Author: Ron Graham
The Two Sides of God’s Nature
—More about “salvation”
If you ask people, "From what does God save us?" you will get various answers involving hell, sin, the Devil, and so forth. Often these answers are adequate, but not well understood. People say something like, "We are saved from our sins" without being sure of what they mean.
God’s love and God’s wrath (Romans 5:8-9)
"But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then shall we be saved from the wrath of God, having now been justified by his blood" (Romans 5:8-9).
We need to be clear about the two sides of God’s nature. These are not contradictory, but complementary. God does not have a split personality which changes whimsically. But God’s nature does have two sides, each of which is necessary to the other and consistent with the other.
Paul expressed this very simply, when he said, "Consider the goodness and severity of God" (Romans 11:22). The goodness of God is his love. The severity of God is his wrath.
Please don't take that to mean God has a good side and an evil side. The love of God is a righteous love, and the anger of God is a righteous anger. There is no more evil in God’s wrath than there is in his love.
We can clarify this matter by asking three simple questions...
1 What Are We Saved By?
We are used to hearing of the love of God. The Bible says, "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) "...in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son... we love, because God first loved us" (1John 4:10, 5:19).
Out of his love, God sent his Son to die for us. Looking at the cross of Christ is a bit like looking at one of those optical illusions that keep flip-flopping. They appear as one thing, and then suddenly they appear as something else. When we look at the cross which saves us, whilst it is no illusion, one moment we are seeing God’s love, and the next moment (if we are not blind and stupid) we see God’s severity.
2 What Are We Saved From?
We are not so used to hearing exactly what we are saved from. In a sense, when you boil salvation down to its essence, God saves us from himself! The love of God saves us from the wrath of God —as we have seen (Romans 5:8-9).
If God’s love is noble and good, does it not move God to wrath against all that is evil? Yes, of course: If anything opposes and threatens love, the God of love must destroy that opposition. The goodness of his love demands severity in his wrath.
When we say that the love of God saves us from his wrath, we do not mean that the kindness of God diminishes his wrath to the point that our sins are tolerable to him. Remember, God’s love insisted that his only begotten Son should be crucified. That's a very severe thing to insist upon, isn't it?
3 What Are We Saved For?
The proverb, "Love will cover a multitude of sins" (1Peter 4:8) is taken by some to mean that God is so loving that he winks at sin and makes excuses for us unless we really go over the top and do something awful.
But the proverb’s true meaning is given by James: "If anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).
Even when one has only "wandered" from the truth, God doesn't cover the sin by ignoring it. He covers the sin by correcting it.
The reason for this is the very reason we are saved —not only for our own benefit but for the glory of God. How can God be glorified by people whose sin has not been properly dealt with?
Paul says, "We have been buried with Christ through baptism into [death to sin], so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
The death and resurrection of Christ made possible our salvation. This took place "through the glory of the Father". So, having been crucified, buried, and raised with Christ, we must reflect the Father’s glory. We are saved for the glory of God, and we can only glorify him by turning completely, in the grace and fear of God, from the error of our ways.