When God Tests You — Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  Temptations are enticements to sin.  Surely, God will never entice us to sin!  St. James writes,

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)

God is holy.  He tempts no one to sin.  But God does test his children.  He tested Abraham, commanding him to offer Isaac on Mt. Moriah.  After Abraham had demonstrated his faith by his obedience, God withdrew his command and saved Isaac from harm.  God tested Job.  Satan said that Job honored God only because God made him healthy and wealthy.  God gave Satan permission to take away Job’s health and wealth.  His own wife told him to curse God and die.  God tested Job.  Job replied to the test with the words, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Prayer and God’s Word go together.  Prayer is when we talk to God.  God’s Word is God talking to us.  Here’s the first verse of a hymn about trials, prayer, and God’s word that I learned as a boy at the dinner table:

When afflictions sore oppress you,
Low with grief and anguish bowed,
Then to earnest prayer address you;
Prayer will help you, through the cloud,
Still to see your Savior near,
Under every cross you bear;
By the light his Word doth lend you,
Prayer will joy and comfort send you.

A prayer that is worth praying always relies on God’s word.  Prayer that ignores God’s word is grumbling, whining, imagining, boasting, and blaspheming.  Genuine prayer is prayed in humility.  It is only with a humble spirit that we can receive God’s word.

God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt by doing many miracles through his servant, Moses.  They had endured slavery for over four hundred years.  At first they were grateful, but they quickly fell from grace.  They were a rebellious and disobedient people.  Even while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the children of Israel were making Aaron form a golden statue before which they bowed down and honored as the god who delivered them out of Egypt.  When God fed them manna from heaven, they complained.  They yearned after what they had left behind when they were slaves.  They rebelled against the authority of God’s prophet, Moses.  They committed sexual immorality.  They were a disobedient people.

And they paid for their disobedience.  God punished them.  Thousands died in the Sinai wilderness as a direct result of their rebellion against God.  It happened.  It is recorded in the Bible.  It’s history.  God acts in history.  He does not change.

The history of ancient Israel reveals that God is gracious.  He forgave Israel again and again.  That history also reveals that God punishes sin.  This is what our generation needs to understand.  As western civilization falls into the sewer of godlessness; as Islam rises in influence and Christianity declines; as sin and perversion are defended and promoted by the civil authorities as civil rights; as churches abandon the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in favor of featuring gimmicks that flatter the sinful flesh; the very idea that God punishes sinners is the farthest thing from anyone’s mind.  Even to suggest such a thing brings expressions of disapproval.  God is love.  Love doesn’t punish.  Case closed.

But they’re wrong.  What happened to God’s people of the Old Testament was written down in the Holy Scriptures to teach us.  We are living in the last days.  St. Paul describes the time of the church on this earth as the ends of the ages.  He writes:

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

History has a goal.  The goal of history is not some utopia in the future, contrived by clever social planners who will implement just the right formula for social and political success.  No, the end of the ages – the goal of history – came two thousand years ago at the cross of Calvary where the only innocent human being who has ever lived bore in love the sin of the whole world.  God became a man to reconcile the world to himself.  And he did it.

The disobedience of ancient Israel, the sins of all sinners of all ages was heaped upon the innocent head of Jesus and he suffered for it all.  There, where he suffered, is the answer to our prayers.  There is the fulfillment of every biblical promise.  There, history meets its goal.  There, where love passed the test that justice required of it is where we find the strength to stand in the day of testing, for there it is that our sins are forgiven, peace with God is restored, and we are set free from the judgment of the law.  This is the gospel in which we trust.  Jesus was tested.  Jesus stood firm.  This is our victory in the time of trial.

That we are tested shouldn’t surprise us.  St. Peter writes:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13

St. Paul writes in our text for today, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man.”  It is a part of living in a fallen and sinful world that we are tempted to turn against our God.  And it is an implacable law of justice that God punishes sin.  This is why St. Paul issues the warning: “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.”

