Please read part 1 of this God-exalting sermon from my friend Ben Askins.
Is this a long-ish post? Yup. Should you make time for it and come back to read parts 3 and 4? You better believe it, my friends.
Here is part 2. Soli Deo Gloria!
Human history has a terminus point, a time of reckoning. God permitted a long age of rebellion. For thousands of years God has showed patience and longsuffering to a wicked world. He has blessed the wicked with sunshine, rain, food and delights of every kind (beautiful beaches, lovely sunsets, family, friends, sex, a good night’s sleep, great food, fun vacations, laughter and pleasure). But a day is coming when all rebellion will be crushed. For the unrepentant this life is the closest thing to heaven they will ever experience. There has been a long day for sinning; therefore, God has ordained a special day for judgment. The definitive victory over evil that Christ achieved at the cross becomes a perfected reality on that day when the sheep are forever separated from the goats. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:4-5)
The final judgment resolves the many injustices that occur in this world that have not been rectified on earth. There are wicked people who live and die in the lap of luxury. There are murderers, rapists and thieves who are never caught, exposed and punished for their crimes. There are dictators who oppress the poor, torture and murder innocent people, and yet live in palaces and die at a ripe old age. There are many people who have been severely wronged and have not experienced vindication, closure or justice in this life. There are millions of God’s children who have been slandered, beaten, imprisoned and even murdered for their faith.
Will a righteous and holy God allow such inequities to go unpunished? Will the God of perfect justice allow injustice to continue interminably in His universe? Will the Lord allow evil people to get away with their sins and crimes? God’s holy nature requires that all injustices be resolved.
God displays His perfect justice by publicly exposing all sins and crimes, by publicly declaring the guilt of the offending parties and by publicly meting out the sentence of condemnation. There is a day of perfect justice and closure because God’s nature demands it. There are no ethical loose ends in Christ’s kingdom.
Every mother and every father of every little boy and every little girl kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery will finally witness the perfect wrath of Almighty God poured out in full fury on all those guilty of such wickedness, from the civil magistrate who fails, out of laziness, incompetence or bribery in his duties to enforce the law and protect the most helpless, to those who buy and sell and trade in the rape of the most innocent among us.
Every mouth will be stopped and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in heaven and on earth and, yes, even under the earth on that great and terrible day of the Lord’s judgment.
And you and I will be judged according to how we have responded or not responded to such tragedies. “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to (Christ).’” (Mt. 25:44-45) Oh Lord forgive us for endlessly quibbling over the logical order of the divine decrees or drawing lines of division among ourselves over the difference between a “universally sufficient atonement which is particular in scope” and a “universally accomplished atonement which is particular in its application” while our children and our neighbor’s children are used like Kleenex and thrown away, while there are still places on this planet where the glorious name of Christ has never been heard. Oh Lord forgive us… and help us to obey.
Everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do. There must be and there will be a day when God will judge the world and bring an end to all rebellion against Himself forever.
Hell is eternal because everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do. Just because you are no longer ashamed by the guilt of your past sins doesn’t remove your guilt for committing them. The passage of time doesn’t remove guilt.
The punishment in hell is varied in severity, since “that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Lk 12:47-48). But the punishment received according to the works you have done will continue so long as your guilt remains. And your guilt is permanent. “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:5) Hell is everlasting because your guilt is everlasting.
So can permanent, everlasting guilt be removed? The answer to this question is something into which angels long to look.
Some turn to the statements of the immediate context of our text for the answer, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Rom. 2:13) “Those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.’ (Rom. 2:7)
“They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children.” –John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 2
Every philosophy of life, every worldview, no matter how mismatched and cobbled together or sophisticated and self-consistent, has a theory of salvation, which contains a doctrine of justification, a way that humanity can respond to the prescribed problems of the human condition, of dealing with guilt.
The President tells us that we can be saved from the apocalyptic judgment of global warming by minimizing our carbon footprint and recycling (among other things). The Buddha told us that we can be freed from the wheel of reincarnation by attaining self-awakening through the Noble 8-Fold Path of having the right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration which lead to attaining right knowledge and right liberation. These different worldviews contain different doctrines of justification, different ways for dealing with human guilt and failure. Essentially, one answer offered is that we can make up for our guilt by believing and doing the right things. Justification = Faith + Works.
June 28, 2009 marks the completion of the Anno Paulino or the Pauline Year, which the Pope instituted in honor of the 2000th anniversary of the apostle’s birth. In the papal decree Urbis et Orbis it states: “The gift of Indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers to the universal Church, truly smoothes the way to attaining a supreme degree of inner purification which, while honoring the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts the supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and gently encourages them to do good deeds… Each and every truly repentant individual member of the Christian faithful, duly absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and restored with Holy Communion, who devoutly makes a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St. Paul on the Ostian Way and who prays for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions, will be granted the Plenary Indulgence from temporal punishment for his/her sins, once sacramental forgiveness and pardon for any shortcomings has been obtained. The Christian faithful may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence both for themselves and for the deceased, as many times as they fulfill the required conditions but without prejudice to the norm stipulating that the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day.”
Best known for his rich proclamation of free grace and severe condemnation of any church that would preach a different gospel, Paul’s birth being celebrated with indulgences is the irony of the century.
Biblically, we can place these varied but similar perspectives in one of two categories: in its narrower and more stringent form we can categorize it as Legalism, that we are justified by our obedience to a strict code of belief and ethics. In its more general, liberal form we can call it Moralism, which does not require strict adherence to a law of some sort, but general adherence to moral principles of one kind or another.
Moralism is just Legalism’s lazy little brother.
The problems for the Legalist and the Moralist are two-fold. The first problem is that obedience to law and morality in one instance does not remove the permanent guilt for disobedience in any other instance. There is no justification for stealing a candy bar earned by offering to mow your neighbor’s lawn. That idea is just sheer nonsense. The idea that there is a balance on one side of which are weighed your good deeds and the other of which weighs your failures is wrong because it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of guilt and responsibility. Doing good in one instance cannot negate doing evil in another instance, even if it mitigates the consequences of evil, since everything you do is permanent.
(To be continued…)