What do sin, righteousness, and judgment have in common? If you were here for the weekend message, then you know the answer. These three are what Jesus told His disciples would be the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. If you missed the teaching, I encourage you to listen or watch the entire message by going to our website and clicking on the "messages" tab. That being available for you to listen to, I want to focus on something that wasn't a part of the weekend's sermon. It almost was, but didn't make the cut because of time and the necessity of limiting what I focused on.
I want to touch on an aspect of judgment that many Christians aren't aware of, and because they are not aware of it, they sometimes misunderstand why evil is running rampant. The Bible doesn't reveal that this aspect of judgment is specifically carried out by the person of the Holy Spirit, but it is without a doubt the work of God in this world. Since the Holy Spirit is the primary agent of the Godhead at work in the world right now, we can safely assume that the Holy Spirit is involved in this aspect of judgment too.
This past weekend, as we considered Jesus' words about the Holy Spirit convicting the world concerning judgment, my focus was on the aspect of judgment that was clearly in view: The final judgment - the condemnation of all who reject God. This is the obvious meaning since Jesus ties this aspect of the Holy Spirit's work to, "because the ruler of this world is judged" (see John 16:11).
I want to take our focus, now, from the eternal and ultimate judgement to the very present and ongoing judgment that Paul describes in Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
If there ever was a word that conjured up images of judgment, it's "wrath." What Romans 1:18 clearly communicates is that judgment (wrath) is being leveled (revealed) against the world (ungodliness and unrighteousness) and the source of this judgment is God (from heaven). Yet, when you read on seeking to understand what this judgment looks like, you find something interesting. This particular judgment isn't eternal condemnation. It isn't fire falling from the sky. It isn't even striking the judged with physical punishment. So what is it?
We find the answer in verse 24 where we read, "Therefore God gave them up..." Another translation puts it, "God gave them over..." Just in case youmight think this isan anomaly, the same exact phrase is repeated two other times in this same passage, verses 26 and 28. At this point, I think it worthwhile to read the entire passage and see for yourself a very different form of God's judgment.
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
How do we know that verse 24 through 32 describe the judgment of God? We know because of the word at the beginning of verse 24, "therefore." This is a critical word of connection. It means that whatever follows this wordis tied to what was said before it, and that the tie is a very specific kind; one of cause and effect. Let me give you an example from everyday life. This morning I left my house at 5:50am, therefore, I didn't see my daughters. Not seeing my daughters was caused by leaving my house at 5:50am. All that is described in verses 24 through 31 are caused by what is described in verses 18 through 25. The judgment of God, which is the consequence of ungodliness and idolatry, is "God gave them up." The world rejects God and lives ungodly lives, therefore God gives them up (or over).
What does "God gave them up (or over)" mean? The key word is paradidomi. It means, "To give over into one's power or use." Another part of the definition reads, "to deliver up one to custody, to be judged..." There's our key word again, "judged." The judgment of God, in this case, is a giving over into the control of another. Who or what are the judged given into the custody of? In a word, desire. The descriptions given in verses 24 through 32 are quite detailed but all of them are related in this way, they are exactly what the world wanted; they are what the world desires. This, too, is judgment. That God gives the sinning world exactly what it wants.
But why? Why would God judge in this way? It seems vindictive. Like an angry parent, who having been exhausted in their repeated efforts to keep their child from jumping off the top bunk, finally has had enough and declares, "Fine, you want to jump off the bunk and break your arm, then go right ahead!" Is this what God is saying?
Of course not. God is not vindictive. And although the result could look very much the same as what happens to the kid who does jump off the top bunk - he breaks his arm and learns his lesson - God's motivation is not vindictiveness, but love. Many people, unfortunately, have to learn the hard way. It is Biblical to say that a man or woman reaps what they sow. I'm not talking about karma, that's something else, the Biblical reality is described in Galatians 6:7-8:
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
What happens to the person in the world "given over" to their fleshly desires? They reap corruption from that same flesh. God's purpose, then, is that the consequence of their sin would bring them broken before God, who is waiting to grant them forgiveness if they will repent and trust in Jesus.
So the next time you see wickedness on the rise, and you or someone wonders aloud, "Why does God allow such evil?" Remember, part of the judgment of God is the giving over of the world to its desires, which does cause evil to increase. However, His purpose is not thwarted by this. It's actually furthered.
To God be the glory, great things He has done, is doing, and will do, through the righteousness of the Godly AND the unrighteousness of the world. Amazing!
For His Glory,