“The Goodness and Severity of God”

 

Scripture Reading:

 

Romans 11:20-23Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22Behold 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. 23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.”

 

            In writing to the Roman brethren, Paul reminds them that because of their unbelief the chosen people of God, the Israelite nation was broken off.  They are no longer God’s chosen people, they have been replaced by those who are children of God by reason of their obedience to the gospel of Christ.  He asks them to observe both the goodness and severity of God.  They are to observe God’s goodness toward those who were added to the kingdom of his Son to whom he is writing and his severity to those who have chosen not to believe.

            Our world today would do well to observe the same manifestation of the nature of God.  Today millions teach that God is too good to punish mankind in a devils hell.  God is too good to deny his crowning creation simply because of their refusal to obey his commandments.  God is too good to destroy nations and people because they have defied him.  But the history of mankind and especially the history of Israel and it neighbors paint a very different picture.  Thus we will consider in this lesson both the goodness and the severity, or wrath of God.

 

God’s Goodness

 

  1. God created mankind in his own image:

 

Genesis 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

 

God gave man a spirit.  God is a spirit being; a spirit without beginning and without end.  Because of God’s goodness and love toward man he gave man a spirit that will never die; a spirit that will be without end.  God gave man a spirit that He wants to be able to cherish, provide and keep for in his presence for eternity.

 

  1. God gave man dominion over every other creature he created.

 

Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

 

            God gave mankind the power to reason, the power to rule, the power to dominate every other creature that he created.  He gave man the capability to love, to hate, the power to choose whether he would serve Him or not.  He gave mankind the freedom to make his own decisions and determine his own destiny.  Adam and Eve made a choice and chose to disobey God and fell.

 

  1. When man fell, God announced his intentions of sending the Saviour:

 

            Mother Eve was deceived by Satan and enticed to disobey the one prohibition that we have record of God giving man.  She ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Her husband, with full knowledge that he was disobeying God, followed her example.  Sin was brought into the world for the first time.  God could have stopped, eliminated these two who had defied him and started over; but he chose not to do so.  Instead, he made a promise to Eve, to Satan and literally to every man, woman or child of age who ever lived:

 

Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

 

Man sinned, man transgressed God’s law, man destroyed his relationship, his fellowship with God but God through his goodness didn’t destroy man.  Instead God planned and in his own good time provided a means of removing the stain of sin from man’s soul.

 

  1. God gave his son as a sacrifice to provide the cleansing blood for my soul, your soul and the souls of all mankind who would honor him and his laws.

 

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

“The Goodness and Severity of God”

 

            From the beginning of time, from the very moment that the first sin committed by mankind was revealed, God gave mankind a promise to remove the effects of that sin.  He gave us an assurance that the purity of our souls would be restored when we sin.  So how did he plan to do that?  This was to be accomplished through the seed of woman as we just noted in Genesis 3:15.  A boy child, a son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, the Son of God would be brought into the world.  This boy child would be born as a man for one purpose and one purpose only.   His purpose was to be the blood sacrifice required to remove the sins of men; weak, rebellious, unrighteous men that God loves beyond our capability to understand.

 

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

            God’s goodness is so great that he gave his only begotten son, to die for you and I, to die that you and I might live with him in eternity.  When we meditate upon God’s goodness how can we as mere human beings understand the depth and width of that goodness.  Could we bear the pain and sorrow of bringing a child into the world for the sole purpose of redeeming those who have made themselves our enemies?  Could we envision any of the beautiful children in our presence being used as a sacrifice for the sins of men?  Even the thought of such is horrifying but this is the measure of God’s goodness and God’s love for mankind.  Consequently:

 

  1. God gave us the Gospel.

 

Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

 

            God in his goodness did not leave mankind without instruction in how we should avail ourselves of the benefit of his goodness.  He gave us the gospel, the good news, concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the body of teaching, that doctrine that we find in the New Testament, the new will created and placed in force by Him is our covenant, our rule book, the law of God for man today.  It is indeed the power needed to become children of God, to access the most precious blessings of Almighty God.

