Archive for July 2011

Much More than Much More

29 July 2011 by David Kjos

Q. 30. Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.


So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
—Romans 5:15–21

In the previous verses (Romans 5:12–14), Question 22 was answered in the affirmative: all mankind fell with Adam in the first transgression. We were left hopelessly fallen, waiting for Question 30 to pick us up out of our “estate of sin and misery.” Verses 12–14 connected us to Adam. Verses 15–21 connect us to Christ, exploring the one man/one act analogy of Adam and Christ.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. … The free gift — “having now been justified by His blood” — is like the transgression — through which “death spread to all men” — in only one way: it came through one man. In effect, it is the polar opposite. Through Adam’s sin, “the many died”; through the free gift, grace was poured out to many, and not in equal proportions to the transgression, but abounding “much more.” Calvin wrote,
It may indeed be justly inferred, that since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce the ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy. —John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XIX, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Baker Books, 2009), 206.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned … The condemnation of Adam's sin is unlike grace in that it rose from one transgression, whereas, for those who believe, grace rises from every transgression, resulting in justification. We see two great truths in these verses: first, that God hates sin so much that one was enough to damn all of humanity; second, God loves mankind so much that he offers forgiveness to all men for all sins.

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one … Now we have another of these “as that, so this, only moreso” statements. As the one sin of one man brought the reign of death over all men, “much more” will the elect (“those who receive the abundance of grace”) reign in life through Christ. Why “much more”? I believe Calvin’s comments (above) apply, but I also tend to think in terms of intent and efficacy. If the unthinking act of a finite man produced these unintended consequences, how much more efficacious is the intentional corrective act of an infinite God? If Adam stumbled into disaster, God’s calculated response — planned well in advance — is much more certain. In fact, “much more” is an understatement.

So then as through one transgression … through one act of righteousness … through the one man’s disobedience … through the obedience of the One … Verses 18–19 set Adam and Christ in opposite categories: obedient, and disobedient. The essence of Adam’s sin is that he was disobedient. The necessary antidote was an act of supreme obedience. We, as Adam’s heirs, are unrighteous, disobedient. Those who are in Christ are, by virtue of his obedience, declared righteous and justified before God. His obedience is our obedience.

… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more … Those whom God has delivered out of their “estate of sin and misery … into an estate of salvation” are not merely sinners, but great sinners. We have known the Law, and through it have known God, and have yet fallen short of his holiness. Our sin, in the light of the Law, has increased. But, praise God, as sin increased, grace abounded. Just as sin reigns in death — those who are spiritually dead are slaves to sin — grace reigns “through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And we cannot overemphasize the point that the righteousness through which grace reigns is not our own, but Christ’s.

If you are in Christ, you are no longer in “an estate of sin and misery.” Sin does not reign in you. Therefore, you can take your rest in Christ, through whose righteousness you have received abundant grace. Grace rules.

An Overwhelming Need

27 July 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 30. Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.

In my mind's eye I can see myself as a younger man, sitting on a pew, listening to the revivalist/pastor preach. I am only a couple of months away from moving on to seminary, and I am only a year out of college. I have taken a job as a summer intern as a youth minister in Lincoln, Nebraska. The pastor's text is John 3:16, and my heart is about to explode.

I know that this man that I work with is basically an Arminian, and I know that because for the past six months I have been reading Sproul, Piper, Pink, and a host of other Puritans. I have also been reading a little C.S. Lewis on the side, and I've managed to get through a few of the Left Behind books as well. My theology, my view of God, has been turned upside down. I have discovered Calvinism. I have memorized the TULIP. It was sweet going down, but it has turned bitter in my stomach.

