Integrating the God of Love and the God of Justice

In yesterday’s post we asked our Chinese engineer, whom we have paid to study Scripture for a year and report on his findings, to tell us what he has discovered regarding scriptural teaching on the love of God.

The results he shared were confusing, revealing that Scripture asserts that God is love, but the Bible also includes some passages directly stating that He “hates all workers of iniquity,” a hatred borne out in acts of terrible judgment on sinners.

The Challenge

I began to query him on how one integrates the emphasis of Scripture on God’s love with a very large proportion of Scripture that describes God’s hostility toward sinners and His judgment on them?

The Contemporary Approach

I shared with him the contemporary evangelicals tend to resolve this conflict merely by categorizing judgment as portraying the God of the Old Testament who gave the Law and rained judgment on those who did not obey it. But, they contend, since Jesus came all that has changed. Now, because of the cross, judgment is replaced by grace. We now have the pre-evangelized who just need to hear about the love of God and believers who are basking in God’s grace, His unconditional acceptance. We are no longer under law. God doesn’t demand performance. It’s all about God’s grace and love.

As I described this approach the Chinese engineer scratched his head, wondering what book these people are reading. He pointed to teachings of Jesus that said that the way was narrow and few would find it, and  the rich man that went to hell,  the warning in Hebrews about God being a consuming fire,  the Tribulation Period and Armageddon, a terrible battle led by Christ Himself, and the judgment of the Great White Throne.

A Second Try

Since he didn’t like that approach, I shared another view that goes like this. The pronouncements of Scripture indicate that love is God’s primary and preferred orientation. As such, His hostility toward sinners and judgment on them is not His desire, but this option is forced upon Him by the sinfulness of human beings. As the governor of the universe if He ignores sin, this will mar His own holiness, since doing so would be tantamount to His condoning sin.

Consequently to maintain His righteousness God must punish the sinner, but Scripture describes judgment as being alien to Him. In Isaiah 28:21 we read, “For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work!”

God’s preference for love and His aversion toward judging human beings is exhibited on the cross where He pours out His wrath on His Son rather than judging humanity.

However, for those rejecting this remedy, He is still left with the task of reluctantly performing this work of judgment that is alien to His nature. And for believers living in sin, He is forced to break fellowship and chasten.

Therefore we see that we have a loving God who at times is coerced by His own holiness into judging. This explanation integrates both the love and the judgment of God found in Scripture.

Assessment

Our Chinese engineer listened to this analysis thoughtfully, and after a moment responded, “Well, you’re closer, but look, you paid me a lot of money to discover and report to you what this book says. Frankly, your explanation does not entirely fit what I found Scripture to be saying.”

This response left me perplexed in that I had covered all the common approaches to resolving this friction between the love and judgment of God, but at the same time I was grateful for his hard work and honesty. I respond, “Okay, if I have missed the bull’s-eye, let me hear what you think Scripture is saying about all this.” He responded, “That’s what you paid me for, so here is what I see the Bible saying.”

Tomorrow we will plan to get his response.

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