True vs. False (I)
TRUE AND FALSE GOD
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 11/12/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Psalm 119, and I'll be reading the entire section called "Mem," which is verse 97 through verse 104:
Psalm 119: (97) Oh how I love Your Law! It [is] my meditation all the day. (98) You make me wiser than my enemies by Your Commands; for they [are] forever mine. (99) I have more understanding than all my teachers; for Your Testimonies [are] a meditation to me. (100) I understand more than the aged, for I keep Your Precepts. (101) I have kept my feet from every evil way, to keep Your Word. (102) I turned not from Your judgments; for You have taught me. (103) How sweet are Your Words to my palate! More than honey to my mouth! (104) By Your Precepts I know; so then I hate every false way.
Today I'm starting a series of messages under the heading, "True and False." The Lord willing, I'll be going into many things that are counterfeited by Satan and his children but can be distinguished from the true by God's Word. God's people are to hate every false way. Today, the Lord willing, I'll be going into the true God versus false gods. In future sermons, the Lord willing, I'll be going over things like true and false Christ, true and false Holy Spirit, true and false gospel, true and false grace, true and false repentance, true and false humility, true and false love, and probably more than that. I pray that God will use this to edify the saints and bring lost sheep to repentance of the lie and belief of the truth.
Let's take some time this morning to think about and read what God says about the true God verus false gods. Let's turn to Exodus 34:12-17:
Exodus 34: (12) Take heed to yourself, that you not cut a covenant with the people of the land to which you are going in, that it not be a snare in your midst. (13) But you shall cut down their altars, break their pillars, and you shall cut off their Asherahs. (14) For you shall not bow to another god, for Jehovah whose name [is] Jealous, He [is] a jealous God; (15) that you not cut a covenant with the people of the land, and they fornicate with their gods, and they call to you, and you eat from his sacrifice; (16) and you take from their daughters for your sons, and their daughters fornicate with their gods, and they lead your sons to fornicate with their gods. (17) You shall not make for yourself casted gods.
Not only does God say that He is jealous, but He says that His NAME is jealous. This is to emphasize and show without any doubt that JEALOUSY is an integral part of WHO GOD IS. His NAME reveals His CHARACTER. His NAME reveals His PERFECTIONS. His NAME reveals His VIRTUES. And God says in Exodus 34:14 that His NAME is JEALOUS. What does JEALOUS mean? To be jealous means to DEMAND EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION and to be INTOLERANT OF RIVALRY. God DEMANDS that He and He ALONE be worshiped. He is INTOLERANT of all other false gods. There is a picture of this in the Christian marriage relationship. A husband is to be JEALOUS over his wife. He is not to tolerate ANYONE who lusts after or shows this kind of interest in his wife. The world uses the term "jealous husband" in a derogatory way, but ANY HUSBAND who is NOT jealous of his wife DOES NOT love his wife.
There are many passages that speak of God as a jealous God. We won't turn to them, but it's a good study to go over the JEALOUSY of God. Let's turn to some other passages that show God's love of Himself and his intolerance of any rivals.
Isaiah 42: (8) I [am] Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images.
Isaiah 48: (11) For My sake, for My sake, I will act; for how is it defiled? And I will not give My glory to another.
God is JEALOUS over His GLORY. He will not tolerate His glory being attributed to another. And why does He act? FOR HIS OWN SAKE. For His own GLORY. Look at another passage that clearly shows this: Ezekiel 36:16-23:
Ezekiel 36: (16) And the Word of Jehovah was to me, saying, (17) Son of man, [when] the house of Israel dwelt on their land, they even defiled it by their ways and by their doings. As the defilement of woman's impurity, their way was before Me. (18) So I poured out My fury on them, because of the blood that they had poured out on the land, and for their idols [by which] they defiled it. (19) And I scattered them among the nations, and they were sown among the lands; I judged them by their way and by their doings. (20) And when they entered into the nations, there where they went, they even profaned My holy name, by saying to them, These [are] the people of Jehovah, and they are gone out of His land. (21) But I had pity for My holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, there where they went. (22) Therefore, say to the house of Israel, So says the Lord Jehovah: I do not do [this] for your sake, O house of Israel, but only for My holy name which you profaned among the nations, there where you went. (23) And I will sanctify My great name which was profaned among the nations, which you profaned among them. And the nations shall know that I [am] Jehovah, declares the Lord Jehovah, when I am sanctified in you in their eyes.
