Are Not Love and Hate Diametrically Opposed to Each Other? Are We to Have Self-Hate Towards Ourselves?

Are not love and hate diametrically opposed to each other? Are we to have self-hate towards ourselves? I can see according to Matt.16:24 that we are to deny ourselves to follow our Lord. When Jesus would retire to sleep after exhausting days of being with the people, and eat, was this not a form of loving one's self? Taking care of one's own needs? 1 Corinthians 10:24 says that "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 says, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God"; This isn't saying "don't love your body" but instead take care of it and keep it in control, that it is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Correct? 1 Corinthians 10:31—"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Obviously, not to glorify self, correct? Is it not loving to take care of ones own needs and not to neglect them?

Answered by Marshall Beretta, EPM volunteer

In your questions you are actually asking about issues related to sanctification, therefore I would like to discuss the issue of sanctification in general, and hope to answer you along the way. I will also address a belief called Gnosticism which may underlie some of your concerns.

Sanctification has a positional and a practical aspect. Positionally, God already calls us "holy ones" (i.e. "saints") even while we are still in our sinful body and learning to be like Christ. "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling..."—1 Cor. 1:2. This is because "holy"—hagiazo—carries with it the idea of being "set apart" or "consecrated" for a purpose. When we were chosen by God's grace, we were set apart from the world, consecrated to be godly. It is an "already, but not yet" condition in which our election sets us apart—we are holy—and yet we must also pursue holiness as something yet to be attained as a practical matter.

Sanctification is the process of becoming like Christ. Upon salvation, a believer is immediately absolved of the personal penalty of sin and declared to be innocent by Christ's death, the debt of our sins paid on the cross. A believer is made new by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. But the believer's practical moral life is not yet aligned with their legal condition. The daily process of aligning our will with God's will is to be taken very seriously. This is Paul's point in Philippians 2:12-13 when he writes, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

Genuine faith anticipates works. We are forensically holy, yet as a part of sanctification we must also take action in keeping with holiness. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called"—Eph. 4:1. Clearly, Christ expects a fruit tree to bear fruit. In the gospels He called for the barren fig tree to be cut down for lack of finding figs. Ephesians 2:10 assumes we are to engage in good works for which we were actually created: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

But sanctification is not merely a matter of doing good works or making sacrifices, of depriving the body or giving a pretense of holiness through a form of self-hatred. As James goes on to say, without faith, it is impossible to please Him. No fig can decide to grow unless it is firmly attached to the tree; no man can continue in sanctified works unless he remains in Christ. Christ addresses this critical relationship in John 15 in His grapes and vine analogy. It is extremely important that we bear fruit; however, it is impossible to bear fruit unless we abide—"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing"—John 15:4-5.

Fruit is the natural expectation from a fruit tree. Works are the natural expectation from someone with true faith, the believer who is seriously pursuing a sanctified life. James' epistle highlights this in 2:18 where he writes, "you have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

You raise the issue of self-hate, beating the body, or fasting to emaciation. Excesses, throughout the centuries, have been associated with sanctification. Asceticism, flagellation, even crucifixion have been seen as roads to becoming like Christ. All of these are dead useless works. Often those who engage in such works consciously or unconsciously conform to a view of Gnosticism which holds that man's physical body, his very human needs are evil and must be subject to neglect, even punishment in order for holiness to be achieved. Under such a belief, self-hatred for the physical is part of the path to holiness, but this is not biblical or Christ-like. Jesus did not express hatred toward the human form but chose to dwell among us in a body just like ours. As you pointed out, Jesus Christ took time to eat, to rest and attend to His bodily needs.

The spiritual benefits from what we do are in large measure predicated on the reason why we do them! Paul exhorts us to present a body that is inwardly acceptable to God. All sacrifices are to be spotless, without blemish. "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect"—Rom. 12:1-2.

Now here is the key to our spiritual lives. If I desire to be like Christ, and my desire of this relationship causes me to act like Christ, I will experience true sanctification, in whatever works God gives me. On my own I can earn absolutely nothing—"not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law" Paul said, but "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me"—Phil. 4:13.

Sanctification is summarized in 1 Corinthians 10:31—"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Whether in the mundane things of the day, such as eating or drinking, or in the bigger issues; if you do something make sure it glorifies the Father. God is glorified when who He Is is somehow demonstrated. That means that we must act or walk in the same manner that Christ did. This is not an impossible expectation; it is the natural outcome of our faith in Christ! We glorify God when we reflect His light, through the mirror of our life which has been molded into the form of His image! "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit"—2 Corinthians 3:18.

I hope this discussion contributes some new thought to your consideration of sanctification and works. You may find John Piper's Desiring God of interest.