“The price you paid for us has fully been accepted,
Because of your shed blood we cannot be rejected.”
This is the the beginning lyrics to a bridge in a worship song. Who is the one who has paid for us? Jesus – The Son of God. Who is The One Who would reject us if not for Jesus? God The Father. Sadly many hold to, and some adamantly defend, the view of this Father God who needs to be pacified by some sin-payment before He will be willing to forgive the sinners. (Which one has to ask if that’s really forgiveness at all since payment was still exacted… but another topic for another day, perhaps.) The idea propagated in the song (Penal Substitutionary Atonement) is founded upon the idea that God’s defining Character trait is holiness, and that since God is holy, He cannot just forgive sin. The belief is that God’s primary attribute is holiness. Yes, God is love, mercy, just, BUT above all HE IS HOLY! It is this holiness that demands He not merely forgive sin, but exact payment for sin. A verse of Scripture used to support the idea of God’s dominant holiness attribute is Isaiah 6:3 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” The thought is that nowhere else in Scripture is it said God is thrice anything. Never does it say, “God is love, love, love.” or, “God is mercy, mercy, mercy”; therefore holiness wins out in the attribute battle.
But is this accurate? Obviously I don’t think so. Why else would I be writing this? While I agree, Scripture doesn’t say God is love, love, love as Isaiah 6:3 speaks of His holiness; but if we look beyond one verse, what is it that we see? If we look at the fullest manifestation of The Father we have been given – The Son – what do we find? Do we find a God who is hell bent on rejecting us unless a blood payment is made? Not in the slightest. What we do find is The Father Who so loved us that He sent The Son to not only show us how we were meant to live and love, but to die for us and defeat evil. To lead a mass exodus (if I may borrow some terminology from N.T. Wright on this topic). The Father was working in Jesus to reconcile US to HIM. He didn’t need to be pacified or reconciled to us. It was This loving Father that pleads with us to turn to Him. It is The Son, Who while on the earth did only what He saw The Father doing, that set the example for us to forgive those who wrong us without demanding retribution. To actually die for our enemies. He taught us to love, to forgive – he taught us GRACE.
It was love that moved The Father to save. (John 3:16)
The defining attribute that will make it evident to the world that we are His is LOVE. (John 13:35)
The one attribute that will be in the life of one who truly knows God is LOVE. (1 John 4:7-12)
It is the love of God that compels evangelism. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
It is love that is the superior way in the Christian life. (1 Corinthians 13)
God is holy, and we are told to be holy. I am in no way insinuating that holiness is not an attribute of God (yet we need to ensure we are biblically defining holiness… perhaps another future post). What we have done, I believe, is developed and propagated a view of God that is not consistent with the revelation of Himself in Jesus. It is The God of Love that wants to be known by us, that desires a relationship with us. It is This loving God that those in the Old Testament appealed to in seeking forgiveness for sins. (Psalm 51:1)
Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
I have come to find God is different than the god I was taught to believe in. As I look at Jesus, the full revelation of God; there is one, absolutely unmistakable, truth that is made evident – Love is the defining character trait of Jehovah.