God does things for HIS OWN SAKE, for His OWN NAME, for His OWN GLORY. Notice in the last part of verse 23, God says, "And the nations shall know that I am Jehovah." If you've read through the Old Testament, you will know that the phrase "and they shall know that I am Jehovah" or "that I am the Lord," depending on which translation you use - this phrase is a very common phrase. "Why does God use it so much? Because He is PERFECTLY SELF-INTERESTED. He will have His name glorified. You will also see the phrase "other gods" throughout the Old Testament, in contrast to the one true and living God.
Now if God is jealous for His own glory, that His name be glorified, should we not also be jealous for the name of our God? Should we not be zealous to stand up and refute the God-haters when they talk of God in a way that dishonors God's glory? Now I'm not talking about the unconcerned and irreligious person who uses the name "God" throughout his speech. That most certainly IS an abomination to God. But what I'm specifically talking about are those who use the name of God in their RELIGION who dishonor every attribute of God's character by their doctrine. These people, who say things like "God loves you and wants you to be saved," are blaspheming the name of God. Should we not stand up and lift our voices against such blasphemy? Yes we should. We should say, "YOU worship a false god. HERE'S what the TRUE GOD is and does."
As you know, another word for false gods is IDOLS. And anyone who worships a false god is an IDOLATER. I won't go into the verses on idolatry, but many of them talk about images that were made by hand. They were made of things like wood, stone, brass, and iron. People bowed down to these statues, thinking that they were worshiping God. We still have some of this today, where some of the tribal and eastern religions use images and bow down to them. There's also image use in false Christianity, where people use things like statues, crosses, stained glass windows or paintings of pseudo-Jesus; even though they might not bow down to them, they use them as "reminders" in worship, which is just as idolatrous as if they were bowing to them. But idolatry does not only mean the use of tangible images. In fact, the majority of idolatry today is one that is manifested in people's DOCTRINE. Idolatry is attributing to God qualities of character that DO NOT belong to Him, or NOT attributing to God qualities of character that DO belong to Him. Now that opens it wide up, doesn't it? We see that ALL of false religion, including Arminianism and tolerant Calvinism, is nothing but idolatry.
So let's go into what distinguishes the true God from all false gods. Now, we could just say, "The God of the Bible is the true God, and any god that's contrary to the God of the Bible is a false God." And we would be right in saying this. But how many religionists who come in the name of Christianity, at least conservative Christianity would say they agree with this statement? Pretty close to 100% of religionists who come in the name of conservative Christianity or "evangelicalism" would say they agree with this statement. So we need to be more specific in naming the things that distinguish the true God from all idols.
One of the first things we see in many passages that talk of God in contrast with idols is that God is the creator. I'll just give a few examples. First, 1 Chronicles 16:26:
1 Chronicles 16: (26) All gods of the peoples [are] nothings; yea, Jehovah has made the heavens.
Now we'll go back to Isaiah 42. I read verse 8 before, but now I'll read some of what led up to verse 8. I'll start with verse 5:
Isaiah 42: (5) So says Jehovah God, creating the heavens and stretching them out; spreading out the earth and its offspring, giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it. (6) I, Jehovah, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a Light of the nations; (7) to open blind eyes, to lead out the prisoner from the prison; those who sit in darkness from the prison. (8) I [am] Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images.
So here are some examples of God distinguishing himself from idols by saying that He is the Creator. Any god that did not create the universe is an idol. Many of the so-called "evangelicals" would agree with us up to this point.
But if we look at what comes AFTER verse 8 in Isaiah 42, we'll see what is directly tied to God's creatorship. Let's read verses 8 and 9:
Isaiah 42: (8) I [am] Jehovah; that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to engraved images. (9) Behold, the former things have come to pass, and I declare new things before they happen, I cause you to hear.