            Jesus himself said as part of his final charge to his disciples:

 

Mark 16:15-16 “…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

 

 “The Goodness and Severity of God”

 

Thus through the goodness of God you and I have the opportunity to remove all sin from our souls.  Through the goodness of God we have the opportunity to reserve a place in heaven with God for eternity for ourselves.  In order to reveal His thoughts his mind to us and provide us with instruction.

 

  1. God gave us the Bible.

 

II Timothy 3:16-17All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

 

            God knew that in spite of man having the power to reason, in spite of being able to learn the lessons of life, in spite of being able to learn from those who have preceded us that the words of the prophet Jeremiah are true and would be true for all time:

 

Jeremiah 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

 

So God in his goodness, his concern that man would have proper guidance for his life and his living that:

 

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” II Peter 1:3-4

 

Because of His goodness:

 

  1. God has extended his grace to all mankind.

 

Titus 2:11-12For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

 

“The Goodness and Severity of God”

 

            Grace is given, it cannot be earned.  Grace is defined as favor that has not been merited or gained through the efforts of those who receive it.  There is nothing that man can do of himself, no work, no duty, no worship through which man can gain the blessings and grace of God.  God through his goodness and love gives us his grace, his favor; and then through his grace gives mankind these all the blessings we enjoy; but most importantly the opportunity for remission of our sins by obedience to Him.  That promise is extended to all men:

 

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8

 

            But the acceptance of God’s grace is conditional.  If it were not then the apostle could not write:

 

II Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.”

 

God’s grace can be received in vain, to no purpose, if we are not obedient as his children.

 

  1. God through his goodness pleads for our salvation.

 

Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

 

            This is just one example.  Through our study of the minor prophets we have seen that God through his longsuffering, his patience, his love for his children pleads again and again for Israel and then Judah to repent and return to him.  But when God’s offer of his grace was rejected it served no purpose.  The northern kingdom of Israel was totally destroyed, cleaned from the face of the earth never to be restored.  The kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity, purified and restored once again in order to bring Christ into the world, then disbursed, never again to exist as a nation.

            God, through his goodness, continues to plead with men today.  The apostle records that God is the one:

 

3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  I Timothy 2:3-4

 

God’s Severity

 

            But there is another aspect of God that men would like to be able to ignore and many do.  Just as the goodness, grace, longsuffering and love of God is perfect, pure and beyond the understanding of man except that he reveal it, God’s wrath, vengeance and the severity of God’s punishment is perfect as well.  God has given all mankind laws, rules, regulations and commandments throughout time that he expects us to obey and to follow.  Along with those laws and commandments he has promised us consequences when we disobey, when we reject them; when we ignore them.  When God’s first creation ignored His commandments:

 

  1. God drove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, brought physical death to mankind.

 

Genesis 3:3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”

 

As a consequence of their sin:

 

Genesis 3:19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

 

The opportunity to eat of the tree of life was removed:

 

Genesis 3:22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: v.24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

 

            Someone might say, they didn’t do anything really bad or evil.  The attitude of many today is that God’s commandments are to be accepted or ignored at will and that isn’t anything really bad.  But Adam and Eve sinned, they transgressed God’s law (I John 5:4) and God took away the blessing of His beautiful garden, we to this day earn our living by the sweat of our bodies and at the end of our time here on earth die physically.  All this because of God’s punishment of the disobedient is severe.  When men became so sinful the couldn’t stand them anymore.

  1. God sent the flood to destroy the earth completely.

 

Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

 

            In just a few generations after being banned from the garden mankind had become so corrupt, so immoral, so sinful that God could no longer stand to look at the condition of his creation.

 

Genesis 6:6  And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

 

God repented of having even made man so He decided to correct this awful situation.

 

Genesis 6:17And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.”

