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Why does God find it difficult to forgive? It’s called the profoundest of all problems and the basic riddle of the universe:
God is a merciful Father, but he is also a just Judge. How can God display the fulness of both his mercy and his justice without compromising both? God’s mercy and justice must be reconciled. Which is more unchangeable and irreversible: God’s mercy or God’s justice? The one cannot give way to the other. “Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.”
This video and transcript will explain the profoundest of all problems as the foundation for understanding the profoundest of all solutions – the cross of Jesus Christ.
Editor’s note: Slightly edited video transcript
The Gospel is a Message About God
J.I. Packer writes: “The Gospel is a message about God. It tells us who He is, what His character is, what His standards are, what He requires of us, His creatures. It tells us what we owe our very existence to Him, that for good or ill, we are always in His hands and under His eye, and that He made us to worship and serve Him, to show forth His praise and to live for His glory.”
Francis Schaeffer used to say, “He is there and He is not silent. Hear the good news.” We are not in a closed system. We are in an open system. This is starting with the Pagan of Pagans and the Atheists and the secularist. Good news, there is an infinite personal God who exists. This God has created all things. This God has spoken.
How has God spoken?
In two ways, primarily. He has spoken in general revelation and He has spoken in special revelation.
General revelation, it would be like Psalm 19 that God has revealed Himself in all of creation.
Special revelation would be that God has broken through throughout redemptive history and shown Himself consummated in the ultimate revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ, the incarnate word and in scripture, the written word. He has revealed Himself in nature, in the creation. He has broken through throughout redemptive history and shown Himself at different times, but the ultimate breakthrough was in the incarnate word culminating in the written word.
We can’t focus on all of the attributes of God, but there are two attributes that are very critical to understand in light of the nature of the Gospel message itself: His holy justice and His holy love.
God’s Holy Justice and Holy Mercy
This concept of God’s holy justice is the revelation of God that He is holy as judge and; therefore, a just judge who must punish sin. He also manifests love. He is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy. The dilemma is not a classic dilemma that’s presented in most evangelicalism. The problem is God is up there and I’m down here. How can I ever reach God? Oh, no. That’s a serious problem. The greater problem lies within the very nature of God himself. It is the profoundest of problems. God is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy. I have good news for you.
In love, God created us in His image to know Him, to honor Him, to enjoy Him above everything, to cherish Him. God is also a just judge who must punish sin. Although God is merciful and does not want to punish us, see the dilemma? He is just and must punish sin.
Profoundest of Problems
A common question, “Why does God find it difficult to forgive?”
I’ve had one unbeliever say to me, “Come on. I forgive all the time. Isn’t it God’s business to forgive? What’s the big deal? Why does God find it difficult to forgive?” The real question I would propose is, “How can God find it possible to forgive when you understand His nature as both merciful and just?” In fact, it’s been found the profoundest of problems.
Forgiveness to men is the plainest of duties. To God it is the profoundest of problems. You see, there is a duality in God’s attributes. God’s holy justice is a just judge who must punish sin. God’s holy love is a gracious Father who loves to show mercy.
God’s duality is shown in Hosea 11.
“My heart is turned over within me. All my compassions are kindled. I will not execute my fierce anger. I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the holy one in your midst and I will not come in wrath.”
What you’re actually a glimpse into is the remarkable, mysterious, inter-trinitarian nature of God facing the profoundest of problems. “How can I be a just judge and at the same time be a loving Father?” How can God express His holy love? How can God express His love without compromising his holiness? On the flip side, how can God express His holiness without compromising His love?
Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s right and solve his problems, or is the basic riddle of the universe how an infinitely worthy God in complete freedom can display the full range of His perfections, what Paul calls the “riches of His glory,” His holiness, His power, His wisdom, His justice, His wrath, His goodness, His truth, and His grace. What we’re saying here is how can God display the fullness of both His mercy and His justice? If you don’t understand that, if you don’t feel that, you will never understand the riches of the cross. God is a Father, but He is no less a judge.
Shall the judge give way to the Father or the Father give way to the judge? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible? The vow of pity that He has taken or the oath of justice? Law and love must be reconciled, but one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand else the pillars of the universe will be shaken. Radical justice. He is more holy than you ever dared to believe. Radical love. He is more loving than you ever dared to hope. This comes from one of my previous mentor’s…
Here is Jack Miller’s influence you can now see through Keller:
“The Gospel is that you are more sinful and flawed that you ever dared believe, yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope at the same time, because Jesus Christ lived and died in your place.”
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