Goodness and Severity            

by God's Little Boy
© 2012
Posted 12/14/12


“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God:” (Romans 11:22a)



Behold and carefully consider the kind and gracious goodness, as well as, the awesome severity of God. It is important to understand and rightly divide this subject lest we misrepresent the nature of God as it is particularly expressed toward his creatures. My purpose in writing upon this subject is not so much to define goodness and severity, but rather to try to explain the association and application between the two as they pertain to the human race.


The word for goodness, in Romans 11:22, is "chrestotes" which means kindness and is understood, in this passage, to imply the gentle, patient, lovingkindness and forbearance of God.

The word severity, used only here in the New Testament, is from a word that means "to cut off" and could be translated steepness or sharpness. There is, perhaps, no better word than severity, however, to convey it's meaning. There are many instances when further exegesis cannot improve upon the word selection of the translators of the scriptures (severity means severity). In the context of this verse, it is used to describe God's temporary retributive dealings with Israel. Although there is no direct connection of this word to the word "wrath", which holds the basic meaning of "anger", the general idea behind the severity of God may be used to describe the manner in which God acts in relationship to his wrath. In a more general context, therefore, this word could be used to suggest the harsh S-E-V-E-R-I-T-Y of divine wrath in contrast to the patient, goodness of God. This is the meaning in which I will use it in this article.


The scriptures teach us that God is good, but also reveal his awesome severity. This subject is often misapplied to the Christian experience. Without a Biblical understanding of the true character and nature of God as expressed toward his people we will have difficulty knowing what God is truly like and how he deals with the human race. One may ask, If God is a God of goodness how then could he deal in severity? Likewise, if God at times deals in severity would it be correct to say that he is good? How shall we reconcile these thoughts? The answer to this question becomes clear when we consider the existence, character, and work of evil.



Sin and evil are very closely related; sin is evil and evil is sin. Yet, in another sense evil is quite different from sin. Our personal sin was paid for on the cross where Jesus died - in his atonement, but there was no atonement made for evil. Sin was paid for; evil was not - nor could it ever be. As bad as sin is it is only the product of evil, but evil is the heart of sin and it's corrupt self-perpetuating source.


Shall the creator of all things give place to that which was created? The justice of God, which endures unchanging and immovable must deal with evil. In using the term “evil” I am referring to what may be considered the most ultimate form of evil - that which is, by nature, completely antithetical to God and all that he represents (anti-God or Antichrist). God has no tolerance for evil because evil has no tolerance for God. No two things could be more opposite. This kind or degree of evil is rooted in the wicked one, Satan; the accuser and adversary of God and man. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. when he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”. (John 8:44b) From the day that iniquity was born in his heart (Ezekiel 28:15) he has instituted and exercised a policy of evil against God and his elect. He is “king of all the children of pride.”  (Job 41:34b)


Evil cannot be redeemed, reformed, or reasoned with. Ultimately, there is no place for evil in God’s domain, it simply must be defeated and banished forever. God’s plan for the ages has permitted the presence of evil in order that he may be glorified in his triumph over it. Since the day when evil first brought it's blasphemous charges against the Godhead, God set in motion a plan to thoroughly deal with it. Evil was defeated at the cross and is now awaiting it’s inevitable sentencing to eternal hell. But God must first demonstrate the error of it’s nature and it's corrupt presumption against his character, his nature, and his authority. God is allowing evil to have it’s day in order to expose it for what it is, to try and prove the human race, and to affirm to the created order his ultimate glorious victory over it.


There are, then, two thrones of authority: the supreme legitimate authority of the Kingdom of God and the satanic kingdom of darkness. All lesser authorities proceed out from these two. God’s created beings, whether human or angelic will stand with one of these two kingdoms. The angelic host, created in it’s entirety before the human race existed, has long since reached a settled decision. The scriptures reveal that one third of the angelic host followed Satan (Lucifer) in his evil rebellion against God, and therefore, two thirds remain as God’s “holy” angels. The fall of Satan and his angels was a fall from perfection and their place and position in heaven as ministering spirits where they had the opportunity to serve and enjoy God.


