Have I deeply thought about what punishment is? How would you define right now what punishment is?
God’s righteousness is punitive justice of God. What that means is God is our Lawgiver who punishes those who transgressed the law. Punishment is defined as loss or pain inflicted by God, our Lawgiver, in vindication of his justice. As just God, he cannot ignore wrongdoings of mankind. He must punish them when they sin against the law. Also, Berkhof says that punishment is “a debt that is due to the essential justice of God” (282) Also, Turretin says: “If there be such an attribute as justice belonging to God, then sin must have its due, which is punishment.” So we can say this is the nature of punishment. Punishment is pain or loss inflicted by God to those who deserve it because of their sin. And, we know what this means. Example abounds in our daily life in news, articles about courts and laws, and sanctions. God is our righteous judge and as such, sin necessarily deserves punishment according to the law.
What is the purpose of the punishment?
Purpose of the punishment is to vindicate divine righteousness or justice.
Do I pay close attention to the law of God? Do I really understand what Jesus died for? Do I really understand what kind of life Jesus came to live? His life was to live a life in perfect accordance with God’s law so that his righteousness may be imputed to us. He had to die on the cross primarily because he had to be punished in our place for our sins. God is loving but God is also just God. As a righteous judge who gave us moral law written on our hearts, God cannot justify us out of love. That will be a contradiction of God’s attribute of justice. As a righteous Judge, he MUST punish us. I think this is what pastor James was trying to convey to us. I think this is why he wants us to realize the importance of God’s law in our lives. We are saved from the result of sin but also the power and the presence of sin. And sin should be considered always in relation to the law. Because where there is no law, there is no sin. When pastor James says God’s grace is righteous grace, that means God’s grace doesn’t condone our sins. Rather, God’s grace makes us all the more holy and righteous people. He saved us for good works and these good works are all the words, thoughts and deeds that are in perfect harmony with the law of God. The law of God along with the gospel of God, therefore, should take a central place in our lives. The law of God guides us how we ought to live and the good news of Jesus Christ empowers us to live according to the law. I’m not under law anymore but under grace. However, I should be always mindful of God’s law as long as I breathe on this side of heaven because sanctification is all about us becoming more righteous. I think I now understand why the Westminster divines placed so much emphasis on exposition of the ten commandments, why a large portion of the larger catechism is devoted to explaining what is forbidden and what is commanded in each of the ten moral laws. While we say so often that we want to figure out the will of God and how he wants our life to be lived, we ignore the law of God, which is the very expression of his being. I think many times when people say they want to know the will of God for them, I think they refer to the secret will of God through which he determined everything regarding our lives. Why do we pay less attention to this just law, which is the very expression of His being? God revealed his very will to us. He revealed to us how we ought to live. Are we really conscious of that law? Are we mindful of that law? I’m saved from sin but I’m saved for good works. Let me not forget this. Let me never forget this until I die.
And how liberating is the gospel which tells us that we are no longer under the law in a sense that we have to keep it to be righteous before God? Because Jesus Christ has not only suffered the punishment for all our sins but also lived a life of perfect obedience, we can always look to him in our failures. The law no longer and cannot condemn us. The law is our compass. But the gospel gives us power to actually walk and run according to what the compass says.
The vindication of the righteousness and holiness of God, and of that just law which is the very expression of His being, is certainly the primary purpose of the punishment of sin.
OH! And it’s very useful to distinguish between punishment and chastisement. Punishment springs from justice of God, from his righteous attribute. Chastisement flows from God’s mercy and love toward his people. What this implies is that when we suffer, God is not punishing us because God already punished our sins in Jesus Christ. What God is doing in chastising us, in discipline, is that God is turning an evil of our sin into something good. God is using our sinful action to show the negative, destructive influence of sin and turns us back toward God’s fatherly care.
Okay, but then what is the actual punishment of sin? What is the actual penalty?
1)Spiritual death 2)Sufferings of life 3)Physical death 4)Eternal death
Sin separates man from God, and that means death, for it is only in communion with the living God that man can truly live. (284) What is the life and death in the scriptural sense of the word? Death is separation from God because it is only in communion with the living God that man can truly live.
Sin is also the punishment of sin -Augustine
O God, you are the only one and the living God. In relationship with you, in communion with you is the eternal life. Lord, you put it perfectly in your prayer. Life eternal is to know God and the one God has sent to this world. Eternal life is know God and Jesus. Knowing not in an intellectual sense but knowing as in “Adam knew his wife.” When pastor James says we gotta be human beings fully alive, I ask myself what is life in a biblical sense of the word? Life is found in perfect communion with the living God. What is death then? Death is separation from God. To be a man fully alive, you have to be holy first. Only when you are truly happy, free from the presence of sin, we will become fully alive. However, on this side of heaven, it is through life-long process of sanctification that we become more and more alive.