Thursday, May 4, 2017

Does Your God Hate Me?

Thus far in our series Engaging the Homosexual Movement we have looked at arguments/objections from nature, morality, and authority that might be raised in favor of the normalization of the practice of homosexuality. And we have offered Christian answers to each objection. In this lesson we will address another argument/objection that touches on each of the previous three. It is not so much an argument for the normalization of the practice of homosexuality as it is an argument against the God who condemns it. While the previous three arguments touch upon theology in general, this argument concerns theology proper. Given the truthfulness of the previous three answers, one might ask, “Does your God hate me?” After all, as we have already seen, homosexuality deserves the wrath and curse of God.

“God hates the sin and loves the sinner,” has become an axiom within broad evangelicalism. But is it true? Is it biblically defensible? Oftentimes those who hold this view do not realize that it is, at best, a second-class deduction based on the theory that God’s love is chiefly expressed in providing the possibility of salvation for each individual sinner, which is a tenet of classical Arminianism. In this view God hasn’t acted to actually save anyone. He has only acted to secure its possibility. Changing the possibility into an actuality is a function of the human will to determine its own destiny. This view of salvation only works if sin is depersonalized, i.e. separated from the sinner himself. Just as God hates the sin and loves the sinner, so also Christ died for a depersonalzed concept called sin but not for the actual persons who sin. So the question becomes: is the depersonalization of sin biblically defensible? (By the way, this is one of the strengths of the Calvinistic understanding of sin and grace. But if you go this direction, you must arrive at the doctrine of definite atonement because if Christ died to actually secure salvation and not all are saved, then he must have only died for some.)

The Bible never depersonalizes sin. It always describes it as a personal offense against a personal God. It is either our sin or my sin but never simply sin. We see this most clearly when we consider the definition of sin in 1 John 3:4. The text says, “Sin is lawlessness.” Thus we teach our children from SC Q. 14: “What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Sin is the violation of an agreement (i.e. a law) between two or more parties. In other words, it is covenantal and, therefore, personal by nature. There is no such thing as sin separated from the persons who commit it. So we read in Ps. 11:5, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” And again in Rom. 9:13, the Apostle Paul, quoting Malachi, reminds us saying, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” According to Scripture, God hates sinners because of their sin against him. And who are these sinners? They are those born by ordinary generation from the time of Adam's fall forward. Paul is crystal clear about this in Rom. 3:10-20. “None is righteous, no, not one,” he says. The Apostle John teaches the same in 1 John 1:8, saying, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Therefore, we conclude that one answer to the question “Does your God hate me?” is “Yes. God hates all those who practice sin. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, ‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.' God’s wrath and curse justly fall upon such people. That includes everyone born in the world except Jesus. I deserve God’s wrath and curse because of my sin just as much as anyone else." But there is more to our answer than that. There is more to the Bible than the law and sin. There is also the gospel and grace.

“Does your God hate me?” is essentially a question about the love of God. We could rephrase it negatively, asking, “Does your God not love me?” The answer to this question is complex. The Bible speaks of the love of God in several ways. One way in which God loves is with respect to his general providence over all that he has created. We read about this kind of love in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches that Christians should love their enemies. His reason? “For he (the Father) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, God loves his enemies in a general providential sense, and, therefore, we should do the same. So in this sense God loves the one who approves the practice of homosexuality. God provides for his temporal needs despite his rebellion against him. This is what makes the continued practice of sin so heinous. The practice of sin is the rejection of the love that God expresses to the sinner each and every moment. As God loves his enemies, being patient with them, giving them ample opportunity to repent, they continually reject him by suppressing the truth he has clearly revealed to them (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). This expression of God’s love only condemn sinners. It cannot save.

What about God’s love in a salvific sense? Is there any sense in which God salvifically loves those who practice sin? There is. God expresses his love to all sinners by inviting them to believe the gospel and be saved. This is where the Reformed distinction between the general and effectual calls becomes so important. God only extends his effectual call to his elect. But he extends his general call to all people without discrimination. All those who hear the proclamation of the gospel and receive the invitation to believe it are in fact receiving an expression of God’s love to them in a salvific sense. The offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is freely given and freely taken by any who would believe. As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever hears that message is only a breath away from receiving eternal life in him (cf. Rom. 10:8). This is a genuine offer of salvation. Any who will believe will be saved. I can think of no better summary of this doctrine than WCF 15.1 and 4: “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ….As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” LC Q. 32 also asks, "How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?" And it answers in part: "The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provides and offers to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him."

So a further answer we might give to the question “Does your God hate me?” (after we have explained the condemnation of the law) is to say “God also loves you. He expresses his love to you by providing for all your temporal needs each day. Moreover, he is loving you right now by offering you life and salvation if you would only repent and believe in Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 6:11 goes on to say, ‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ This offer of cleansing is a free gift. Will you receive it?”

Does God hate those who approve of the practice of homosexuality? Yes and no. He hates them because of their sin against him, which ironically is a rejection of the love he freely gives. It is a personal offense against his greatness and goodness. But he also loves them in the sense that he provides for their temporal needs. And, when the gospel is proclaimed in their presence, he loves them by inviting them to receive the free gift of life and salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Now there is another, deeper, sense in which the Bible speaks of the love of God. We touched on this earlier when we distinguished God's effectual and general calls. God’s love is also expressed in his unconditionally choosing to save some out of the estate of sin and misery. This is what the Apostle teaches in Rom. 9:13 when he writes, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” We cannot know whether God has loved anyone in this sense until he has made a credible profession of faith. Thus a WRONG answer to the question, “Does your God hate me?” would be to say: “No. God loves you and he has a wonderful plan for your life. He sent his Son to live and die for you to provide a way for you to be saved.” We search the Scriptures in vain to find a single instance of the Apostles or their associates sharing the gospel in this way—and for good reason! It presumes a knowledge of that which is unknowable at the time (cf. Deut. 29:29). It may be true that God has a wonderful plan for that person’s life. It may be true that he sent his Son to live and die for that person, but we cannot know either of these things until the person has made a credible profession of faith. All we can know prior to such a profession is that salvation is freely offered to them in Christ if they will believe, and that free offer is an expression of God’s love for them. If they respond by truly repenting and believing in Jesus, then we will know that God has loved them in the sense that he has unconditionally elected them to be saved by the work of his Son. If he hasn’t loved them in THAT way, then they will persist in their rejection of the gospel, refusing to repent and believe in Jesus.

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