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Saving Judgment

You marched through the earth in fury; you tread on the nations in anger. You went forth to save your people. Habak­kuk 3:12-13

When we fear the Eternal, we need never fear for eternity. The ungodly in every nation will rage against God and present themselves as fear­ful, but our infinitely wise and powerful defender will never fail us. We need not fear the enemies of God. No plot or plan will ever succeed against him. The puny insufficiencies of created beings cannot turn aside God’s grand design. Our bodies may succumb in our struggles against sinners, but we will be saved. The fear of the Eternal is the beginning of wis­dom. So we do not fear Man who can only kill the body; rather, we fear the One who has pow­er to cast body and soul into hell. For as we cry out to him for righteousness and justice to pre­vail, we can go forward knowing that he has heard our cry and will surely not delay long over us. He will bring about justice and salva­tion, and that speedily. The question is Will he find faith in us when he executes his judgment? Will we be patient enough to wait for him with hope in our hearts and joy in our souls? If we fear God’s hatred of sin enough now to run to him for salvation, his sword of judgment will protect us forever.

Holy God, let your righteous love for your infin­ite glory draw me and keep me in its passionate embrace as I walk through the battlefields of faith. Amen


2 thoughts on “Saving Judgment

  1. To say that our struggle is against “sinners” rather than “sin” is an unpopular approach these days. What are your thoughts on how best to frame this struggle?

    In the same vein, I’ve seen many pastors adopt the approach of referring to their believing congregations as “sinners.” I suspect this comes, in part, from Jesus’ endorsement of the tax-collector who identifies himself as a “sinner” in his prayer, however, I also think they use the term to suggest that we are fundamentally no different from the unregenerate. Thoughts?

    Posted by Morgan Knighton | 15 October 2011, 14:50
    • 1. We do struggle against sin in ourselves; we still have “fleshly” desires, which we must — and can — defeat by the power of the Spirit who indwells us (Galatians 5:16-18). However, this is not the struggle in view in Habakkuk; the struggle in view here is against the ungodly in the world around us. Another passage which highlights the antagonism (a transliteration of the Greek verb for “struggle”) we face as disciples of Jesus is Hebrews 12:3-4. Here the author instructs us to observe how Jesus engaged with sinners hostile to him, so hostile that they conspired to kill him. He then chides his readers that they have not struggled as much as Jesus because they have not yet shed blood, as he did — and as others in their community had (11:35-40). So I think that the “frame” for this struggle is that of persecution by those who refuse to live in the obedience of faith, thereby defining themselves as “sinners.”

      2. Only one New Testament text refers to Christians as “sinners,” namely, the letter of James (4:8; 5:20). He does this because those he’s addressing have, indeed, behaved similarly to the unregenerate. Thus they are, in this instance “sinners.” Would James (or any other biblical author, for that matter) suggest that Christians are “fundamentally no different from the unregenerate”? I don’t think so because he clearly addresses his readers as people who are fundamentally characterized by their love of Jesus and have an ability to stop engaging in sinful deeds. The rest of the New Testament uses the term “sinner” to designate either those who have yet to repent and become his disciples, or those whom the Jewish community labeled as deviant from their cultural norms — sometimes these two uses coincided; often the authors contrasted them. Unfortunately you’re correct in noticing that some pastors address their congregations with this word without applying it specifically in the limited sense James did. We must be careful in how we conceive of ourselves and how we converse with one another.

      Posted by Doug Knighton | 14 November 2011, 16:45

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