3 Responses to God’s Goodness and Severity

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God in a Systematic Theology class. I’ve tried to read slow, taking notes, and making highlights as I work through the pages of this classic. Some pages in my book seem as if a rainbow exploded on the pages from all my highlights. If you haven’t read this one yet, I recommend you grabbing a copy and settling in with a cup of coffee (or tea). You won’t regret it, because it is deep, but at the same time accessible.

In Chapter 16, Packer deals with the seemingly contrary concepts of God’s goodness and His severity (see Rom 11:22). Although I risk oversimplifying his work, Packer argues many focus on the goodness of God to the neglect of the severity of God. In short, this fixation creates a “Santa Claus theology” that misrepresents the God of the Bible. We must remember God is good, but it is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God” (Heb 10:31).

Packer gives three responses to the both the goodness and severity of God. I would like to share these responses with some of my own thoughts.

1. Appreciate the goodness of God.

God is good, and all good things come from Him (Jms 1:17). There is not a blessing you and I receive that doesn’t pass through our Father’s hand. We should be grateful for even the smallest blessing.

2. Appreciate the patience of God.

Next, we are to appreciate God’s patience. The scariest declaration in the Bible is that God is good. Why? Because we are not good. We are rebellious creatures and if we do not repent and be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, the wrath of God will be poured out on us. Therefore, when we understand the goodness of God, we should also be grateful for His patience towards us.

3. Appreciate the discipline of God

Finally, it is God’s goodness that causes Him to chastise us. Much like a loving parent, disciplining us for our betterment, God uses events and situations to conform us to the image of His son. When we realize this, we can appreciate both God’s goodness and severity.

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021), 158-166.

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