Recently one of my friends who is doing mission work in a closed country sent me some really great questions and I gave it my best shot at answering them. I thought it might be interesting and maybe beneficial to post them here to get some discussion going. So over the next few days I’ll be posting a distillation of those conversations in a new series called “Big Questions, Round 2.”
Please feel free to comment, submit questions of your own, and/or just entertain your curiosity.
1) In the Bible, sometimes it says that God loves the world, but other times it says that he hates the wicked. Isn’t everyone wicked? So does that mean that he hates everyone?
2) Also, why does God give so much common grace to the people he hates?
3) Ezekiel 33:11 says that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. And Genesis 6:5-8 says that he was grieved that he had made men. After it says this, then he destroyed nearly everyone. But, this seems to show that he didn’t want to destroy them out of hate, but he did destroy them out of justice.
1) The ‘world’ you’re referring to needs to be viewed in context in the book and passage it appears in. It usually means a more global understanding of salvation given to God’s people – that is, Gentiles or people from every nation… folks he wouldn’t normally love. The ‘wicked’ are people who directly oppose God, who sin without remorse at every point of their lives and who are hardened against him. Since God is jealous for his own glory and his own fame, he hates those who don’t love him because they are worshiping idols or false gods. Pretty much every time God says he hates someone it’s in connection with idols and misplaced love and affections that should go to him. Ultimately God does love his creation because it reflects his glory. But when, like in Romans 1, we see people worshiping the creation rather than the Creator to whom it all points, God’s wrath is poured out on those people – and rightfully so.
2) The reason God lets even the worst people have common grace is that he is a loving and merciful God who is showing his glory and mercy to the world. But that doesn’t mean he won’t punish those who oppose him… he is just as well as merciful. Read Exodus 34:5-9 where God reveals his own nature… it’s right after the Israelites built the golden calf and God forgives them for what they’ve done. Then he makes another promise to them and reminds them of his love. But he also talks about his justice and exercising his right to judge. Therefore, when we see people cursing God and not falling dead on the spot, that is an example of God’s immense grace and patience (see Romans 9:22-24).
3) As far as God not delighting in the death of the wicked, it does grieve him to punish those he desires love from, but his character is such that he will be himself rather than go back on who he is in order to gain their love. He is ultimately about his glory and his purposes, which are hard for us to delve into because God has chosen to not reveal his purposes to us. In addition to that, God does not need to justify himself – see Job 38-42 and Romans 9… they testify to God’s absolute sovereignty.
Also read Romans 3:21-26 where it talks about God’s mercy – he looked over (or postponed judgment of) the disobedience of his children early on because he had decided to punish Jesus for what they did. Therefore when his Jesus was crucified on the cross, it established not only peace between elect sinners and God, but also established God as a just justifier… it upheld his character as well as made certain that we are his people and in his love. Without Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God would be unjust (because he would have let the patriarchs’ – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. – disobedience be forgiven without punishment). This is the main reason why the cross of Christ is such a big deal – it does secure our salvation and hope, but it also is an integral part of God’s very nature.