Two bitter realities of life are that God punishes sin and that we are sinners.  When this worldview is held by the people, they will tend to look at their troubles – whether personal problems, family difficulties, national calamities, or whatever – as reminders of our sin, God’s judgment, and our need to repent.

This is not the worldview held by most people today.  Sin, whether personal or corporate, has been defined away.  With an unbelievably fast rise in technological and electronic knowledge that had produced a revolution in our ability to communicate information instantaneously all over the globe, spiritual understanding has descended at a similar rate, leaving folks with an amazing ability to communicate nothing of substance to everyone everywhere.

Not to acknowledge the standards of God’s law; not to recognize the consequences of disobedience; not to think in terms of divine justice, divine retribution, divine governance, is to toss out wisdom for plain old fashioned foolishness.

This is why people fall away.  They can see cause and effect when it comes to machinery, technology, and maybe even their personal relationships.  But they cannot see that yielding to temptation, embracing sin, ignoring God’s warning to sinners, is to embrace death, destruction, and, in the end, damnation.

It’s not just spiritual ignorance.  It’s arrogance.  I have my own spirituality!  I know what I’m doing.  I don’t need organized religion.  I don’t need the church.  I can find God in my own way and without anyone’s help, thank you very much.

And in their so called spiritual freedom they rush off to embrace spiritual death.  They fall from grace.  They find themselves mired in deception, lies, false hopes, and the cruel cuts coming from what they thought was so soothing and refreshing.

If you think you can stand before God you will fall.  If you think that your spirituality is just fine without humbly confessing your sin to God, embracing his grace in Christ your Savior, and seeking his instruction in his holy Word – you are cruising for a bruising, and you won’t be mugged by the bully around the corner but by the fool inside of your deluded heart.

Solomon says:

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Jesus says:

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
And he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11)

The apostle Paul says:

Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

There’s a popular teaching among the so called Evangelicals that is known as once saved always saved.  Some call it the doctrine of eternal security.  It’s supposed to give Christians comfort, but instead it feeds the arrogance of the flesh.  They extrapolate from Bible passages that teach us Christians that God is faithful and he won’t let us slip out of his hands the doctrine that once you are saved you cannot be lost.  So you need to get saved – settle your salvation once and for all by inviting Jesus into your heart to become your personal Lord and Savior – and then you’re as certain to go to heaven as if you were already there.  You cannot be lost.

But they ignore the fact that our certainty of salvation comes only through hearing and trusting in the word of God.  Jesus says that nobody will ever tear his sheep out of his hands.  Does this mean that once you are saved you are always saved?  Not if you stop hearing God’s word!  Of the sheep that nobody will tear out of Jesus’ hands, he says that they hear his voice and follow him.

We Christians can be sure we are forgiven of all our sins, saved from death and hell, and on our way to heaven.  We can and should be certain of this, not because once someone is saved he cannot be lost – the Bible and the history of the church are full of examples of people who fell from the faith and were lost – but because God is faithful.  He won’t let us be tempted beyond what we are able.

Our confidence in our own spiritual powers is trusting in a lie.  I have seen Christians fall into soul-destroying sin and then deny the faith.  I gave them Communion.  I absolved them of their sins.  Then they fell from grace.  Why?  Because they weren’t as spiritually strong as you and I?  No, they fell because they were proud.  They thought they could stand.  They couldn’t.  When we are weak – that’s the best condition for us to be in – when we are but beggars.  When we are weak we can seek God’s word, hear God’s word, rely on God’s word, and find in God’s word the victory of our Savior against every spiritual enemy that would assault our souls.  He provides the way of escape.  It is always the same.  He reminds us that we are saints.  Our sins are washed away by Jesus’ blood.  God, in his word, confirms to our doubting hearts that we really are forgiven.  We really are saints.  This is how we escape temptation and stand confidently before our God as his dear children.  Amen

About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with forty-three grandchildren so far. Pastor Preus' mother is living in Minneapolis. Three of his brothers and two of his brothers-in-law have served as pastors in the LCMS.


