Good morning friend, And Merry ‘week of’ Christmas!
I hope you are getting caught up on some much needed rest! I felt compelled this morning to write you about what I was reading in Romans today. When we last spoke you said you didn’t understand how a loving father could condemn his kids to hell. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t a resolution to the conversation. Today I read Romans 3 and 4. It is such a beautiful section of scripture where Paul perfectly weaves together the law from the Old Testament to current applications for the Jews and Gentiles. What first struck me from reading was verses 3-4, “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: That You may be justified in Your words and may overcome when You are judged (Paul quotes Psalms 51:4).
That’s a pretty powerful statement! I didn’t fully comprehend the quote from Psalms 51:4 until I dove into it a little deeper. Three questions arose as I read it:
1) How is God justified in His words?
2) Who is judging God?
3) What is He overcoming?
So, I dug in a little deeper. The previous statement that Paul had made is regarding unbelief. If we read it again: “What if some do not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God to no effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.” Thus! My answer to question two: We are the ones judging God when we make Him out to be unfaithful when it is actually our own depraved heart condition that is the problem.
Now on to question one: How is God justified in His words? God makes Himself known in many different ways. We know the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) we see evidences of Him everywhere (Romans 1:20) and here we know Him through His Word. John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” One of the ways we can know that He is reliable is found in Psalm 12:7 where God says, “you shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.” Thus my answer to question one is in the following trail of logic: We know God through His words; His words say that He is faithful; thus He is justified in his words. Whenever we reach a point where something we think and something God’s word says is in conflict: choose truth! God is justified in His Words! The Bible says he is loving. Then we know that even when we think He acts in ways that seem unloving, it is impossible. God doesn’t contradict his word…we do. As Paul writes, “let God be true, but every man found a liar.”
He is the foundation upon which we stand. That leads us to question number three: What is He Overcoming? As previously implied but never directly stated, He is overcoming man’s fickle ways and sinful conjectures. I find it comforting to know that even when I have things wrong, God doesn’t change his ways to fit the molds that I create, which leads to the story of Lazarus and the certain rich man.
Bit of a stretch? Maybe. Before I begin, I would just like to say that for the purposes of this point it doesn’t matter if we think that the story is a parable, a real-life event, or a simple story. Here’s why. Jesus is perfect. When He speaks, his theology is perfect. So, if he was speaking of two made up people who died, he would not make up two places for them to go. The laws of good and evil are still in effect, righteousness and justice are in effect, all of the truths that make up this world are still in effect. Whether the people and circumstances are real or not does not affect this one jot or tittle.
So, when Jesus spoke of the two separate places: Hades and Abraham’s bosom, we can trust that they are real places. In verse 23 of Luke 16 we read, “Being in torments in Hades.” He is sent to a real, legitimate place of torment. Verse 25, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things…but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” This speaks of consequences for the unpardonable sin, ie. rejection of God (Mark 4:29à But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation). Verse 26, “there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” Permanency.
The rich man longs for relief from his torment. Yet, as verse 26 says it is impossible to pass from Hades to Abraham’s Bosom. There is no ‘but,’ no ‘if,’ no ‘try again later.’ That’s the bottom line. And when this sinks in to the certain rich man’s mind, he begs for deliverance not for himself (he knows it’s too late) but for his family. Which is the appropriate reaction when we hear about hell and the permanency of it. Compassion for the souls of those we love and those who God loves. We have been given a great assignment here. One that should not be taken lightly.
I pray now that I have not inserted any of my own sinful conjectures in this letter. But instead that God allowed me to be a vessel fit for His use. I share this because it weighs heavy on my heart and I implore you not to miss the magnitude of it. I’m praying for you, friend.
In God’s grace,