We had a wonderful time this past Sunday after church bowling together as a family in Clinton. Nearly 50 people showed up and we took up 10 of the 12 lanes Cougar lanes had available. And Ryan Obershaw seems to be our best bowler!

Due to bowling with my personal family and the RVC family, I could not stay around after our church service to gather feedback on the sermon. However, one saint asked me why I used the word punishment to describe God’s actions towards the sin of His people. Great question.

There is a difference, I think, in how God punishes those who are His and those who are not, i.e. His enemies. This is a bit of semantics, to be sure, but there is a distinction. Some might not use the word “punish” because it implies that whenever God punishes He is exercising His wrath and condemning.

In my view, when God punishes His people, He is effectively disciplining them in order for them to center themselves more on Him. Rehabilitation and correction are the goal. See Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof; for the Lord reproves him whom he loves as a father a son in whom he delights.” You can see the same thing in Hebrews 12:5-6.

When a parent “punishes” their child for something, it is to restore them to the right behavior.  It is for discipline, but the child will surely “receive” it as a form of punishment even though reflection will reveal it was discipline for their good.

On the other hand, when God punishes those who outright reject Him, He is exercising His just wrath on them.  But even in that sense, until the final judgement, there is hope that His enemies might repent and trust the Lord.

So, I would say there are two forms of punishment where punishment is a larger category: one that disciplines His people ultimately for their good, and one that pours out His just wrath on those who reject Him in the judgement.  

The great news for true followers of Jesus is that they receive no condemnation from God, even if there is discipline (Romans 8:1). God’s enemies will be condemned at judgement, and that is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. In either case, discipline is still painful.  So, let’s commit to following our Lord so as to avoid rehabilitating discipline that might stem from choosing sinful patterns of behavior and instead pursue the holiness that God desires in us as a people set apart from the world who are no longer condemned through faith in Jesus.

And His word guides us into the kind of living that glories Him while instructing into holy patterns of living that please our merciful God.

Struggling with you, but in the confidence that Jesus’ work on the cross is sufficient to pay for our sins.

Rescued by Christ,

Pastor Tim