What’s the deal with the wrath of God? I mean, the Bible tells us that God is love. And yet, numerous times in Scripture, God is angry, punishing those who fall out of line. So, how are we to understand the wrath of God? The New Testament uses this term to refer to three different things as determined by the context:

  1. The “coming wrath” describes the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.
  2. God’s wrath refers to the Day of Judgement at the end of time.
  3. God’s wrath is the natural consequence of sin.

The “Coming Wrath”

The events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem feature heavily in the prophetic parts of the New Testament. Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are entirely dedicated to these events, as is Revelation. (Cf. Revelation 6:16-17; 14:10, 19, 15:1).

John the Baptist questioned the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising people. He said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Luke has John saying this “to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him.” What a novel way to start a sermon!

Jesus said, How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. The land refers to first-century Israel.

Paul spoke of this in 1 Thessalonians: and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. More on that in a moment.

Jerusalem’s Destruction

Jesus warned of the events leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then, those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled (Luke 21:20-22). In other words, the so-called “end times” prophecies that some Christians still use to traumatise God’s people were fulfilled in the first century. Let that sink in.

History reveals that Jesus’ followers understood His prophecies. The believers obeyed the warnings and fled Jerusalem to a town called Pella in the southern hills (those in Judea must flee to the hills), thus saving themselves. Not a single Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christians left Jerusalem, thus escaping what Jesus referred to as great tribulation. The destruction of Jerusalem occurred three and a half years later, at the end of the Great Tribulation.

And so, this is what Paul foretold in 1 Thessalonians in the early 50s: and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Judgement Day

God’s wrath can also refer to the Day of Judgement at the end of time. Judgement Day is God’s guarantee of ultimate justice. Think of all the times when there hasn’t been justice in this life. Maybe you’ve experienced this or seen the fate of others who have suffered unfairly, and you’ve asked yourself, where is the justice in life? Well, wait. The New Testament is replete with forewarnings about Judgement Day:

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” And, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” That’s because they’ve trusted someone who’s been there (death) and returned.

Paul wrote extensively about Judgement Day as an expression of God’s wrath. Consider Romans 2:5: But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Cf. Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6). God’s Judgement is a punishment, not a beating.

Suffer the Consequences

The final meaning of God’s wrath in Scripture is allowing people to suffer the consequences of their choices. Paul’s letter to the Romans is handy here: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people. The rest of chapter one shows how Paul defines this wrath of God: God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts. God gave them over to shameful lusts. God gave them over to a depraved mind. (Vs. 24, 26, 28)

God is like a parent who says, well, that’s not how I want you to behave, but if you persist with having your way, you’ll also need to be prepared to wear the consequences of your choices. People have free will, and God does not control us.

Controlled Anger

God is a loving father who is angry at injustice. Righteous anger is an ethical expression of authentic love as inferred by the Greek word translated “wrath. Orgē comes from the verb oragō meaning, ‘to teem, or swell.’ God’s wrath is not a sudden outburst but a controlled, passionate response to wickedness and unfairness: His anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime. Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

God loves all people, but that love doesn’t mean that certain behaviours don’t anger God. God’s wrath will be satisfied by ultimate justice being done and appropriate punishment being given. But, as the Psalmist declares, “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever.” That is good news for everyone.

Someone recently asked this question on social media: Do believers in Christ still face judgment? Many replied “yes,” but others were not as sure. If we’ve accepted Jesus as Saviour, aren’t our sins forgiven and not counted against us anymore, so what is left to judge?

Others indicated that judgement was favourable as a reward for good work. Is that true? Will some of us get fewer rewards in heaven than others? What does that even look like? I’ll do my best to answer these excellent questions in this blog.

Do Believers in Christ face Judgement?

The short answer is YES, but judgments may be separated, with the New Testament suggesting one for unbelievers and another for believers.

Consider 1 Peter 4, in which the apostle contrasts the lifestyle of “pagans” and Christians. I’m not too fond of the word the NIV uses here. “Pagan” is unwarranted and very “us and them” language. Everywhere else in Scripture, the Greek word (ethnos) is rendered “Gentiles” or “nations.” It refers to groups of people who are not Jewish. In context, Peter is writing about non-Jewish people who live in sensuality, especially in connection with idolatrous temple worship:

They are surprised you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. This is why the gospel was preached even to those now dead so that they might be judged according to human standards regarding the body but live according to God regarding the spirit. The end of all things is near. The last statement probably refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D., a few years away. If not, Peter is way off with his prediction!

Preaching to the Dead?

There is disagreement amongst theologians as to precisely what Peter means in 1 Peter 4:6, Which is why the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead. There are several ways this verse is understood:

  1. The gospel was preached to people when they were alive, but they have since died.
  2. The gospel was preached to people when they were dead.
  3. Peter refers to Christians who faced judgment by earthly courts (human standards) and were executed for their faith in Jesus. These persecuted believers would live according to God regarding the spirit.

Whatever the case, the outcome is positive. “They” live according to God regarding the spirit. For more, listen to my podcast, What Jesus Did in Hell.

God’s Judgment Seat

In Romans 14, Paul instructs the church not to judge others over “disputable matters.” The Greek word refers to a person deliberating with themselves, trying to determine right and wrong in matters of conscience. He then gives two examples: what people eat and when people worship. In Romans 14, Paul writes about our interrelatedness with one another and our reliance on the Lord. I encourage you to read and reflect on Romans 14:8-15.