God is distinguished from false gods in that He CONTROLS what He CREATES. There are two very powerful passages a before and after Isaiah 42 that directly link God as Creator with God as Sovereign. Let's first read Isaiah 40:12-28:
Isaiah 40: (12) [He] who has measured in His hand the waters and the heavens by a span meted out; and enclosed in the measure the dust of the earth, and weighed in the balance the mountains, and the hills in the scales, (13) Who has meted out the Spirit of Jehovah, or a man His counsel taught Him? (14) With whom did He take counsel, and [who] trained Him and taught Him in the path of justice; and taught Him knowledge, and made known to Him the way of discernment? (15) Lo, nations [are] as a drop from a bucket, and are reckoned as dust of the scales. Lo, He takes up coasts as a little thing. (16) And Lebanon [is] not enough to burn, nor are its beasts enough [for] a burnt offering. (17) All the nations [are] as nothing before Him; to Him they are reckoned less than nothing and emptiness. (18) And to whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you array to Him? (19) The craftsman pours out the casted image, the smelter spreads it with gold; and he casts the chains of silver. (20) He too poor for [that] offering chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks a skilled artisan for him, to prepare a carved image that will not be shaken. (21) Have you not known? Have you not heard? Was it not told to you from the beginning? Did you not discern [from] the foundations of the earth? (22) He who sits on the circle of the earth, even those living in it are like grasshoppers; He who stretches the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; (23) who gives potentates into nothing. He makes judges of the earth as nothing. (24) Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they are not sown; yea, their stem [is] not taking root in the earth. And He shall also blow on them, and they shall wither, and the tempest shall lift them up like stubble. (25) To whom then will you compare Me, or [am] I equaled, says the Holy One? (26) Lift up your eyes on high and look: Who has created these? Who brings out their host by number? By greatness of vigor, and might of power, He calls them all by names; not one is lacking. (27) Why will you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel; My way is hidden from Jehovah, and my judgment is passed over by my God? (28) Have you not known? Have you not heard? Jehovah, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth; He is not faint, nor does [He] grow weary; [there is] no searching to His understanding.
Now let's read Isaiah 46:5-11:
Isaiah 46: (5) To whom will you compare and make Me equal; yea, compare Me, that we may be alike? (6) Those who lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the measuring rod; they hire a refiner and he makes it a god. They fall down; yea, they worship. (7) They carry it on the shoulder; they bear it and set it in its place, and it stands; it shall not move from its place. Yes, he cries to it, but it does not answer, it does not save him from his distress. (8) Remember this and be a man; return [it] on [your] heart, transgressors. (9) Remember former things from forever, for I [am] God, and no one else [is] God, even none like Me, (10) declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire; (11) calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far off land. Yes, I have spoken; yes, I will cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it.
So not only is God the Creator of all things, God is Sovereign over all things, and He accomplishes whatever He desires in all things. Any god who is not in total control of all things is an idol. Many so-called "evangelicals" will even say they agree with THIS, although there are fewer that agree with this than agree that God is the creator. But you weed out many of them when you show them the truth that God is in ACTIVE control of all things, INCLUDING all actions of human beings. God does not have a "permissive will." For if God merely "permits" something to happen rather than actively controlling what happens, then there is some kind of power that is independent of God, that God just lets happen or does not let happen. This is not the God of the Bible. Let's look at some Scripture passages that prove this. Notice how these passages are also used in the context of the true God versus all false gods.
Deuteronomy 32: (39) See now that I, I [am] He, and there [is] no other God with Me. I kill, and I keep alive. I wound and I heal, and there [is] no deliverer from My hand.
Psalm 115: (1) Not to us, O Jehovah, not to us, but to Your name give glory; on account of Your mercy, on account of Your truth. (2) Why do the nations say, Where [is] their God now? (3) But our God [is] in Heaven; He has done all that He has pleased. (4) Their idols [are] silver and gold, the work of man's hands; (5) they [have] mouths, but they do not speak; they [have] eyes, but they do not see; (6) they [have] ears, but they do not hear; they [have] a nose, but they do not smell; (7) their hands do not feel; their feet do not walk; they do not mutter through their throat. (8) The ones who make them are like them, [and] everyone trusting in them.
Psalm 135: (5) For I know that Jehovah [is] great, and our Lord [is] above all gods. (6) Every [thing] which Jehovah [was] pleased to do, He did, in the heavens and in the earth, and in the seas and all deep places. (7) He causes the vapors to rise from the end of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His storehouses; (8) [He] who struck the first-born of Egypt, from man to animal; (9) [who] sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, on Pharaoh and on all his servants; (10) who struck great nations, and killed mighty kings; (11) Sihon, king Of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan. (12) And He gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to His people Israel.
Isaiah 45: (5) I [am] Jehovah, and [there is] none else; there is no God except Me. I will clothe you, though you do not know Me, (6) that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to its going down, that [there is] none besides Me; I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else; (7) forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil. I, Jehovah, do all these things.
