“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
(The word “goodness” is elsewhere translated “gentleness” Gal. 5:22 and “kindness” 2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 3:12; Titus 3:4.) The phrase “the goodness and severity of God” summarizes the two aspects of God’s character that seem, to fallen man, to be contradictory and confusing. How can God be good and yet severe? How can He be good when He allows suffering to exist in this world? How can He be a God of love and yet consign men to eternal hellfire? These are questions that men have wrestled with for millennia. The answer is at once simple and complex; the answer lies in God’s character. We have to deal with the God that exists rather than the god we would create after our own thinking, which is an idol. We have to trust the revelation God has given us, for we have no other way to know about God’s character. We can learn of God’s power and wisdom through the light of creation, but we cannot know His character apart from a higher revelation, which God has graciously given us in Scripture. There we find that the God that exists is good; He is compassionate and loving beyond comprehension; but He is also holy and just; He is a righteous lawgiver and a judge of rebellion. Both aspects of God’s character are clearly evident in the Cross, the central event in history. There we see the severity of God, the awfulness of His justice, the depth of his holiness whereby He would require His own Son to suffer so; but there we see, too, the amazing goodness of God in taking the just punishment of His own creatures upon Himself. What severity; what goodness! In truth, the severity of God is part of and perfectly compatible with His goodness. It is good that God is righteous, holy, and just. This is the foundation of law and order in the created universe. If God did not make righteous laws for His creatures and if He did not enforce those laws, there would be chaos and anarchy, as we see in this present world. While the scofflaw might see laws and police and courts as severe, society understands that these are good. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.”
(Friday Church News Notes, May 17, 2013, www.wayoflife.org, firstname.lastname@example.org, 866-295-4143)