Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Purpose of Discipline from God

When those Christians who do say it, say that God does not punish sin in our lifetimes (or really, at all for the believer), they do so reckoning upon the punishment for our sins Christ took upon himself. No condemnation remains for us to bear as a result. By that reckoning, anything painful experienced in this life which might appear punitive is either not coming from God or is not intended as a punishment. I must admit, there's much to commend in such a thought.

However, our thoughts about what God does or doesn't do must line up with each and every passage of scripture. Whereas it is certainly biblical to say that the Devil is seeking to bring us pain, it is not biblical at all to say that God won't or can't bring us things that are painful or punitive or both. We can say biblically that if God brings us to something painful, whether punitive or not, he does so for our own good and his grace is sufficient to bring us through it. To hold otherwise puts people who hold otherwise in the regrettable position of trying to make excuses for a theology that doesn't work in real life (unscriptural theology never does), or becoming incredibly self-absorbed trying to improve their faith to get a more desirable outcome.
"...have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” 
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."               Hebrews 12:3-12 NASB
Why would a loving father discipline his children through hardship and suffering? I think we have to trust that there is no other way to get us to where he wants us to be. Ultimately, that is by his side in eternity, sharing in all that is in Christ. Between now and then, Christ is our example, suffering can be a teacher, and the humility that goes with it is a boon to faith.

The bottom line in all this is understanding the reasons our forgiving God might use punitive measures in our lifetimes. Let's be clear, God's corrections mean legitimacy and life and are never without purpose. God uses corrective discipline so we do not go off the deep end and lose all we had in Christ. If punishment from God comes to believers, it comes not to write them off but to preserve them.

There's no reason to walk about shivering in fearful anticipation, looking over our shoulder expecting divine retribution for some misstep to overtake us and ruin our lives. God is not like that, he walks softly among us. But understand this: if you're on a path that could lead to your destruction as a believer, God is not above making an effort to stop you in your tracks and correct your course with a big stick.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Does God Punish Sin During Our Lifetimes?

Such a question arises because of the cross. There, Jesus took the punishment for the sins of the world to himself and suffered it completely, so what place is left for punishment of sin elsewhere? And yet, despite the universality of the atonement, the scriptures teach that Hades and the Lake of Fire are still in play for some sinners--namely all who do not trust in Christ. So the cross, despite its inclusiveness, does not effectively keep God from ultimately punishing at least some of the sin for which it was suffered.

If the cross, despite its universality and eternal consequence, does not prevent God from punishing some sin ultimately (i.e that of unbelievers), why would anyone suspect that the cross would automatically wipe out punitive measures from God temporally? Certainly, with regard to the unbelieving there can be no question. The cross does nothing for the unbelieving, now or later. If they are "uncovered" for eternity, they are absolutely "uncovered" now, but what about believers?

If one adhered to the Once-Saved-Always-Saved theory, there would be some reason to think that God does not punish the believer for sin in the now. If the cross crossed out sin and punishment for eternity, and our eternal situation is locked in now (as it is according to that doctrine), then there could be no basis for punishment either then or now. OSAS seems to me to logically entail God-Does-Not-Punish-Sin-Now. The problem, however, is that both concepts can be demonstrably proven false according to Bible.

I've presented one way the Bible does that in regard to OSAS, but let me say that it is also readily apparent from the texts used for that purpose that Christ clearly promises punishment in this life for those in his church who are sinning against him. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 is transparently clear on the subject as well, though it is often conveniently ignored by many in my theological circles. What else can be made of other biblical instructions, such as Hebrews 12:4-13, or promises, such as Revelation 3:19? Suffice it to say, to hold that God will not punitively discipline the believer in this life is to hold unscriptural doctrine.

Of course, one can disbelieve OSAS and still believe that God does not punish sin within a believer's lifetime, or believe OSAS and yet believe that God can punish sin in the present. In either case, one would merely hold one biblical error rather than two (although if one believes the latter, any punishment in the present would be superfluous at best and capricious at worst). That God may overlook sin in the present and does not operate in a tit-for-tat manner in disciplining believers in no way, shape, or form undermines the general premise: God can, God has and God may well punish a believer for sinning during the believer's lifetime.

That a swat in the here and now doesn't translate into an eternal bath in the Lake of Fire should be seen as encouraging, not as a means of discounting the promise of discipline in our lifetimes. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Set Your Face Against Gog

Iran joins Russia in Syria

Are we seeing the precursor to Ezekiel 38? Frankly, I've leaned toward the idea that the prophecy deals with amassing troops in the second half of the Tribulation, but there has always been the possibility that it would precede and precipitate the rise of the Ten Horns. A few more players would have to come on the field to make it truly an Ezekiel 38 fulfillment, so it's not there yet. Regardless, it's very interesting to see this turn of events.

Bears watching, I'd say.