Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Gospel - part 4 - The Great Dilemma

Updated 6-25-15

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.
Proverbs 17:15

Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike.  Far be it from You!  Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?
Genesis 18:25

“Now we don’t see this—this question, how can God be kind to sinners because, let’s be honest, there are very few people today that are losing sleep over how God can be kind to sinners.  Instead, we are pointing the finger at God and we’re saying, “God, how can you punish sinners?  God, how can you let people go to hell?”  We point the finger at His character, question how He could do that. The Bible does just the opposite. It’s because the Bible has a God-centered worldview and we have a man-centered worldview.” 

“The Bible is not asking how can God punish sinners; the Bible is asking how in the world can God let rebels into heaven.  How can God maintain His glory and let those who have belittled His glory into heaven?  This is the tension with which the gospel confronts us.” 
David Platt

"Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully."
Psalm 24:3-4

You do not have clean hands and a pure heart to ascend into the hill of the LORD or to stand in His holy place.  You have sinned against a holy God whose righteousness and justice leave you no hope to escape the full punishment that your wickedness deserves, much less get into heaven.  You come to God as a sinful rebel who recognizes his helplessness and pleads to God for mercy for your sins, but how can a just God forgive the wicked?

1.  If God does pardon the wicked, He is no longer just.
The Scriptures declare: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15).

It makes sense that anyone who justifies the wicked is not just, but the Bible says that God justifies the wicked: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). 

2.  If God does not pardon the wicked, we all will perish.
The Scriptures declare: “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23); and “The wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23); and still, “The soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4).”

The greatest problem in the Scriptures is this: How can a holy God forgive wicked sinners and still remain just?  This is the Great Dilemma.

The greatest problem in the Scriptures is this: How can a holy God forgive the sinner and still remain just?

Let’s say that a thief kills your family. And you catch him in the act, wrestle him down, and call the cops.  The police get all the evidence they need to make sure this guy gets locked up.  After months, the case finally goes to court and the murderer appears before the judge.  And the judge says to the man that killed your family:

“Look, I am a loving judge.  That’s why I forgive you.  You are free to go.”
How would you react?  You would be so angry!  You would scream!  You would contact your Congressmen, the President and everyone else saying:

“Over here there is a judge that is corrupt, even more corrupt than the criminals that he forgives!”

If God is just, He HAS to satisfy His justice.  And the only way that that is possible is by punishing you in Hell for all your sins.  That’s true.  However, the Bible says also that God is LOVE.  God is love and He has made a way to satisfy His justice against you and to save you.  It’s only through His Son Jesus Christ.

If God is just, He HAS to satisfy His justice.  And the only way that that is possible is by punishing you in Hell for all your sins.

People have a problem with the idea that God casts people into Hell.  Heaven has a problem too, but it’s just the opposite.  The problem in Heaven is not, “How can a holy and just God judge sin?”  The problem is, “How can God be just and holy and forgive these creatures that deserve death?”  Do you see how we’ve twisted the Gospel?

And there is only one way that God can be just and holy and forgive us, and that is for His justice to be satisfied.  His justice was satisfied on that day when Jesus died and paid the price for our sin.  And all the fierce fury and hatred of God against men and their wickedness fell upon Jesus Christ, and God the Father crushed His only begotten Son under the furious wrath that belonged to you.

God the Father crushed His only begotten Son under the furious wrath that belonged to you.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:10

The word propitiation is essential to understanding the gospel.  This word, besides the name of God, is the most important word in the Bible, yet it is never mentioned in most churches today.  I never heard it until I actually started studying the Bible.  This word propitiation means “substitution; appeasement or satisfaction of God’s wrath by Jesus Christ.”  God is just and must punish sin, and He did punish our sin by Jesus dying in our place and drinking down the cup of God’s wrath on the cross.  Our sin makes us enemies of God, and a propitiation is a sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God and allows God to be merciful to the guilty.

23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

We can imagine that Satan, the Great Accuser, had a real problem with God’s forgiveness of people like David who committed terrible sins and deserved to die for those sins.  Satan was offered no forgiveness for his transgression and imagine that he dared to accuse God of injustice because he did not hold sinners accountable for their sins.  That’s why Romans 3 repeatedly mentions God’s righteousness.  God the Father showed without a doubt that He is righteous and does punish sin, and He did not even spare His own Son.  If He did not spare His own Son, what chance do any of us have on the Day of Judgment?  We have no chance apart from the propitiation and substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

Michael Durham said, “The Cross is the answer to The Dilemma.  It showed that God is righteous and will not tolerate sin.  He would judge sin.  God’s sin had been restrained like a dam, but it was unleashed like a tidal wave.  And Christ was crushed in its path.”

David Platt said, “How can God show all of His attributes: His holiness and His mercy, His wrath and His love, His justice and His grace?  How can He show all of these things?  And the answer is: the just and gracious God of the universe looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection.   Jesus is the only way this tension is revealed.  There is no other religious system, no other religious philosophy that can bring this tension together, that can relieve this tension.  Only Jesus Christ can do this."

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