“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou was upon the holy mountain of God; Thou has walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou was perfect in thy ways from the day that thou was created, till iniquity was found in thee”.
(Ezekiel 28:14-15)


“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him”.
(Revelation 12:7-9)


“And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth:”
(Revelation 12:4a)


“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!”
(Isaiah 14:12)


As time unfolds, each and every member of the human race, has a decision to make. Every individual, at some point during their life, must choose which kingdom to swear their allegiance to. Some will respond by faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As those who are “born from above” they are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. (Colossians 1:13) Others who do not like to retain God in their knowledge will hold the truth in unrighteousness; In opposition to God, they will remain under the deception and influence of the kingdom of darkness.



A chief error in Christianity is when the severity of God is associated with the elect. The severity of God is NOT for the elect - God's chosen ones, but is reserved, ultimately, for the ungodly.


There is no severity in the Kingdom of God - in the sense of Divine wrath. "We shall be saved from wrath through him." Romans 5:9  And in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 we are not appointed unto wrath. A chief error in Christianity is when the severity of God is associated with the elect. The severity of God is NOT for the elect - God's chosen ones, but is reserved, ultimately, for the ungodly. This may seem obvious to some of us, but this basic truth escapes many who do not know what God is like. There are so many that see God as a severe judge ready to come down hard on his people. Concerning the elect some may say, "but sin has consequences". Yes, it certainly does, but consequences are consequences and wrath is wrath. Mercy rejoices against judgement for the elect - any and all who turn to God, including the lost soul who comes to Christ by faith.


Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; (Exodus 34:7a)


Mercy is mightier than wrath because in his innermost being God is love. In mercy is demonstrated a weightier glory. He keeps mercy for thousands who will receive it in the person of Jesus Christ. Mercy is for guilty people, but it is not for people who are guilty of despising the riches of his goodness. He will by no means clear the guilty. Those who abide in unbelief will not be cleared. This verse demonstrates both the goodness and severity of God. He keeps mercy for thousands who will receive it - forgiving their iniquity, transgression, and sin. Yet, God will not, clear (cleanse or acquit) the ungodly - those who abide in unbelief.


Whenever God speaks of the doom of the wicked he does so in an ultimate sense - as an inevitable certainty that must take place in it's appointed and proper time, a future time, when the day of grace comes to a close (in terms of temporal opportunity). There are Biblical examples of the ungodly receiving severe judgement from the hand of God while in this world, such as, Jezebel and Haman, among others. God, however, has always had an open door policy toward all sinners. God’s policy toward lost sinners until the very end of this age, and beyond, is grace, mercy, goodness, and patience. God freely offers this common grace to all men. When we ourselves refer to the judgment of the wicked we must also refer to it in an ultimate sense - as a consequence in the end. We must understand that presently it is only the goodness of God and the "good news" of the Gospel that will draw men to Christ. A critical message of condemnation will only destroy people's capacity to respond to God. Without this understanding we will not know what spirit we are of. "For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them". Luke 9:56


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)


God who is rich in mercy and full of grace and truth always deals with his beloved elect according to his great love and goodness - even when they are chastened. There is no one else that can as skillfully chasten and, at the same time, love us as God can. Those who know and follow Jesus Christ rest in the patient gentleness and kindness of his nature toward them. The members of God’s royal family are a privileged people; they enjoy the privileges of being sons. They know that, as sons and daughters, God is for them and not against them; and that he will never, no never, leave them or forsake them.


Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Matthew 11:28-30)


“Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies”. (Psalm 25:7-10)




Many times we read these terms in the Bible but are unclear as to the practical application of their meaning. The following list of "who's who" will help us to understand the goodness and severity of God. The following titles represent two groups or classifications of people; those who are of God and those who are not. According to the Bible, who are...



Sinners make up the sum total of both groups - those who are of God and those who are not. ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) There is NONE that are righteous (in and of themselves); no not one. (Romans 3:10) Whether saved or unsaved all who are under God's heaven are sinners. There are two kinds of sinners; repentant sinners and unrepentant sinners. Repentant or redeemed sinners have changed their minds about God and their sin and have responded in faith to Christ's offer of salvation, unrepentant sinners have not. Repentant sinners are, to one degree or another, sorrowful over their sin where unrepentant sinners are not. There is a vast difference between the two. The repentant sinner has been given a new nature; the unrepentant sinner is who he has always been and nothing more. Sin that is still present and experienced in the life of repentant and redeemed sinners cannot damage or undue their union and standing with God because they have been justified (declared righteous) by faith. Unrepentant sinners, even if morally inclined, have no such justification; they remain condemned because they believe not - they are void of saving faith.