When God Tests You — Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus — 26 Comments

  1. The purpose of God testing us, indeed of God allowing all manner of evil to befall us in this life, is to cause us to reject sin and to cling to our Savior.

    But that’s not all.

    The end goal, to which Pastor Preus in this sermon almost brings us, is our conformity to Christ, the restoration of the image of God in us. Union with Christ, life with God and His people, perfect lives in perfect, sinless, immortal bodies.

    The restoration of God’s image in us is happening now in this life through the means of grace, but it will be perfected only in the life of the world to come.

    In addition to hearing of Christ crucified, the people of God also need to hear that there is a reason, meaning, and purpose to our suffering.

    The whole Word of God and the last lines of the creeds provide that much-needed answer.

  2. “Two bitter realities of life are that God punishes sin and that we are sinners.”
    “God, in his word, confirms to our doubting hearts that we really are forgiven.”
    So which is it?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  3. @RK #3
    RK: So the perfectly just God forgives us our sins yet punishes us for them. Is that how you understand the Gospel? Is that how we are to “forgive those who trespass against us”?
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. @T-rav #5
    If it has anything to do with Law and Gospel, it is a bizarre confusion thereof.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  5. “So the perfectly just God forgives us our sins yet punishes us for them. Is that how you understand the Gospel? Is that how we are to “forgive those who trespass against us”?
    While it seems unjust when we see that those who conspire and sin against us do not receive a chastening, we do not do the punishing. Jesus took the punishment. They are forgiven, and we are to forgive. That is the law.
    Sometimes when we sin, others suffer for it, and sometimes when others sin, we suffer for it. He will have mercy upon whom He chooses; He chastens whom He loves. It does seem to be a paradox, and were to my choosing, I would have chosen more mercy and less chastening. It is what it is: “Both, and [I] don’t get to choose”. The law is the law.
    …rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. This is the gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

  6. @Steve #7
    Words and their meaning are very important in the proper understanding of the Gospel. Punishment and chastening do not have the same meaning in English. Neither do they in Greek. What is usually translated into English as “chastening” in Greek has the primary meaning of “to train children”; that is, to be instructed or taught or learn, to cause one to learn. If I am not mistaken the root of the Greek word and that for the word “child” are one and the same. God is never angry at His children, because He has forgiven us our sins. That may seem to be a paradox, but God clearly proclaims it through the prophet Jeremiah, 31:34, “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.” If He makes Himself forget our sin, He will not be angry with us.
    Punishment, in the OT, meant something that is the equivalent of the crime or sin committed. We know it commonly as the “eye for an eye” principle. If God were to punish us for every sin, we would be utterly destroyed. Even before the time of our Lord, the Psalmist writes, 130:3-4, “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that You may be revered.”
    If, as you write, “Jesus took the punishment,” will a just God punish us again?
    Therefore, to say “Two bitter realities of life are that God punishes sin and that we are sinners” is not true. Ultimately, unrepentant sinners are punished by eternal banishment from the presence of God. But His own, who are still sinners, are not punished for their sins. God loves them. Does C.F.W. Walther not enjoin us to make sure we distinguish between the redeemed and the unredeemed when we proclaim God’s Word?
    It is dangerous to think that all suffering is punishment from God. It clearly is not. Most often, as you point out, it is simply the consequence of our own sins. The reality is that we punish ourselves and cause our own suffering. Sometimes God rescues us from this suffering; sometimes He does not. Whether He does or does not, we should rejoice and praise His Name.
    I really wonder what is happening in the Lutheran Church when someone writes, “The law is the law.” Is it not fundamental to our faith that, as St. Paul writes, Romans 3, “21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”? I know there is the Third Use. But that serves as a reminder to us; it is not our master.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  7. @Steve #7
    Steve, a quick follow-up on the punishment of sin:
    FC SD V, 20, “20] However, now that man has not kept the Law of God, but transgressed it, his corrupt nature, thoughts, words, and works fighting against it, for which reason he is under God’s wrath, death, all temporal calamities, and the punishment of hell-fire, the Gospel is properly a doctrine which teaches what man should believe, that he may obtain forgiveness of sins with God, namely, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself and borne the curse of the Law, has expiated and paid for all our sins, through whom alone we again enter into favor with God, obtain forgiveness of sins by faith, are DELIVERED FROM DEAT AND ALL THE PUNISHMENTS OF SINS, AND ETERNALLY SAVED.” (Caps mine, GAM)
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  8. Every day our faith is tested. Every day is a test, will we continue to live as Jesus disciples and servants, trusting in Him in all things or not?

