The Cross and God’s Character

D.A. Carson, in Praying with Paul, makes a startling statement on p. 30.  “ . . . forgiveness is never the product of love alone.”  My first reaction to that statement was to disagree with him, but after following his train of thought I changed my mind.  He’s not minimizing love.  God loves the entire world as John 3:16 says. Love motivated God to deal with the sin problem.  But despite God’s love for all mankind, some will end up in hell.  How can that be explained?  God loves the entire world, he is not willing that anyone perish, and he is sovereign.  The crux of this issue is that although God is love, he is also holy.  God knew that before he created man, and had a plan to resolve the sin problem.  He sent his son to die in man’s place.  THAT is love.  But there’s an element in the redemption process that calls on man to accept this free gift—belief.  And that has to do with God’ holiness.  This is what is behind Carson’s statement.  To satisfy a holy God, there had to be retribution.  For the Christian, that would be taken care of by Christ’s sacrificial death, but on the basis of belief.  God still loves all men, but salvation has to be received by faith.  Those who believe will end up in heaven; those who don’t believe will end up in hell.   Carson cites Rom. 3:21-26 to support the above statement.  Paul uses a phrase here that really caught my attention—“to demonstrate his justice.”  The cross demonstrated God’s justice.  It justified his forgiveness for those who believe, and it justified sending people to hell who don’t believe.  So both God’s love and his justice are demonstrated.


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