I am having a crisis of faith as the preacher expounds his text. I know he is a good man who is concerned for the souls of men. He weeps for souls. As he preaches about how "God so loved," I keep hearing Paul say "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction...vessels of wrath prepared for destruction," and I cannot get my mind around the two ideas. In Vacation Bible School, the children sang, "Jesus Loves Me", and I thought, "Does he? Does he love you all?" The crisis of faith I am having is not the kind of crisis wherein I am in danger of losing my faith per se; I feel as if I am about to lose my mind instead, and that in the process, my heart is being ground to dust.



I grew up a typical Southern Baptist, which means I believed in Jesus and eternal security, but that was about it. After my conversion, I met a man who was a pastor of a Primitive Baptist church. He loved Jesus, and he was the only one who would talk to me about Romans 9. This pastor was a hyper-Calvinist, though I did not have a category for such a thing at the time. I testify that such men exist, and not just as boogey-men in the dreams of Arminian evangelists. He was the first man to ever tell me God had no intention of saving every man, and even that God did not love all men. After all, God hated Esau.

I hear the pastor plead with us. He tells us that God will save whoever will come to him, but I know that when he says it he doesn't just mean the elect. This pastor wants all men to come. This pastor believes God might save every man who hears him; he believes that Jesus loves every child in VBS; this man would have pled with Esau even if he had read Romans 9.

I decided that day that I would plead for the souls of men as if God could and would save every man that I talked to about Christ. I decided that God's love for every child is genuine, even if they do not number amongst the elect. I decided that election would be a comfort to me and not a sorrow; it guaranteed the salvation of many, and yet damned no man to hell. Only sin can do that, and every man's sin is not due to his status in election.

It was in this way that I finally began to be Reformed. Not simply by confession or creed, but by an overwhelming need for the gospel to be good news to all men, especially for those that believe.

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Can it be that simple?

26 July 2011 by Neil

Q. 30. Does God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?


A. God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace.


For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. --Ephesians 2:8,9


FINALLY!  Some hope!  Having pronounced and executed righteous judgment for man's sin, God is not going to sit back down in his box seat yawning at our rebellious tragic opera.  Instead, he's going to reach down into our estate of sin and misery and pull some men out, giving them a thing called salvation.  Realizing just how evil evil is in the sight of the Most Holy God, why would we have even expected to have some means of relief?  After all, it wasn't made available to the angels that fell, so why men?  Salvation is a rare and wondrous thing.  Now the mechanics of salvation aren't specified just yet, but we are introduced for the first time to the word GRACE.

The catechism sifts and collates.  So far, it has relied upon varied yet consistent scriptures to systematically build up and define concepts like God, man, sin, and providence.  The catechism helps us clarify and organize our understanding of God's written revelation. And now it tells that there are primarily two covenants that God has made with mankind, one called Works (which we cannot keep) and one called Grace (which we cannot earn).  Only two? Can it be that simple?

Well, God most assuredly made more than two covenants in the Bible.  Consider his covenants with:
Adam (Genesis 2:16-17),
Eve (Genesis 3:14-16),
Cain (Genesis 4:13-15),
Noah (Genesis 6:18-19),
Noah again (Genesis 9:8-17),
Abram (Genesis 12:1-3),
Abram again (Genesis 13:14-17),
Abram threepeat (Genesis 15),
Hagar (Genesis 16:9-10),
new-name Abraham (Genesis 17:1-22),
Sarah (Genesis 18:9-15),
Abraham again (Genesis 18:22-33),
Lot and his wife (Genesis 19:15-22),
Hagar reassured (Genesis 21:15-19),
Abraham repeat threepeat (Genesis 22:15-18),
Isaac (Genesis 26:1-5),
Isaac again (Genesis 26:23-24),
Jacob (Genesis 28:10-15),
Israel the man (Genesis 35:9-12),
Moses (Exodus 4:10-12),
Joshua, weary from fighting treachorous Amalekites (Exodus 17:14),
Israel at Mount Sinai, including the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:3-8), aka THE LAW,
Israel at the Plains of Moab, including the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:1-33),
Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:28-30),
Joshua with big shoes to fill (Deuteronomy 31:7),
Israel the nation at Ebal and Gerizim (Deuteronomy 27, Deuteronomy 28, Joshua 8:32-34)
King David (2 Samuel 7:8-16, 2 Samuel 23:1-7),
King Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-4, 1 Kings 2:11-14),
Future King Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29-38),
King Jehu (2 Kings 10:30),
King Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:21-33),
King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:22-28),
and one of my favourites, Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:1-9, Haggai 2:20-23),
to name a few.

