A God Who is Both: Loving and Holy, Savior and Judge

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By Melissa McLaughlin

The Fullness of God

What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?

This is difficult to answer. A quick cliche just won’t do.

Interestingly, as I observe my own natural response to Biblical accounts of God’s character, I can’t help but notice my fervent and passionate underlining of Bible verses that communicate the Father’s gentle love, Christ’s all-encompassing forgiveness and the Spirit’s comforting whispers of grace.

But what am I do with all the OTHER Bible verses?

The verses that talk about God as being holy? 1 Peter 1:15-16 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

The verses that talk about Jesus as Judge and King? 1 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

The verses that talk about the Spirit as convicting us of sin? John 16:7-11 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?

A Memory of Both

From my earliest memories, I loved my parents deeply and still do. Dad and Mom exude parental virtues of kindness, encouragement, generosity and unending TLC. Throughout my childhood, I wanted to please them simply because they were so good to me.

Yet, no matter how noble a child’s efforts to obey, there are always times when a parent must correct and discipline a child. Not because the parent doesn’t love the child, but because the parent DOES!

One example of such correction comes quickly to mind. We lived out in the country and often rode our bikes for miles to enjoy activities or play with friends. One day, a friend from school, who lived several miles away, called and invited me to visit. As soon as I hung up the phone, I leaped on my bike and started pumping. It was a long and arduous ride, for we lived in the grand rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Her home in particular was located on a steep, treacherous hill so as I cycled, I imagined myself a professional mountain biker, packing all my strength into my pint-sized legs. I pedaled and pedaled and pushed and pushed and finally made it up the towering hill to her house. With my bike parked in her driveway, I stood panting deeply, face dripping, heart pounding, filled with a sense of triumphant accomplishment before scampering off to play.

In what seemed like no time at all, my friend’s mom shouted to us announcing the playdate was over. My parents were on their way to pick me up and I would have to go home. Apparently, in my jubilation at the opportunity for a playdate, I had forgotten to ask my parents for permission or even mention in passing where I was going before jumping on my bike.

At that time, there were no cell phones, so once my parents realized I was missing, they searched everywhere, shouting my name all through the house, then calling neighbor after neighbor after neighbor, trying to figure out where I was.

Corrected By Love

Needless to say, when they picked me up, I was corrected firmly by my parents. They stated in no uncertain terms, that I needed to ask permission and discuss with them where I was going. They needed to know that I was safe.

Though I was disappointed to let them down, the worst part was being corrected when I didn’t realize or think I had done something so terribly wrong. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to be in charge. But truth is…I wasn’t. And I’m not. Furthermore, now that I am a parent, I understand the heart-stopping, gut-wrenching panic that sets in when your child is missing. I can’t imagine anything worse.

Corrected By God’s Love

When we consider God, our heavenly Father, we must pause and remember that our earthly parents are only a partial glimpse of who He is as our eternal and perfect Parent.

Much as when we gather red roses for their timeless beauty and sweet aroma, we must be on guard for their sharp thorns which can easily gauge and cut. The sacred rose is protected by its sharp thorns.

Likewise, when we think of our Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we see foundational, integral elements opposing, yet complementing. Therefore, it is critical to employ the whole counsel of scripture, meaning allow every part of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to provide context and clarity and to define meaning for all other parts.

What do we do with a God who is both loving and holy, Savior and Judge, Comforter and Challenger?

Many people are offended by a God who holds them accountable in any way.

Yet, why call Him God otherwise? What do we really expect of a God who is Creator and Master, who sees all and knows all, a God who is holy, set apart, pure and just?

Many people are put off by a Savior who judges them.

Yet, why did He have to save us if we are already perfect? What do we expect of a Messiah who has done everything to save us, then allows us to choose Him or not? Will He not judge to determine who is with Him?

Many people flinch at the Spirit who convicts us of sin.

Yet, how else will we grow to reflect more of the image of Christ if we are not exposed, corrected and taught?

The problem with a God who is both loving and holy, Savior and Judge, Counselor and Change-agent, is that it requires humility. Something we are sorely lacking by very nature.

We prefer to be in charge.

We prefer to sit on the throne and make the decisions.

We prefer to tell God what to do.

We prefer to be God.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when we confess Him as Savior and Lord, we are forgiven. We love to rest in the assurance of heaven. It is grace by which we are saved.

However, there are Bible verses that clearly state once we die we will be judged.

How do we reconcile these two opposing points?

When We Die…

I once heard a pastor explain it this way:

When we die, the Bible is clear, we will stand before God.

