I have a lot of allergies. My allergies are enough for me to be reminded and for others to notice. I regularly get questions about whether I am sick or why I am not eating a certain thing. Being aware of our allergies means we avoid certain things. We do this because we know that they are bad for us; they have negative health consequences.
In the last several months I’ve been preaching through Genesis, and I’ve encountered God judging several times in the first 20 chapters. He casts the first family out of the garden of Eden (3), pronounces judgment on Cain (4), floods the earth (6), confuses languages at Babel (11), and then destroys Sodom and Gomorrah (19). As I’ve studied, considered, and preached Genesis I’ve picked up on this theme and a small island of resistance in my heart. “This is a lot of judgment” is a phrase I’ve thought to myself more than once. With each turn of the page and subsequent sermon, I’ve been reminded, “Yes, Erik, it is.”
This led me to ask myself—other Christians (preachers in particular)—do we have a mild allergy to God’s judgment? By this I mean, do we avoid the topic of God’s judgment?
I believe the answer to this question is “yes.” Many of us do have at least a mild allergy to God’s judgment, especially in preaching. There are many possible reasons why we do this (none of them seems valid). We fear man, over-emphasize grace to the exclusion of the imperatives, minimize sin, under-esteem grace, think less of God’s glory, and value pats on the back. Declawing the Bible of its warnings against and judgments upon sin is not good for the church. In other words, being allergic to God’s judgment is unhealthy for both the preacher and the church.
Here are a few reasons why:
Judgment teaches us who God is.
Just take the few examples that I sighted in Genesis. We learn about the goodness of God when he keeps his word and punishes sin (Gen. 3). We learn about his righteousness and grace when he judges the world but spares Noah (Gen. 6). We learn about the sovereignty of God when he confuses the languages in Babel (Gen. 11). We also learn about the immanence and holiness of God when judges Sodom and Gomorrah for their great sin against God (Gen. 19). Who is God? He is good, merciful, righteous, gracious, sovereign, immanent, and holy. The mural of God’s character are painted in the landscape of judgment. If we avoid preaching on judgment then we will be hiding God from our people.
Warnings against judgment teach us what we should do.
In recent years there has been an unsettling movement to declaw God’s Word of its imperatives while settling instead to focus upon the grace given to the believer. In other words, all of the imperatives get wrapped into Jesus, and all of the promises get bundled for us. While it accents the obedience of Christ it also obscures the necessity of our obedience. In a similar way God’s work of judgment gets bundled together and hurried to Calvary instead of carefully considered and personally digested. The warnings of God are meant to be heard and heeded. Let’s not forget, God brings judgment upon his churches; just consider the churches in Revelation (ch. 2-3) or Acts 5. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we are talking about discipline or judgment; nevertheless, God is in the business of purifying his church through a spanking. Consider the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 11), the warnings of Hebrews (chapters 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12), or Peter’s warnings (1 Pet. 4:17). In fact, the apostle Paul cites Old Testament examples of judgment and tells us that they are to be examples for us (1 Cor. 10:1-11). This is tough to declaw. If we are allergic to these passages then we will not be serving our brothers and sisters in Christ well.
Judgment is at the heart of the gospel.
If we don’t faithfully consider and preach God’s judgment then we will not be faithfully considering and preaching the gospel. The gospel is good news because God judged sin by punishing Jesus instead of us (2 Cor. 5:21). The righteous was judged for the unrighteous (1 Pet. 3:18). He became a curse (Gal. 3:13) for us! To obscure, minimize, edit, or otherwise ignore God’s judgment is to miss an irreducible component of the gospel. God judged our sin in Christ.
This whole meditation reminds me again of the wisdom of preaching the Bible expositionally and consecutively. By preaching through the Bible in this way I don’t necessarily choose what comes next; the text picks what I preach. The shape of the sermon is determined by the shape of the text. I would probably not pick 6 to 10 sermons on judgment in such a limited time period, but God would.
God desires that his churches reflect his character. In order to do this we must know who he is. Part of this involves preaching on God’s judgment. If we are allergic to his judgment then we will also be allergic to his glory, for God is glorified, not only through salvation but also through judgment.
Originally published at Ordinary Pastor