Through the prophets, God also made a multitude of additional covenants with Israel, and with the tribe of Judah.  Finally, we have what's known as the New Covenant.  Jesus distills it into what we might carelessly call a soundbite in Luke 22:20, but the New Covenant is deeper than we know, infusing the entire Bible, and emerging in ever finer detail every time the book is opened and read.

Back to our question.  Did the catechism get it right about there being two overarching covenants?  The answer is... a systematically sifted and collated, booming "Yes", consistent with what we are told in Galatians 3:16-18 or Romans 4:15-16.  Search our long list above, and sure enough you'll only find two kinds of covenants (i.e. promises).  The first kind are two-way, conditional covenants... if the person or people do this or that right thing, then God will do something pleasant.  On the other hand, if the person or people do wrong things or fail to do right things, then God will do something unpleasant.  These are covenants of works and they depend upon mankind to be good enough to uphold a contract with God.  At our peak, confident humans piously promised we would keep them and said “Hey, bring on the consequences if we fail, but no worries, because we won't! :o)Alas, man was hoist by his own petard (Galatians 3:10).  Our failure to live up to our sides of the bargains resulted in sin and misery.

The other kind of covenant is one-way and unconditional.  God will do something very good for the person or people, no matter what.  The people can't mess it up, no matter what.  God keeps his promise, no matter what.  These are covenants of grace.  Grace can't be earned, it can't be bought, it can't be finagled; it can only be freely given.  Grace replaces misery with hope and joy.  Grace is what enables the composer of Psalm 119 to see the heart of God, and to love and appreciate the requirements of the Mosaic covenant of works, even though he is not able to come close to satisfying them.  Grace frees us from the futility and slavery of sin.

God's grace is the reason we can obtain salvation.



Secret note to homeschool moms: here's a good test question for your kids. Of all the covenants listed in the third paragraph, which ones are works and which ones are grace? Supplemental: of all the works covenants listed, how many did the humans successfully fulfil?

Super-secret note to self: this Grace thing flies in the face of the holiness of God and the need for justice.  This God seems to be inconsistent...?

An Alternate End

22 July 2011 by David Regier

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

21:1 Then I saw an old heaven and an old earth, for they were still around, just older, and the sea was still there.

2 And I saw the very nice city, New Grand Rapids, coming over by the lake from WHWH*, prepared as a girl that has been through one too many rounds of speed-dating.

3 And I heard a weary voice from the podium saying, "Look, the dwelling place of Weh-weh is here, behind this podium. Keep yourselves off the dais, you're kind of gross. Weh-weh needs his space.

4 Cry yourselves a river, for he is tired of your whining. He's doing the best he can to keep you happy, get you decent health care, and that immortality diet thing he's been talking about, which has been just around the corner, like forever."


5 And he who was standing behind the podium said, "Look, it's always the same." Also he said, "But don't quote me on this."

6 And he said to me, "Really, I'm almost done! I am all over it, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you'll hang with me a little longer, I promise you, orange slices and Capri Sun® for everyone. If you paid your registration fee."

7 Everyone who plays the game gets a trophy, and I'll be the coach, and you'll be my team.

8 But for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, they get the trophy too, shortly after everybody else does. Just to make it sting a little."

9 Then came one of the seven assistant coaches who had the seven bowls full of the orange slices and spoke to me saying, "Thanks for playing, that was a great season, we'll see you at the pizza party, make sure you bring $15 for the coach's gift."

