Sunday, October 11, 2009

Loving God's Judgment

Today I experienced the convergence of two Biblical texts that focused on the certainty of God's judgment and condemnation as encouragement, that caused me to pause and reflect a bit. In Sunday school this morning I was teaching on James 5:1 and following, where James is pronouncing an Old Testament-like prophecy of condemnation on the oppressive rich pagans that were troubling the early believers. Strong words that echo the declarations of woe found over and over in the prophets. A reminder to the poor in the church who were being oppressed that God would certainly and swiftly execute His vengeance on these rich men, and that they should patiently wait for Christ's return in light of this certain judgment.

Then this afternoon I was doing exegesis on the epistle of Jude, where the certainty of God's condemnation and judgment on apostate teachers is expressed as an encouragement to the believers who were being troubled by them. Again, an example of the judgment of God as an encouragement to the faithful.

As I thought about this, I realized that even a cursory read of much of the Bible, especially the prophets and the Psalms, reveals a repeated pattern of this kind of encouragement. But it also seems to me that we modern evangelicals have lost the sense of God's vengeance and judgment as something that we are encouraged by. We are so eager to revel in God's love, His mercy and grace, even His righteousness and goodness. But His justice and condemnation? That sound so harsh, so...ungracious. How can a knowledge of God's absolute and certain judgment of sin and sinful men be something we embrace and are encouraged by?

Well first, we need to remember that God's grace in Christ means nothing apart from the understanding that His salvation is what saves us from being objects of that judgment and condemnation ourselves. When we forget this fact, we begin to lose perspective on what He has saved us from. God forbid we should ever cheapen the depth of His mercy and grace by ignoring the great condemnation and judgment our sin rightly deserved, and that Christ endured in our place.

Second, we need to remember that God does not overlook sin and rebellion against Him, and that's a good thing. If God left sin unpunished, He would not be just. And we couldn't trust Him or His character. How could we worship and revere a God who failed to uphold justice? The mercy and grace of God stands that much more gloriously against the backdrop of His righteous justice and vengeance. When we see the ungodly prospering, the rebellious and sinful being exalted, the immoral being celebrated, the godless gaining power and influence, we should take encouragement and comfort in the truth that God will surely and certainly and swiftly execute His perfect justice and judgment on those people. And He will be glorified and vindicated in doing so.

So let's continue to exult in the love and grace of God in Christ. But let's equally revel in the justice and judgment of our God on all sin and unrighteousness. The two cannot - and should never - be separated.

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