A God of Destruction or Salvation?
of God’s Character
Behold Your God, FT Wright says, “The question of God’s character became the
most critical element in the mission of Jesus and the fate of the Jews. They believed the Messiah would exalt them by use of the
sword. They saw God as the
vengeful, destroying One of the Old Testament.
Their concept of that God led them to believe that the God of the New
Testament would behave the same way. The
fact that He didn’t was the major factor in their rejection of Him.
misunderstanding of God’s character went like this:
He was a Jew
like they were. He was sent as the messiah to the chosen and favored people.
He had the power. Therefore it was His duty to use that power to favor them.
If He refused to do it then He was nothing short of a traitor to His own.
They found Him guilty of treason and determined to be revenged.
Because they possessed the character that they believed He had, they did
to Him with the power at their command, what they believed He should have done
to the Romans. To accomplish this, they accused Him before the Romans of
seeking to make Himself to be what they had actually tried to make Him—the
king of the world.”
Jesus loves the Romans and Egyptians and Babylonians as much as the Jews. The character of God was the most critical element in His
mission and in the fate of the Jews. It
is still the most critical issue in the mission of Christ in our lives and our
Unchanging, Benevolent Character
is the complete and full revelation of God.
There is no other way to know God except by looking at Him. Even
the angels in heaven and the all of those on unfallen worlds throughout the
universe, who have been in His presence for countless thousands of years, were
stunned when they saw the life and death of Christ on this earth.
Before He came they did not really understand what God was really like or
the depths of His love.
did not follow a certain line of behavior before the entrance of sin and then,
when sin appeared, engage in activities utterly unknown before the unprising of
evil. What we are looking at in the
life and death of Jesus may be a revelation to us but it is nothing new to God!
He has ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT! God
is not bound to the law but the law is a natural expression of what He is and
therefore it is not possible for Him to behave in any other way.
people see God as needing to revise His methods when sin came something like
this hypothetical conversation between Christ and the Father at the time of the
flood (from Behold Your God):
the beginning We did undertake to fight this great controversy out on the basis
that righteousness could stand on it own merits.
But now it is clear that sin has reached such proportions that it is on
the verge of world takeover. At the
moment We only have eight subjects remaining and in a short time, these too,
will have died or passed into Satan’s camp thus making him the total victor in
this struggle. So We must now act
by coming to the rescue of righteousness. Let
us step in with our limitless, infinite powers and obliterate the entire side
standing for Satan. We will
preserve only our own people and thus make a complete, fresh start.
Thereafter, We will maintain the use of force inappropriate places to
ensure that Satan never again bring the world to this same crisis point.”
believe that God acts like that is ridiculous!
Yet that is the way most people see Him acting like.
Satan is the one who represents God as severe and tyrannical in this way. Jesus presented to men a picture exactly the opposite to his.
God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers but it is not in
God’s character to overcome rebellion by force.
Compelling power is found only in Satan’s government.
God’s authority rests on goodness, mercy and love.
Love cannot be commanded by force.
the principle of no coercive force being used and the principle of granting
absolute freedom to choose, mean that God has placed Himself where He cannot
punish those who do what He said they could do—choose another master if they
there is a problem. God made the
massive and unintelligent powers of the universe for our comfort, stimulation
and enjoyment but they also contain the potential for destruction.
God is the only one who can create and then control the forces of the
universe. There is not one of
us—angel or man—who can keep those mighty powers under perfect control. Therefore, it is essential that no other god be placed in
God’s position as the Controller, Guide and Sustainer of these colossal
powers. This would bring on a
holocaust of destruction. To turn
away from the source of life is to choose death.
The creature kills himself—it is not God’s fault.
you say, doesn’t God Himself say that He destroys people?
Yes, He does! Therefore it
is the truth that God does destroy. We
can only conclude that His way of destroying is altogether different than
man’s way. God is not like us.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher
than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
how does He destroy? In a nutshell, He destroys by trying to save and by
not forcing His presence where it is not wanted.
God comes to man in one role only, which is as a Savior.
But the effect of that effort is not always a saving one.
With the majority, the effect is to harden them in rebellion and to cause
them to withdraw themselves from the voice of loving entreaty.
Thus God destroys by trying to save.
The more He exerts His saving power, the more men are driven by their
rejection of it to destruction. The
gospel truth ruins if it does not save! It
is in this sense that He destroys.
man drives God away and deprives Him of any possibility of remaining unless He
forces His presence then how can anyone say He is a destroyer?
He acted as a savior and a savior only.
He is life and when life is forced to turn away then death is our lot.