* In all probability pronounced Weh-weh, with a nasal whine like a fussy baby’s cry. Some scholars prefer Wha-wha, in descending tones, similar to the sad trombone sound.

Seriously

21 July 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

The notion of Hell, something never popular with unbelievers, in recent times has fallen into disfavor even in religious circles, including Christianity. Many people, including some high profile ones, are claiming the name of Christ while at the same time disclaiming the doctrine of eternal punishment, causing some other high profile people to speak out defending the doctrine.

But set that aside for a moment, and ask yourself this question: if I am sincere in my belief about Hell, what am I doing about it?

There is no question that the doctrine of Hell is under attack from many sides, and that a defense is needed. The question is, what is the best defense? Is it possible that the best way to defend the doctrine is not through blogosphere bully pulpits but instead for us to take it seriously enough to live out and share the gospel?

I'm reminded of the YouTube video featuring Penn Gillette. Perhaps you've seen it; it features Mr. Gillette talking about a man who talked to him after one of his shows and gave him a Gideon Bible. He is clearly touched, expressing his respect for his would-be proselytizer, repeatedly calling him a good man. But to me, the most striking statement he makes is this: "How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"

The book of James tells us there are two kinds of people—hearers and doers. When it comes to evangelism—telling people how to be saved from everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and from most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever—am I a doer who acts, or just a hearer who forgets? Go, be salt and light.

Someone knows this for sure

20 July 2011 by Neil

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

This debate will come to order.

Regarding rules and style for this face-to-face encounter, we will be complying with the Canadian National Debate Format. The resolution before us today is “The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

Representing the Proposition are its First Speaker, Jesus the Messiah and its Second
Speaker, the Holy Spirit of God.

Representing the Opposition are Annihilationist, Universalist, and Hell-on-Earthist.

The House sincerely welcomes all participants and spectators.

Each team will deliver a brief, constructive speech. After each speech, I will call upon the next team. Heckling is prohibited, and there will be no Points of Order or Privilege. Are there any questions regarding the rules? No? Okay, here we go.

I now call upon the First and Second Speakers to introduce the Proposition case.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell,to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. --- Mark 9:43-48

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”... And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. -- Matthew 25:41, 46

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. --- Revelation 14:11

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. --- John 3:36

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might --- 2 Thessalonians 1:9

I thank the members for their remarks. We shall now hear the first speaker for the Opposition. Who would like to be the first to constructively challenge the representatives of the Proposition?














Anyone?



Buehler?


Two Eternities, Part 2

19 July 2011 by Daniel

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

Sin is not without its consequence in this world, but frankly, most of us are concerned more about the consequences sin will have for us after we leave this world. That's where question 29 of the Larger Catechism comes in: What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?

Let us cut to the chase: scripture tells us (Romans 6:23) that the wages of sin is death. Obviously it isn't talking about physical death, or we would all drop dead the moment we sinned. It is talking about the what scripture calls the "second death" which is God's final judgment against sin: the Lake of Fire.

A lot of people think of Judgment Day as the day God will decide where a person will spend eternity, but that is totally off. Where we are going to spend eternity will have been already decided long before the Day of Judgment; we are (all of us) condemned already on account of our sin (c.f. John 3:18). Judgment Day is simply the day that every condemned sinner will commence his or her sentence; that is, it is the day that guilty sinners will be cast into the Lake of Fire as a punishment for their rebellion against God.

If anyone who has ever sinned is condemned already, one might ask, How then do Christians escape this judgment --aren't they sinners also? Does God simply ignore their condemnation? If so, why doesn't God ignore everyone's condemnation? Well I am glad I wrote this article in such a way as to suggest you are actually asking these questions, because the answer is good news indeed.

