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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gracious Judgment

In Romans 1 Paul lays out a sequence of God giving Man over to worse and worse sin, starting with "though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks" (Rom 1:21) culminating in a list of evils of the "depraved mind" (Rom 1:28) that takes up 6 verses (Rom 1:28-32). And as the chapter ends, we sit there and nod our heads and say, "Yep, those are really evil persons." Of course, the passage doesn't end at Romans 1:32. Paul has not finished his thought.
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? (Rom 2:1-3)
You see what he did there? He set us up. "You can all see that this is bad," he said, followed with "you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." We were so clever to recognize that sin in those rotten folk and so blind as to miss it in ourselves. "Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." (Rom 2:5) Oh, not good, brothers and sisters, not good at all.

But wait! It's okay. What is he warning about? "The judgment of God." Oh, whew! What a relief! Turns out that God's judgment is gracious, not harsh. We're okay!

If this is what you believe -- if this is what you draw out of Scripture somehow, then you're not paying attention.

In this text alone Paul warns not of "gracious judgment", but stored wrath. "God," he says, "will render 'to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation." (Rom 2:6-8) This is not good. And it's not just Paul's idea. Jesus told those who asked Him about people that Pilate killed, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:2-5) "Likewise." "In a similar way." Crushed, splattered, utterly defeated, no escape. Doesn't sound like grace. In Revelation it speaks of multiple rounds of God's wrath being poured out. The Scriptures say, "The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev 6:17) What wrath? "The wrath of the Lamb." (Rev 6:16) That's Christ, and that's not grace.

There are voices today (I won't name names, but one in particular might ring a Bell) that want to tell us that it's all okay. Jesus saves. Nothing to worry about. If it's not universal salvation, it's nearly universal. This ranges from "everyone will make it" to "only those who really, really don't want to in the end will not make it." "And," they assure us, "it's not going to be that bad. At worst, it's simply being snuffed out of existence, not some eternal suffering or some such." This is why they're happy to say, "Only God can judge me." It's because He's a nice old man who, I guess, is just tired of all that Old Testament "smiting" and just wants to hug all of His creation. It will all be fine.

It won't. It's not biblical. It's not rational. It's not real. The judgment of God is not gracious. Grace is the opposite of judgment. Mercy is opposed to judgment. And God reserves His grace and mercy for, in Jesus's words, "few" (Matt 7:12-14). For those of you who are trying to relieve the potential fear sinners have of the judgment of God, you're not doing them any favors by telling them it's gracious. It's not. The Old Testament God didn't think so. The New Testament God (Jesus) didn't think so. The final book (Revelation) doesn't think so. Convincing someone standing in front of an onrushing bus that it won't hurt is not doing them a favor. Convincing them God's judgment is gracious is worse.


Bob said...

Scripture tells us that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"
when we attempt to remove this healthy fear, what is left in it's place?
i believe it is a familiarity that contemptuously trod's upon the Holiness of God.
it is a great assumption wrapped in a sugar coated presumption sold to the masses for their consumption.

Leigh Marlow said...

Yesterday afternoon Romans 1:8-32 was my devotional study. Wow, whoa. After that was led to read psalm 51.

Great post Stan

Leigh said...

Gods "wrath" toward us is similar to a parent who time after time bails out their child but the child keeps drugging and stealing, etc. Eventually the parent's mercy becomes enabling, and they must withdraw or they will actually kill their child. As parents,we must withdraw at times so repentance and change can come. God poured out His wrath at the cross, but not on was on sin and what was separating humans from His Love. I say that only because of my many, many years of unnecessary guilt and shame, which also separates from God's love. Adding to this from my sister Laurie and I quote, " .I believe that the wrath Jesus experienced was being forsaken by Father, which was unbearable to Father and Son. Father withdrew from Son, and Jesus felt the utter aloneness and darkness that mankind experiences when God withdraws due to our continued turning away from His love to go after other gods". I have experienced God's wrath when I went away from Him and He had to let me go. When the prodigal came back, the father threw a party and didn't require the son to go through weeks of sorrowing over his mistakes. We are the ones who require that of ourselves because we just can't believe that the Good News is REALLY that

Stan said...

God's grace toward those who trust in Him in contrast to the wrath we so justly deserve is indeed amazingly good news.