God Unjust?

elect 2

Q. Isn’t God unjust to send the non-elect, those who never heard the gospel, to hell? They did not have a chance to believe, so it’s not fair to punish them for all eternity.

A. No, God is not unjust:

Rom 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

The non-elect are sent to eternal punishment NOT because God is not fair and never gave them a chance to hear the gospel. They are sent to hell because of their sin – ungodliness and unrighteousness. God gave ALL men, including the non-elect, general revelation to know Him through nature, His creation. The elect, those predestined to adoption as sons, received the general revelation and responded to God’s calling. The non-elect received the same revelation but suppressed the truth.

elect 1

Let me use an example to illustrate. A group of people have swallowed poison (sin) and are dying. A doctor has the antidote and tries to reach everyone to save them. He reached some who took the antidote and were saved (the elect). However, some never heard of him and perished (the non-elect). Now, what is the cause of the non-elect’s death? Is it because they never heard of the good doctor? No, it is the poison that killed them. Was the doctor unjust in saving some but not others? No, all who had swallowed poison would have died. He was gracious in saving as many as he could. That’s a crude analogy but we need to see clearly what’s the cause (sin) and what’s the effect (eternal punishment). God gave grace to the elect, but the non-elect died from their own sin.

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Visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers on the Children (2 of 2)

Num 14 18 b

(Continued from yesterday)

I believe this is only an apparent contradiction, since the Bible is God’s word and He does not contradict Himself. The difficulty is in the phrase “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations“, which on the surface does not seem fair. What exactly does it mean?

First, let’s tackle the issue from the perspective of “cause“. Notice from the first set of verses the following:
• The LORD is abundant in loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin i.e. He is compassionate and willing to forgive.
• He will by no means clear the guilty and leave them unpunished i.e. He is just and will always punish the guilty.
• Thousands is contrasted with to the third and fourth generations i.e. His loving kindness far exceeds His severity.

Ezekiel 18 20 c

Then note from the second set of passages that:
• The person who sins will die. Each and everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. There are no exceptions.
• Fathers and sons shall not be put to death for each other’s iniquity. Each bears his own responsibility. There will be no miscarriage of justice.

The logical deduction then, for both sets of proposition to be true, is that when the Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children, those children themselves are NOT innocent but guilty. Of what? Of the sin they learned from their fathers. What sin? Ex 20:5, 34:7 and Deut 5:9 are all in the context of the 10 commandments, in particular dealing with idolatry.

These fathers hate God (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9). In what sense?
Disrespectful and ungratefulEven though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks (Rom 1:21).
IdolatrousThey exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Rom 1:23). They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25).
Ignored GodThey did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer (Rom 1:28).
In so doing they become haters of God (Rom 1:30).

Not only did the fathers do this themselves, by their example they taught their children to do the same (Rom 1:32). The children are therefore guilty of the same sin and deserve the punishment. They are the “cause” of their punishment. God had not treated them unfairly by punishing an innocent “next generation”. Beware of what you are teaching your children. It need not be explicit instructions. They learn far more from your actions and attitudes than from your words.

Secondly, let’s look at the issue from the “effect” angle. Some children suffer the consequences of their parent’s guilt through no fault of their own. For example, parents with AIDS give birth to HIV-positive children. Drug addicts give birth to babies who may be addicted to the drug. They did not ask for it, they did nothing to deserve it, but they are affected nonetheless.

The iniquity of the fathers is visited on the children, who in this case could not exercise free-will to avoid it. Is that fair? Of course it’s not fair, but that’s what sin does. Sin robs and destroys, and through the hereditary principle infect the next generation. But our God is a gracious and merciful God. Even such sad cases could be redeemed through the compassionate action of people who care, or the suffering cut short in infant mortality. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (Jas 1:27). I hope we can all do our part.

Visiting the Iniquity of the Fathers on the Children (1 of 2)

Num 14 18 a

Q. Isn’t this a contradiction in the Bible:
• Num 14:18 The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’
• Ezk 18:20 The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
How do you reconcile the two passages?

A. This does present itself as a dilemma. On the one hand, what Num 14:18 teaches is repeated three times in the Pentateuch:

Ex 20:5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
• Ex 34:7 who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
• Deut 5:9 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

The concept, though not the exact wording, is also in:
Lev 26:39 So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them.

Ezekiel 18 20 a

On the other hand, the idea in Ezk 18:20 is taught in just as many passages:

Deut 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.
• 2 Kings 14:6 But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the Law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.”
• 2 Chron 25:4 However, he did not put their children to death, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, which the LORD commanded, saying, “Fathers shall not be put to death for sons, nor sons be put to death for fathers, but each shall be put to death for his own sin.”
• Jer 31:30 But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.

Do they really contradict each other?

(To be continued)

Is God Judgmental? (3 of 4)

God intolerant 1

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we saw that God’s people did not keep their covenant with God. Did He in His wrath strike them down right away? No, He was slow to anger and forbearing, giving people time to repent so they won’t perish:

Neh 9:17 They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; And You did not forsake them. (Also Ex 34:6; Ps 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)
• Rom 3:25 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;
• 2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

But if He is so gracious and compassionate and abounding in loving-kindness, why can’t He lower His standards and just forgive people as they are? He can’t, for two reasons. First, it won’t work. Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4), any deviation from God’s law. Let me use cancer as an analogy. Cancer cells are cells that grow and divide at an unregulated, quick pace. They are a deviation from normality, just like sin. If you have cancer, you would want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Now how much cancer cells would you tolerate to remain in your body without removing them by surgery, or killing them by radiation or chemotherapy? 10%? 5%? 1%? No, you want them completely eliminated, or you die.

The so-called “tolerant” believe that God is love and should cut people some slack. They think if God didn’t set the bar so high, they would make it on their own. Actually they have too high a view of themselves, and too low a view of God. For the sake of argument let’s just say God concedes to their request. What they don’t know is whatever concession God makes, that sin will kill them, just as that trace amount of cancer cells left behind will kill them. Tolerance to sin just doesn’t work.

Let’s use another illustration. You love your spouse and want him/her to be faithful to you. Would you tolerate your spouse to be 90% faithful? 95%? 99%? No, only 100% will suffice, anything less is adultery. It’s all or nothing.

(To be continued)

Is God Judgmental? (2 of 4)

God judgmental 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we saw that because God is absolutely just He is the only standard there is. So what does God require of man?

Deut 10:12-13 “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but
o to fear the LORD your God,
o to walk in all His ways and love Him, and
o to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and
o to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?
• Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But
o to do justice,
o to love kindness, And
o to walk humbly with your God?

What God wanted was for Israel to have a loving relationship with Him, serving Him and keeping His commandments, and being just and kind to others. Now ask yourself, are these requirements onerous, or fair and reasonable? As Creator who gave His people everything, does He have the right to require these from them?

Why does God require such from man?

Lev 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. … For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
• 1 Pet 1:16 because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
• Mt 5:48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
• Lk 6:34 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

To be just, kind, holy, perfect, and merciful are God’s attributes. He required these for one reason – He loves us and wants the best for us, which is to be like Him.

What about the charge that God is harsh and does not cut any slack? He made a covenant with His people but they did not keep up their end of the deal – they sinned and disobeyed. God sent prophets to warn them to repent, but they killed and persecuted the prophets and kept on sinning:

Lk 11:49-51 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’
• Acts 8:51-53 You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”

(To be continued)