The Bible reveals a God who is both good and just. He is “merciful and gracious,” and yet He “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:6–7). “Behold . . . the goodness and severity of God,” the Apostle Paul says (Rom. 11:22, KJV, emphasis added). If He were not just, He would not be good. If He were to wink at sin, if He were to ignore evil, if He were to tolerate injustice, if He were to leave the innocent at the mercy of the ungodly—unrescued, unavenged, unvindicated, and eternally undistinguished from the wicked, sharing the same space, the same destiny, the same rewards, and the same punishments—God would not be good or kind or righteous or holy or just. “His love is not and cannot be blind and indulgent,” Ian Hamilton says, “just as His justice and holiness are not, and cannot be, cold and arbitrary.” Again, love requires justice.
inclined to love
Third, God is inclined to love. While we should not allow love to overshadow all of God’s other attributes, yet we can say that love, and with love His goodness more generally, in a sense, is more “natural” to God than is His wrath. He prefers to love over against the more severe expressions of His character. We are stretching language at this point because God’s attributes, as noted, are a harmonious unity. Love and justice are not warring against each other in God’s nature or consciousness. Yet the Bible teaches us that God “delights” in “unchanging” (NASB) or “steadfast love” (Hebrew hesed), while it never teaches that He delights to show wrath (Mic. 7:18). “God is more inclinable to mercy than wrath,” Thomas Watson says. “Acts of severity are rather forced from Him.” The Bible teaches that “he does not afflict willingly,” yet He does willingly and eagerly love (Lam. 3:33, NKJV; see Deut. 7:6–7). He is “slow to anger” while He is quick to forgive and “abound[s] in steadfast love” (Ps. 103:8; see Ex. 34:6). Isaiah calls God’s judgment His “strange work” (Isa. 28:21, KJV) or what the theologians called His opera aliena, His alien task. He is a reluctant judge. God is more inclined to love—to show kindness, grace, and mercy—than He is to show anger, wrath, and judgment. The expression of love is more revealing of His inclination or the direction of His nature, more a manifestation of His preference, than is the expression of His wrath. Indeed, God’s love, Puritan William Gurnall says, “sets all his other attributes on work.”
Our articulation of God’s attributes should always be expressed with humility. However much we have voiced, there is always more to be said. The finite cannot know the infinite comprehensively or exhaustively. Yet we can know God truly, and we can speak where the Bible speaks, as it reveals a God who is both love and just, the monument to which we have at Calvary.