Written by Rev. Nicholas Davelaar
Published in the Courier of Russellville, Arkansas on March 20, 2015
Perhaps we would be well served by personalizing that question right out of the gate: will the sin of any man, woman, and child—including each person reading this—go unpunished?
The Bible teaches that God created us humans good and in his image, but after some time Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They committed high treason against the God of heaven and earth.
From that point on there was no turning back for them and their descendants. Indeed, we today share their guilt and rebellious nature. Our thoughts and actions show it.
Where do we stand with God now? Will God overlook our sins? Will he turn a blind eye toward our rebellious hearts?
Or in the words of one of the Protestant Reformers years ago, will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
Some people would say yes. They might argue they really aren’t that bad. They wouldn’t say they’re perfect, but they would claim they’re doing their best to live a moral life, and that’s the important thing.
Author Greg Koukl tells the story of an attorney who came up to him once and made that claim. This attorney took issue with the idea that he deserved any sort of punishment.
Greg responded, “Let me ask you a question. Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?”
The attorney chuckled. “Well, since I’m a prosecuting attorney, I guess I do.”
“Good.” Greg continued. “So do I. Now, a second question: Have you ever committed any moral crimes?”
As Greg explained, the attorney paused a moment. This was clearly getting personal. “Yes,” he nodded, “I guess I have.”
“So have I,” Greg admitted, honestly agreeing with him again. “But that puts us both in a tight spot, doesn’t it? We both believe people who do bad things should be punished, and we both believe we’re guilty on that score.”
Greg paused a moment, and then asked, “Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news.”
That’s the same bad news we hear in the Bible. As one of the Protestant Reformers summarized it, God “is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity.”
Indeed, Galatians 3:10 declares, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
“But wait!” Someone might retort. Isn’t God also merciful? Isn’t God love? The Bible also says that!
It certainly does. The same Protestant Reformer went on to acknowledge that very point: “God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty—eternal punishment of body and soul.”
Think about that.
For further study, read Psalm 5:4-6. For a beautiful word of hope, turn to Isaiah 53:4-5.