Thursday, 2 August 2012

Atonement & all it means (part four)

The penalty for sin is death

Seems pretty harsh.  But let's tie it with what we know about God's character.
'Although God's punishment of sin does serve as a deterrent against further sinning and as a warning to those who observe it, this is not the primary reason why God punishes sin.  The primary reason is that God's righteousness demands it, so that he might be glorified in the universe that he has created.  He is the Lord who pracitices "steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for all these things I delight, says the LORD" (Jer. 9:24)'
~Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p509
We know that God is genuine, he is who he says he is.  We also know that his purity includes complete holiness, not allowing any evil or ungodliness into his presence.  Because of that he must be righteous and only relate with those who have no ungodliness infecting their life (because to do so would ruin his purity, his integrity and ultimately negate his divinity).  So he must be just and punish those who sin - who allow ungodliness to infect their lives (which through the seed of humanity is all of us - no one escapes that justice).

But we also know that one of the objective attributes of God's greatness is life.  God is life.  He sustains it, he gives it, he created it, because it all flows from his very nature.  If God is life, then ungodliness must equate with death.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things...

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil... (Romans 2:1-2; 6-9 ESV)

Tribulation and distress; that sounds like the right thing to compare to being cast away from God. If God is love, being away from him can only be tribulation and distress - adding that a constant state of that is certainly not life as we would define it, so comparing this with death is not a far reach either.

The importance here is to remember God's character and the attributes of his divine nature are what engage the fact he must deal with sin, and he must deal with it with death.  God is not a meany who wants his own way.  God is love, God is life, God is pure and God is just.  If we are not pure his justice requires him to disconnect himself from our ungodliness. If he is love, and life then the only possible result of being disconnected from him is punishment and death.

So far it seems pretty dismal for us humans, but this is why atonement is so important, and we'll finally get to it in the next post.

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