We could summarise this chapter: Don’t judge each other because that’s God’s job, not yours. We belong to the Lord, and we will give an account of ourselves to God. And this is very important because Paul’s judgement is about accountability. Our salvation is not in question here. It is NOT a judgment of condemnation. It’s more like an evaluation of KPIs in which God interviews us about how we lived out the Royal Law, the Golden Rule, and what we’ve done with our resources, time, and talents.

Christ’s Judgment Seat

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul writes, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that we may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Judgement seat (Gk. Bema [bey-ma] = throne, rostrum, or tribunal).

The Bible.org website says the Bema appears in classical Greek to identify the judge’s seat in the arena of the Olympic games. The Bema was the seat whereon the judge sat, not to punish contestants, but to present awards to the victors. When Christians stand before the Bema of Christ, it will be for the express purpose of being rewarded according to their works. There is no idea of inflicting punishment.

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul again refers to accountability. A person’s salvation is not in question. It’s not about condemnation, as the context reveals. Read and reflect on verses 1 to 10 of that chapter where Paul writes about our longing to be at home with the Lord. Paul is yearning to be in his new body with Jesus. He is not fearful of seeing God or in trepidation of judgement. He’s not concerned that he might die and not be good enough and be condemned to eternal hell.

There are no threats or coercion in these words. Christians are to rest on the salvation gained through Jesus’ completed work. But we should not use God’s grace as an excuse to lead a sloppy or sinful life. We will be accountable for how we conduct our lives, so we make it our goal to please him.

Whether Good or Bad

The believers’ judgement is not about dragging up sins that have been dealt with by the Cross. This judgment assesses our life’s work and actions. But there does appear to be some accountability for destructive things done: each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (worthless, wicked, evil and vile).

How do we balance God’s forgiveness of sin with someone who persists in debauched behaviour? For example, Jesus’ statement, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Consider the numerous cases of Christians who abuse children. There appears to be ultimate justice in Jesus’ words.

And what about a pastor who abuses a member of their congregation, a husband who beats his wife, or a parent who gambles money away instead of supporting their family? Consider Paul’s sobering words to Timothy, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8).

We need to weigh these things. Our sins are forgiven, and none of us is perfect, but the Scriptures point to ultimate justice for those who maltreat others.

As you’re probably aware, Israel Folau’s Australian rugby union career appears over (see report) after a three-person panel ordered that the Wallabies star’s four-year contract be terminated as punishment for his breach of the players’ Code of Conduct.[i]

My purpose in writing this blog is not to criticise Israel Folau. I’ve watched some of the videos of him speaking at his church, and he appears to be a genuine young man who loves Jesus and the Bible. He certainly believes he has done the right thing by his faith, and no amount of money can persuade him otherwise. I admire that.

My intention with this blog is to ask what those of us who identify with the Christian faith can learn from Israel Folau, especially as we look at what the Bible says about how we should share our faith.

Consider Audience

I believe the most important thing for Christians is to discern who our hearers are.

The Bible teaches that different people need to hear the Christian message in different ways. The apostle Paul changed his method and his message depending on who he was speaking to (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Israel Folau has 364,000 followers on Instagram. I imagine that many people who follow him do so because he’s a rugby superstar. Some will be Christian, others won’t be. He has a mixed audience, and so his message needs to be delivered with wisdom, understanding where they are at and making the message suitable for their hearing.

Jesus did this. When he taught in Synagogues, he read from the Scriptures and preached the Word of God. Why? Because his audience believed in God and were looking for the Messiah. They were “low hanging fruit” ripe to be picked. But at other times, when he was speaking to a mixed crowd, he told stories that people could identify with. He tailored his message to his audience (Matthew 13:11).

Consider Gospel-Readiness

Acts chapter two tells the account of Peter and the apostles in the Temple Court on the Day of Pentecost. The audience was comprised of people who were in Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast. They were believers looking for the Saviour. Out of a crowd of up to 250,000 people, 3000 became followers of Jesus on that day. Many others converted over the following months and years.

When you’re speaking to people like that, then a blunt message about sin and repentance is what they’re ready to receive. Unbelievers may not be prepared for that kind of communication, and they are repelled rather than attracted to the Gospel as a result.

Consider Communication Style

The apostle Paul also had a habit of going to the Synagogue first – a practice he started as soon as he got saved (Acts 9:20).[ii] But, when his audience was different, he changed the way he communicated. For example, the Philippian church was made up almost exclusively of gentiles, and so, when he wrote a letter to that church, he included no quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Why? Because they had no frame of reference. Paul’s purpose was communication, and he chose to build bridges with his audience rather than erect walls!

He did the same when he visited Athens (see Acts 17:16-23). While Paul was waiting for Silas and Timothy to meet him in that city, “he was deeply disturbed in his spirit to see that the city was full of idols”. You’d think that would be a good time for Paul to do some street preaching, wouldn’t you? Standing on the street corner yelling the Gospel to people walking past, telling them they’re a bunch of idolatrous sinners who needed to repent or go to hell.

But Paul didn’t preach. Instead, he went to a couple of places where he would find some people who were at least interested in listening to him, a place where he was permitted to speak. “He reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks” (verse 17).

Next, he got into a debate with a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus [where] all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. Sounds like a great place to preach the Gospel. But even there, Paul was respectful, and not critical, of their culture and religion.

Remember, the day before he was “deeply disturbed in his spirit to see that the city was full of idols.” But he didn’t allow his disturbed spirit to overflow in a rant against sin. He demonstrated the utmost respect for them by saying:

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So, you are ignorant of the very thing you worship —and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

He went on to share with them about Jesus’ resurrection, but he did this by quoting two of their most respected philosophers, Epimenides and Aratus. The story of the unknown god also taps into their popular history of the day (see my blog Race, Culture & Religion).

Consider Respectfulness

Paul taught on being sensitive and discerning towards other people in chapter 14 of his first letter to the Corinthian church in which he classifies people into three groups – believers, unbelievers, and inquirers. Inquirers, or the unlearned, refers to someone who is not fully initiated into a religion. Christian people would do well to discern who they are communicating with before they speak, write, or post on social media.

Israel Folau’s meme on Instagram, based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, was written to a church community, to believers. Paul was addressing behaviour inside the church, not outside. He was correcting an extremely immoral situation in the church in which a man was having an affair with his stepmother. Incest was considered the worst of sins in the ancient world, and Paul was horrified that this was happening in the church and that people were actually proud of it. He wrote to correct this and remind them not to be deceived, “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

Paul didn’t write a letter to the City of Corinth, nor did he write it to be read out on street corners (or to be posted on social media). He wrote it to correct the poor behaviour of Jesus’ followers who should have known better.

Consider Good News

Unbelievers and inquirers need to hear the good news about Jesus in a way they can receive it and when they’re ready for it. It’s interesting to note that the words “repent” and “repentance,” from Acts to Revelation, are only used to address a group of Jewish believers or a church. Repentance is essential, but people need to hear the Gospel FIRST. They then ask, what should I do? That’s when you tell them.

The apostle Peter puts it this way, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul reminds the Roman Christians that it’s God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). He tells Timothy that, “opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25).  

In his letter to Titus, Paul encourages him to teach the churches he leads the truth of Scripture, “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive (Titus 2:10b). This is because “the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11). Salvation is for everyone, and no one should be put off the good news of the grace of God by the bad behaviour of God’s people (Titus 2).

Consider What’s Attractive

According to McCrindle Research, one of the repellents to religion and spirituality is “hearing from public figures and celebrities who are examples of that faith.”

A famous Christian may believe they are doing God’s work by posting random verses from the Bible on social media, but the likelihood is they’re turning a lot of people away. The top attractor to Christianity is “seeing people who live out a genuine faith.”

If we genuinely want to see people come to Jesus and discover his love, grace and forgiveness for themselves, we need to learn to live out our faith in a better way.


[i] Rugby Australia Code of Conduct:

1.3 Treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability. Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination has no place in Rugby.

1.6  Do not make any public comment that is critical of the performance of a match official, player, team official, coach or employee/officer/volunteer of any club or a Union; or on any matter that is, or is likely to be, the subject of an investigation or disciplinary process; or otherwise make any public comment that would likely be detrimental to the best interests, image and welfare of the Game, a team, a club, a competition or Union.

1.7 Use Social Media appropriately. By all means, share your positive experiences of Rugby but do not use Social Media as a means to breach any of the expectations and requirements of you as a player contained in this Code or in any Union, club or competition rules and regulations.

1.8 Do not otherwise act in a way that may adversely affect or reflect on, or bring you, your team, club, Rugby Body or Rugby into disrepute or discredit…

[ii] See also Acts 13:15, 42; 14:1; 17:2; 18:4; 19:8


It’s an awful thought that God would actually create some people for the very purpose of tormenting and torturing them for all eternity, but that’s what some Christians and churches believe, even today!

The belief that God predestines some people for hell comes from what I believe to be a misinterpretation of Romans chapter 9, which has been the subject of some controversy over the centuries. John Calvin and his followers used Romans 9 as proof of God’s predestining some people for heaven and some for hell (before they’re even born!).[i] This is not what Paul is teaching in the three illustrations he uses in this chapter:

  1. God loves Jacob and hates Esau
  2. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and
  3. Clay in the Hands of God

(Please note, it would be helpful for you to read Romans 9 before reading the rest of this blog).

God Loves Jacob and Hates Esau

The word translated as “hate” can also mean, “to love less” or “put in second place”. “Love” infers a positive relationship whereas “hate,” indicates a lack of relationship. It’s important to note that God’s choice of Jacob had nothing to do with salvation, but rather with who would be the Father of the Nation of Israel. This honour first belonged to Esau, but he chose short-term satisfaction over long-term blessing. “Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:29-34).

The author of Hebrews describes Esau as a godless person “who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done” (Hebrews 12:16-17).  

Romans 9 is not teaching about salvation but rather is speaking about the nations that resulted from Jacob and Esau. God has chosen people for greater or lesser degrees of service often based on their willingness, choices, and behaviour. Paul is addressing service rather than salvation.

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

The apostle’s second illustration is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Hardening is a symbolic word which means “to twist” in the same way as you would ring out a dishcloth. When you ring out a cloth, you find out what’s in it. Through the ten plagues, God twisted Pharaoh’s heart to squeeze out what was inside, simply revealing what was already there!

Clay in the Hands of God

The final illustration is “Clay in the Hands of God” quoting from Isaiah chapters 29 and 45 as well as Jeremiah 18. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

Once again, the apostle is speaking about serving God rather than salvation. God does not create some people so that He can damn them to an eternal hell. If that were true, he’d be contradicting his nature as well as the entire intent of the Gospel that is very clearly for ALL people. Why would Jesus die for everyone if everyone could not access salvation?

The Apostle finishes this chapter by quoting from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, “As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Zion was the hill in Jerusalem that lay opposite Mount Moriah on which the temple stood. On Zion was built the palace of David and the seat of justice. Sometimes Zion was applied to the whole city of Jerusalem as well as the Jewish people. Paul uses the symbolic language of a foundation stone that God would lay from and for the Jews.  A rock of salvation for all, but to many of the Jews, it became a stumbling block because they wanted to be right with God by obeying the Law rather than by trusting in Jesus as their Messiah.

Paul continues this same theme in chapter 10 of how Israel came to miss salvation while the Gentiles found it. The Jews are zealous for righteousness, but their zeal is misguided. They’re trying to be right with God by obeying the entire law, but that’s impossible. Paul says, “It’s not that hard” because “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Being right with God is not impossible like trying to get up to heaven to bring Jesus down or to bring Jesus back from the dead. God has already done this for us by his power. Salvation is simple, accessible and available just like the words you speak. Being right with God is achieved by declaring Jesus to be Lord – words that flow out of a heart that believes God has done the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead. Paul uses the word “everyone” twice in this chapter to declare that the gospel is not just limited to some people.

God doesn’t make some people be objects of wrath to be eternally tortured, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Now that’s Good News![ii]


[i] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Calvin taught, “God for His own glorification, and without any regard to original sin, has created some as “vessels of mercy,” others as “vessels of wrath.” Those created for hell He has also predestined for sin, and whatever faith and righteousness they may exhibit are at most only apparent, since all graces and means of salvation are efficacious only in those predestined for heaven.” Others credit Augustine as the author of this heresy. In Christianity, the doctrine that God unilaterally predestines some persons to heaven and some to hell originated with Augustine during the Pelagian controversy in 412 CE.

[ii] Consider also 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That is the desire of God.



A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog responding to some comments made by Wallabies superstar Israel Folau. [1] He was asked on an Instagram post what he thought God’s plan was for gay people.  Israel’s answer was, “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”  He later wrote, “My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings.”  In my blog, I respectfully disagreed with Israel Folau’s understanding of God’s Plan and explained why.

One of the primary purposes of blogging is “to present a person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or experiences.”  [2] That’s what I attempt to do each week and, unlike some bloggers, I open my blog for others to comment to generate a healthy discussion on the issue.  While some of those commenting lack virtues such as kindness, gentleness, and self-control, most add to the conversation with their comments, questions, and suggestions.  It’s one of those comments that form the basis of this blog.

In response to my blog on God’s Plan, one reader suggested I was wrong because of Paul’s words in Romans chapter nine:

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (verses 21-23)

The person’s comment went on to suggest, based on these verses, that God makes some people for Hell while He makes others for Heaven (glory).   Romans nine has been used for centuries to teach this untruth.  Any church that includes the word “Reformed” in its name probably has this as a fundamental doctrine, which is enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith…

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” [3]

Now, if this were true, which I don’t for a moment think it is, this view contradicts both the Nature of God and His Word.  Consider John 3:16, that teaches “This is how God loved the world …” and goes on to explain that salvation comes through God’s Son, Jesus, which is God’s Plan for the world God loves.  In other words, God doesn’t make some people for Hell; He has provided salvation, and eternal life and made both available to all.

In the context of the Day of Judgement, the apostle Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.”  I agree with Israel Folau about the importance of repentance [4] in order to access God’s Plan, but I maintain that God’s Plan for people is NOT Hell, because God is not willing that ANY should perish.  God “wants ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  [5]  In fact, “EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [6]

The Reformed view of Romans 9 also contradicts the nature of God who “is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” [7] James warns us not to “be deceived” about God’s unchanging goodness. [8] God is good and always good; He doesn’t make people and prearrange for them to be tortured forever in burning sulphur, don’t be deceived!

So, what is Paul referring to in Romans chapter nine?  It’s important to realise that Paul wrote a letter to the Roman Church. This letter didn’t have chapters and verses. In fact, these weren’t added to the New Testament until 1551.  These coordinates are a great help in locating various parts of the Bible, but they can also be a hindrance because we tend to read the Bible in bite-sized pieces and ignore context.

The Letter to the Roman Church was written by Paul to communicate the beauty and depth of the grace of God that is available to Jew and Gentile alike.  The first chapter highlights that all Gentiles are sinners; chapter two emphasises the sinfulness of the Jews, and chapter three teaches, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” [9] Upon this dark background of human sin, Paul places the gem of grace, and it stands out like a diamond on black velvet.  Salvation by faith in God’s grace is God’s plan for every person says Paul – not just for the Jews (as many Jews believed in the First Century) but also for the Gentiles, the people of all nations.

This theme continues through the first eleven chapters of Romans.  In 9:21-23 Paul is referring to Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are the potter.  We all are formed by your hand.”  These verses are not teaching that God is arbitrary in choosing some and damning others. Paul is not speaking of individual people here at all but is instead instructing the church that God is Sovereign and can resolve to save Gentiles as well as Jews ~ a truth that was excellent news in the predominantly Gentile City (and Church) of Rome, and truth that is Good News to all people today.  In fact, the next verse in Isaiah 64 is the clincher, “Don’t be so angry with us, Lord. Please don’t remember our sins forever.  Look at us, we pray, and see that we are ALL your people.

If you are seeking forgiveness and a relationship with your creator, be comforted that He is not a torturing tyrant but a wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God, and it is His kindness that is intended to turn you from your sin. [10] Come toward Him and He will run to you and adopt you into His family. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.


[1] https://baysidechurch.com.au/israel-folau-and-gods-plan/

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-purpose-of-writing-a-blog


[4] On the topic of repentance, I encourage you to read my blog, “They need to repent.

