Most people like to focus on the fact that God is love, mercy, and forgiveness. That’s good–if He wasn’t all those things, we would be completely screwed. Or at least I would be, because I’m definitely a sinner, and I’d wager that you guys are all too. So without God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, we’d all be headed straight to the gates of Hell.
But still, thinking like that can be dangerous if that’s all we look at.
If God is love, just love and forgiveness and all those lovely fluffy feelings, then the Cross was pointless. The Cross becomes useless because if God is only love, He has no wrath. And if God has no wrath, then there is no need for sin to be punished. And if sin doesn’t need to be punished, then Jesus’s death on the Cross was nothing more than divine child abuse. And that wouldn’t fit with a God who is only love, because someone filled with only love would never harm anyone. So, if God is only love, the Cross becomes a complete conundrum.
On the other end of the spectrum, if God is only holiness, without mercy, we’re all done for. God’s holiness means He can’t even look at sin, which means He can’t even look at us. His holiness also demands justice for our sins, and the justice we deserve is Hell. Eternal suffering–and eternity apart from God. In this scenario, the Cross is again pointless, because Jesus never sinned. Ergo, He never had to be punished.
But Erica, you’re saying, my pastor says the Cross is the most important thing!
And your pastor is absolutely right. The Cross is the culmination of God’s holiness and His love.
His love wanted to forgive us. His holiness demanded justice. And so, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit came up with an amazing plan: a substitute death. In theology, this is called propitiation. Charles C. Ryrie defined it as such: “Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering. In relation to soteriology, propitiation means placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.”
God the Father punished sin by pouring out His wrath on God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit enabled God the Son to go through with it.
God is love. God is holiness. And we can thank Him for being both.
All right, Erica. I understand thanking God for loving me. But thanking God for being frowning and disapproving? No way!
Let me ask you a question, then. What would you say if somebody killed your favorite person in the whole world, were convicted, and instead of being sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty, the judge said, “Actually, I think I’ll let you go free. Here, take this money and have a vacation”? You’d be furious, right? You would think the judge was crazy, out of his mind, and you’d want to put that judge on trial too.
That’s what you’re saying God does when you say He is only love. If He doesn’t punish sin, then He’s saying that rape, murder, lies, betrayal, corruption, and all other sin is no big deal. He’s letting us off scot-free.
And doesn’t that scare you? A God who isn’t holy, isn’t righteous? That terrifies me. A God who won’t right all wrongs?
I want God to be holy, because I want bad people to come to justice.
But I also want God to be love, so that I can be forgiven when I fail.
And, since His holiness has been satisfied by Jesus’s death, I can be forgiven when I fail, and so can you.
That is why it’s so important for God to be both holy and loving.
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