Have you noticed before how some Christians, pastors, and even entire churches or denominations will either emphasize God’s love or God’s holiness, often to the exclusion of the other?
There is a prevalent misconception about the Bible and about God that goes something like this: In the Old Testament and under the Old Covenant, God was always angry and wrathful. There really isn’t any love or much grace in the Old Testament or under the Old Covenant. All is bleak, all is dark, all is gloom and doom until we come to the New Testament, the New Covenant, and the first coming of Jesus. Now in the New Testament God is loving and never angry or wrathful.
Certainly both extremes are on theological thin ice.
As we have already seen in previous articles, God is unchanging or immutable, so that rules out God changing with the coming of Jesus. We change; He doesn’t. And upon closer examination, we find an abundance of examples of God being both loving and holy throughout the entire Bible, from first to last.
Sometimes a picture emerges of the Father as basically fed up with mankind but then Jesus sort of stands in the gap and shields us from all this anger and wrath. Now, to be sure, Jesus did propitiate the just anger and wrath of God at the cross for all the sins of the elect, making full atonement for all who would ever believe in Him, but the picture of Jesus keeping God the Father from raging against us isn’t remotely accurate. It was the Father’s plan and command after all to send the Son to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And He did it out of love (John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 come to mind).
God is Love
This is what the Apostle of love said in I John 4:8. Love means we give of ourselves for the good of others, often at great sacrifice to ourselves. The greatest love aims for the highest good. As God dwelt in eternity past as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there was eternal love shared between the three members of the one Triune God. Then in creation and redemption, this great love is put on display toward mankind.
God’s love is like the rays of the sun. The sun can’t help but shine forth. So in time God, out of great love for the world and love for His children, sent forth His Son into the world, not to judge it but save it. The Cross is my daily reminder – God loves me. God is love.
Even as a Christian for a long time, God’s intimate love for me personally hasn’t always sunk deep into my heart. Like many others I suppose, I have struggled feeling God’s love for me. I daily battle this barrier between head and heart. But God has His ways and its starting to break thru, all glory to His grace!
Loved people love. The key of all keys in this Christian life is to come to know, trust, and experience God’s love for you personally through Jesus Christ. It really does solve every problem of life and life hereafter. The gospel is the good news that God loves sinners in and through Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. He invites us to receive His love.
Because God loves us so, we can love Him and others in return. We can gladly sacrifice and joyfully give of ourselves for the highest good of others. We can rest in this love and not strive with others out of fear, doubt, or insecurity. We can walk in joy and peace no matter our circumstances. God is love.
God is Holy
Yet God never sets aside His holiness as He loves. His love is a holy love. They are never in conflict or competition in His mind. Wayne Grudem says God’s holiness means “He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor.” The God who is love is also light!
For thousands of years in the past and right now and on into eternity, holy seraphim continually cry out around the throne of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:3). Because He is “holy other” and uniquely set apart from the slightest tinge or possibility of sin, God hates all sin and must judge it. All sin is against God personally. All sin is an affront to His holy character, odious and offensive in His sight. There are no little sins or cute sins or meaningless sins in the holy eyes of God. A holy God cannot tolerate even one sin of one moral creature to go unexposed and unjudged in His universe. He cannot wink at sin. He cannot sweep it under the rug. This is why every sin of every human being will be perfectly dealt with, either in the sinner experiencing God’s wrath for eternity or with Jesus Christ having experienced the full wrath of God on the Cross. In our place condemned He stood.
The Cross of Jesus is the great cross roads of God’s love and holiness. At the cross, perfect holiness and perfect love are on display. In breathtaking love God satisfies His own holiness. Or as Augustine put it, “God gives what God requires.” Holiness and love kiss at the Cross and now, the Father can love us fully and accept us completely (if we come thru faith in Christ alone) without compromising His holiness.
All Christians, pastors, and churches should strive for an equal emphasis and biblical balance when it comes to the love and holiness of God.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight