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Does God Repay Evil for Evil? No.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." (Rom 12:17)

My question when I look at that verse is this: Why are there so many rules in the Law of Moses that require the death penalty in punishment for a particular sin? Is it one of those cases where we see a different nature of God from the Old Testament to the New? ("The God of the Old Testament would repay evil for evil, but the God of the New Testament says that we should not do that.") As far as I know, that's never a valid distinction. So then how do we explain the severe payback given to so many crimes when the same God would say, "Repay no one evil for evil"?

The answer is actually fairly simple: God's law through Moses didn't repay evil or evil. It repaid justice for evil.

And that's a distinction that's important for us to know too. Because there are plenty times when it is right to repay something painful for wickedness. It’s right to punish children for their disobedience. And it is plenty right for governments to wield their power to punish evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-6). But these things are intending to accomplish what is objectively right. If done correctly, we are not just in pursuit of what feels right or of accomplishing personal vengeance of some kind. We are striving to uphold real, objective justice.

The warning that Paul gave to the Roman Christians is not about vengeance or "personal” justice. We, as the people of God, ought to be in pursuit of the same kind of objective truth, righteousness, and justice that defines God's good nature. At the very least, we must give some thought to it, even if our efforts toward it are imperfect. That effort to the good is what will prove to be “honorable in the sight of all” in the long run.

- Dan Lankford, minister

Don't Repay Evil for Evil

Sunday, July 31, 2022

"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." (Rom 12:17)

My question when I look at that verse is this: Then why are there so many rules in the Law of Moses that require the death penalty as punishment for a particular sin? Is it one of those cases where we see a different nature of God from the Old Testament to the New? ("The God of the Old Testament would repay evil for evil, but the God of the New Testament says not to.") As far as I know, that's never a valid distinction. So then how do we explain the severe payback given to so many crimes when the same God would say, "Repay no one evil for evil"?

The answer is a fairly simple distinction. God's law through Moses didn't repay evil or evil; It repaid justice for evil.

And that's a distinction that's important for us to know too. Because there are times when someone in the church does what is evil, and there must be punishment for it (cf. 1 Cor. 5). And it is plenty right for governments to wield their power to punish evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-6). But these things are about accomplishing what is objectively right—not just what feels right, and certainly not just about accomplishing personal vengeance of some kind.

That's the warning that Paul gave to the Roman Christians. It's not about vengeance or "personal justice." We, as the people of God, ought to be in pursuit of the same kind of objective truth, righteousness, and justice that defines God's good nature. That, in the grand scheme, is what will prove to be honorable in the sight of all.

- Dan Lankford, minister

God Is Alive, And So Is The Faith!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Here's an article that I wrote several years ago (it first appeared here). I'm sharing it again as a message that's perpetually helpful and serves as a follow-up to Sunday's message here at our church.

In the 1920’s, a British publishing group called “The Thinker’s Library” produced a number of essays and magazines supporting two ideas. Firstly, they entirely backed Charles Darwin’s theories of macro evolution. Simultaneously, many of the same writers spoke of the racial supremacy of Western Culture and Westerners because we were supposed to be “more evolved” than other cultures. Those ideas of racial superiority fed the Holocaust mentality, even though there was no real science to back them up. The views were bogus and harmful to humanity in the long run, even though they were held by the prevailing intellectuals of the day.

One modern writer recently pointed out that those atheistic philosophies aimed to show that the secular West is the model for a universal civilization, and atheism is doing something similar today. They are simply using different vehicles. Where the ideas of evolutionary secularism used to give cause for extolling the sins of racial prejudice and mass murder, the same ideas are used today to extoll the sins of homosexual behavior and many other perversions of the God-ordained family order.

What does it mean for Christians? Among many other things, it means that Christianity is not dying! It means that God is alive, and so is the faith! While the philosophies of the world come and go, Christianity continues to stand on the same principles upon which it was founded. Where other religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam—morph over time because they must necessarily adjust their core values to the needs of their people, Christianity continues to change people because we must necessarily conform to the core values of holiness.

It is important that Christians realize this. As the world’s voices grow louder and more adamant that secular, human-focused thought is the only right way to live, Christians may stand with a quiet confidence in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Gamaliel, a Jewish rabbi in the time of Paul, once spoke up for the apostles. Their lives were being threatened for teaching about Jesus. And while he might have been on the wrong side of understanding the situation, he wisely gave this prophecy about Christianity: “…if this plan is the undertaking of man, it will fail. But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrown them. You might even be found to be opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39, ESV).

Have no fear, brothers and sisters! Our God cannot be overthrown by mankind! No worldly philosophies, no Supreme Court rulings, and no level of immorality on TV can stop the power of the risen Savior! People may leave the Lord, but the Lord will not leave his people. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his plan. Let us view the world’s attacks with the confidence that for all the changes of life, God is alive! And so is the faith!

- Dan Lankford, minister

Proclaim His Excellencies

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, 'For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.'" (2 Chronicles 7:1-3, ESV)

I love that passage. It brings Israel an assurance that God's presence was among them and with them. In a way that noone living on that day could have ever witnessed before, God's presence physically appeared before them like he had done during the time of the Exodus. They saw and understood the glory of God, and they responded just like they should have: with worship.

Worship is all too easy to undervalue or to distort from its authentic purpose. It's too easy to lose sight of Who it's for and what its purpose is. It's easy to think that if we were present at a spectacle like the one from 2 Chronicles, then we would worhsip with minds and hearts lifted to a higher plane of spirituality.

But where is our faith when we think that way? Do we believe that God is with us when our churches assemble? Do we trust, even if we can't see it, that his people are his temple and that his temple is filled with his glory? Do we properly consider that he has chosen us from among all the nations and made us a people of his own special possession? Do we worship him authentically, even when there's no spectacle or when it feels like "there's nothing special going on"?

The people's words of worship in 2 Chronicles 7 are interesting. Because it's not that they respond to the fire and glory of YHWH by saying, "He is powerful and we are amazed at this incredible experience!" They understood that it isn't a spectacle that makes God great and worthy of worship; it's that "he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever." If that was why they worshiped him, then how much more should we proclaim his glory with passion and truth when we have seen his glory and goodness through the gift of his son?

- Dan Lankford, minister