Now let's turn to a few passages that show that God is in control of the actions of men: Proverbs 16:4:
Proverbs 16: (4) Jehovah has made all for His purpose, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Proverbs 21: (1) [As] streams of waters, the king's heart [is] in the hand of Jehovah; He turns it wherever He desires.
Exodus 7: (3) And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh. And I will multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (4) And Pharaoh will not listen to you. And I will put My hand on Egypt, and will bring My armies, My people, the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt with great judgments. (5) And the Egyptians shall know that I [am] Jehovah when I send forth My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.
Exodus 14: (17) And behold! I [am] making strong the heart of the Egyptians. And they will go after them. And I will be honored through Pharaoh and through his armies, through his chariots, and through his horsemen. (18) And the Egyptians shall know that I [am] Jehovah, in My being honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.
Deuteronomy 2: (30) And Sihon the king of Heshbon was not willing to let us pass by him, for Jehovah your God had hardened his spirit, and had emboldened his heart, so as to give him into your hand, as [it is] this day.
2 Samuel 17:14:
2 Samuel 17:14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [is] better than the counsel of Ahithophel. And Jehovah had ordained to break down the good counsel of Ahithophel, for the sake of bringing the evil of Jehovah to Absalom.
2 Chronicles 25:20:
2 Chronicles 25: (20) And Amaziah would not listen, for it [was] from God, in order to give them into their hand, because they had sought to the gods of Edom.
Ezra 6: (22) And [they] performed the Feast of Unleavened [Bread] seven days with joy. For Jehovah had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, to make their hands strong in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
And Proverbs 16:33 says that when the lot is cast into the lap, the ordering of it is from Jehovah. The true God actively controls everything. The false god doesn't control everything; he merely lets it happen. This all ties into God's infinity, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, which we won't go into in this sermon.
But you know what? We haven't even gotten to the MAIN THING -- THE MOST IMPORTANT THING -- that distinguishes the true God from all idols. We did need to establish that God is the creator and is in control of every single bit of His creation. But these truths serve to LEAD INTO the HEART of it all. Let's read a passage of Scripture that gets to the heart of the truth of who the true God is versus who all false gods are. Let's turn to Isaiah 45, and let's read verses 18 through 25:
Isaiah 45: (18) For so says Jehovah, Creator of the heavens; He [is] God, forming the earth and making it; He makes it stand, not creating it empty, [but] forming it to be lived in. I [am] Jehovah, and [there is] none else. (19) I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. I did not say to Jacob's seed, Seek Me in vain. I Jehovah speak righteousness, declaring right things. (20) Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, escaped ones of the nations; the ones who set up the wood of their carved image, and the ones who pray to a god who cannot save; they know nothing. (21) Declare and bring near; yea, let them consult together. Who has revealed this of old; [who] has told it from then? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there [is] no God other than Me; a just God and a Savior; [there is] none except Me. (22) Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I [am] God, and there [is] no other. (23) I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone out of My mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. (24) He shall say, Only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength; to Him he comes; and they are ashamed, all who are angry with Him. (25) In Jehovah all of the seed of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.
In verse 18, God again says that He is the creator and that there is no other God. In verse 20, He describes the false god - it is a god who CANNOT SAVE. And in verses 21 through 25, God describes Himself in contrast with the false god. HERE is where the crux of the matter is. Here is where all false religionists, even those who come in the name of Christianity, show that they DO NOT believe the true God but are the same as the idolaters in verse 20.
There is NO OTHER GOD who is both a JUST GOD and a SAVIOR. No other god. Any god that is not both a JUST GOD and a SAVIOR is an idol. Let's look at this for the remaining time.
First of all, the true God is HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, and JUST. He is totally pure of all taint. He is so pure that He cannot fellowship with anyone who is not as pure as He is. And if anyone is not as pure as He is, he must exact His righteous justice. God shows His righteousness and holiness by His Law. Sin is any transgression of God's Law, even down to the thoughts and intents of the heart. God's righteous justice DEMANDS that ALL SIN must be punished. And it must be punished in proportion to His righteousness. Let's turn to a few passages that show God's holiness and righteousness.
Deuteronomy 32: (4) [He is] the Rock; His work [is] perfect. For all His ways [are] just, a God of faithfulness, and without evil; just and upright [is] He.
Psalm 33: (4) For the Word of Jehovah [is] right, and all His works [are] in truth.
