GOD WONʼT VIOLATE HIS OWN CHARACTER
The Bible reveals two dimensions to God: One dimension is what he does (function) and the other is who he is (character). We can best understand his actions when we know his character, because actions proceed from character.
God’s essential character is HOLY, JUST and LOVE (see Topics 46-49), evoking each of the following responses to our sin:
JUST ➞ identify sin (punish sinners)
HOLY ➞ hate sin (withdraw from sinners)
LOVE ➞ tolerate sin (pardon sinners)
Obviously, our sin poses a dilemma for God. It appears that whatever action he chooses, he would violate some aspect of his own character. With respect to our sin, it seems impossible for God to be holy, just and love all at the same time.
- If God were to punish us – as justice dictates – he couldn’t pardon us.
- If God were to withdraw from us – as holiness dictates – he couldn’t have a personal relationship with us.
- If God were to pardon us – as love dictates – he would violate holiness and justice; making them meaningless.
We could speculate forever on the possible ways he could reconcile this situation without violating his own character, but the important thing isn’t what he could have done, but what he actually did.
In everything we know about God and his creation, we see that his plan is awesome – staggering to our minds – and thus we can expect that his solution to this dilemma will also be awesome. And it is!
We learn (in Topics 53-59) that God resolved the dilemma by coming to earth in human body (1) to tell us about our sin problem, (2) to bear the punishment for our sin himself, and (3) to give us a pardon for our sin! This solution allows him to be thoroughly HOLY, JUST and LOVE, all at the same time, without any conflict of character.
This story illustrates the principle:
The judge has just imposed the sentence, a very large fine. The agony for him is that the defendant is his own son and his son has no money. The judge hates crime and is committed to enforcing the law, but he still loves his son and doesn’t want him to go to jail. So the judge steps down from the bench and offers to pay the fine himself.
On a much grander scale, this is what God did in love to resolve our sin problem without violating his own principles or character.
RECONCILIATION IS THE MAIN THEME OF THE BIBLE
There’s a rift between God and man, caused by our sin.
Knowledge of this rift is built right into us and it’s the basis of every religion. Our instinct says that we do wrong things that offend God and we need to do something to make it right. Throughout history, people have been trying to find better ways to make peace with God. Most religions say we must appease God by obeying rules, performing rituals and offering sacrifices. But the Bible says that doesn’t do any good.
Throughout the Bible, there’s a frequently recurring question: How can God and humanity be reconciled? Or, put another way: Can anything we do bridge the gulf between holiness and sin; between God and humanity?
Sin is mankind’s biggest problem (see Topic 6). We all have it in our lives, some more than others and some worse than others. But for everyone it’s a reality that can’t be denied. We try to control and suppress it, but it’s hard work and usually a losing battle. Its a heavy feeling, a dirty feeling, a nagging feeling. It blocks our relationship with God and robs us of genuine happiness. We want to stop it, get rid of it. But how? The picture of the natural human condition is people struggling without God, and often struggling against God.
What’s needed is ‘reconciliation,’ which means a changed relationship for the better between persons who were formerly estranged from each other. It’s a relationship issue, not a performance issue. When the relationship is right, performance improves, but that’s the minor part of it. The major part is that God is a divine person (see Topic 46) and wants a personal relationship with each of us (see Topic 48).
Reconciliation is the main theme of the Bible, from cover to cover. Reconciliation occurs not when we do something great for God, but when we understand and accept the great thing he’s done for us through Jesus Christ.
Godʼs Plan for Reconciliation
From the Bible, we can tap into Godʼs thinking regarding our sin. In a brief and paraphrased form, hereʼs his plan as heʼs revealed it to us:
I will go to the world in a human body so people can actually hear me and see me. My life in human form will be an example of holiness, justice and love. Eyewitnesses will record my words and actions for future generations. I will offer my human body as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for everyoneʼs sins. In that way I will show that thereʼs a terrible penalty to pay for sin, but I will pay it myself to show my love and I will declare everyone pardoned who repents of his sin and personally accepts my sacrifice. Those who donʼt accept it will have to pay the penalty of sin themselves and spend eternity separated from me.
This plan – examined in detail in Topics 54-60 – reconciles our sin with Godʼs character.