God knew that Adam would rebel against Him even before Adam was created. So God chose to redeem some of Adam's race and did so in such a way as to avoid compromising His own righteousness. You see, it would be unrighteous for God to send anyone to hell if God let even one guilty person avoid Judgment. Thus redemption had to allow guilty to receive the full weight of their punishment, and live through the condemnation somehow. So God sent Christ to become a man and live a life so perfect that it would be unjust of God to allow Christ's sinless life to end. In this way (in Christ) God created a bridge (or, if you prefer, an "ark" c.f. 1 Peter 3:18-21 (especially v.21)), by which a condemned sinner could pass through God's judgment unscathed. Those who come to Christ for salvation, are baptized "into" Christ, a spiritual union described as being born again.

Thus when we trust God's promise to redeem us, that is, when we trust that God really did send His own Son to deliver us from this otherwise inescapable condemnation; We are united with Christ (born again), and through this union we are/were crucified with Christ (i.e. we are/were literally condemned in Christ), and we also died with Christ when He died. Through this shared condemnation and death we can say that we literally (as opposed to figuratively or as some kind of metaphor) that we were condemned in Christ. Yet because of Christ's perfect life, it would have been unjust to keep Him in the grave, and because we were still united together with Christ, when God (in order to satisfy all righteousness) raised the innocent Christ from the dead, we also (who were in Christ), were raised (in Him), having become partakers of His life (the very life that was raised). That is how Christians pass through God's judgment.

But everyone else (everyone who is not "in" Christ) must face God's judgment on Judgment Day, and that judgment is a lake of eternal fire. Those who are cast into it will suffer two torments forever: first they will suffer the torment of the flames, but more tormenting than this, they will suffer the torment of being without the same God they spent their whole life rejecting, and this for all eternity.

Two Eternities, Part 1

18 July 2011 by Frank Turk

Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hellfire forever.

There's a popular book out these days which tries to make the Bible's portrait of hell, literally, into a mere garbage dump -- a smelly place you don't want to end up in. And in that, this book makes much of the fact that God's love wins everyone in the end, so in effect there is no garbage dump in Heaven.

In making this case, this book makes much of the fact that some passages about Hell talk about the punishment there being "for an age." That is: the view of the author is that whatever it is that is happening in Hell, it's not forever. It's just for an age. No worries.

The problem, of course, is that Heaven -- the Kingdom, the final reward -- is also for that same age. The same words are use to describe the duration of Heaven that describe the duration of Hell.

I'm really not sure how that's comforting, if it's true.

Being like this

15 July 2011 by Frank Turk

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.


Can I admit something here? This is my favorite topic in the whole catechism.  Well, "favorite" is a weird word for this, I admit it.  Besides the Gospel and Jesus and the Church and so on, this is my favorite topic in the catechism to talk about with unbelievers because it's a place where they have no place to hide, and frankly neither do we.

Look: this is the topic that proves out a lot of things about the way things work in this world. The Gospel doesn't prove out how things work -- the Gospel is sort of in spite of how things work. You can't expect or explain the Gospel except with a real God who is personal and intentional and loving.

But this topic here -- this is the question which every non-Christian and every Christian comes back to almost daily: why does it have to be this way?

Yeah, us Calvinists: we have to frame it as a systematic question with all the categories squared up like a set of box-cut corners. But anyone you meet has this question practically on the tip of their tongue: why does it have to be this way?

That is: Why did Leiby Kletzky have to die on his first day walking home from day camp - the first time his mother let him walk on the streets of NYC by himself? I mean: he was 8. And he was cut to pieces by a man who didn't even know him, didn't even want anything from him, didn't even mean harm to him at first (or so it seems).

Why does a 15-year-old-girl get murdered on vacation with her family?

This is the foundational question of everyone who isn't a sociopath, who isn't living in an emotional or relational box: why does this stuff happen? Where is God, Gospel person: where is God in a world where every manner of evil, from the mocking of children to the murder of thousands, is allowed to happen?

Listen to me carefully, dear reader: it is not merely allowed to happen. It happens for two reasons, which is to say two intentional purposes.

