The Goodness and Severity of God

“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: …but toward you goodness, if you continue in His goodness…”

Romans 11:22

We should take note that two particular natures of God are shown in this Bible verse: the goodness and the severity of God. How good is our God, and how serious is He to be taken?

Many people think that God only shows us His goodness but doesn’t act on His severity. They overlook and ignore the severity of God and exclusively count on His benevolence. The mercy, goodness, and love of God are so strongly presented, in all variations, by some preachers, that those listening feel pleasurably uplifted but only see one side of the picture.

That God is full of love and goodness remains an undisputed truth; however, the following Bible quotes are meant to clearly present the whole picture of God. According to Proverbs 8:17, the Lord says, “But I love those who love me….” In Exodus 20:6, we read, “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” The same thought is expressed in Romans 11:22: “Therefore consider the goodness and severity…but toward you goodness if you continue in His goodness….” So who is to enjoy His goodness and benevolence?  It is those who love Him, keep His commandments, and abide in His goodness. 

Now what about those who rebel against God and reject Him? We learn about this when we look at the other side of the picture. This is where the severity or even the wrath of God comes into question. Romans 1:18 tells us: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Further, Paul writes: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5 ESV). And in Hebrews 12:29, we read: “For our God is a consuming fire,” and in chapter 10:31, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 

So how do we react to this knowledge of God? We act wisely if we accept God as He is presented to us in the infallible Word of God. God’s Word cannot be broken; therefore, “see the goodness and severity of God!”

Unquestionably, the goodness of God always precedes His severity. Every concerned father and mother will raise their children this way. Wise parents try to treat their children with kindness and love first, and only then, if necessary, with punishment. Therefore, properly raised children know kindness but also severity, if needed from their parents. Both must also be included in our knowledge of God.

We most clearly see the goodness of God in the mission of His Son and His sacrifice on the cross. Who can measure the depths of God’s love and goodness from which this unspeakable gift came from the Father? This supreme gift met the greatest need of humanity, which was fallen, lost, and in need of a Savior. God does not exercise legal judgment, but He gave us His saving grace. He has acted in this way since the beginning of the world. He gave a period of grace to Noah’s generation, and when they refused to be warned, only then did God’s judgment occur. Here we see the goodness and severity of God. Jesus warned in Matthew 24:37: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”  

The Israelites often experienced the goodness of God in the desert but also experienced the severity of God. God’s wrath was visible in the plagues in Egypt, in the downfall of the sons of Korah, and in the severe punishments on thousands of their own people who had provoked God’s wrath through disobedience.

We think of Jesus’ tears and pain over Jerusalem. After all warnings had failed, God allowed the city to be reduced to rubble. Have we not also experienced the goodness and severity of God in ourselves and in the lives of our fellow human beings?

The goodness of God reaches as far as the heavens, but His severity is equally great and deep. Someone said, “The day will come when the wrath of God will eclipse everything the world has seen until now.” Those who don’t want to experience God’s goodness will have to experience His wrath. Dear reader, seriously consider this and seek to obtain the offered salvation so that God’s goodness may be seen in you!

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