Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Assertion: There is never a non-salvific punishment in the Scripture

Here is a theological assertion for a day:

There is never a time in the Scripture where God executes a punishment that is not also designed to work salvation for His people.

I think this is important because we can end up putting God's Wrath, God's Anger, God's Punishment off in an abstract box, as though this somehow describes who God is or what He is like.  We forget that these things - wrath, anger, punishment are always in relation to sin.  It's not as though God is just sometimes wrathful; He executes wrath upon sin.

And sin is not just some neutral, moral category describing X number of bad things.  Sin is the enemy that seeks to enslave and destroy you.  And God will not have that... so there is wrath and anger and punishment, but however that plays out, it plays out for your salvation.

God really does work all things for your good.

Go out of the garden, because you will receive salvation via the Messiah, not your own works.
Pain will increase in childbearing, but the Son will be born.
You will eat bread, but Christ Jesus will give you Himself and forgiveness in bread.
The flood drowns wickedness but saves and rescues Noah.
The fire and brimstone delivers Lot from Sodom.
The Red Sea drowns pharaoh but rescues Israel.

See the pattern.  Even to the ultimate emblem of God's wrath and anger and punishment - the Cross.  It is wrath and anger and punishment - but it is for your good to deliver and rescue you.


Tom Lemke said...

On the one hand, the removal of the wicked is always a blessing to the righteous who are no longer afflicted by their evil. In that sense, the assertion that any given punishment also works salvation is axiomatic.

On the other hand, I don't think it's wrong to talk about a given punishment primarily in its sense as punishment (rather than as the corollary to its associated salvific outcome), necessarily.

Er and Onan come to mind as examples of scripture framing matters directly about sin and its consequences, leaving any salvific implications to be inferred. Also the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath. Or Korah and co. Or Uzzah.

The real consequences of sin shouldn't be blunted by reframing as fast as possible to the salvific angle, necessarily (present though it inevitably is, as acknowledged above).

But as you say, in Christ we see the consequences (wages) of sin (I.e. death) but get to keep the salvific aspect as the centerpiece. For those in Christ, that is; for those not in Christ, the image of a dead Nazarene is simply a prefigurement of their ultimate fate.

Always two there are... The punished and the saved. May God increase the ranks of the latter out of the supply of the former, for such were some of us.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"Er and Onan come to mind as examples of scripture framing matters directly about sin and its consequences, leaving any salvific implications to be inferred."

... except that's the line of the Messiah that they were supposed to be continuing, isn't it? So they weren't just frustrating Tamar, they were frustrating the promise of the Messiah. =o)