Theologians make their fine distinctions and hard classifications. They like the old idea of taking one thing at a time. They consider God’s holiness, then move on to his love. Such an approach is probably acceptable, as far as it goes.
The various and wonderful aspects of God’s nature and personality are a single unit. Westerners like to break things down into their component units. The ancient Hebrews, however, liked to pull things together, considering them as a whole. The former group excels in analysis; the latter, in synthesis.
When it comes to the one true God, the Hebrew approach recommends itself. If God is one, his nature partakes of that oneness.
So Scripture will make statements about God that join distinct and apparently opposing aspects. Such as this one: God judges because he loves.
- God disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:9; see Proverbs 3:12).
- The Psalmist speaks of God’s love and truth in the same breath; they are not antagonistic to one another (Psalm 40:10).
- David knew it was appropriate to ask God to “rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked,” because “he loves righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:6, 7, CSB).
Mr. Glen Stewart got it exactly right when wrote in his daily devotional on Hosea, chapters 5-9:
Why did God permit Israel to be judged by the wicked Assyrians? Because He loved His people, and this was the only way they would listen. They had to be shown, and God’s chastening hand of love fell upon them.
Our beautiful responses to God and his Word also partake of similar paradoxes.
- We ought to love God and at the same time fear him (Deuteronomy 10:12; Psalm 33:18; see Matthew 10:28).
- See where mercy and fear are two attitudes shown by saints simultaneously (Jude 23).
- In that same context of loving your neighbor, which our Lord and Savior quotes, Israel was ordered to “judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15-18).
- The humble apostle Paul tells Timothy about that spirit received from God whose three qualities are marvelously compatible: “power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7).
- Sweet praise ought to come best from those who fear God (Revelation 19:5).
Besides the theologians, progressives like to throw one part of God’s character against another. When they disparage truth and exalt compassion, they are striking against the one God. When they dilate grace and constrict holiness, their liberal sword cleaves the divine nature in half.
Therefore, let us never leave off any part of God’s person. We need his fullness in our lives. And let us never neglect to add knowledge and godliness to our faith, along with all the other essential qualities of the one who pleases God (2 Peter 1:3-11).