One of the errors of modern Christendom that has crept into the true church is that it presents a false view of God. The god embraced by many modern self-styled Christians is one that cannot be found anywhere on the pages of the Bible. This god is called a god of love (something that the Bible clearly asserts). But the god envisioned by much of the modern church is one whose love runs roughshod over his holiness, ignores his righteousness, and tramples his justice. He is a god who is so without morals that he welcomes virtually anyone into heaven so long as he tried to do good, wanted to do good, at some time or other thought about doing good, or had a mother who thought good of him when he was a toddler. The true church has taken a stand against such an unbiblical caricature of God—a stand both essential and noble. But as we take that stand and maintain a biblical view of God as One Who is perfectly holy, altogether righteous, completely just, and One Who will never ignore or excuse sin, we must not allow ourselves to be robbed of the full character of God. In our zeal to maintain God’s hatred for sin and judgment of sinners, we must not allow ourselves to caricature God in the other extreme as a one-sided wrathful and vengeful being. If the professing church has buried God’s holiness and justice, may we not become guilty of burying His love and grace in an attempt to dig up His true character.
As certainly as God boldly proclaims His holiness and justice, He pronounces His love and mercy.
Against God’s judgment on mankind at the flood, we may recall His infinite mercy in choosing to redeem and pour out His blessings on Israel, a people without special merit of their own. For judgment on wicked Babylon there is longsuffering for wicked Nineveh. Contrasted with the swift judgment on Belshazzar is the redemption of Nebuchadnezzar. Naaman, Rahab, Uriah, and Ruth all remind us of the great love and mercy of God. The pages of the Book that promise God’s judgment on Assyria, Egypt, Moab, and other wicked nations also foretell that Someone would come and die to deliver them from their sins and that finally during the kingdom age many from all the nations will come to bask in the Light of the One enthroned in Jerusalem.
Though God is neither loathe to judge sin nor ashamed of taking credit for the deaths of the wicked, judgment is, nevertheless, called His “unusual task” (Isa. 28:21). On the other hand, God’s work in sending His Son to die, and then reaching down and saving sinners from their sin is never called “strange.” It certainly might seem strange to us that God would save a carnal man like Lot, a convicted criminal like the thief on the cross, or a vicious persecutor of the church like Paul, but since the beginning of time, God has been in the business of saving undeserving sinners, rebels against His holy nature.
Time after time, the prophet who was given a message of judgment also promised salvation and blessing to those who would repent. For example, the prophet who announced these words from the mouth of God—“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.”—followed immediately with these words—“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” (Joel 2:30-32a). And if the words of judgment are unabashedly dreadful, it is for the purpose of warning sinners to turn from their sin so that they might experience the reality of sweet words such as these: “And in that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk” (Joel 3:18).
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