Matter of Faith: Punishment as a means


From: Jamie Smith

We adapt and adjust ourselves to the concept of “God is love” (1Jn 4:8), but it is beyond our capacity to fully understand it. Our comprehension of it differs in degree between individuals, but we seem to have the same idea about its kind, its genus. At least that is my hopeful assessment.

Conceptually, punishment can be a MEANS within love. It can be used to accomplish a good purpose. Therefore, punishment can be perfectly compatible with Divine love.

Human love, even though imperfect and embryonic, is discordant with punishment as an END. A healthy and uncauterized conscience would find it unacceptable. It is also entirely contradictory within the Divine.

We can certainly deduce this from three generally accepted truths: God is light with no darkness (1Jn 1:5). God’s testimony is greater than man’s (1Jn 5:9). God is love.

How can such a God use punishment as an end (Hell)? How can that result in the best finished product?

In Scripture, we will never find the phrase “God is justice” or “God is mercy.” Yet Scripture says that God is just and merciful. That is quite significant. It tells us that justice and mercy, along with some of God’s other attributes, are temporary activities of Divine love. They are needed now in the presence of sin.

God is light and light can be split just as a prism will split solar light into a rainbow spectrum. Justice is one of those colors and mercy is another. They are contained within the God of love.

He uses justice in love to separate Himself from associating with unrighteousness. He uses mercy in love to deal leniently with the disobedient.

Due to our religious upbringing, this type of thinking is difficult to absorb. It is often forbidden. However, it goes a very long way toward dealing with the unsolved predicament and hindrance in Christianity and other religions. That hindrance, that difficulty, that dark spot on God is “the problem of evil.” Why does evil exist? An understanding of the God Who is Love, answers the what, how, why, where and the solution of it.

A book very helpful to me in grasping these concepts is “The Problem of Evil and the Judgment of God” by A. E. Knoch. It took me awhile to get through it since I needed to stop at each page to settle the concepts and as best I could, to make sure they were scriptural. It is one of my most valued possessions. I highly recommend it for any who want to grow in the realization of God.


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