The first is because people are under a punishment from God. I know it's not popular to say it. I know it makes Francis Chan uneasy to come to grips with the fearsomeness of God's justice. I know you personally probably didn't tune in today to get a dose of the old-time religion, but facts are facts: the only foundational explanation for the evil in this world is rooted deep in the fallenness of this world as human-kind's punishment for sin.

And it's right, by the way, to hang that on Adam in one sense, but you have read the book of Romans, I am sure: we have this punishment on us because we are just like him. Whether we have the law in a book or in our conscience, we are the ones who do evil things -- so the world we live in is full of the evil we do.

It is what comes out of a person which defiles that person, and the curse just wells up from inside us. So the first reason the world is like it is is because we are under God's punishment for being like this.

But the second reason is less theoretical and more practical: the world is this way because we like it this way. This is a terrifying thought -- and it may never have occurred to you. I can beat you up with another part of Romans to prove it out to you, but why go that far? This is something nobody needs to be tricked or educated into believing.

Just think about the last time you did something you know was wrong -- and don't give me that laughable platitude that you never really do anything wrong. Really? Never angry and rash, never jealous or envious, never disobedient or false in any way? I don't believe it, and you know you don't believe it -- so let's cut past that lie (see: not even out of the gate, and you're lying) to the point.

When you did that thing you know is wrong, did you want to? I mean: didn't it seem right and proper and maybe just and pleasing to you? You wanted to do what you did. That is: that's the kind of place you wanted to make the world right then.

So believe it: complaining about this world and its state when this is how you want it to be is more than a little despicable. It's a lot more than that.

Sizing one's self up

14 July 2011 by Frank Turk

There is an obvious comparison when we consider the relationship between sin and punishment. Those who choose not to continue knowing God -- which is the only way to get real wisdom -- Paul says that God gives them a perverted mind which therefore chooses nothing at all which is right.

So when Paul says "they chose not," it is the same as saying that not only did they not do what they ought to have done (seek to know God), but they have determined actually not to know God, to quit God if such a thing is possible. And it is this choice, says Paul, that begins all manner of vain choices -- "vain" in the sense of self-exalting, self-exaggerating, rather than sizing one's self up against God, who is much greater -- and therefore sinful or self-serving (rather than God-serving) choices.

And because they want to turn from God, they want to turn from what is right.

So Paul, rather than leave it to the imagination by saying "all kinds of abominable things," instead gives us a list of the things men do to this end. This is not a common practice -- to make sure the reader would know exactly what he was talking about. Because though every fault isn't found in every person, everyone is guilt of these kinds of things, and we should know it -- because each of us are guilty of some of it, we are all guilty of all of it.

And note: Paul says these things are not right, meaning not only are they against God's judgment, but they are also against our own good judgment, and a bad idea just from the perspective of our common obligations to each other. This is the evidence of how badly our minds are bent, he says, that we are not just attracted to these violations of God's law, but that we are addicted to them. If we had any common sense we'd renounce them, but we never think about that.

Paul's wasn't trying to puzzle these vices together, as if they were dependent on each other. He simply made a list of them. But what each of them points to is this: Because we have given up the God in God, we have also given up on the image of God in man, and are resigned to all manner of vices.

- John Calvin, Commentary on Romans, 1:27-30

What we Don't Know

13 July 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?


A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

What punishments are there in this world? Of all the pain and sorrow that is our lot, perhaps our greatest misery is ignorance, or therein lies the source of all our sorrows and all our miseries.

When a father holds his lifeless son, the pain he feels comes from ignorance. He cannot know why his son has died, he may not know where his son has gone, and so he writhes in the agony of ignorance. There is tremendous agony in the why, the where, and the what for.

It is felt when the lover is abandoned by the beloved; it is felt in the fear of disease. We feel it in the hour of commitment. We worry our plans will fail, or our partner will betray us, or that the economy will crumble. The farmer feels it when he plants his crop, the policeman when he goes on patrol, and the soldier as he faces battle.