God’s First Question

We can imagine God’s first question will be something like this, “What did you do with my Son? I sent Him to die for your sins. Did you accept Him or did you reject Him?”

Those who accept Jesus in this life will spend eternity with God. Those who reject Jesus will spend an eternity away from God. That is hell. We are granted our heavenly home by our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. What amazing love! What amazing grace!

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God’s Second Question

Then God’s second question will be, “Every good gift you received in life was from Me. What did you do with all the gifts I gave you? I gave you time, a body, talents, shelter, food, a family, a church family, an education, a job, money, a car, technology, opportunities, etc. What did you do with the gifts I gave?”

God will bestow on us eternal rewards based on our cooperation with the Holy Spirit’s work in us, allowing Him to mold us into the image of Christ and use every gift for His glory and His kingdom while in this earthly life.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw- each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So God will do both. He will forgive us of our sins and hold us accountable.

Many still find this offensive. They prefer a “forgive and forget” model. God forgives me, then I forget about Him. But God wants more than that. He wants our heart, our minds, our soul, our strength, our very lives. God wants it all. Not because He is selfish, but because a life closely connected to God is the sweetest life He can give.

A holy God who is just, righteous, perfect, true and good cannot allow sinful people to be in His presence. At the same time, He is also perfectly loving, merciful, forgiving and kind. So He sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our sins that we could not pay.

God is both: Loving and Holy

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” ~Matthew 5:27-30

This same Jesus later healed a blind man, a woman with an issue of blood and countless others. How could Jesus speak such harsh and unyielding words, then turn and lovingly, graciously heal people? These are two sides of the same Savior. Yet, ultimately our spiritual healing is more important to Jesus than our physical healing, for this life is temporary. Heaven is forever. Though we forget this truth, Jesus does not. When our brief lives are over we will stand before Him. He wants the best for us, for all eternity.

Jesus is both: Savior and Judge

The Holy Spirit came to comfort and convict. He comforts us in our weakness, yet convicts us to expose any darkness to the Light of Christ, that we may grow in His likeness and reflect His loveliness.

The Holy Spirit is both: Comforter and Change-agent

We have now come full circle.

What do we do with a God who is both: loving and holy, Savior and Judge, One who comforts and convicts?

May we come before this mighty God and pray for humility, zeal and rest in greater and greater measures.

We pray for humility, that we may have a right perspective of the magnitude of God’s greatness and perfection, resulting in a sober perspective of our own sinfulness, utter dependency and undeniable need for His help. Only then do we really understand how much our Creator God is also the greatest Lover of our souls. The greater His holiness, the greater the love expended to reach us.

We pray for zeal, so that we desire to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. We ask the Holy Spirit to convict us of secret sins and hidden faults that are hard for us to see and then ask Him to empower us to escape that sin and run toward Christ with all our strength, knowing that He holds out those nail-scarred hands for us always.

We pray for rest, that we may rest in His promises and His power to complete that which He began. We pray to rest completely in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He has done it all! He has won the victory! He has paid the price and suffered the punishment for us! May we rest in the true peace that comes through knowing that Jesus’ sacrifice alone reconciles us to our holy and loving God.

How do you come to terms with a God who is both holy and loving, Savior and Judge, Comforter and Exposer? Please share your thoughts and insights.

Please pray with me.

Dear Heavenly Father, we praise You for You are the sovereign God, Creator of all, Master and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth! You are holy, perfect, righteous, just and true. Though we are sinful and broken, we long for your perfect goodness. We thank you for sending Jesus, to carry our sins to the cross and let them be nailed right through Him there, that we would be rescued from hell, cleansed of our sin and made fit for heaven. Hallelujah! Thank You for this eternal blessing! We ask you to help us grow in humility that we would remember who You are and how much we need You. We ask You to stir up our zeal, that we would be always desiring to grow in the likeness of Christ, out of unending gratitude for what He has done. Holy Spirit, expose the sins of our hearts that lurk in the cracks and corners where we cannot see, that we may grow to be more like Jesus. We ask you to give us rest in You. Help us remember Your promises to the people who love You and call on Your name. Let us rest knowing we have the peace that comes from the unchanging power of Christ’s blood covering us that no one can ever take away. Help us love You, seek You and honor You in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name and for His sake we pray. Amen.