This term stands in relation to the law of God and applies to all who have violated or transgressed God's perfect law. Everyone in Adam is a transgressor. The entire human race is guilty having broken the law - God's perfect standard.



The unrighteous are so, not only because they are unrighteous in their thoughts and deeds, but also because God has imputed sin to their account long before they would first sin. God did this so that he would be just in freely imputing righteousness to believing sinners. Unless the unrighteous receive the gift of Christ's imputed righteousness, through faith, their record of sin remains. Their unrighteousness remains intact in terms of both their state and standing.



The ungodly are those who are unlike God by reason of their contrary waywardness and distance from God. Their unbelief has left their hearts darkened and they remain alienated from the light and life of God. This term is used often in scripture. Psalm 1 speaks of the striking contrast between the godly and the ungodly underscoring the fact that the godly are the recipients of the goodness of God while the severity of God is reserved ultimately for the ungodly.

"The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalm 1: 4-6)

"And there was no place found for them." (Revelation 20:11b)

What a chilling reality; "there was no place (in God's blessed domain) found for the ungodly".



Who are the wicked? The answer might surprise you. You would be correct in assuming that the wicked are bad people - those who are guilty of committing vile and heinous crimes; this is certainly true. However, this does not entirely include all who are wicked. The wicked are those who have committed the ultimate crime in God's sight; the ultimate spiritual crime of rejecting the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the term "wicked" may not only describe their deeds, but also, describe their spiritual character - a character that, in heaven's sight, is essentially evil. "The wicked" is a term that describes who they are in relation to God. The wicked are those who, for whatever reason or to whatever extent, remain faithless and rebellious toward God, their Creator. To reject Christ, even politely, while living in a form of moral rectitude is to do wickedly. In the same way that God knows the ones who are his, he also knows who will ultimately reject him; these are "the wicked".


The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. (Proverbs 11:23)

"And then will I profess unto them, *I never knew  you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."  (Matthew 7:23)  *[Never at all - neither at any time.]

For there shall be no reward for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked shall be put out. (Proverbs 24:20 Amplified)



Generally, "the lost" is a term used to describe the whole of unsaved humanity; the world of souls, who through the fall, are lost in their sin and alienated from God. Their nature is fallen and depraved. They are unable to help or restore themselves to the relationship with God that the first man enjoyed before sin entered the world and death passed on to all men. (Romans 5:12) Christ's unlimited atonement for sin was for all men and the Gospel is to all men, whosoever will may come; for God so loved the world. Faithful ministers of the gospel must always present the gospel in this way.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10)



To keep it simple; the elect are God's particular chosen people that he has called and selected for himself. God has foreordained their election to eternal life through faith and the washing of regeneration by grace. The elect can never be understood to be anything other than God's beloved people.


I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6)

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:9)

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)

"Then Spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: *For I have much people in this city." (Acts 18:9-10)

*[many who are lost still, but many who must and will be found.]




Believers are called believers because they believe or "trust" in God. Christians are people who trust Christ alone for their salvation. Their profession of faith is genuine and results in a God given assurance. They also believe God, to one degree or another - what he has said and promised. In short believers are called believers because they trust in God and, in some measure, hold to his truth. True believers are the real deal.



If you are a true Christian you have been justified by faith, you can rejoice as one of THE JUST and enjoy all of the benefits that come with justification. Membership has it's privileges! The JUST have not only been forgiven, but "made right" with God; declared to be righteous by the imputation of Christ's righteousness to their account. They have been given, as a free gift, all that Christ is. Even in their present sinful state they are THE JUST - regardless of who may or may not approve.



The righteous are all who have been given Christ's righteousness as a gift through identification with him by faith alone. They are kept by the righteousness of God as they receive and manifest imputed and imparted righteousness through the Spirit of God. Even though they still have sin in their experience they are called righteous. This may not seem fair but it is just and legally binding in the most supreme court of heaven.



Godly means God-like. The godly are those who are born from above and given a new nature; as partakers of the Divine nature they have become and are becoming like God. The Godly is a term to describe all of God's beloved people.



