October 2020, Vol. 39, No. 10

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Pardon Without Penalty? 

posted on October 1, 2020

[333 words]

According to Numbers 13, when the spies returned from their forty days of investigating the land God had promised them, there was a divided opinion presented to the people. It was not a difference involving facts. All twelve spies agreed that the land was good. In fact, it “flowed with milk and honey” (Num. 13:27, 14:8). The difference was in regard to faith. Ten said, “We are not able” (13:31). Two said, “we are well able” (13:30).

Sadly, the congregation believed the negative report. They complained against Moses and Aaron, criticized God, determined to go back to Egypt, and even called for stoning those who disagreed with them.

God was angry. He threatened to strike the people with pestilence and disinherit them (14:12). Moses pled for his people and God heard his plea. God said, “I have pardoned according to your word” (14:20). Yet, God added that none of those over twenty years of age, except Joshua and Caleb, would ever see the promised land.

Some might struggle to accept the idea that God would pardon, but still call for a penalty. This is because it is easy to convince ourselves that no serious consequences could ever come from forgiven sins.

Let’s test this. Should one who has abused his body for years with drugs or alcohol expect no long-term problems after he repents and stops abusing? Can a murderer be forgiven by God? Absolutely! But, does that mean the criminal system will allow him to escape punishment?

We must never forget – sin has consequences. If we really understand how sin can hurt us, not only now, but in the future, we will give greater effort to avoid wrongdoing. We will repent immediately when we realize we have sinned.

Jude 5 presents a somber warning, “But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” 

Allen Hahn
Graeber Road church of Christ
Rosenberg, TX

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