Freedom from Condemnation Does Not Imply Freedom from Consequences

by Joseph Franks

There are many times when God forgives men of their sins against one another, but he chooses not to free them from the consequences of their sins. In the fifth chapter of Numbers, God requires sinners to pay remuneration to those whom they have offended:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him.     (Numbers 5:5-8)

Later, in Numbers 14, ten spies distrust the Lord and encourage all Israel to follow their leadership. Except for the mediation of Moses, these spies are in danger of being damned by the Lord. However, graciously, God heeds the prayer of his prophetic mediator. He forgives their transgressions but does not choose to free them of the consequences of their actions:

Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.     (Numbers 14:20-24)

Scripture is full of examples of individuals who are forgiven of sin but still required to reap what they have sown. Most of the Israelites will be required to wander and die in the wilderness. Moses will not enter the Promised Land. Samson will lose his eyesight and his life. David will lose his reputation and child. Clearly, God forgives these sinners. Most of them are enjoying eternal bliss today. However, reconciliation with God does not mean freedom from consequences. Grace does not always imply getting away with something.

Therefore, in human relationships, adultery may be forgiven and biblical divorce may follow. Or adultery may be forgiven, but trust lost. A criminal may receive forgiveness from the one wronged, and still find himself charged, sentenced and behind bars. Following unethical conduct, one may forgive and still require financial remuneration. Ministers may be pardoned but lose the right to serve behind the pulpit. Children may sin and be granted instantaneous forgiveness, and corporal punishment may still result. Forgiveness is not synonymous with freedom from consequences.

And in our spiritual walk, let us not tread on the grace of God. It is true that a Christian can never fall out of the love of Christ, The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ covers all the sins of all the elect. Nothing can ever separate them from the love of God. However, one should not confuse an unbreakable relationship with an uncaring deity. The Father promises to discipline those whom he loves. Therefore, if one sins, he can always confess, repent, and know that his sins are forgiven. But God reserves the right to violently spank his children out of love for them and for his own glory. Free salvation does not lead to freedom from consequences.

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