Condemnation in proximity to love

By Dave Henning / March 14, 2023

“Modern people struggle with the idea of a wrathful God who condemns, yet [in John 3:16-18] the Bible puts condemnation in proximity to the most famous verse on love. . . .  Indeed, the Bible tells us that in God, not only are [his love and anger] not in tension, but they are meaningless apart from each other and indeed, then establish each other. . . .  The reason his wrath and anger cohere is because they are not like ours — the are perfectly holy and good.”- Timothy Keller

In Chapter 5 (“The God of Love and Fury”) of Forgive, Timothy Keller underscores that the cross = the key to Christian forgiveness.  Because forgiveness, Pastor Keller states:

  • makes it possible for God to forgive without compromising his justice
  • provides both the motivation and the model for our own forgiveness to those who wrong us

However, the author stresses, the Old Testament sends a clear message that we can’t take God’s forgiveness for granted.  As Herman Bavinck argues in Reformed Dogmatics:

“[God’s] forgiveness is not [a given] . . . something in the nature of things. . . .  Where forgiveness is obtained it is something to be . . . regarded with awe and wonder.”

Yet, despite God’s clear and unyielding righteousness, we find the Old Testament filled with claims and promises that God forgives.  Thus, God is both a loving God who forgives the guilty and a just God who punishes the guilty.  The New Testament reveals God as both a God of love and a God of wrath.  Above all, at the cross we see how God’s love and wrath work together to save the world.  The don’t conflict.

In conclusion, Pastor Keller notes what occurs when we see all the references to God’s wrath in the Bible.  We instinctively compare God’s anger to ours.  As a result, we recoil.  But Pastor Keller stresses, God’s anger is not wounded pride as ours is.  Rather, God gets angry at the evil that destroys the things He loves.

Today’s question:  What does it mean to you that the Bible puts condemnation in proximity to love?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Real love stands against sin”

About the author

Dave Henning

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