Grace and Cruelty, continued

This Sunday (July 13, 2014) I am intending to preach on Colossians 2:6-10.
My mind is whirling. There is a much debated blog intended to be a guide for women married to ungodly (or very ungodly) men. I have previously written concerning just one issue, although there are many others.

Some of those who have commented on the blog have challenged the opposition (of which I am one) to provide a Biblical answer instead of emotional appeals. My previous blog was based upon 1 Corinthians 7 and Romans 13, as well as other passages.

But my mind still whirls. You see, I am not a “proof-texter.” Instead, I believe that the whole of Scripture is the work of One Author, and has one message, from beginning to end. The message of the Bible is nothing else than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The modern church chops the Bible up into unrelated verses and sentences, and will frequently come to some rather strange conclusions. One of these strange conclusions that captivates the hearts of American Christians I will call neo-Marcionism.

Marcion was a second century heretic. I know that “heresy” is an unused term, but it is a good one. Marcion taught that the Jehovah God of the Old Testament was evil, truly the devil. And Jesus Christ was the true God who appeared to Adam and Eve in the form of the serpent and then came again to rescue men and women from the tyranny of the Old Testament God.

The recent movie, Noah, as I understand it, was based upon the teachings of Marcion. But that is neither here nor there.

Neo-marcionism posits a complete disconnect between the god of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament. It rears its head every time you hear someone say, “Oh. That’s Old Testament. It isn’t relevant to us today.”

This, like all Marcionism, leads to the bondage of the devil and an outright denial of the heart of the Gospel.

One thing that is very clear throughout the Old Testament is this: God never, ever, treats anyone more or less than they deserve. His justice cannot be denied, and all of his works are equity and truth. Note well the following passages:

For he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity (Psalm 98:9).

“Yet the house of Israel says,`The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?’” (Ezekiel 18:29)

God cannot change. He cannot deny his justice or his equity. This means that he will always treat men and women exactly as they deserve.

This is not good news for man, for man is sinful, and God will never acquit the guilty (Nahum 1:3).

But God is also merciful. He loves to show lovingkindness and tender mercy to the children of men.

The great question of the Bible is this: How can God save man without denying justice and equity? How can God save us when he says “The soul that sins shall die” and we are all sinners?

To understand the Gospel, you must also understand the hopeless situation that man was in. God is a righteous judge who will never, ever, treat men and women unfairly, for He cannot. And the law declares that we are all guilty before a just and holy God.

But then angels appeared and announced the birth of a Child. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

If God cannot ever bless an unrighteous man, there is only one way for us to be blessed by God. We have to be righteous. So the most important question anyone can ask themselves is this: “How can I be righteous before God?”

The answer of the Bible is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have to have a righteousness that is not your own.

This has been confessed repeatedly by the faithful, and is included in every confession of faith written by the orthodox. My favorite expression of this great truth is in the Heidelberg Catechism:

60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

This is the only way that God can be reconciled to man. Man must become righteous and must pay the penalty for his sin. But we cannot do it, for we daily increase our guilt. So God became flesh in the womb of Mary and fulfilled the law in our place, and took the penalty of the wrath of God in our place.

By faith, we are in Christ. His obedience was our obedience; His righteousness is our righteousness; His death was our death; His life is our life.

This is the heart of the gospel.

But the neo-marcion has subtly changed this. The prevailing view is not that God’s justice was completely satisfied; but that God decided to be nicer and not so cruel. God, they say, was tired of all of that justice stuff and started to forgive instead.

But what they forget is that God cannot ever change, nor can he ever be unjust. The only reason that we have hope of eternal life, the only reason that we have peace with God, is that God now considers us to be righteous, because the righteousness of Jesus Christ was imputed to us and our sins were imputed to Him.

Because of this John can write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I john 1:9)

How can it possibly be just, fair or equal for God to forgive sin? Only by a clear understanding of the Gospel can we see it. When we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness by faith and our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ, then it would be the highest injustice for God to punish us in hell, for punishment has already taken place on the cross.

A righteous man suffering in hell is a tremendous injustice, and God is not unjust. In Christ, it is “as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me.”

But the devil always attacks this. “You don’t deserve God’s love.”
“Look at your filthy garments. How can God love you?”

And this leaves us wide open to the vain philosophies of men which seek to cheat us of the reward of Christ.

Paul writes, “You are complete in Him”.

First, we are complete. We are filled. Every spiritual blessing is ours – forgiveness of sin, everlasting righteousness and life. We are fully accepted in the beloved, because we are righteous before God by faith. It would be unjust for God to punish our sins for he already punished them in Christ and we are in Him by faith. The Holy Spirit is ours, creating in us clean hearts and working in us, conforming us to the image of Christ. 

But the devil is always there to point out how far short we come, trying to point us either to despair, or to works-righteousness, desperately trying to match a standard that we cannot possibly achieve.

And, second, we are complete in Him. It is true that we cannot ever fulfill the law, nor can we make a sacrifice for sin. Christ did it all in our place.

We either fall too far one way, denying that Christ did it all; or fall too far the other way, saying that it hasn’t been done.
The scripture teaches that we are righteous before God by faith.
It also teaches that this righteousness is not earned or accomplished by us, but by Christ.

To deny either one of those is to deny the heart of the gospel.

Look, then, at the previously mentioned blog:
Q11. How good a husband is my husband to me?
A11. Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Dear daughter of God, if you are in Christ by faith, then you no longer deserve eternal wrath and punishment, but you are deserving of eternal life and every spiritual blessing, as if you had never committed nor had any sin.
Did you earn this? Did you actually do any of these good works? Of course not. Personally, you have rebelled and sinned grievously against God.

But to continue to believe that you do not deserve eternal life is to deny the Lord who bought you. Jesus paid it all. It is all done. His righteousness is given to you and your sins were nailed to the cross.

As a child of God, you are an heir to the promise of God.

Don’t forget that your husband is commanded to deal with you as an heir to eternal life (1 Peter 3:7); no longer a sinner, but as a co-heir of eternal life.

Don’t ever let the devil tell you that you don’t deserve it. The Holy Spirit points out sins to us to draw us closer to God in repentance and faith, comforting us by the gospel; the devil and his children point out sins to leave us in despair – hopeless, and doubting the goodness of God and the salvation that He has freely given to us.

Don’t let the devil do to you what he tried to do to Joshua (Read Zechariah 3). Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.(Col. 2:6-7)

For you husbands, please hear the words of Peter, who commands you to deal with your wives as co-heirs of eternal life. Because she is in Christ, because an inheritance awaits her, purchased by Jesus Himself, everything that you do with her is far less than she deserves, not far more.

No matter how well you treat her, her reward will only come (by grace, never by merit) when Jesus comes again. Treat her as a daughter of God.

Next time you belittle her, strike her, cut her down, insult her, or even cause her tears, remind yourself how Jesus promises to deal with those who mistreat his children.

If you say, “It’s better than she deserves”, you have denied Christ, denied the gospel, and harmed one of God’s children.

I would seriously and urgently plead with you to repent before Jesus comes again to bring vindication and justice to His people.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Grace and Cruelty, continued

  1. and this is why… when a man (or woman) seriously, repeatedly, ABUSES his or her spouse, you have to doubt if their confession of faith is genuine. Because are we not a new creation? were we not *formerly* revilers of God and evil doers of every stripe? What man or woman in Christ purposely hates and destroys their own spouse?
    Thank you Ps Powell!

    • Don’t forget that such folks’ attitudes also manifests in how they treat their children—and that they’ll commonly be oh-so-complimentary about others behind their backs…while tearing them down to their faces and insisting that’s what “love” is.

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