  9. @Rev. Loren Zell #10
    Dear Rev. Zell: I don’t know if this question is directed at me or everybody, but my answer is: Every day is a day we live in the Kingdom of our dear Lord and Savior, who has redeemed us by His life, suffering, and death, made us His own in the waters of Baptism, and has gone to the Father to prepare a dwelling for each of His children. The Holy Spirit, Who lives in each of God’s children, has given each of us gifts according to His good pleasure, to sustain us in this life and most surely to bring us to everlasting life, even as we continue to sin against Him by lack of trust and many other sins. Only to those who, by their own fault harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit’s efforts keep them in the Kingdom, does He proclaim everlasting condemnation.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  10. Mr. Marquart, you write: “So the perfectly just God forgives us our sins yet punishes us for them. Is that how you understand the Gospel?” Is that what you think I said? Where did I say that?

    I’ll spare you the trouble of looking. I didn’t say that. God does not punish his children. He forgives them. They live under his grace. They are covered by the righteousness of Christ. God does not forgive us for our sins and then punish us for the sins he has forgiven.

    God punishes sinners. We are sinners. That’s what I said. When we consider these two bitter facts of life we seek refuge in God’s infinite mercy in Christ and rest our souls in the gospel promise that God, for Christ’s sake, justifies us. If we think we can stand anywhere but under God’s forgiveness, graciously given to us in the gospel, we will fall.

  11. @Pastor Rolf D. Preus #12
    Dear Rev. Preus: Thank you for sparing me the trouble of looking. But I looked anyway. And what I found is that the response, “So the perfectly just God forgives us our sins yet punishes us for them. Is that how you understand the Gospel?” was not to what you wrote, but to what someone who identifies him/herself as RK wrote. So it could not possible have had anything to do with what I think you said.
    But don’t you see the contradiction when you write “God does not punish his children,” and follow it with “God punishes sinners. We are sinners.” The inescapable conclusion (simple deductive reasoning, like in a syllogism, not even inductive reasoning) is that “we are not His children.” This is not interpreting what you are writing, not “what I think you said.” That is what you said.
    And by the way, if God punishes anyone, it has to be sinners, because there isn’t anybody else around. The question is, “does God punish those who are under the New Covenant?” Well, you clearly answered that question when you wrote, “God does not punish his children,” and here you and FC SD V, 20, which I quoted earlier, in response to one, “Steve,” agree. Since, I am sure you will agree, we are also sinners, clearly God only punishes those sinners who are not His children, and are therefore not members of His Kingdom. This was my original point when I called your sentence, “Two bitter realities of life are that God punishes sin and that we are sinners,” into question.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  12. Mr. Marquart, first you say that what you wrote “could not possible [sic] have had anything to do with what I think you said.” Then you say your original point called my sentence into question. Which is it? You know what I think? I think you just like to argue. I’m not interested in arguing for the sake of arguing. You falsely accused me of teaching that God punishes his children and I corrected you. That’s enough for me to say.

