It is well to cherish the fact that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” and that in Christianity we have God’s nature declared—that is, love; but it is equally important to remember that “God is light,” and hence the remarkable statement in Hebrews 12:29, “Our God is a consuming fire.”
Notice it does not say that God is such, nor that the God of Israel was a consuming fire, but that our God, the God revealed in Christianity, is not only a fire, but one that consumes.
The full force of this searching truth must never be toned down nor explained away. It must never be affirmed that God out of Christ is a consuming fire, for such a God cannot be conceived. There is no God out of Christ, no idea of God but as seen in our Lord Jesus Christ. He was “God manifest in flesh”—the full and perfect expression of all that God is.
Could it be that the law, given as it was amid the lightnings and terrors of Sinai, was a system of greater essential purity and holiness than Christianity? Far be the thought.
Can grace be unholy? Nay; it may be, and alas! often is, turned into lasciviousness and its character sadly traduced by its would-be professors, but grace is as intrinsically holy and as separate from sin as the law. It teaches the very highest lessons of purity (see Titus 2:11-12, etc.); whilst, on the other hand, it does for the poor sinner what the law could never do—it saves him. No, Mount Zion in its wealth of grace is just as holy as Mount Sinai in its unsparing condemnation of the transgressor. The two “mounts” are equally holy, as are the covenants which they represent and the ministries which flow from them.
But grace may be abused, and its patience misconstrued. Hence the deep meaning and value of the statement that “our God is a consuming fire.”
God in grace, though He bears with the sinner and with an unfaithful Church, is as intolerant of evil as God presented in the law. He is the same God in His essential abhorrence of sin at all times, and hence the perfect suitability of the exhortation, “Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
Beloved, we need such reverence and godly fear today. Grace has for many years been clearly unfolded, and myriads of souls, have enjoyed its precious liberty; but we may see on all hands a lightness, a levity, a trifling with divine things, that tell too plainly the lack of reverence and godly fear. May there be no surrender of the liberty of grace, but let us remember that the God whom we serve in grace is a “consuming fire.”