[5] 1 Timothy 2:4

[6] Romans 10:13 in which Paul quotes Joel 2:32.  The context here is the wonderful truth that Jews and non-Jews are all included in God’s plan, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:12, quoting Isaiah 28:16)

[7] Psalm 145:9

[8] James 1:16-17

[9] Romans 3:23

[10] Romans 2:4


The New Testament Gospels don’t record everything Jesus did or said. The Apostle John made that clear when he wrote, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” We know little of Jesus’ life from the time he was a toddler to when he started his ministry about the age of 30.

We know that Jesus had an education because he could both read and write, but just like the Bible only tells us once that Jesus wept, it also states only once that Jesus wrote – but what he wrote was incredibly significant.

The story is found in John chapter 8 and revolves around a woman who had been caught by some religious leaders in the very act of adultery. It was an obvious set up to trap Jesus in order to have a basis for accusing him.

These religious leaders “made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”

Many have hypothesized about what Jesus wrote in the dirt – one suggested he was writing Sanskrit (Sand-skrit). I appreciate the attempt at humour! John doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote because he knew his audience 2,000 years ago wouldn’t need an explanation.

Whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man AND the woman would be brought to the Nicanor Gate and accused. This gate was the entrance to the Women’s Court of the temple. At least two witnesses must be present to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, and then there was a certain ceremony conducted in order to bring judgment. However, in this instance the Pharisees only brought the woman, and there is no mention of any witnesses. The Teachers and Pharisees just say she was caught in the act but they don’t say by whom. Both of these things were a violation of the Law of God.

Next, the priest was required to stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple. In fact, the priest could write the law and the names anywhere, as long as the marks were not permanent. The dust on the floor of the Temple was the most common place for this to be done. And so by doing this Jesus showed the woman’s accusers that even though THEY were not keeping the law, He would anyway.

The Scribes and Pharisees ignored the law but then continued with their accusations. And so Jesus stood up (after plainly demonstrating they were violating the law themselves) and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”   After saying this Jesus again stooped down and wrote on the ground. What did he write this time?

It’s important to note that this event occurs around Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. Every year on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) the High Priest would baptise himself about 11 times in order to be ceremonially cleansed between each separate portion of the day’s sacrifices. At the end of the day there was a celebration at his home where the people would rejoice that their sins had been forgiven. To end the festivities the High Priest would quote Jeremiah 17:13, “Oh Yahweh, the Immerser (Baptizer) of Israel, all those who leave your way shall be put to shame (publicly embarrassed), those who turn aside from my ways will have their names written in the dust and blotted out, for they have departed from Yahweh, the fountain of the waters of life” (Literal Hebrew Translation).

Religious Jewish men would hear this verse quoted every year – the older they were the more times they’d heard it. Thus when Jesus wrote this verse in the dust the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were “convicted by their own conscience” (KJV), put to shame, and departed from Jesus from the eldest to the youngest, the older having heard the verse quoted more often. It’s likely Jesus also wrote the men’s names in the dust in fulfillment of Jeremiah 17:13.

There are some stunning lessons to be learned from this story but the most mind-blowing is the wonderful insight it gives into the grace of God. Women had few if any rights in the first century world and yet Jesus treated this woman (and all women) with great dignity. This woman had broken the law and the law demanded capital punishment and yet Jesus responded with compassion and forgiveness. He believed in her – despite others rejecting her – and gave her the opportunity to be redeemed: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus wrote in the dust because what he wrote wouldn’t be permanent – it could be rubbed out. That’s what he did to this woman’s sins – that is what he has done to your sins too.

The pop-up trend is relatively new. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an increasing number of pop-up shops, cafes, restaurants and markets. Two thousand years ago there also seemed to be an interesting trend around Jesus. I call them the pop-up Pharisees and it’s based around one of the more amusing stories recorded in the gospel of Matthew.

Jesus had just made His stunning statement, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). His words flew in the face of the religious establishment of His day that put people under a heavy yoke or burden: “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders.” The religious were unkind, arrogant and sometimes just plain nasty. People were worn out by this distortion of religion and so Jesus invited them to come to Him to experience the difference: gentleness, humility, rest and ease.

The very next verses in Matthew’s gospel give a classic example of what Jesus was referring to: “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath” (12:1-2). Where were these guys? Were they following Jesus or were they hiding in the grain fields? Whatever the case it seems obvious they were spying on Jesus and His followers, waiting for them to do or say something wrong and then just popped up – “we caught you guys breaking the law – and on the Sabbath; woo gotchya!” This was an all too familiar occurrence throughout Jesus ministry.

A few weeks before this event Jesus had come across a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth – the very same Matthew who years later recorded these events for us to read today! Jesus invited Matthew to follow him, and Matthew did so. The first thing Jesus did was have dinner at Matthew’s house and many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. Enter the pop-up Pharisees: “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” See how Jesus gave them homework to do, “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Fast forward to Matthew 12 where these religious leaders pop-up to bring condemnation – and notice Jesus’ response, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” In other words, if you’d done your homework you wouldn’t have made the same mistake again. It seems the pop-up Pharisees never did do the homework Jesus gave them – they never learned the lesson – and two millennia later we still have people just like them ready to pop-up and bring correction and condemnation. The only difference is these days the pop-up Pharisees are not hiding in grain fields – they’re hiding behind keyboards.

I believe God sent His Son into the world to build a bridge for people to come back into relationship Him. Pop-up Pharisees are into building walls, but “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19). I’m a bridge-builder. I believe every Christian should be. But watch out for the pop-up Pharisees. They prefer walls to bridges and they’re brutal. I have so many personal examples of this but I’ll limit it to three.

