Throughout the Bible, God’s unified work of redemption includes both an element of conviction and an element of consolation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ gives clear expression of these two elements. In the gospel,
- conviction calls us to true saving faith, by which we receive the benefits of redemption, while consolation is the fact that such faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8), and by such faith our sin, our unfaithfulness to God, is covered over on account of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:2);
- conviction draws us out of our petty and besetting sins into a life that properly images the God of our creation and redemption, while consolation reminds us that our loving father knows us as his sons “in Christ,” heirs to the kingdom, and that loving bond will never fail (Heb 12:6);
- conviction shows us that we have a long way to go, while consolation shows us that Christ will not stop working in our lives until he has brought us to completion (Phil 1:6)
The conviction and consolation we receive in Christ grandly correspond to the character of God the Father as both just and gracious (Gen 34:6-7). Though we may naturally prefer the consolation of the gospel, we must also learn to acknowledge and then to celebrate the element of conviction of the gospel.
God’s just character is just as wondrous, holy, and beautiful as his grace. Yes, the damning curse of our sin is paid for in full in Christ on the cross. But this does not mean that the father sees only Jesus when he looks upon us. It means that he sees us clothed in favor and righteousness, sons to be loved, but also sons to be raised in the character of the Father (see again Heb 12:6).
God’s justice is not merely a necessary backdrop to his grace. It is an attribute we should praise, give thanks for, and pursue in the world around us. In this way we can begin to recognize and appreciate the conviction and the consolation of our salvation.
Artwork: Sacrifice of Isaac, Rembrandt, 1634.