Psalm 92: (15) to declare that Jehovah [is] upright, my Rock! And in Him [is] no evil.
Isaiah 5: (16) But Jehovah of Hosts is exalted in judgment, and God the Holy One is proven holy in righteousness.
Now let's turn to a few passages that show God's justice and judgment.
Deuteronomy 27: (26) Cursed [is] he who does not rise to all the Words of this Law, to do them! And all the people shall say, Amen!
Joshua 24: (19) And Joshua said to the people, You cannot serve Jehovah, for He [is] a holy God; He [is] a jealous God. He will not lift up [from you] your transgressions or your sins.
1 Samuel 2:10:
1 Samuel 2: (10) They who strive [with] Jehovah will be smashed; He thunders in the heavens against him. Jehovah judges the ends of the earth and gives strength to His king; and [He] exalts the horn of His anointed.
Psalm 7: (11) God is a righteous judge; and God is angry with evildoers every day.
Psalm 9: (7) But Jehovah is seated forever; He has established His throne for judgment. (8) And He shall judge the world in righteousness; He shall judge the peoples in uprightness.
Psalm 11: (4) Jehovah [is] in His holy temple; Jehovah, His throne is in the heavens; His eyes see; His eyelids will examine the sons of man. (5) Jehovah tries the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the [one] loving violence. (6) He shall rain snares on the wicked; fire and brimstone and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (7) For Jehovah is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright look upon His face.
Psalm 19: (9) The fear of Jehovah [is] clean, enduring forever. The judgments of Jehovah [are] true, they are righteous altogether.
Psalm 96: (13) before Jehovah; for He comes; for He comes to judge the earth; He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His faithfulness.
Proverbs 17: (15) He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, even both of them [are] disgusting to Jehovah.
Proverbs 24: (12) For you say, Behold, we did not know this. Does not He who weighs the heart consider it? And the One who keeps your soul, does He [not] know? Yea, He repays to a man according to his work.
Ecclesiastes 3: (17) I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for [there is] a time there for every good purpose and for every work.
Ecclesiastes 12: (14) For God shall bring every work into judgment, with all that is hidden, whether [it is] good, or whether [it is] evil.
Isaiah 28: (17) And I will lay justice for a line, and righteousness for a plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of the lie; and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
Nahum 1: (3) Jehovah [takes] long to anger, and [is] great of power, and He does not by any means acquit [the guilty]. Jehovah [has] His way in the tempest and in the storm, and the clouds [are] the dust of His feet. (4) He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, and dries up the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither, and the flower of Lebanon withers. (5) The mountains quake from Him, and the hills melt; and the earth is lifted up from before Him, even the world and all who dwell in it. (6) Who can stand before His fury? And who can rise against the heat of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken down because of Him.
Zephaniah 3: (5) The righteous Jehovah is in her midst; He will not act perversely. Every morning He gives His justice to the light; He does not fail, but the unjust knows no shame.
Matthew 13: (40) Then as the darnel is gathered and is consumed in the fire, so it will be in the completion of this age. (41) The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all the offenses, and those who practice lawlessness. (42) And they will throw them into the furnace of fire; there will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth.
Hebrews 10: (30) For we know Him who has said, "Vengeance [belongs] to Me; I will repay," says [the] Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people." (31) [It is] a fearful thing to fall into [the] hands of [the] living God.
Revelation 14: (9) And a third angel followed them, saying in a great voice, If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or in his hand, (10) he also shall drink of the wine of the anger of God having been mixed undiluted in the cup of His wrath. And he will be tormented by fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. And those worshiping the beast and its image have no rest night and day, even if anyone receives the mark of its name.
We've seen in previous messages that ALL HUMAN BEINGS WITHOUT EXCEPTION have sinned, and all human beings without exception by nature are enemies of God and are under God's just wrath. It can be no other way, because God is holy, righteous, and just. Any god who would admit someone who is not perfectly holy into his fellowship is an idol.
But Isaiah 45 does not just say that God is a just God. It also says that God is a SAVIOR. God, as a Savior, is loving, gracious, merciful, and compassionate. Let's turn to a few passages that show God's love and mercy.
Deuteronomy 33: (3) Yes, He loves the peoples; all His holy ones [are] in Your hand; and they sit down at Your feet; He lifts up [each] at Your Words.
