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DO WE HAVE AN ACCURATE VIEW OF GOD?
by Philip Owen

In our attempt to evangelize, we sometimes woo the lost with an inaccurate picture of a god who is strikingly different from the One set forth in the Bible—a god whose dominant attribute is love and whose love nullifies his other attributes, such as holiness and righteousness.  This view, then, seems to bleed over into how believers perceive God.  We become casual and even careless about sin and take false consolation in a belief that a loving God will excuse our transgressions.  On the one hand, it is true that God is far more loving and gracious than any human being, as measured by the sacrificial death of Christ.  On the other hand, God is perfectly holy and, as a consequence, always judges rebellious sinners and chastens sinning saints. 

Given the extensive treatment of this theme throughout the Word of God, believers should have a clear understanding of the character of God.  Anyone with access to the Word has no excuse for expecting God to wink at sin.  One brief passage, among many that could be cited, gives us a clear picture of God’s attitude toward sin in His people, “Ephraim,” (the ten northern tribes of Israel).  “All their wickedness is in Gilgal [a center of idolatry]:  for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings, I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more; all their princes are revolters.  Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit:  yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.  My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him:  and they shall be wanderers among the nations” (Hos. 9:15-17; emphasis added).  All these promises were fulfilled.  Assyria attacked and conquered the Northern Kingdom, killing old and young indiscriminately, taking many into captivity, and dispersing many ultimately throughout the world.  God is not soft on unrepented sin.

Disservice to God’s character.  Contrary to some opinions, depicting God as a Being whose love overrides His holiness and righteousness does Him a grievous disservice.  First and foremost, God is infinitely holy.  He can have no part with sin, and He must judge sinners.  While it is true that His love is infinite, God exercises that love within the context of His holiness; in other words, His infinite love must always be manifested in such a way as to uphold His holy character.  He does not—He cannot—excuse sin.  When He “excuses” a sinner it is only on the basis of his sin having been judged in Christ on the cross.  And when He forgives a saint who has sinned and confessed that sin, He does so on the same basis.  Nevertheless, “God is not mocked:  for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  There remain temporal consequences for sin.  Any view of God that dilutes the character of His holiness or subordinates it to some human conception of emotional love depicts a grotesque caricature of the true God.

Disservice to man’s plight.  Not only does a distorted view of God’s holiness and love dishonor God, it also destroys a sinner’s salvation by giving him a false hope in a god who does not exist.  Many people skip merrily to hell in the fallacious notion that a loving God will overlook their sin or automatically forgive it on no other basis than that they suppose that’s the way God behaves.  Those souls (many of whom have been encouraged in these thoughts by words from the pulpits of their churches) will be utterly lost.  It is equally true that believers who take for granted God’s grace and view sin casually have forgotten the awful price that was paid to redeem them, an infinite price, a price that measures God’s view of sin.

May the Lord give us a proper view of God, who is infinite in both holiness and love.

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