In a 2008 message called “Real Christianity is Accepting”, I suggested that God loves everyone, Jesus died for everyone and that “everyone” included, ummm, everyone – even gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex and bisexual people. It seemed pretty obvious to me but enter the pop-up Pharisees with their harsh, condemning, unkind words. In fact I’ve discovered that homosexuality is something you cannot write on – or speak about – if you want some Christians to be nice to you. The same happened when I wrote a blog earlier this year called “Thoughts on same-sex marriage”.

I believe blogging is a very good way to engage people in thoughtful discussion on important issues, and that certainly happens, but the pop-up Pharisees get personal and unkind:

  • There is so very much wrong with this message, it would take a chapter of a book to deal with.
  • How does a pastor write this nonsense?
  • I find your piece disingenuous …
  • Rob … ‘God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’.”

I admit I had to look up “disingenuous.” It means I’ve been dishonest, insincere and deceitful.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled, “Are pro-lifers really pro-life?”.

It was simple enough. I am pro-life but I get concerned when I hear that the attitudes and actions of pro-lifers end up building walls rather than bridges with people who God loves and for whom Jesus died. And so I asked four very simple questions that can be used as a filter for all of us who are pro-life to ask ourselves when we have contact with a woman considering an abortion – or if we speak out or act on this ethical issue:

  1. Are we pro-life or pro-birth?
  2. Are we pro the life of women too?
  3. Are we pro-life in other areas of life?
  4. Are we concerned about the damage we do to the Christian faith? (When we don’t speak or act in a Christian manner).

The blog was not about abortion, but rather about the way pro-lifers act and speak. Enter the pop-up Pharisees many of whom completely missed the point of the blog:

  • An extremely disappointing article by the pastor; at stake are babies who are being killed. How can followers of Christ justify premeditated murder?
  • Rob Buckingham going more and more into apostacy [sic] if you ask me …
  • All of your terribly irrational pro-choice arguments. The Bible says that we should not kill under ANY circumstances whatsoever, nor should we condone killing, which is sadly exactly what you are doing …
  • Jesus would not encourage anyone to murder another person regardless of the circumstances, and as such, you claiming that the right thing to do is to allow women to have abortions is remarkably anti-Christian. I am very disappointed to see this rhetoric spouted by one who claims to be a man of Christ …
  • Unmistakable lack of love, compassion and gentleness for the unborn child …
  • The premise of Rob’s article is quite ridiculous, condescending and harsh …
  • I was decidedly put off that a christian [sic] pastor could be ‘pro choice’ and that so many of your flock could be supportive of this article.

And then last week I wrote an article entitled “A Christian response to Halloween”. Again, this was about building bridges not walls. I gave a history of Halloween and made it clear that “we don’t allow our children to dress up as witches and goblins, and we’re not comfortable with our kids going door-to-door asking for lollies.” But I suggested some ways that Christians can engage with culture in a Christian way. I also show the link between Halloween and the importance of praying for Christian people who are being persecuted for their faith. What did the pop-up Pharisees have to say?

  • “This is just another Americanism making it’s [sic] way into Australia. Christian or not, why are you celebrating this on this particular day. If you wish to celebrate this day then that’s your choice but don’t push it onto others.
  • This is watered down rubbish …
  • Do you honestly believe that if Jesus were here, he would participate in any of these pagan festivals? If your answer is yes, you are reading a different Bible …
  • Rob I don’t agree with your compromising view to encourage others to celebrate Halloween
  • Lollies are full of white sugar which is harmful to their health and caused [sic] obesity.”

Interesting last point about white sugar (which I steer clear of by the way). Jesus said, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” It’s not just the words we speak but also those we write. In His next statement Jesus mentioned a number of things that defile a person including false testimony and slander – that is to injure, insult or malign a person’s character. That’s what the pop-up Pharisees did to Jesus. And they’re still hard at work today!

There seems to be a lot of confusion amongst Christians as to the proper place for judging – or not judging. I was reading a Facebook thread on the weekend on Ireland’s vote for gay marriage, and especially U2’s Bono coming out in favour of it, so you can imagine all the strong opinions that were expressed.

Some people said things like “who are we to judge? Jesus told us not to judge” – quoting Matthew 7:1.  Others suggested that we are to judge and quoted 1 Corinthians 5:12, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”

A Facebook friend today asked me this question: “If I disagree with someone on life choices … does that mean I’m being judgmental? If so – should I just roll over and agree with everything so I’m not being judgmental. When is a right time to disagree?”  It’s a great question and one I hope to answer here.

On the face of it the New Testament appears to contradict itself on the issue of judging but, when you dig a little deeper and consider context, there is no contradiction at all.

Many words have different meanings depending on the context.  For example, the word “tip” can mean, “end, rubbish dump, advice, gratuity and to spill.”  The word “up” has 30 definitions.  So it is with the word “judge.”

For example, in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” Jesus uses the Greek word krino meaning “to condemn or punish.”  Whilst in Luke 12:57, He uses the same Greek word but here it means “to assess” – “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

Paul uses the same word krino in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?”  Here the word is used in the context of “assessing” the behaviour of another Christian – a guy was having sex with his stepmother! Paul is strong on this for obvious reasons and tells the church to “Expel the wicked person from among you.”  This was for a season and later Paul would write to them to welcome this man back into the fellowship. So the church was to assess this man’s behaviour as wrong (not condemn him), remove him from the church for a season (presumably he wasn’t repentant at the time) and later accept him back.  Restoration should always be the goal of church discipline (Galatians 6:12).

