Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holy Justice

There are a number of people who follow the blog of Tim Challies ( who are reading together the 1985 neo-classic book "The Holiness of God" by R.C. Sproul. Our reading for this week has been on the chapter entitled "Holy Justice." In it, Dr.Sproul looks directly in questions raised by many about what seems to be a very harsh God in the Old Testament and a much kinder, nicer version in the New Testament. This surface distinction is what has caused many, as early as the second century cleric Marcion to think that the God of the Old Testament and the God found in the New Testament are two completely different beings.

What Sproul does so well is to not be influenced by surface readings of the text of Scripture but brings in a broad range of cross-referencing passages to show how the God of the Old Testament and the New are truly the same and is being quite consistent throughout.

While we may marvel that certain sins were specifically listed as capital crimes worthy of being killed for (such as even kidnapping or idolatry), Sproul points out that each and every sin we commit is worthy of immediate death on the part of the sinner. He states on page 114. "The Old Testament record is chiefly a record of the grace of God." When we realize that each and every sin is worthy of the instant punishment of death, the fact that ANYONE has survived committing a single sin is truly a manifestation of God's grace.

I particularly like his treatment of this toward the end of the chapter. He points to a real life example of students of his who expected grace in the deadlines for their assignments once ANY grace was shown. Once his students had a deadline extended by grace for one paper, they assumed they would be shown the same kind of grace for other deadlines. Sproul reminds us that grace is, by definition, UNDESERVED favor.

This book is a great read and I think would be a great corrective for many in the church who assume that God's justice and not His grace, is amazing.


Ellen5e said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this weeks reading.

Lisa notes... said...

I also appreciated that Sproul pointed out that ALL sin is a capital crime. We tend not to think about it, underestimating how wrong it is to insult the holiness of God.

I agree that this book definitely clears up some misconceptions about justice and grace. It’s really helping me. Thanks for your summary.

Walter Hampel said...

Thanks Ellen and Lisa for your comments. Christianity is so counter-intuitive (i.e. he who will be first must be last; if you want to truly live you must die). It's good to remember God's standards of holiness that justice, not mercy, is deserved.

My wife and I saw a sign at a nearby church that said: "Justice is mercy and mercy is just". Both of us were shocked for a moment. As we live in a world where even those who name Christ's name have their categories of things so terribly mixed up, it is no wonder that even we in the church need to reminded of God's categories, especially in the area of His Holiness.

Thanks again for your insights as well.

9:19 AM

Kara said...

It was definitely a good chapter! I appreciated how he pointed out that ALL sin is deserving of death, and that the Old Testament is actually a record of God's amazing grace! That's not the way we usually think of it. My thoughts are here: