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What Is the Difference between God’s Discipline and God’s Punishment?

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[Here is the transcript of a brief interview that I did with Crossway. It is based on my book, A Dozen Things God Did With Your Sin (and three things he’ll never do).]

November 10, 2022

God Doesn’t Repay Sin

There are things God will never do with our sin—one of which is that he will never repay us. He will never count it against us. It's interesting when you contrast this with human behavior. We are very good at repaying people for their sins. We might say we forgive them, but then we kind of keep a little record book. We keep a scorecard. Well, yeah, I'll never bring it up to you until you've crossed me again. And then I'll throw it back in your face.

God promises never to repay us for our sins. Why? How? Because he's already poured out that judgment and that wrath on his Son in our place. Jesus willingly, lovingly, joyfully embraced it on the cross in himself. So that doesn't mean that our sin doesn't have an effect on our relationship with God. The Spirit of God still convicts us, but that's not repaying us. We will not be punished eternally for our transgressions. Yes, we are brought to an awareness by the Spirit of ways that we have fallen short, but not for the purpose of using that as the grounds to exclude us from the kingdom of God in the new heaven and the new earth.

So there is a massive difference between God's discipline of us when we have wandered in unrepentant sin on the one hand and God's punishment of us for that sin as a way of excluding us from his presence and experiencing his eternal wrath. There's a massive difference between the two.

So God does not count it against us in the sense that he's keeping a record of it to throw it back in our face. When we stand before the great white throne of judgment, it's not like he's going to pull out this register and say, Well, man, I've got all these things and now I need to repay you for them.

No, Christ has paid whatever debt was owed. He has endured whatever judgment we deserved, and that is forever and finally settled in the heart of God. But yes, there are times when God brings discipline upon his children. In fact, Hebrews says that it's because he loves us that he disciplines us. But that discipline is for the purpose of restoration, not retribution. And there is a massive difference between those two.

1 Comment

For clarification, shouldn't it be stipulated that this article is directed at true believers of Jesus Christ who have trusted in Him for their eternal salvation? I also thought that only non-believers appear before the Great White Throne Jusgment for eternal damnation to hell. Believers appear before the Bema Seat Judgment before entering heaven where God's rewards are distributed based on the works NOT done to save an individual but those done out of love and obedience to Jesus Christ. I didn't want anyone who read this to think that just because Jesus took the punishment for sin, that anyone, without a conscious acceptance of and putting their faith and trust in His work on our behalf, will go to heaven automatically.

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