I have often heard the statement, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” The statement is meant, I think, to resolve the tension between the fact that God is love, but he despises and hates sin. God certainly does not, indeed cannot, hate anyone. But there are those passages that say, “God hates all evildoers.” It doesn’t say simply “God hates all evil.” It says, “God hates all evildoers.” I have viewed the statement “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” as a way to wiggle out of the fact that the sinner himself is condemned by his sin. God does not separate the two.
So today I came upon this marvelous distinction in Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 1 (p. 355). Chemnitz is writing about the difference between the Lutheran view of concupiscence/original sin and the view expressed by the men at the Council of Trent. They, saying that they were speaking for the holy Catholic Church, held a view that there is no more sin in the regenerate, that it has been completely obliterated. Thus, said they, concupiscence–those evil impulses and desires that still plagued the believer–was not in itself sin. And they were trying to use St. Augustine to prove this.
Chemnitz, however, shows that Augustine actually does call this sin, only that for the believer, the guilt has been removed. But concupiscence, or evil desire is still evil. It is still contrary to God’s will. It is still sin. But it is not counted against the regenerate, so long as the person does not give it free reign in his life. And then there is this statement from Augustine where he treats the distinction between ruling and nonruling sin: “Therefore God does not condemn some sins and justify and praise others. He praises none but hates all, as a doctor hates sickness and aims in his ministrations at driving out the sickness. So God aims at this by His grace in us, that sin may be destroyed. But how is it destroyed? It is diminished in the life of those who make progress; it is destroyed in the life of those who have been made perfect. You hear that by the grace of Baptism sin is, indeed, diminished but not wholly destroyed in this life.”
The Council of Trent had said: “God hates nothing in the regenerate.” But Chemnitz points out that Augustine does not say this. Chemnitz writes: “But Augustine says that God hates sin also in the regenerate; but in the unregenerate He hates sin to such an extent that on its account He hates and condemns the person. But in the regenerate He hates sin like a physician, who does not hate a sick man whose cure he undertakes, but, indeed, loves the person of the sick but hates the sickness, and so does he hate it that he endeavors to expel it from the sick.”
Interesting points. In the unregenerate, God hates the sin so much that he even hates and condemns the sinner. But in the regenerate, God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Perhaps we should be careful when using this phrase to make sure people understand that we are talking about the regenerate, and not the unregenerate, lest they would come to think that the unregenerate are also justified and forgiven of their offenses.