  13. @Pastor Rolf D. Preus #14

    Rev. Preus: You write,
    “God does not punish his children.”
    “God punishes sinners.”
    “We are sinners.”
    The inevitable conclusion is that “we are not God’s children,” unless one of these statements is wrong.
    What you think of me is irrelevant. The words that you write and publish are not. They are my only concern in as much as they affect the purity of the Gospel.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  14. @George A. Marquart #15

    The statements aren’t wrong. You’re just missing the fact that Christ is the bridge between the statements. I notice that you never quoted any of pastors words about Christ.

    As a separate but related question for anyone, if God doesn’t punish his children, then why does He punish Israel the way He does? Are we to conclude that they aren’t His children? In my understanding, chastisment is when I got spanked, but when God sends a plague on Israel, that will presumably kill everyone until Aaron steps forward and makes atonement for them, that sounds like punishment.

  15. @T-rav #16
    T-rav. The statement that “Christ is the bridge between statements” has no effect on changing the meaning of any statement. “God punishes sinners,” is simply wrong. It would be correct to say that “God punishes unrepentant sinners,” and that would entirely eliminate the conflict with Rev. Preus. Inserting “Christ is the bridge between statements” would not make true the statement, “Salvation is by works,” if you put it next to “Salvation is by faith.”
    Your question about punishing Israel is a good one. I believe that the answer lies in the nature and purpose of the covenant God made with Israel. This covenant clearly provided for punishment, Leviticus 26:14-18, “‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15 and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.
    18 “‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.”
    What we need to understand is that God new perfectly well that the covenant with Israel would not work. Not because God acted in bad faith, but, as we learn in the New Covenant, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” God chose Israel to demonstrate this truth to the whole world. We should not judge them for their failure; any people would fail under the same circumstance. Indeed they paid a heavy price for being chosen. But God had to demonstrate that the way of law, or works, is futile before He could reveal the Gospel to all mankind. Because the way of the Law is understandable to human nature; the way of the Gospel is not. It has to be revealed and implanted by the Holy Spirit. That is why St. Paul describes the Old Covenant as “the ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7)
    We should also understand that the covenant God made with Israel was a two sided covenant. In other words, “if you do this, I will do that.” Such covenants are always doomed to failure, because man is simply incapable of the perfection God requires. The New Covenant, on the other hand, as first clearly announced in Jeremiah 31, is a one sided one. God simply says what he will do. Jeremiah 31:33-34:
    33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the LORD.
    “I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
    34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
    because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
    declares the LORD.
    “For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”
    Here only God is the only one Who says He will do something. Such covenants last forever. Since in this covenant God forgives our wickedness and does not remember our sins any more, there cannot be punishment for our sins.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  16. Scripture is difficult to understand if duality and paradox are ignored.

    The inevitable conclusion is that “we are not God’s children,” unless one of these statements is wrong.

    What is death if not a punishment for sin?
    Aren’t there two deaths?

    Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14

    Don’t we avoid the second death, thanks be to God, but experience the first?
    Isn’t it a fact that we all die because of the same sin God promised to remember no more, even though we have been washed in the waters of Baptism?
    Taking your understanding of Scripture to its logical conclusion means that Christians should not experience the punishment of death. It also means that Christians no longer sin.
    From my perspective, I see you take Scripture to the exclusion of Scripture as a way of coping with contradictions. This is what you must do if you see contradictions. Luther, I am told, was comfortable with paradox in Scripture. He would say there are no contradictions but there are paradoxes. It isn’t always either one thing or the other, but rather both things existing in the duality of God’s nature and economy: Justice and Mercy.

