Summary: A sermon on the two attributes of God's moral nature and how they are related to one another (Material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, "Set Free", Chapter 2 "The God of Grace")


What is our picture of God? What images come to our minds when I say God?

A God who always says “No” or “Do Not”

A tyrant requiring perfection.

An old fashioned guy

An impersonal executive

A lot of people perceive God like one person said: God is a lot like our preacher. I don’t see him through the week and I don’t understand him on Sunday.


One would think that after a section like Romans 1:16-17, that Paul would continue to talk about the greatness of the gospel. However, what are such positive notes in vs. 16-17 goes immediately to negative ones in vs. 18 and following. Why the change?

Must know the bad before we can be thankful for the good.

Before we can go on, we must discuss the two sides of God’s moral nature. Within God, as far as it concerns us, there are two natures that are in opposition to each other. Paul begins to discuss one of those sides in vs. 18- the wrath of God.

Both sides are talked about in Romans 11:22: Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. More precisely these two sides are His holiness (sternness) and His love (kindness).

Thesis: To understand grace, we must understand these two attributes and how they are related to one another.

For instances:

The Holiness of God

In Scripture God is addressed as “Holy, Holy, Holy”- Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8. We never read of God being addressed as “Love, Love, Love.” Holiness must be an important attribute of God.

For this discussion, when we say that God is holy we mean that he is separate from sin and from sinners. His essence is pure moral goodness and is the very opposite of sin.

The holiness of God has both positive and negative aspects.

1. The positive aspect includes what God is for, or stands for. God demands and delights in these things in His creatures with the zeal of a cheerleader or sports fan.

The negative aspect of God’s holiness includes what God is not- what God is against or what He opposes. God is against these things in His creatures.

What God stands for and what God is against are found in His Word, the Bible. The commandments of the law are God’s own holy character and will verbalized. God’s law is more than commandments, however. It also includes penalties, especially the penalty of eternal death in the lake of fire. These penalties also reflect God’s holiness, His negative side in particular. Because God is holy and hates sin, He not only forbids it in the law’s commandments but also shows how much He hates it in the law’s penalties.

An old religious comic strip called “Pontius Puddle” once depicted two men (I will call them Joe and Moe) discussing the Judgment Day. Joe said, “Certain things about judgment day really scare me.” Moe replied, “Relax. We have God’s assurance that His judgment will be fair- impartial- just!” “Yeah,” said Joe, “those are some of the things that frighten me!”

The Love of God

1 John 4:8: God is love. This is so different from non-biblical concepts of God.

In its most general sense God’s love is His benevolence, kindness, and good will toward His creatures. God is not mean, cruel, uncaring, or indifferent toward us; He is good to us. He is kindhearted, friendly, and generous. He desires every good thing for us.

God’s love is experienced especially through His constant giving of gifts and blessings to His human creatures. None of these gifts are deserved.

We can sum up the difference between God’s love and God’s holiness this way: Holiness demands, love gives. God’s holiness demands obedience from His creatures, and it demands punishment for those who disobey.

God’s love, on the other hand, is a fountain of blessings upon these same creatures, whether they deserve it or not and often even though they deserve the opposite.

God’s Holiness Vs. God’s Love

Even though God’s holiness and God’s love are different from one another, they exist within God’s nature in harmony under most circumstances. They both existed in harmony at the beginning of our creation as described in Genesis 1 and 2. God’s holiness and God’s love were both experienced by Adam and Even without any conflict.

However, when the Fall came in Genesis 3, something happened within God’s nature. The presence of sin within God’s human creatures resulted in a tension between the two sides of God’s nature, His holiness and His love. When sin came into the picture, God’s nature began to be pulled in two opposite directions, just as a rubber band may be pulled strongly in two directions at the same time. In both cases the result is a terrible tension. A rubber band may be stretched so tight that it may break; but this could never happen to God. When this tension occurs within God, He must find a way to resolve it.

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