“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

– John 3:16-17 (ESV) –

Fun Fact: 31,102… that’s how many verses make up the bible. So the fact that out of 31,102 verses the most well known verse is John 3:16, I believe, tells us something about the way most people view God. For the most part, especially in America, when people in general think of God (that is if they believe in a God at all), they believe that God is a God of love. Not primarily a God of holiness and definitely not a God of wrath, but a God of love. But how exactly is this love to be defined? Because I believe that most people have a misguided understanding of God’s love, especially when it comes to how God love. They have heard a well preached sermon or heard a catchy cliché that makes them feel good or read a popular book or a verse and begin to build a whole theology of love based on that sermon, that cliché, that book or that one verse instead of looking at the whole counsel of Scripture and seeing what God has to say about His love. Many people are under the influence that God shows His love for us with prosperity or success. They believe God’s love is poured out through His financial blessings or health or happiness. The problem arises when we begin our thoughts of God with love as God’s chief foundation and all of His attributes flow from love. Because when it comes to God we believe that He is love (and He is), but we cannot negate the fact that God is perfectly just and perfectly righteous. To believe in the love of God without the justice or righteousness of God will lead people to think that God is obligated to be gracious. They believe that God’s love is absolute. They say, I mean a loving God would not send anyone to Hell would He? No, He loves everybody! There is always forgiveness; I mean it’s God’s job to forgive isn’t it? God is obligated to forgive because God is obligated to be gracious.”

But is there any truth in that idea? Well a little bit. It is true that God is a God of love but it does not mean that He is obligated to be gracious. This idea is cleared up when we understand that mercy and justice are expressed in different circumstances and it is ultimately up to God to choose in which way He will receive His glory. If God chooses to bestow mercy by pouring out His love on sinful mankind, then God will receive praise for His graciousness. But God could also choose to uphold justice by pouring out His wrath on sinful mankind by punishing them in an eternal hell, and God will still receive praise from the saints for His Holiness. So we see that God has the capacity to pour out both love and wrath and receive praise from both. But so often we pit love against wrath, we pit the love of God against the fury of God but how exactly should we understand this delicate balance of love and fury? Well I believe we need to begin with the correct foundation of God’s nature. While culture may say love is the foundation of God’s nature, there is someone who would disagree and that someone is the psalmist who penned Psalms 89:14. In Psalms 89:14, the psalmist writes about God saying, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” What is being said here? Well if the psalmist is correct (and I would contend that he is), he is saying that at the very foundation, the very core, the very axiom of God’s nature is righteousness and justice. And it is out of that righteousness and justice that love flows, thus we can say that when God loves, it is a perfect love. But as a matter in fact I would add that it is actually out of the justice and righteousness of God that all of God’s attributes necessarily need to flow. For example, if God lacked justice and righteousness, then His omnipotence could not be an attribute we believers cling to but rather it is something we would all dread. If God was all powerful but lacked righteousness and justice, He would have the qualities to be a cosmic dictator, one that would make Hitler’s reign seem like a child’s temper tantrum. So in light of righteousness and justice being God’s foundation, we must understand God’s nature. It is in light of God’s righteousness and justice that we view God’s love and wrath. There is a beautiful mingling between love and fury within the nature of God. It is not that God is all fury or all love. He’s both love and wrath, possesses both love and fury. We need to understand God’s fury is always a loving fury and God’s love is always a furious love because God’s love and fury is not like our. They flow from God’s justice and righteousness. When we speak of God’s wrath we are not saying that God snaps. It’s not that God is having a temper tantrum or that He is cranky nor is God’s wrath an uncontrollable rage or anger but rather it is something that has already been developed and active. (Continued)