A lot of people have a hard time accepting all of the Bible as God’s Word to be taken literally. Those of us who see it just fine are getting attacked left and right by those such as atheists who focus on a verse out of context or a concept like capital punishment that they personally find abhorrent. So through this short post I’m going to give out a couple clues that solve the problems of defending the Word for many believers. We’re lacking in clues I think because of our own teachings such as splitting the Word into “old” and “new” testaments, “church” replacing “Israel,” an “age of grace” as opposed to an “age of law” (or whatever other ages we make up) and “Jesus died so we could eat a ham sandwich.” Two clues in particular are balance and continuity.
Balance means that all of the words from God are considered together. God (and His Word) is perfectly balanced between judgment and mercy, grace and law, love and holiness. He doesn’t stop being loving to judge wrongdoers. When He gives a Law, He is not diminishing grace. A penalty such as stoning given for the breaking of a Law is just as gracious as the offer of forgiveness if one repents of sin (not leading to death). The grace is in warning others that similar behavior results in death. Stoning is like a sign post telling other people not to drive off a cliff. People have plenty of warning that certain behavior will result in capital punishment. Usually people just bull ahead knowing that it is wrong in the first place. God-given conscience tells them it is wrong, but hard hearts won’t listen. When they cease listening, that is when they are truly “stoned.”
He doesn’t stop being gracious in order to tread the winepress of His wrath. How is this so? Would you believe that treading out the winepress of His wrath IS grace? In order to have cleanliness, you have to take out the trash! If He wants a perfect kingdom with tons of blessings and no death (and He does) God must insist on removing the rot.
Continuity means that He (or His Words) are always the same. What is holy is always holy. What is not holy is always not holy. False problems are created when we try to explain His Law any other way. If we manufacture a grace that excludes Law, then we have a problem explaining judgment. If we (falsely) say that Law is “old” and grace is “new” then we have to reconcile what happens to people who don’t accept it (usually turning to the mystic lie of universalism).
It’s not God’s Word that has the problems. It is people who look at only part of it, like the blind guys trying to figure out an elephant. Remember, we started out in perfection in the Garden. If you want to find a comparison to use for where we should be, use that one.