He has no other choice but to leave us to our destruction.
are a lot of good examples of this in the bible but one is of King Saul.
Remember he killed himself by falling on his own sword but the bible
says, “Therefore He (the Lord) slew him.”
This is not the way we would use the words is it?
We would say Saul slew himself. But
God is a gentleman. He doesn’t
blame things on others. He takes
ultimate responsibility for everything.
we destroy we move towards the victim with a weapon in our hands but God carries
no weapons but moves away, laying down control of the destructive powers.
When God did that Saul was left without protection and died.
It was the same with the flood, Sodom, all God’s dealings with ancient
Israel, the destruction of Israel, etc.
God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence
against transgression, but leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to
reap what they have sown.
Revelation of the Cross
one of the most awesome examples of this is what happened to Jesus at the cross.
To see how the sinner dies one only needs to look and see how Jesus died
because He died in the same way man will die if he remains in sin. He received the full outpouring of the wrath of God.
Yet the Father did not slay His Son with fire or bolts of lightning.
It was sin that slew Him. The
Father simply withdrew from the Son and left Him to perish because there was
nothing else He could do! Can you
imagine the grief of the Father?!!! Jesus
had been His intimate companion from eternity past!!! (But that is another
remember His words on the cross. “My
God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?!”
So men will never find God waiting as their executioner. Satan makes it appear that He does, but it is not so.
The cross of Calvary proves that. Sin
is the destroyer that awaits the condemned sinner.
Man places himself under its obliterating power by his total rejection of
God whom he replaces with another god who has no power to sustain and protect
is not a Criminal
reason I cannot see God as a destroyer is that He is not a criminal. Many see God acting just like a criminal when he dealt with
Pharaoh. You know, like hits
him hard and waits for him to concede. Then
hits him again and again when he doesn’t—till He breaks him.
If God’s methods are the same as a criminal then do His intensions make
them different? So the means used
by the criminal are unjustified because his ends are selfish but the same
means used by God are justified because the end is unselfish?
The problem is that once this line of reasoning is established any crime
can be justified. During the Dark
Ages millions of fine people were martyred on the basis of this rationale.
In God’s kingdom and under His principles the end can never justify the
My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways says the
Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
God Goes the
I have come to see God as a savior and a savior only and the devil as the
destroyer. In His saving work, God
goes the second mile with His people and does not leave them even if they make
choices out of His will and not consistent with His character.
In fact, He can NEVER leave us. It
is we who leave Him and thus force Him ultimately to withdraw out of respect for
you think about it, when we sin, God has only a few choices:
as a savior
only option, consistent with His character, is to act as a savior and go the
second mile with us just like He taught us to do with each other.
When He is unable to keep His children from making wrong choices, He
still works with them to try to save them from the worst effects of those
decisions. He can never
forsake us and He will always remain with us to the extent we will have
Him in our midst.
this way He is much misunderstood, especially in the Old Testament. A story about a father and son illustrate it well.
A father raised his son to love life and to hate weapons that kill.
But when his son got older, he was influenced by his peers and insisted
on buying a gun. His father was
distraught! But seeing that there
was no persuading him, he decided to at least show his son how to operate a gun
safely for his protection.
If people who were watching saw the father teaching his son how to
operate a gun what do you think they would think?
“Oh, the father has changed his mind about killing and guns.
See, he is training his son to kill.”
we look at God dealing with His people throughout time we see the same thing
happening. God’s actions in going
the second mile or His further work of salvation with us make God appear to have
changed. His continued effort to
save is viewed all too often as His turning into a destroyer.
But God has not changed and He loves us so He is loath to let us go!
know that the vast majority of Christendom believes that God is the one who
executes judgement. With terrifying
power wielded in His own hands He rises to perform “His strange act”.
He wipes the rebellious from the face of the earth, thus asserting His
will by the naked use of destructive force, convincing men that they must obey
Him or perish.
can no longer see God like that. With
tears in my eyes, I see God as a loving savior who could/would never destroy any
of His creation. It is not in His
character. It will be seen in
eternity that none of the responsibility of the death of His creation can be
even remotely blamed on Him. He is
the Creator and the Restorer and never the destroyer.
will never abandon those for whom He has died.
We may leave Him and be overwhelmed with temptation but Christ can never
turn from one fore whom He has paid the ransom of His own life.
If we are lost at last, it will be because we drove Him out of our life
and would not have Him. Then, as a
true gentleman, he respects our wishes.
to His broken heart. He
cries out with anguish that only a lover can know, who bends over the
lifeless body of His beloved:
how can I give you up?
My heart wails for Moab like flutes..."