Additional Resources

Do Not Judge – What Did Jesus Really Mean? By Melissa McLaughlin

What is the Whole Counsel of God By Got Questions.org

The Sacrificial Lamb – Why Did Jesus Have to Die? By Melissa McLaughlin

Is the Fear of the Lord a Good Thing? By Melissa McLaughlin

52 thoughts on “A God Who is Both: Loving and Holy, Savior and Judge”

  1. This is a key question, Melissa, and there are many who would rather ignore the whole holy, judging, and convicting side of God. It’s more convenient to celebrate salvation and God’s love and comfort – what He can do for us. But truly that is only the half of it and, well, I’d say if that’s how we conduct our lives, we’ve missed the point. We’ve accepted Jesus as Savior, but not Lord (i.e., Lord of all). This is such an important distinction that I think it may be the topic of our next series in our Bible study at work. I need a new topic for next week so I may be borrowing some of your Scripture references.

    For me, as a step in determining if I’m serving as I ought, I like to consider whether I’m doing it out of love for God and others, or if I’m doing it to also serve myself in some way. The heart is deceitful, so this require dedicated analysis. Thank you for this post.

    Reply
    • Stephen, this is a most important distinction, that of choosing Jesus as both Savior AND Lord. I hope the scriptures from this post are of help to your upcoming Bible study as you discuss this topic.
      I agree, how easily we can deceive ourselves with our own self-serving purposes. We must constantly renew our minds in the truth of the Bible and through honest, humble prayer and reflection, as you have described here.
      Lord Jesus, help us love you and follow you in spirit and in truth. For you are worthy! God bless you!

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  2. What an in-depth reminder, if you will, of God’s all encompassing power. God bless you for your family and work on our Lord’s behalf!

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  3. This is so full of truth, Melissa. Yes, many times we do want to concentrate on God’s “comforting” characteristics…in other words what we like the most or what offers us the most. And people, even Christians, find it offensive to not just focus on God’s love and forget the discipline or judgement…which are just as much a part of who God is as anything else. I enjoyed your story of making your way on your bike to a friend’s. BECAUSE parents love, they discipline and teach right from wrong. Kids who are troubled and have a “loose” home life with no one caring where they are or what they do, will almost always say they wish someone loved them enough to care about them and set guidelines. If we make God one-sided or even two-sided by celebrating only His love and grace or goodness, we do Him an injustice and really deny His God-ship. What makes Him God is not only His love and goodness and mercy, but also His holiness and therefore, judgement. This is what makes Him GOD! We wouldn’t want a Lord over the universe or our lives who wasn’t holy…above us and above all. So beautifully done and said! Thank you!

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    • Karen, your words are so spot on. We do prefer God’s comforting characteristics or basically what offers us the most. Without looking at the fullness of who God is, we do indeed deny His God-ship. Praying I can seek God more for the joy, honor and wonder of knowing Him and not just for what God gives us. Thank you, Karen, for adding such rich thoughts to this. Bless you!

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  4. God’s character is One and perfect, and both love and wrath, grace and judgement, are congruent in this unique and eternal character. Unlike any human efforts (no matter how intentional), God’s character is absolutely reliable.

    Thank you Melissa for this thoughtful and heartfelt post.

    God’s blessings to you and your family.

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    • I love how you say this: God’s character is One and perfect…. and all the elements of who He is are congruent in this unique and eternal character. Praying I learn to enjoy, marvel at and draw nearer to this amazing God we serve. Thank you for reading and adding such a thoughtful description of One who is hard to describe! Blessings to you and your family!

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  5. I loved the rose analogy you wrote about. “Much as when we gather red roses for their timeless beauty and sweet aroma, we must be on guard for their sharp thorns which can easily gauge and cut. The sacred rose is protected by its sharp thorns.” This was such a good picture of how beautiful God’s love and justice is. God’s character is designed for our good, even when we experience His discipline.

    Your post is so full of truth. I read it over and over so it would saturate me. Thank you for writing this. Well said and thought through.

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    • Dear Marcie, thank you for the encouraging words. I thank God for helping us know Him more and more through His Word, the Bible. Though we prefer God’s justice, especially when we have suffered injustice, the truth is, He is always just because that’s who He is.
      I wholeheartedly agree with you, as God reveals all the aspects of His character, it is for our good, even when He disciplines us. May we enjoy the fullness of our mighty God, in all His glory, majesty, holiness, truth, justice, compassion, tenderness and mercy. The more we consider all of who He is the more we are in total awe! What an amazing God!

