I have heard people ask, “Is God a God of judgment or of grace?” The answer is both. God is a God of judgment and grace. I understand the question. For instance, it is easy early in our walk with God to feel like the New Testament is a book of love and the Old Testament is a book of judgment. I will not tackle the unity of the Bible as a whole or God’s revelation throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. I will point out that The Old Testament mentions mercy three times more often than the New Testament. Also, there is equal treatment to God’s grace and faithfulness in both Testaments. Both testaments also deal with God’s judgment. All of this to say, God is always the same. Therefore, God is a God of grace and judgment.
Let’s look at an account from Scripture that I believe deals so wonderfully with this topic of God’s judgment and grace. Jesus is having a conversation with a spiritually curious man by the name of Nicodemus. Jesus shares that, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:14-17). Notice the passage uses the word condemned instead of judgment. Jesus did not come to “condemn the world,” but that He “might” “save” the world. This is an interesting picture of judgment and grace.
There is also a sacrificial picture presented to us in John 3. God “gave His only Son” to offer salvation to us. Let’s look back to the sacrifices offered in the temple. When a Hebrew came to the temple with a sacrifice, he did so to deal with the guilt of sin in his life. When, for instance, he came with a lamb, he was not “innocent,” rather the sacrifice of the lamb paid the penalty in his place. Therefore, he was not condemned. God offers grace by sending Christ. When we receive Christ, we are not condemned. This speaks of the substitutional sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. He bore our judgment.
To understand more fully the judgment and the grace of God and our choice, we need to go back to the account Jesus references in our text. Jesus tells Nic, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). What is Jesus talking about here? We have to go back to the original account that is recorded in numbers.
In Numbers 21, we read, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live” (Numbers 21:6-9). What was causing the people to die? The snakes. However, if you look at the context, the snakes were sent as a judgment for sin. It’s fascinating that God tells Moses to have them look at a representation of what was making them die. Perhaps, this account teaches us that we must look at and take seriously and confess our sins. The first step to salvation (receiving God’s grace) is to face and confess our sins (admitting we deserve judgment).
Look back to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That is the Gospel in a nutshell. God gave His Son by sending Him into the world and by giving Him over to death. Jesus humbled Himself by coming with the purpose to die for our sins. He died in our stead. We deserved to die due to sin. He did not. He paid a price He did not owe, for each of us who had a price we could not pay. When we “believe” in Him, receiving Him as Savior and Lord, we are given “eternal life.” The believer receives this life now and will enjoy it for all eternity. We either choose to face our sins and be saved by grace, or we prefer to remain in sin and reject Jesus. God is a God of judgment and grace. However, He desires for all of us to choose grace.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, specifically Revelation 14, we read about the message for those who live at the end of days. We discover. Judgment is coming. The proper response to this impending judgment is to be in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Choose grace.
Here is the gospel truth, a judgment is coming, and we deserve it. The good news is that Jesus offers us an escape from condemnation. Jesus is the lamb of God who has died for our sins. If we face our sins by confessing and repenting, we receive salvation, grace, and eternal life. Judgment or grace? The choice is yours! God is a God of judgment and grace, and we have a choice. We deserve judgment but can choose grace because of the extreme act of love of Jesus dying for our sins and being resurrected for our salvation (Rom 4:25). The bad news, we deserve judgment. The good news, we can choose grace. I hope you will choose grace. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!