Psalm 86:5, 13-15:
Psalm 86: (5) For You, O Lord, [are] good and ready to forgive, and rich in mercy to all who call on You. ... (13) For Your mercy toward me [is] great; and You have delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol. (14) O God, the proud have risen against me; and the assembly of the violent have sought after my life, and have not set You before their eyes. (15) But You, O God, [are] God, full of pity; and gracious, longsuffering and rich in mercy and truth.
Psalm 100: (5) For Jehovah [is] good; His mercy [is] everlasting, and His faithfulness to generation and generation.
Psalm 145: (8) Jehovah [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great mercy; (9) Jehovah [is] good to all; and His tender mercies [are] over all His works.
Isaiah 43: (4) Since you were precious in My eyes, you are honored, and I love you; and I give men instead of you; and peoples instead of your soul.
Jeremiah 31: (3) Jehovah has appeared to me from far away, [saying], Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love! On account of this, with loving kindness I have drawn you.
John 3: (16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1 John 3:1:
1 John 3: (1) See what manner of love the Father has given us, that we may be called children of God. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1 John 4:8:
1 John 4: (8) The [one] who does not love has not known God, because God is love.
So God is holy, righteous, and just, and at the same time, He is loving, gracious, merciful, and compassionate. There are some Scripture passages that mention the justice and love of God in the same sentence. Let's turn to Exodus 20:5-6:
Exodus 20: (5) you shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them; for I [am] Jehovah your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third and on the fourth [generation], to those that hate Me; (6) and doing kindness to thousands, to those loving Me, and to those keeping My commandments.
Now let's turn to Numbers 14:18:
Numbers 14: (18) Jehovah [is] slow to anger, and of great mercy, bearing away iniquity and transgression; and by no means will clear [the guilty], visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the sons, on the third and on the fourth [generation] .
And lastly, Psalm 89:14:
Psalm 89: (14) Justice and righteousness [are] Your throne's foundation; mercy and truth go before Your face.
How can this be? How can it be that God is both just and merciful? If He is merciful to a sinner is he not violating His justice? We just read in Exodus 20 that God is wrathful toward those who hate Him, and He is merciful toward those who keep His commandments. Now how many people hate God by nature? EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITHOUT EXCEPTION! And how many people keep His commandments perfectly? ABSOLUTELY NO ONE! And in Numbers 14, we read that God will by no means clear the guilty! How many people by nature are guilty? EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITHOUT EXCEPTION! So God will not clear the guilty, yet all are guilty by nature. In Proverbs 17:15, God said that he who justifies the wicked is an abomination to God. So are these attributes in opposition to each other? Is there a struggle within God? Does God show one attribute at the expense of another? This cannot be. And those who believe so believe in an idol.
The attributes of God are in perfect harmony with each other. They work consistently in each other. So how can God be both a just God and a Savior? The answer is in the gospel. The gospel is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. JESUS CHRIST is the answer! Let's turn to Psalm 85:7-13:
Psalm 85: (7) Cause us to see Your mercy, O Jehovah, and give us Your salvation. (8) I will hear what Jehovah God will say; for He will speak peace to His people, and His saints; but let them not turn again to folly. (9) Surely His salvation [is] near to the [ones] fearing Him, for glory to dwell in our land. (10) Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace kissed [each other]. (11) Truth shall sprout out of the earth, and righteousness looks down from Heaven. (12) Yea, Jehovah shall give good, and our land shall give its produce. (13) Righteousness shall go before Him and shall make a way for His footsteps.
Mercy and truth have met together! Righteousness and peace have kissed each other! These are not opposed to each other; they are in total agreement with each other in Jesus Christ. Let's turn to Romans 3 and read verses 9 through 28:
Romans 3: (9) What then? Do we excel? Not at all! For we have charged both Jews and Greeks before, all [with] being under sin; (10) according as it has been written, "[There is] not a righteous [one], not even one!" (11) "[There is] not [one] understanding; [there is] not [one] seeking God." (12) All turned away, [they] became worthless together, not [one is] doing goodness, not so much as one!" (13) "Their throat [is] a tomb being opened;" "they used deceit with their tongues; [the] poison of asps [is] under their lips; (14) whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness. (15) Their feet [are] swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery [are] in their way; (17) and they did not know a way of peace; (18) there is no fear of God before their eyes." (19) But we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those within the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God. (20) Because by works of Law not one of all flesh will be justified before Him, for through Law [is] full knowledge of sin.