In 1 Corinthians 6:5-6, “Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” Paul uses a different Greek word, Diakrino meaning “to decide or discern.” Jesus uses the same word in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (or decision); James in Acts 15:19, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Here judgment means “assessment.”  In Romans 12:3 Paul writes, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (here judgment means “opinion”).

We are to assess things according to the Word of God but we must not condemn people with the Word.  Christians need to learn to express God’s truth without being judgmental and condemning.  We can feel strongly about something but we must never be arrogant or lacking in compassion.  Read Luke 7:36-50 and you’ll see a classic example of Jesus challenging someone’s harsh, arrogant and compassionless judgment of a sinful woman.

Now let’s go back to Matthew 7:1-5 which is often quoted out of context.  Jesus instructs His people NOT to judge or condemn others and warns that if we do “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  That’s worth bearing in mind! He then uses an analogy from His vocation as a carpenter, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”  Great questions!  Jesus goes on to define this sort of judgment as hypocritical and instructs us to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  In other words it’s okay to help someone else with his or her speck as long as we’ve dealt with our plank first!

Next time you’re tempted to be judgmental ask yourself:

  • What is my reason for wanting to correct or judge?
  • Is it for their benefit or to satisfy my pride and self-righteousness?
  • Am I more focused on condemning people than helping them?
  • Is love for them my motivating force? If people know we love them and have their best interests at heart they will be much more open to hearing our words.

Finally, remember that Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was NOT to judge people.  He said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 12:47; 3:16-17; 8:15).  1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “… judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.”  We would do well to heed that advice.  Some things just need to be left to the Day of Judgment when the judge of all the earth will do what is right.

One of the stories trending this week on Facebook concerns Fred Phelps, the founder of the highly controversial Westboro Baptist Church, who is said to be dying at a hospice center in Kansas.

The news originated from Nate Phelps one of Fred’s estranged children, who wrote this on Facebook a few days ago.

“I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.”

The Westboro Baptist church was pioneered by Fred Phelps in Topeka, Kansas, in 1955. To this day the church remains small in numbers but big in impact because of its controversial statements and pickets – over 52,000 of them since the church began. Its websites include “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates America,” “God Hates Islam,” “Jews Killed Jesus,” and “Beast Obama.”  You get the idea. God’s pretty ticked off with just about everyone except the people at Westboro Baptist. There’s even a “God Hates the World” website which lists all the countries and why God particularly hates each one. The Westboro website includes a tally of the “people whom God has cast into hell since you loaded this page.”

The church has become particularly well known, and despised, for protesting at the funerals of high-profile people as well as American soldiers who’ve died in combat. A number of laws have been passed in order to keep these misguided “Christians” away from grieving friends and relatives.

As a Christian I have found the Westboro Baptist Church to be a great embarrassment over the years. I frequently find myself disappointed with their hate filled rants as well as all the media attention they receive. They present God in a way that only repels people away from a Creator who loves and cares for them. They will be remembered in history in the same category as those who misquoted the Bible to defend slavery (think “Twelve Years a Slave”), the subjugation of women, and the persecution of scientists.

So how should we respond to such a hateful man as Fred Phelps as his life draws to a conclusion? It would be easy to cheer and spew the same hate back at him that he and his family have dished out over the decades. After all, he’ll reap what he’s sown right? But does that reflect the teaching of Jesus? I think not. Jesus constantly encourages us to take the high road in our reactions towards those who mistreat us. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In chapter 9 of his gospel, Luke recounts the story of a Samaritan village that rejected Jesus and His disciples. James and John asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” After all, God hates Samaritans!  Jesus “turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

The apostle Paul picks up the Master’s teaching when writing to the Roman Christians, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse … do not repay anyone evil for evil … do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12).

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook last night, “Can you imagine what a powerful statement it would be if the LGBT community showered the Phelps family with love during Fred Phelps’ funeral?”  I replied, “Well said, that would be awesome to see and hear – unexpected, unpredictable and a whole lot better than spewing hate back at hate.” This guy suggested a response that takes the high road – a response that Jesus encourages us to choose. Is it easy? No, it’s difficult. But the world will never be a better place if we only fight fire with fire. There’s got to come a time when we stop firing hate, bullets, bombs and harsh words at one another.  Fred Phelps will pass away and there’ll be plenty of hate-filled people to take his place. We can’t stop them, but we can choose the higher road of love that Jesus taught us to take.

As I write this blog on Wednesday 31st October 2012, Hurricane Sandy (dubbed “Frankenstorm”) has smashed into the American northeast, leaving 16 dead, millions without power and parts of Manhattan underwater.  Conditions remain dangerous as this one-of-a-kind storm moves inland bringing blizzard conditions and massive amounts of snow.

While Sandy is still blowing cold air, predictably we have a “Christian” preacher blowing hot.  Author and chaplain John McTernan has said God’s judgment of gays caused the hurricane.  On this website http://defendproclaimthefaith.org the preacher says the storm must be God’s judgment on gays, and punishing the president Barack Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality.  He also believes “America has been under God’s judgment ever since George Bush Senior signed the Madrid Peace Process to divide the land of Israel in 1991.”  McTernan said: “Obama is 100% behind the Muslim Brotherhood that has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem.  ‘Both candidates (Obama & Romney) are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda.’”

His reasoning for this is that it has been 21 years since the “perfect storm” of October 1991.  He says, “21 years breaks down to 7 x 3, which is a significant number with God. Three is perfection as the Godhead is three in one while seven is perfection.”  The online preacher also blamed Hurricane Isaac on homosexuals.  He said gay festival Southern Decadence was to blame, as God was “putting an end to this city and its wickedness.”

