HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD
God is not two-faced but He does have two sides!
In a text dealing with the cutting off of unbelieving Jews as the covenant people of God and the grafting in of believing Gentiles, Paul called upon people to “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity, but toward you goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22, NKJV). (Note: Where the NKJV has “consider,” the KJV, ASV, and NASB have “behold.” The point is that the Roman Christians were to give careful attention to the fact that God is characterized by both goodness and severity).
Goodness is from a word that also is translated kindness and gentleness. God is good. “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Psalm 34:8). “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (86:5). In a passionate sermon to the heathen of Lystra (located in central Asia Minor in New Testament times, the modern day country of Turkey), Paul reminded them that God “in times past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless, He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17).
The supreme evidence of God’s goodness is seen in the gift of Christ to the world as an offering for sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Titus 3:4-7). God’s goodness is designed to lead men to repentance (Romans 2:4) and to move them to serve Him faithfully from a heart of love (1 John 4:19).
On the other hand, we must not overlook the severity of God. “Severity” is from a word that signifies various shades of meaning: cut off, abrupt, precipitous like a cliff, rough, sharpness. Unfortunately, many do not want to “behold” (see, recognize, accept, consider) this characteristic of God. But as surely as God is a God of love and goodness, He also is a God of justice and retribution, or, as the NIV puts it, a God of “sternness.”
God’s severity drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24), compelled Him to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-25), and led Him to ban from Canaan those who were disobedient (Numbers 14:29-30). God’s severity prompted the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, two members of the church in Jerusalem who lied about a gift they made to the church (Acts 5:1-11). When Christ returns it will be “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
R. L. Whiteside, an astute Bible scholar, in his A New Commentary On Paul’s Letter To the Saints At Rome, wisely observed: “Let us not get a one-sided view of God. ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). It is equally true that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12:29).”
(The above essay, with slight additions and adaptations, was published in the August 2013 issue of the Gospel Advocate, Nashville, Tennessee, at the request of that journal’s editor. It is used here by permission of the Gospel Advocate Company).
November 19, 2013