This week I was reading a Sabbath School study lesson entitled The God of Grace and Judgment and there were a lot of very interesting points made. Judgment and salvation are not contrary to each other. They reflect twin aspects of God’s character. God is a holy God so He has to bring judgment on those who wilfully sin against Him. He is also a merciful God. He offers people a way out. He offers them the chance to turn away from their sinful ways and turn to Him. We see this in the story of Noah.
God was heartbroken at the evil that was prevalent in the world. All people wanted to do was commit evil. Their hearts and minds were bent on doing evil. So God decided that He would destroy the world in a flood. There were however one family who was righteous in His eyes. He approached the head of that family, Noah and informed him of His plans. He also instructed him on how to build an ark. God’s judgment was to bring the flood and His grace was the ark. The lesson said that by building the ark, Noah was giving the world a warning about judgment. There was a grace period–one hundred and twenty years to be exact, during which time the people had a chance to turn from their evil ways and accept God’s salvation. Ellen G. White wrote that had “the antediluvians believed the warning, and repented of their evil deeds, the Lord would have turned aside His wrath” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 97). Peter tells us that God was longsuffering. He was waiting during the time that the ark was being built.
It is believed that Noah preached to the people as he built the ark. 2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Strong’s definition of preacher is: a herald or messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand, and performed various other duties. In the NT God’s ambassador, and the herald or proclaimer of the divine word. Unfortunately, the people did not heed Noah’s message. Jesus told us how they behaved during that time is similar to how many will be in the last days. “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:38, 39). Noah and his family were preparing for the flood in faith. They believed that God would send them rain even though they had never seen rain before. They were like the believers who will be preparing for their Lord’s coming. They will be ready. Noah and his family were ready. When the flood came, they were safe in the ark. Hebrews 11:7 testifies that: By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. The ark was a sign of both God’s judgment and His mercy. It was there to warn people of His impending judgment and to offer them refuge if they would affect His grace before it was too late.
In the Garden of Eden, both judgment and grace are revealed. Satan deceived Eve and sin entered the world. When God entered the garden, He called out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” They were hiding from Him. God was not condemning them. He was inviting them to go to Him. The lesson study states that it was a call to turn away from their deceiver and to return to their Maker. Then after He is done questioning the couple, God pronounces judgment on the serpent before He gave His first message of grace, redemption, salvation for humanity. He spoke of the cross. On the cross Jesus would defeat the enemy and the wages of sin which is death. After this message of grace, God declared His judgments against the woman and the man. They are given the promise of grace before they receive their judgment.
A great question the lesson asks is: In what ways might the Lord be saying to you, “Where are you?” What are you doing that, perhaps, is causing you to hide from Him? Why is understanding grace a crucial first step in heeding His call to draw near to Him and away from the deceiver?
John 3:16, one of the most quoted verses, speaks of God’s grace. It says: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life. It is like those who accepted God’s grace during the flood would not have perished but would have been spared. Verses 17-21 state: For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. The offer of grace is for those who accept the gift of salvation through Jesus and judgment is reserved for those who don’t reject that gift.
Sometimes God’s mercy is in His warning. The people of Nineveh were issued this warning, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” God was giving them forty days to repent and turn to Him. They believed God and proclaimed a fast. They covered themselves and the animals in sackcloth and cried out to God. The king sent out a decree that the people and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, He changed His mind and did not bring judgment upon them.
One last example of judgment and grace is found in Revelation 14:6, 7: Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth–to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people–saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” The angel has the Gospel to preach to people. They have the opportunity to hear the message and to either accept it or reject it. They cannot say that they didn’t know about God or His offer of salvation. They cannot plead ignorance. The Gospel is to be preached to everyone. Just as in the days of Jesus, the word was taught to the people and some accepted it while others rejected it.
As I read about the angel proclaiming the Gospel, I remembered what Paul said in Romans 10: For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15). Of course, not everyone will accept the good news but God, in His infinite mercy, has to give everyone a chance to hear the good news. The Gospel is a message of judgment and grace. Our role is to help spread this message.
I am so thankful that the God is the God of grace and judgment. It means that He does not excuse or overlook sin. It also means that He gives us a chance to turn from our sin (s) and turn our lives around with His help. It means that He has the right to judge every secret thing whether it is good or evil but in His infinite mercy He offers us the way to salvation.