Will God Punish Disobedience? (HC 10, pt 1)

hgtower.jpg10. Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?

By no means,1 but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as He has declared: “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them.”2

1 Hebrews 9:27. 2 Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; * Romans 1:18. * Matthew 25:41.

Most people in our age seemed truly shocked by the notion that there is an abiding, universal, unbending moral standard. I think that we have all got so used to simply making up things as we go along that it never occurs to most of us that, in fact, there is a revealed, moral, righteous, eternal law to which each and everyone of us must give account. The first thing the Evil One did was to raise doubts about this very question? “Has God really said?” Is the law really abiding, eternal, immutable etc? Or, is it the case that the law is situationally determined? Could it be that we can reason with God and show him how unjust he’s being? The Adversary offered to Adam an alternate explanation of reality. He offered to him a story that included the fulfillment of innate human potential and a story that implied that God isn’t really just– and in fact suggested that God is positively unjust for seeking to suppress that innate potential divinity by means of the law.

To reinforce his law and to signal how he regards disobedience, the LORD instituted the strongest possible punishment for disobedience: “The day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” Looking back, of course, it all seems so clear. There may have been certain kinds of (plant and animal) death before the fall, on that question I’m uncertain, but I’m sure that no humans, no image bearers had died before the fall. Thus, the idea of human mortality must have been strange to Adam. I wonder if he contemplated it? Perhaps it seemed so unreal to him that when the Adversary suggested an alternate interpretation of the universe it had a certain plausibility to it? Of course, Adam’s job, his holy vocation before the face of God, was to despatch the Liar (and father of lies) immediately. He did not. As it turned out, that would be only one of a complex of sins (James 1:13-15).
It is no small thing that God instituted the death penalty for sin. The Apostle Paul understood the consequences and reflects on it when he says “the wages of sin is death.” The moment Adam chose to enter into what Olevianus called a “false covenant” with Satan, he died. He died spiritually. Now God was no longer his friend. When God the Son came looking for Adam, it was not in friendship but in judgment and Adam knew it. Ridiculously, he attempted to hide himself from the omniscient ruler of the universe. This first futile postlapsarian act is immediate and prima facie evidence of the effect of the fall on the human intellect! Rule #1: When you offend an omniscient and omnipotent being, don’t compound it by hiding and lying.
The moment he sinned, he began to decay. Instead of passing the test and entering into glory and life, he failed the test and entered into condemnation and corruption.

Tragically, when he did so, he didn’t do it alone.

More on this next time.

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