Many in the world today only believe in a loving and benevolent grandfather image of God, who wants to bounce us on His knee and grant every wish we can conjure up. There are others who only preach that God hates sinners and is punishing America at this moment for those sins that do not match God’s high standards.
In review of the facts in the Bible – these are both distortions of the true attributes of the God I know, love and defend.
While studying Paul’s writings in Romans 1:16-2:11, I recently found a distinct and balanced description of God’s attributes that we must all grasp. God is a righteous and impartial judge. In the image portrayed by the scripture, an all loving and benevolent God sits at a seat of judgment, assuring that all who sin must pay the penalty of their actions.
“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil.” - Romans 2:6-9
In this study, I saw a righteous judge, leveling the playing field and coming down on three specific human behaviors.
The first human behavior God abhors is “suppressing the truth” (Romans 1:18). The implication is that mankind knows what is expected, yet chooses to redefine God’s standards, even to the point of redefining God. As I interpret verse 19, God has written His standards into our internal design, as well as His creation. He has put His attributes on the inside and the outside so we are without excuse. “For since the creation of the world,” the Bible says, “His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20
The scripture continues, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” – Romans 1:21-22. Arrogant mankind willfully slides into sin when we think we are smarter than God.
The second behavior God abhors is unbridled sin. Once mankind “[exchanges] the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1:25), God “gives us up” to a spiral of sin which ultimately leads to God’s judgment and wrath. In the nearly “X-rated” portrait of sin that is described in verses 26-31, I see a picture of twenty-first century America. Virtually every deep dark secret harbored in the minds and actions of our citizens is described in living color. Many of these sins are celebrated in parades, pumped into our living rooms on TV and internet cables, and defended in our courts as a “right” for all who live here. This land that I love and call home has adopted the Bill of Rights as a higher standard than the Holy Word of God.
The third behavior God abhors is the judgmental attitude of His followers. He says in Romans 2:1-2 “You are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” I see this as a warning to believers, and those who feel they are immune to these teachings and look down on those who have strayed.
Finally, the Bible reinforces God’s loving and forgiving attributes which we should also know: “His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,” which “leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). This is the good news of the Bible. While we all fall short of God’s expectations and all deserve His righteous judgment, He has made a way for us to have eternal fellowship with Him. This “good news” is, according to Romans 1:16, “the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
All of us have sinned. We all deserve God’s wrath. None of us has, or can ever, earn our way into His favor. Salvation is being reconciled back to God’s favor. Paul reminds us, “… the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” – Romans 1:17
God will not change His attributes. We must a make a decision to change direction and meet God where He stands, through faith in His son.