So here we see that all without exception have fallen short of perfect righteousness that God demands. No one keeps God's law perfectly. Let's go on:
Romans 3: (21) But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing; for there is no difference, (23) for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth [as] a propitiation through faith in His blood, as a demonstration of His righteousness through the passing over of the sins that had taken place before, in the forbearance of God, (26) for a demonstration of His righteousness in the present time, for His being just and justifying the [one] that [is] of the faith of Jesus. (27) Then where [is] the boasting? It was excluded. Through what law? Of works? No, but through a Law of faith. (28) Then we conclude a man to be justified by faith without works of Law.
So God is both JUST and a JUSTIFIER through the work of Christ! In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we see that Jesus Christ was MADE SIN for us, that we might become the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Christ. The SIN of all God's people was IMPUTED to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ suffered the FULL PENALTY that our disobedience to the law deserved. And the PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS of Jesus Christ is IMPUTED to God's people, so that God's people are actually declared PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS. THIS is how God is a just God and a Savior. THIS is how God is both just and justifier. God remains just because He did NOT let the sins of His people go unpunished. God remains holy because He is only fellowshipping with those whose righteousness equals His righteousness! This all happens by imputation - legally charging to the account of. God is holy, righteous, and just, and at the same time, He is loving, gracious, merciful, and compassionate, because of the work of Jesus Christ. This is the true God.
Now let's compare this to the false gods. All false gods are NOT both just and merciful. Some false gods lower the standard of the law to the point that human beings are able to keep this watered-down law. Some false gods, although keeping the high standard of the law, accept those who do the best they can to keep the law.
These false gods are not holy and are not just. Some false gods keep the high standard of the law, won't accept anything less than perfect obedience, but only make salvation possible if human beings would just accept this salvation that is offered to them. They do not actually SECURE the salvation of ANYONE. These false gods are not loving, gracious, merciful, or compassionate. These false gods are not saviors. Remember in Isaiah 45, when we read about the idolaters who pray to a god who cannot save? That is what these people do who pray to these gods. They pray to a god who cannot save. Some false gods say that God shows love and mercy and grace at the expense of His justice and holiness. They say that God loves everyone, is gracious toward everyone, and has mercy on everyone. Some false gods punish sinners in hell for whom Christ died. So these false gods not only punished christ on the cross for everyone's sins, but they punish some sins a SECOND time. They throw people whose sins have already been paid for into everlasting torment. These false gods are infinitely more unjust than the most corrupt judge who has ever lived. Some false gods are schizophrenic. These false gods show mercy, grace, and love to people while they are still living, and then when they die, these false gods turn around and show wrath and condemnation to the ones who used to be the objects of mercy, grace, and love.
Psalm 14:1 says, "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." He's not just talking about atheists here! He's talking about ANYONE who does not believe in the true and living God as He is revealed in His Holy Word. When we present the true God, they'll say things like, "I believe in God, but I don't believe in THAT God." They've just told you that they say in their heart, "There is no God." They want a god, but they don't want THIS God. They will not have THIS God to reign over them. Those who worship a god who is not the creator, who is not in sovereign control of all things, who is not all-knowing, who is not all-powerful, who is not everywhere present, who is not just, who is not merciful, who shows mercy at the expense of his justice, who shows ANY of his attributes at the expense of ANY OTHER of his attributes, are worshipping and serving a false god - an idol. They are saying in their heart, "There is no god." They are fools. They are God-haters.
But none of these gods are OUR GOD. OUR GOD is a just God AND a Savior. Our God is powerful to keep His promises. Our God will by no means clear the guilty, so He HAD to punish Christ for the sins of His people, and Christ's work MUST demand the everlasting salvation of ALL whom He represented. Our God CAN ONLY fellowship with those who are as righteous as He is, so Christ's righteousness MUST be imputed to all with whom Christ fellowships. There is NO OTHER WAY. There is NO OTHER GOD. All other gods are as the ones carved out of wood, stone, or metal. They are just dumb pieces of trash. And, as we've seen those who serve them are like them.
My hearers, do you believe in the true and living God? The one whose mercy and justice are revealed in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone? God is JEALOUS for His name. He is JEALOUS for His glory. He WILL NOT give His glory to another.
Think on these things. Consider the TRUE God, righteous and holy and full of truth, who shows mercy and grace and love to His people based on the work of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.