Does God Continually Punish Us For Our Sin?

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Does God Continually Punish Us For Our Sin?

When we com­mit a major sin, it’s easy to start to think that God wants to pun­ish us for the rest of our lives for it. In fact, we might start think­ing that every bad thing we see is pun­ish­ment for the sin we com­mit­ted. I know after I com­mit­ted adul­tery, I started see­ing life this way. I hear this ques­tion from fallen pas­tors a lot:

Does God Continually Punish Us For Our Sin?Does God con­tinue to pun­ish me for the sin I’ve com­mit­ted? Will He bring hor­ri­ble calami­ties my way (can­cer, sick­ness to my chil­dren) in the form of pun­ish­ment as well as me fac­ing the nor­mal con­se­quences of my sin (church peo­ple being angry, child sup­port, pas­tors who ignore me, etc.)?

These are two dif­fer­ent things to be con­sid­ered. God’s pun­ish­ment for our sin and the con­se­quences for our sin. When I coun­sel fallen pas­tors or women who have been with fallen pas­tors, these are two things that come up in con­ver­sa­tion very frequently.

Hon­estly, it took me a long time to come to a bib­li­cal answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scrip­ture and the work of oth­ers in this mat­ter because it is such an impor­tant issue.

Con­se­quences

Let’s look at con­se­quences first. When we sin, we need to own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David (even­tu­ally) acknowl­edged his sin before God after com­mit­ting adul­tery with Bathsheba and mur­der­ing her hus­band. He asked for repen­tance and to be clean before God. This is so impor­tant for any Chris­t­ian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repen­tance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a court­room. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off with­out a penalty? Nope.

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Del­mar had just been bap­tized and thought that his bap­tism had cleared him of all civil wrong­do­ing, includ­ing a Pig­gly Wig­gly he had robbed. He tells his trav­el­ing mates Pete and Everett about the experience:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m sur­prised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Del­mar: But they was wit­nesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Del­mar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a lit­tle more hardnosed.

Even though a sin­ner is repen­tant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the con­se­quences of our actions. I know that after I com­mit­ted adul­tery, there were many con­se­quences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those con­se­quences the same as pun­ish­ment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink:

But while the believer’s sins can­not be pun­ished, while the Chris­t­ian can­not be con­demned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chas­tised. The Chris­t­ian occu­pies an entirely dif­fer­ent posi­tion from the non-​Christian: he is a mem­ber of the Fam­ily of God. The rela­tion­ship which now exists between him and God is that of par­ent and child; and as a son he must be dis­ci­plined for wrong­do­ing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s chil­dren, and the rod is nec­es­sary to rebuke, to sub­due, to hum­ble.

When we lie, there will be con­se­quences. When we gos­sip, con­se­quences will come. When we com­mit any type of sin, there will be God-​wrought con­se­quences. They are a form of dis­ci­pline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those con­se­quences face to face with grace and humil­ity, know­ing that we cause the ini­tial calamity, pray­ing that over­com­ing the con­se­quences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Pun­ish­ment

What about pun­ish­ment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen peo­ple say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my new­born child died because of my adul­tery,” or “I repented, but my new business/​ministry failed because God was judg­ing me because of my past sin. Is He still pun­ish­ing me?”

The best guide­line is Romans 8:12, “There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must real­ize that for this promise is for those who repent. Chris­tians who live in a con­stant state of dis­obe­di­ence and unre­pen­tance are in a dif­fi­cult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion and its end, eter­nal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eter­nal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:2223 ESV)

Unre­pen­tant sin leads to pun­ish­ment. Scrip­ture is clear on that. It is pun­ish­ment plus con­se­quences. The beauty of it all is that when we con­fess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remem­bers it no more (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly con­se­quences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for our­selves. But we are free from the pun­ish­ment that sin brings to bear upon us.

Shame and Forgiveness

I do know that often, because of the shame we bear because of our sin, we some­times wish the wrath of God would rain upon us. But God’s grace and for­give­ness is vast. He loves and for­gives freely when we repent. Shame can bind us in such a way that we feel like we deserve some sort of divine ret­ri­bu­tion, but that is not God’s plan. It was already borne at Cal­vary by Christ. Don’t let shame and guilt keep you from expe­ri­enc­ing the free­dom Christ gave you.

So what can I do?

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pas­tor, or a sin­ner who is liv­ing con­tin­u­ally in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by con­fess­ing it to God. Find some­one close to you with whom you can be account­able to and with whom you can share this with. You will need sup­port and men­tor­ing. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the pun­ish­ment of God.

Next, after you have repented, under­stand that you are free. God has for­given you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reach­ing down to pun­ish you for your pre­vi­ous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be con­se­quences for your sin for a long time — peo­ple treat­ing you poorly, finan­cial pay­ments, bro­ken rela­tion­ships — but know that hor­ri­ble events in your life are not acts of God reach­ing out to pun­ish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been for­given, you are for­given. Isa­iah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your trans­gres­sions, for my own sake, and remem­bers your sins no more.” Isa­iah 1:18, “Come now, let us rea­son together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scar­let, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crim­son, they shall be like wool.”