  17. @Mark #19
    Mark, the first two sentences in your posting are assertions without questions. My reaction is that the Lutheran hermeneutical principles are clear: if the direct meaning of a statement in Scripture makes sense, then it is the right one. We should not look for dualities and paradoxes where there are none. That leads to mysticism in which everything is right and wrong.
    You ask, “What is death if not a punishment for sin?” And your Scriptural proof is? Here are several passages from Scripture that deal with death:
    Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
    the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
    that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
    2 Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.”
    Speaking about His own death, our Lord said,
    John 14:28, “Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you. If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father: for the Father is greater than I.” Obviously our Lord could not have been punished for sins, but it applies to us in as much as we will also “go to the Father.” Sometimes our funerals make it appear that it is punishment, but it is not.
    Whatever death may have been, the redemption worked by our Lord has made it this:
    54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
    55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
    What you write about Luther and paradoxes is true. But it applies to specific cases; it is not a general rule. First of all, Luther would always go with the direct, clear meaning.
    You write, “Taking your understanding of Scripture to its logical conclusion means that Christians should not experience the punishment of death. “ In logic, there is something known as “dividing the question.” In this case, the two questions are, “is death a punishment?” and “if so, shall we experience it?” If you accept the Scripture I have cited above, then death is not a punishment but a release into everlasting glory. We will indeed experience that, but not as punishment.
    You also write, “It also means that Christians no longer sin.” Inasmuch as I have stated repeatedly that the children of God continue to sin on this earth, there is no reason I should respond to this. If you let me know the specifics of what I wrote that lead to this “logical” conclusion, I will be happy to respond.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  18. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
    Emphasis added

    I suspect that you’re looking for the word, “punish” or “punishment” as it applies to the consequence of sin. I used search terms, “punish” and “sin” together in BibleGateway (ESV) to determine if Scripture ever associates punishment and sin, even among God’s people. I won’t list them all here.
    Was the result of the Fall an imposition of a penalty for a fault, offense, or violation or was it something merely produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions? Both scriptures cited above are true but seem to contradict. Were the sins of God’s people punished in the Old Testament? Did that change in the New Testament? If so, what does that say about a changeless God?

  19. @Mark #21

    Mark, You write,” I won’t list them all here.” One or two would not hurt. There is no question in my mind that the Old Testament clearly associates sin with punishment, although also with forgiveness, mercy and sacrifice. The New Testament is a different story, isn’t it? I am not aware of any such passages, at least as they relate to the members of God’s kingdom; that is, us.
    With regard to the seeming contradiction between the two passage, first of all, when we think there is a contradiction in Scripture, we should remember the unalterable principle: Scripture cannot contradict itself.
    In this case, our Lord’s own words give the explanation: “though he die.” As you mentioned earlier, Scripture clearly teaches that there are two deaths: “going to the Father” and eternal condemnation. All of God’s children will experience the first, not as punishment but as receiving an inheritance from One Who died. None of God’s children will experience eternal condemnation.
    As to precisely what the imposition of death was, as a result of the Fall, I am not sure. I do know that Adam and Eve were created as immortal creatures; mortality was imposed on them because of sin, and we are the heirs of that. But since God’s plan of salvation was put in place before the creation of Adam and Eve, we are into the realm of things only God knows about, so I am not sure it was meant as punishment, even though it may have had that effect.
    God did not change from the Old Testament to the New, but the Testaments, or Covenants, are clearly different. I think I adequately explained that in my earlier response to T-rav, but God Himself speaks about it through the Prophet Isaiah, 41:21-27,
    “21 “Present your case,” says the Lord.
    “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
    22 “Tell us, you idols,
    what is going to happen.
    Tell us what the former things were,
    so that we may consider them
    and know their final outcome.
    Or declare to us the things to come,
    23 tell us what the future holds,
    so we may know that you are gods.
    Do something, whether good or bad,
    so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
    24 But you are less than nothing
    and your works are utterly worthless;
    whoever chooses you is detestable.
    25 “I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes—
    one from the rising sun who calls on my name.
    He treads on rulers as if they were mortar,
    as if he were a potter treading the clay.
    26 Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know,
    or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’?
    No one told of this,
    no one foretold it,
    no one heard any words from you.
    27 I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’
    I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
    And Isaiah 43:18-21,
    “18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
    19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
    I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
    20 The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
    because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
    to give drink to my people, my chosen,
    21 the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  20. @George A. Marquart #22