Is ignorance really the greatest punishment of all? It is indeed. Our folly is all rooted in one great ignorance, and it is truly the greatest rebuke and sorrow that God could give: He has with held from us Himself. This is our curse and the source of all of our troubles, that we are fallen from God, that he has withdrawn himself from us and left us to wallow in our ignorance of his glory.

And herein lies the greatest hope for the grieving father, the nervous soldier, and the hard-working farmer: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Already and Not Yet: Part 1

12 July 2011 by Daniel

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

The Westminster "Divines" asked the question this way because they wanted to identify (and explain) the persisting consequences of the fall in our everyday lives as contrasted against the consequences of sin that persist beyond this present life.

When God breathed life into that body he had just formed for Adam, Adam became a living soul who was dependant upon God for the sustaining of the life that had just been breathed into him.

When Adam sinned, God did not take this breath of life away from Adam, even though that was what God had promised He would do should Adam rebel against the command. Yet when Adam did usurp God's reign in his life, God did not immediately execute the promised condemnation that God had obligated Himself to perform. This has led some to imagine that God had relented of the original judgment, and instead merely banished Adam and Eve. But that isn't what happened. God did not set aside the condemantion He promised Adam, rather He postponed it, setting a day on which that judgment would fall - Judgment Day. The reason God postponed this judgment was because He, in His mercy, determined to save a remnant of Adam's race whom He had elected beforehand for this act of grace. Adam did not drop dead the moment he sinned because God was extending mercy to generations who had not yet been born; thus the judgment was postponed; nevertheless Adam became "dead" in his trespasses/sins the very moment he rebelled against God's rule.



Even though God's judgment against sin awaits the coming Day of Judgment, Adam's sin was not without consequence in the present world. Above all else, mankind lost the privilege of having direct access to God. Access to God, from the moment Adam fell has been (and presently is) mediated through Christ. No person has access to God through any other means. This was a veiled truth in the Old Testament, but now it has been revealed in Christ.

Given that Christ was (and is) the only gate through which a person has access to God, every person who is born into this fallen world is born blind, ignorant, and dead in their trespasses. This spiritual stillbirth is the primary consequence out from which flows almost every other sinful effect in the world; but there is more. God cursed all creation on account of sin, so that we are not only born spiritually bankrupt, but we are born into a world that cannot sustain us indefinitely, we grow old, we die, we get sick, we toil for limited resources, and having been left to ourselves, we define the purpose of our existence as nothing better than continuing to exist at all costs. Adam's rebellion left mankind dead in sin, and corrupt in body. We have inherited both the curse of Adam (separation from God), and the cursing of creation. The curse against us personally is removed when we come to Christ, but the world, and the things in it will remain cursed until Christ returns as our Judge on the Day of Judgment. Until then Sin has left us in sickness and poverty with death and with suffering, even after-and-if we have been reconciled to God through Christ.

No Mark on our Faces. Yet.

11 July 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

There's a billboard here along the highway which has an anti-meth advertisement. It shows the meth addict's mouth in a before-and-after fashion, demonstrating the destruction that takes place over time from the drug. (Something similar can be found here.) I have to admit, it is an extremely effective illustration of the external effects of sin.

It's easy to focus solely on externals, however. In fact, as human beings, we are prone to do it by our very nature (1 Sam. 16:7). So I love the reminder here that not all of the effects of sin are external, or as easily perceived as the illustration above.

Some of the worst sins don't leave obvious outward evidence. Like the portrait of Dorian Gray, there's no mark on our faces, and our appearance seems unchanged. Meanwhile, our sins are having their effect, though hidden from plain sight.

But even the punishments and consequences of sin in this world can act as God's grace to us. Like nerve endings telling us the stove is hot, they point to the reality that something is broken. By them, we can know something is wrong, so that when the right comes, we might be ready to hear it.