When I com­mit­ted adul­tery as a pas­tor, I was not repen­tant. I was there­fore, under the divine judg­ment of God. He was free to pun­ish me — He was my Heav­enly Father and I was His fol­lower. I was way out of line and not fol­low­ing His com­mands. My own actions and behav­iors were enough pun­ish­ment, but He was free to pun­ish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influ­ence of His Spirit), He for­gave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was for­given. Were the con­se­quences of my adul­tery gone? No. I still had many peo­ple who were upset with me, many bro­ken rela­tion­ships, and a long road of restora­tion ahead. The con­se­quences still sur­round me today because of the sin I com­mit­ted. But God is with me as I travel down that road, work­ing all things together for His glory.

When you turn to God and repent, you will find for­give­ness. Con­se­quences may fol­low, but they are not the same as divine pun­ish­ment. Face the con­se­quences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holi­ness of God, know­ing “after you have suf­fered a lit­tle while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eter­nal glory in Christ, will him­self restore, con­firm, strengthen, and estab­lish you.1 Peter 5:10.

Other help­ful articles:

The Judg­ments: Past, Present, and Future — J. Hamp­ton Keath­ley III (while I do not com­pletely agree with his escha­tol­ogy, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

What’s the Dif­fer­ence Between Pun­ish­ment, Con­se­quences, Dis­ci­pline, Train­ing, and Instruc­tion — Brad Hambrick

Does God Pun­ish Us When We Sin? — God Ques​tions​.org

_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​

Ray Car­roll is the author of “Fallen Pas­tor: Find­ing Restora­tion in a Bro­ken World,” which answers many of the ques­tions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pas­tor who needs to talk or you are some­one who has been affected by a fallen pas­tor and would like to con­tact me pri­vately, please click here. You are the main rea­son this min­istry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, asso­ci­a­tion, con­fer­ence, or news out­let and would like more infor­ma­tion about this min­istry, please click here.

When we commit a major sin, it’s easy to start to think that God wants to punish us for the rest of our lives for it. In fact, we might start thinking that every bad thing we see is punishment for the sin we committed. I know after I committed adultery, I started seeing life this way. I hear this question from fallen pastors a lot:

Does God Continually Punish Us For Our Sin?Does God continue to punish me for the sin I’ve committed? Will He bring horrible calamities my way (cancer, sickness to my children) in the form of punishment as well as me facing the normal consequences of my sin (church people being angry, child support, pastors who ignore me, etc.)?

These are two different things to be considered. God’s punishment for our sin and the consequences for our sin. When I counsel fallen pastors or women who have been with fallen pastors, these are two things that come up in conversation very frequently.

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to a biblical answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scripture and the work of others in this matter because it is such an important issue.

Consequences

Let’s look at consequences first. When we sin, we need to own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David (eventually) acknowledged his sin before God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. He asked for repentance and to be clean before God. This is so important for any Christian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repentance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a courtroom. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off without a penalty? Nope.

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Delmar had just been baptized and thought that his baptism had cleared him of all civil wrongdoing, including a Piggly Wiggly he had robbed. He tells his traveling mates Pete and Everett about the experience:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.

Even though a sinner is repentant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the consequences of our actions. I know that after I committed adultery, there were many consequences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those consequences the same as punishment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink:

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

When we lie, there will be consequences. When we gossip, consequences will come. When we commit any type of sin, there will be God-wrought consequences. They are a form of discipline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those consequences face to face with grace and humility, knowing that we cause the initial calamity, praying that overcoming the consequences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Punishment

What about punishment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen people say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my newborn child died because of my adultery,” or “I repented, but my new business/ministry failed because God was judging me because of my past sin. Is He still punishing me?”

The best guideline is Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must realize that for this promise is for those who repent. Christians who live in a constant state of disobedience and unrepentance are in a difficult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. Scripture is clear on that. It is punishment plus consequences. The beauty of it all is that when we confess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no more (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly consequences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for ourselves. But we are free from the punishment that sin brings to bear upon us.

Shame and Forgiveness

I do know that often, because of the shame we bear because of our sin, we sometimes wish the wrath of God would rain upon us. But God’s grace and forgiveness is vast. He loves and forgives freely when we repent. Shame can bind us in such a way that we feel like we deserve some sort of divine retribution, but that is not God’s plan. It was already borne at Calvary by Christ. Don’t let shame and guilt keep you from experiencing the freedom Christ gave you.

So what can I do?

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pastor, or a sinner who is living continually in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by confessing it to God. Find someone close to you with whom you can be accountable to and with whom you can share this with. You will need support and mentoring. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the punishment of God.

Next, after you have repented, understand that you are free. God has forgiven you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reaching down to punish you for your previous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be consequences for your sin for a long time – people treating you poorly, financial payments, broken relationships – but know that horrible events in your life are not acts of God reaching out to punish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

When I committed adultery as a pastor, I was not repentant. I was therefore, under the divine judgment of God. He was free to punish me – He was my Heavenly Father and I was His follower. I was way out of line and not following His commands. My own actions and behaviors were enough punishment, but He was free to punish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influence of His Spirit), He forgave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was forgiven. Were the consequences of my adultery gone? No. I still had many people who were upset with me, many broken relationships, and a long road of restoration ahead. The consequences still surround me today because of the sin I committed. But God is with me as I travel down that road, working all things together for His glory.

When you turn to God and repent, you will find forgiveness. Consequences may follow, but they are not the same as divine punishment. Face the consequences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holiness of God, knowing “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

Other helpful articles:

The Judgments: Past, Present, and Future – J. Hampton Keathley III (while I do not completely agree with his eschatology, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

What’s the Difference Between Punishment, Consequences, Discipline, Training, and Instruction – Brad Hambrick

Does God Punish Us When We Sin? – God Questions.org

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

 

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