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  6. Beautiful! This is something the human race has struggled with for centuries. We want one side of Jesus–the kind, gentle Savior that loves us despite our sin who died for us because of our sin. But we don’t’ want the other–the judge, the Master, the Dicipliner. But oh how we need it. For ourselves to made into His likeness and for others when we cry out and pray for justice. We want to be told we’re ok when we know we aren’t. But it’s only then we can address the problem and find healing. He didn’t come for the healthy, He came for the sick.

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    • Thank you, Robert, for reading and for the word of encouragement. I pray that as we think and meditate on the fullness of who God is, as revealed to us through His Word, we will be captivated by His glory, holiness, truth and mercy. I have found that the more I understand God’s greatness and holiness, the more precious is Jesus’ sacrifice for me. I am more desperate for Him than I ever knew before. Bless you, brother!

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  7. Thank you, Melissa. This brings back the reality of my discovering the dual role of our heavenly Father. After a childhood of learning to fear God and His wrath, I began to hear of HIs love. It took His timing and HIs work in me to reconcile the two. It is a wonderful work that brings comfort and trust in Him. Blessings as we continue to live in His love and care.

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    • Dear Fran, I love how you describe this: the dual role of our heavenly Father. As we seek Him more and more, He reveals those areas of His nature that we need to see. I’m so glad our gracious Father, revealed to you His vast, unending love for us. The Father’s vast, unending love is shown to us through Jesus. May His great sacrifice remind you of His great love again today!

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  8. Many people confuse repentance with being borned again. They want Jesus to be their Saviour but not their Lord. Godly sorrow & shame for our sins leads to repentance but if its just a temporal emotion we soon turn away from seeking Him. If our repentance is genuine He accepts us and gives us the Holy Spirit which is the new birth. Then our lives are truly changed & we live our lives for Him. Then we have no problem receiving His Word as the “whole counsel of God”. We are seperated from the things of this world that would hinder our walk with God.

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    • Yes, we need Jesus as our Savior and also as our Lord, for He is truly both. I find that as I remember Jesus hanging on the cross for my sins, I receive His great gift of love and mercy and at the same time, I desire to honor Him by turning away from sin. Out of love, out of gratitude for a gift I didn’t deserve and could never earn. It is a love like no other. May we honor Him like no other, not just in words, but also in deeds. Oh Lord Jesus, help us live for you, because we love you!

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  9. I love your heart for the truth, Missy. The ‘whole counsel of God’ these days is often not taken. People pick and choose things from the Bible that they like, and ignore the other things they don’t like. It’s as if they’re using the Bible like a buffet of ‘spiritual food choices’ and not eating their veggies! I mean, yes, God is good, merciful, full of grace, etc., but as you pointed out, Holiness is who He is. Justice is a mode of holiness. This means He will judge and do so justly. That’s where the fear of the Lord should take hold, to be sure! It’s a good fear, one full of reverence and respect. And one we should not neglect, if we are to walk in the full counsel of His wisdom.

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    • And I love your heart for truth, as well, Lisa. I’m praying that the truth of God’s Word will shine forth brighter and brighter as a beacon like no other in this world, that many eyes will see and turn to Him like never before. Where else can we go for the Words of life? I really appreciate how you describe justice as part of God’s holiness. As you say, having fear of God as a Just Judge is a good fear, full of reverence and respect. Walking in the full counsel of God’s Word, God’s wisdom and God’s truth keeps us humble, which is a position we try to avoid. But otherwise, we are making God in our image and asking Him to bow a knee to our words, rather than us bowing a knee to His eternal truth. Lord, help us humble ourselves before Your Mighty Truth and Word!

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  10. Melissa, This is so beautifully written! I see myself along with you as the little girl with her friend & not telling her mother. Oops! Boy! Did I get in trouble! It was so very similar to your experience. Truly, I am left re-reading & pondering this amazing article. You have done it again, my Friend! Love you, Sis! 💖

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    • Dear Mary, thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! So kind of you. Isn’t that something that we both put our parents through the wringer with our bike adventures. Oh no!
      May we all grow in the grace and knowledge of the fullness of our God, Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. May Jesus be praised! Thank you again for being so supportive and kind to me. Love you, Sis! 💞

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  11. Very inspired by this message. I like how you mention that God is gracious and holy but also that He judge’s us and through that wants to mature us. I can say I have grown the most when I found myself being led through the valleys of life with my God. Very much appreciate your messages!!

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    • Glory to God! Thank you for the encouraging words, Marvin. I have discovered the same truth, the valleys of life deepen our roots in the Lord Jesus. Though it may be difficult, God can use the difficult experiences to strengthen us for His glory. For He is loving and He is also holy. The Lord bless you!

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