    I think the original languages are essential to this discussion. I can find English-language translations that use the word “punish” to describe action taken by God for the eternal good of those He loves. For example Revelation 3:19 is translated in the ESV as:
    “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
    However several other versions (I counted ten) do use the word, “punish” in the same verse. Click this link to see what I’m referring to:
    https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Revelation%203:19 The word, “punish,” is interspersed throughout.
    One version, I noticed, used the word twice in this same verse!
    Question: Did God punish Ananias and Sapphira? Did God punish the Corinthian who had taken his father’s wife? If you answer, “yes,” then it must be assumed that these were unbelievers, yet why did Paul make his “cryptic” remark, “Deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord?”
    The concept of punishment in the NT is further muddied in various English translations by use of words such as “chasten” and “chastisement.”
    I apologize if I missed it, but can you point to a chapter and verse in the NT where God specifically repudiates punishment/chastisement of His people now that Christ has absorbed His wrath?

    Here are the Scriptures I found that associate punishment with sin:
    Numbers 12:11
    And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.
    Jeremiah 14:10
    Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.”
    Jeremiah 30:14
    All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant.
    Lamentations 3:39
    Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
    Lamentations 4:22
    The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished; he will keep you in exile no longer; but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish; he will uncover your sins.
    Hosea 8:13
    As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt.
    Hosea 9:9
    They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins.

  21. @Mark #23

    There are many questions I have with regard to Ananias and Sapphira. If we assume that the fact that they died means that they were punished, then death is indeed punishment. Were they unbelievers because they lied about the proceeds from the sale of a plot of land? I have always thought that there are extreme cases in Scripture where the ordinary rules do not apply. I simply cannot offer what I consider to be a correct answer to this situation. The same goes for that bad Corinthian.
    As to a specific place in Scripture where God repudiates punishment for His people in the New Testament, I am really not aware of one. Scripture does not tell us everything. It assumes that Christians will have a certain “spiritual discernment” based on the “analogy of faith”; that is, a “feel” for the sense of Scripture, which will lead them in the right direction under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As, for instance, in the case of the appointment of Matthias to replace Judas. Scripture does not tell us this was wrong, but Scripture gives enough evidence for us to know that it was the wrong thing to do.
    I, for one do not believe Christ ever “absorbed His wrath.” I believe that “penal substitution” is not an orthodox teaching. I believe Scripture teaches that it was “sacrifice” rather than “punishment.” But either way, if Christ in whatever way paid the price for our sins, then a just God would not punish of again. He might and does chastise us; that is, educates us, but the purpose is improvement, not payment for sin.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  22. @George A. Marquart #24

    So, for New Testament believers, death is deliverance, not punishment.

    BTW, I think Jesus absorbed His Father’s wrath not because it was intended for Him. It was intended for creation. It was the inevitability of sin. The Holy Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world not because the Father wasn’t well pleased with Him but because in it was the only solution for the lost people He loves as dearly as He does His own Son. The holy righteous anger isn’t redirected or misplaced on the Son, but the concomitant punishment was. At least, that is the way I understand it.

  23. “BTW, I think Jesus absorbed His Father’s wrath …” You mean the Father of Whom John wrote, “For God so loved the world ….”
    You mean that God, knowing that Adam and Eve would sin, still created them and then got mad at creation? Can you trust such a petulant, immature God? Islam has a longer history than “penal substitution”, which is an invention of the 14th century. Until then, the Church was satisfied to view our Lord’s suffering and death as sacrifice, as Scripture testifies.
    The idea that a just, loving God would vent His wrath on His innocent Son for the duration of His Passion, and then feel better is making God into what we are, sinful creatures. It is an anthropomorphism, because that is what we might do, and historically have done in the form of “whipping boys.” It is a mockery of justice that insults God.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

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