It saddens me greatly that every time there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world there’s always at least one self-proclaimed Christian minister who will get up (after the event) and pinpoint the reason for it – and it’s always God’s judgment and it’s usually because of gay people.

I disagree with these judgment preachers for three main reasons:

Firstly, New Testament prophecy isn’t about proclaiming the reason for a disaster after the fact.  In Acts 11:27-30 a prophet by the name of Agabus “predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius).”  Armed with this knowledge the Christians gave financial gifts in order to help those who were affected by this famine.  Please note that there is no inference in this prophecy that this event was God’s judgment on anyone.  In His love, God gave a warning so that His people could be ready to help NOT judge.

Secondly, the Bible teaches that God always removes His people BEFORE He judges the ungodly.  Lot and his family were taken out of Sodom before the judgment fell, Noah and his family was safely in the ark before the flood.  Abraham got it right when he said to God, “Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike.  Far be it from you!  Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).  I know many Christians who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.  It is not the judgment of God.

Thirdly, right now is the time of God’s favor not vengeance or judgment (see Luke 4:19; Isaiah 61:2).  There will be a time of judgment in the future, but right now is the time of grace and a message of good news of Salvation to EVERYONE.   People like John McTernan seem to miss this truth, and their unbiblical proclamations end up turning people away from God rather than to Him.  That saddens me greatly.  How about you?

The danger with truth is that when you push a truth too far it slips into error.  That is true when it comes to the belief that Martin Luther reinforced through the Reformation – that faith alone, apart from the law, was necessary for salvation.

During Luther’s time there were those who pushed this truth too far by teaching that the law was unnecessary and all one had to do was believe in Jesus.  The way a person lived didn’t matter; it was unnecessary, they said, to hold to any moral law.  In response to this, Luther coined the term Antinomianism (taken from the Greek words meaning “against law”).

Now I most certainly believe in salvation by faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The apostle Paul makes it clear when he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Even though I believe this truth it doesn’t mean that I hold to antinomianism.  I believe that God’s law is vitally important for four reasons:

Firstly, the law gives us knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20, “…through the law we become conscious of sin.”

If it weren’t for laws we wouldn’t know what was right and what was wrong.  If there was no speed limit, for example, we could drive at dangerous speeds that would harm others and us.  Having speed laws means that when someone exceeds the speed limit they can be justly punished and hopefully amend their behaviour.  Parents want to instil knowledge of right and wrong in their children so they become responsible citizens.  God’s law does the same for us.

The second purpose of the law is to declare the whole world guilty.

Romans 3:19, “all the world may become guilty before God.”

Just like the law of the land, the law of God shows us what is pleasing and displeasing to God.  If God hadn’t told us that lying, murder, adultery and the like are wrong, we wouldn’t have an understanding of them being wrong and so wouldn’t feel guilty for engaging in behaviour that is not only destructive to ourselves but also to others.

Thirdly, the law gives place to the justice of God.

Romans 4:15, “… law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.”

When we break a law justice says that it is right for the lawbreaker to be punished. When we break God’s laws He is just and righteous in punishing us.

Finally, God’s law is to lead us to Jesus Christ our Saviour

Galatians 3:24-25, “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

And so, through the law we realize that we are sinners, that we are guilty and that we deserve to be punished.  Then comes the good news – Jesus has taken our punishment for us so that we can be free from guilt and shame.  The law is like a tutor that brings us to Christ, but once we have been introduced to Jesus we are no longer under the tutor (the law) – it has served its purpose, we are forgiven and free.

The Old Testament has many complex laws; the New Testament simplifies them all into one statement: “The commandments are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14)

Once we have been forgiven by Jesus He calls us to live a life of love – a life that does no harm to its neighbour.  That is the purpose and fulfilment of the law.

The problem is that this moral message gets in the way of the church’s real message – the gospel, which is good news.  Some Christians are so busy trying to clean up others’ lives by Christianising them that they miss their real mission – that of sharing the true gospel.  The message of the moral police actually drives a wedge between Christians and the world that God loves.
Jesus didn’t behave this way so why do some of His people?  It’s like trying to clean a fish before you’ve caught it.  Jesus hung around with all sorts of people who had been rejected by the religious crowd of his day (see Mark 2:13-17).  The religious right, who did not understand Jesus’ love and acceptance, scorned Him – and they haven’t changed!
Now I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t have an opinion about moral issues, or have the right to express that opinion, or work for what is right in society.  We greatly respect people like William Wilberforce who worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in the British Empire – even though he was forsaken by much of society, including the church.  Today we respect Christians like Tim Costello who works on behalf of the poor and speaks out on issues like the dangers of gambling addiction.
But these men are a far cry from Christians who see themselves as the moral police called to enforce their view of the Bible’s morality on all of society.  These people build walls rather than bridges and actually keep people away from a relationship with a God who can change their life.
Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world – why should we?  Jesus came to reconcile people to God.  The moral police don’t reconcile, they repel.
The Christian message should be attractive not repellent. The apostle Paul wrote: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sings against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  There it is, the church’s message for the world – reconciliation.
Of course the moral police are not new.  They’ve been around for centuries – even in Jesus’ day.  He told them once, “you shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matthew 23:13).
Christians are not called to live as conspirators banded together against the world that is for the time their home.  Rather, Jesus calls his people to live as salt and light “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” – not be turned away from God by the message of the moral police!