The Faithful are those who are preserved by the faithfulness of God. By faith they are empowered to remain faithful to God - even in their imperfect state. Having received a gift of faith they are faithful to believe. As they grow and mature as believers they are kept by God's faithfulness.



Often saints are viewed as choice super hero Christians that have attained to "sainthood" status because of some great and pious degree of character or work for the church or humanity. There is no biblical support for this view. The Bible makes it clear that all of God's redeemed are saints. The word "Saint" is simply another word for a Christian believer. As believers, saints are only undeserving sinners who have found grace in the sight of God. Sainthood cannot be granted by man or any human institution. God alone grants sainthood and it is granted to all who truly believe in Jesus Christ at the moment of faith. It is a sin to pray to or, in any way, worship "saints".


God's people have been adopted into God's royal family; this is an irrevocable reality. They can never lose their family status. They are the children of God. They have been given a new nature, but they still have their old sinful nature; these two natures war against each other. This means that Christians, at times, may do wickedly, but that does not mean that they are numbered with the wicked or identified with the ungodly. This is because God has put their sin away and has given them a new identity in Christ.



When we read of Christ’s dealings with believers, in the New Testament gospels, We see his goodness expressed in gentleness. We do not see Christ express any significant form of aggression toward people of faith in the Gospels. We see him passionate only with the Pharisees and the money changers, and that is all. Those who know and follow Jesus Christ rest in the patient and kind nature of the meek shepherd. To his people, he is the shepherd who is also a lamb. The members of God’s royal family are a privileged people; they enjoy the privileges of being sons. They know that, he will never, no never, leave them or forsake them. Concerning my own life I can attest to this as well. Through the years that I have been a Christian there have been many times when I, in my own estimation, have deserved to receive severity from God’s hand and have, instead, only received goodness. There have been times when I have expected sternness but was surprised when kindness, patience, and gentleness came. Though God disciplines all who belong to him his discipline is never punishment but loving correction. God leads his children gently giving them much room for repentance and growth. His plan for his own is always for their sanctification. This has always made a deep impression on me and has drawn me closer to the Lord. “If thou, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4)

King David said it best in Psalm 18:35b “and thy gentleness hath made me great.”


The closest that a believer will ever come to the severity of God is merely a heightened or intense form of chastisement. This includes the sin unto death, but even this is mercy - to deliver them from themselves. Once again, chastisement, in any form, is only correction, given for the good of the one who receives it. It is not punitive in nature - exacting a payment for wrongs. Any strong degree of discipline used by God is reserved for those believers who are persistently out of fellowship with God. Being caught in the sway of sin they may need a stronger degree of correction to bring them back into the light of God's fellowship. When necessary, he will use correction skillfully in concert with his goodness for the purpose of bringing sons and daughters to maturity. Apart from the sovereign exception, God is not short in his discipline with his own. He is resting in his love for us Zephaniah 3:17 and in Christ's finished work. (John 19:30) God is patient and long suffering. He grants to us a L-A-R-G-E space for our repentance and growth. Why wouldn't he? It is He that is performing the work in us anyway.


"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked." (Psalm 94:12-13)


"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son he receiveth." (Hebrews 12:6)



If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1John 1:6-7)


"Walking in the light" (1 John 1:7) doesn't mean that we do everything right or even that we keep ourselves from sinning. It simply means we are in fellowship with God and are experiencing, by his grace, the cleansing power of his blood. It means that we are in agreement with God - we are workable, cooperative, yielded to his influences. If we walk in the light of fellowship with God and confess our sins with any consistency chastisement is generally averted. The correction of chastisement is really just to bring us back to the place where we can begin to respond to God's grace again - to receive the impartation of his nature. If we give God our heart we are giving him what he is after and he is pleased with this - he will not punish us for this. Any chastisement that may remain is a form of undeserved suffering and is for the training of sons and daughters and brings forth peaceable fruits of righteousness. As we grow, God is not wringing his hands in anxiety over our progress, but he is resting in his love for us.

If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31)

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


We may summarize in this way: the goodness of God is given, in full measure, to the elect and is extended to lost and helpless souls to draw them to Christ. The severity of God is not projected upon his elect, but is reserved, ultimately, for the wicked and their father the devil who with them remain united in evil to the end.




Psalm 1

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.




See Also


Salvation Legal




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