 

And God brought total destruction upon the earth.  He destroyed mankind, except for Noah and his immediate family who were righteous, destroying all of his creation that was on earth, the earth itself, literally remaking it into the form that we see today.  Should there be any doubt that God will do that again just as he has promised; destroying this earth again and banning the sinful to a devil’s hell?

 

  1. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

 

Genesis 19:24-25Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.”

 

            Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain were prosperous and blessed to the extent that Lot chose to pitch his tents and move his flocks toward them.  But inside they were rotten.  Among their other sins they practiced that which was an abomination to God, homosexuality.  God destroyed them totally, even that “WHICH GREW UPON THE GROUND” and today we see a desolate valley good only for the gathering of pitch and harsh chemicals.

            This country today isn’t far behind Sodom and Gomorrah.  Many of our citizens are clamoring for their sin to be declared a human right protected by law.  Not only that; it is reported that legislation is in congress today; that if brought into law, would make my presenting the Word of God on this subject a “hate crime” and would land me in jail for doing so.

 

  1. God barred Moses from entering the promised land.

 

Numbers 20:7-8And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.”

 

            Moses, the very one chosen by God to lead his people from the slavery of Egypt to the land that they were promised, was not allowed to enter.  Why?  He was not allowed to enter because he disobeyed God.  When Israel needed water to sustain the people and their flocks and herds, Moses was instructed to “SPEAK YE UNTO THE ROCK” to bring forth water.  But Moses did not do as God told him.

 

Numbers 20:11And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

 

That was a small thing someone might say.  But it wasn’t a small thing to God.  Moses had dedicated the latter years of his life to leading God’s people but because of his disobedience God would not allow him to lead them to their final destination.

 

Numbers 20:12And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

 

  1. Nadab and Abihu were destroyed by fire:

 

Leviticus 10:1-2And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.”

 

            Nadab and Abihu were priests of God, men chosen to conduct the worship of the Almighty God for the children of Israel.  But in doing so they were as arrogant as any denominational preacher, worshiper or apostate brother of today.  They did it their way.   To burn the incense before God they used “STRANGE FIRE”, fire other than that which God had commanded them to use.  Consequently they died, severe punishment someone might say but just before God.  In the New Testament:

 

  1. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead.

 

Acts 5:1-5But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.”

 

            Well, that was a small thing wasn’t it?  Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession and made a donation to the work of the church in Jerusalem.  This is a very commendable act in the sight of men.  But they told a “little white lie” didn’t they?  When asked if the amount donated was the amount for which they sold the possession they said yes.  They wanted to brag a little bit, they wanted to be thought of a little more highly than they deserved.  But they lied to the Holy Spirit, to God, and they were struck dead.  But the most severe lesson that man will learn about the goodness and severity of God will come at the end of time.

 

  1. The Judgment of God

 

Matthew 25:31-33When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”

 

            This is the scene of the judgment, related to us by the words of Jesus himself.  All men, all nations, all that ever lived will be brought before him.  We will be sorted, you go left, you go right; but to what?

 

Matthew 25:34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:”

 

Matthew 25:41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”

 

            Those, yes even those whom men would call good, who did not obey God, who are not God’s children will be sent into a devil’s hell for eternity.

 

Conclusion and Invitation

 

            As we noted earlier in our lesson God, through his goodness, continues to plead with men today.  The apostle records:

 

3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”  I Timothy 2:3-4

 

Neither God nor his Son wants to send anyone to the left hand on the day of judgment but will send all those who do not obey him.  Are you a child of God today?

 

If not then Believe Mark 16:15-16, Repent, Luke 13:3, Confess Romans 10:9-10 and be baptized to wash away your sins, Acts 22:16.  Are you a child of God that has been unfaithful or has public sin on their souls that has brought reproach upon God and his chosen people?  If so then repent and pray for His forgiveness as Peter told Simon in Acts 8:22.

 

William L. Schwegler, Sunset church of Christ, Sunday morning; May 3, 2009