Most preachers, it seems, emphasize God’s love for sinners, and their audiences consequently are often misled into thinking that God approves of them in spite of their sin, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that God utterly hates them, but He is mercifully giving them time to repent and gain His approval before they die, and only in that sense does He love them. If unrepentant people who are still alive knew how much God hates them, they would be astounded at His merciful love towards them. God’s mercy is magnified even more by His holy hatred, and vice versa. Preachers who want to emphasize God’s true love for sinners must first emphasize His holy hatred for them.
If the history of revival teaches us anything, it shows us that recovery occurs when people are awakened, not to some false concept of a grandfather God who “loves everyone unconditionally,” but when they realize their present precarious condition before a holy and wrathful God. Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, whom God used as an instrument of revival during America’s Great Awakening in the 1740s, certainly didn’t mislead his congregation about their slippery state before God. In his classic sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Edwards simply affirmed biblical truth about God’s attitude toward the unrepentant:.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. Never once did He tell an unsaved audience that God loved them, and there is only one record of His telling one unregenerate individual one time about God’s love for the world (and that is found in John 3:16). Rather, Jesus regularly warned sinners of God’s wrath and called them to repentance (see, for example, Matt.
There is not a single case in the book of Acts where anyone preaching the gospel told an unsaved audience that God loved them. Had they only told their audiences that God loved them, and all they need to do was “accept Christ as Savior” (as do so many modern ministers), they may have misled them into thinking that God approved of them, that they were in no danger, was not storing up wrath for themselves, and had no need to repent. We may be filling churches with evangelistic messages about God’s love, but are we filling heaven?
God’s love is greatly distorted when modern preachers, under the influence of pop psychology (whether they realize it or not) tell their unsaved audiences how Christ’s death proves their value before God. Paul, however, stood amazed, not at how the cross proved the alleged value of a race of rebels, but how it displayed God’s amazing merciful love because Jesus wasn’t dying for good people, but for ungodly sinners( see Rom. Apart from God’s holy hatred of sinners, His love for them is essentially meaningless.