God must possess both traits of character or He cannot resolve the moral dilemma of sin.
by Norbert Restrepo
After Israel’s apostasy with the golden calf, Moses returned to Mount Sinai to intercede for them. Seeking reassurance of God’s continued presence and guidance, he asked God to show him His glory. The Lord descended in a cloud, passed by Moses, and proclaimed: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6, 7.
God is merciful but also just—forgiving yet punishing. Notwithstanding, many today believe that God is only merciful and that in His character of love there is no place for retribution. Their conclusion is that sinners destroy themselves as a natural consequence of the evil lives they have lived. They believe that “all negative results of sin are intrinsic, natural results, and that God does not and will not add extrinsic punishment to sin’s natural consequences.”1
This concept denies God’s right to execute judgment. If all destruction were exclusively a natural consequence of evil, a moral judge would not be needed to determine a just punishment. But how could God be the Author of the moral law and not have the right to punish those who transgress it? Furthermore, if death is only a natural consequence and not a penalty, then Jesus’ suffering and death were unnecessary!
Isaiah 53:5 says that Christ “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” “This penalty Christ bore for the sins of the transgressor; He has borne the punishment for every man and for this reason He can ransom every soul, however fallen his condition, if he will accept the law of God as his standard of righteousness.”2
“Through this plan the great, the dreadful God can be just, and yet be the justifier of all who believe in Jesus, and who receive Him as their personal Savior.”3 May we accept the mercy and righteousness of Christ into our lives!
Norbert Restrepo, President
2 White, Ellen G., Manuscript 77, 1899
3 White, Letter 43, 1895