 1:27).