Mercy triumphs over judgment

We don’t have to be a decorated Theologian to know that God is merciful. Yet when we listen to many preachers preaching a fearful message of God’s wrath and judgement we may wonder what happened to His mercy and kindness. I listened to a bit of a sermon yesterday by an old time fundamentalist preacher John Rice. I had heard of him through a pastor in my town who actually went to the USA and sat under his teaching years ago. Here is a snippet of a biography on John Rice.

Giant of Evangelism

by Dr. Fred M. Barlow

“Not only one of the most controversial figures in the field of evangelism, being both applauded and criticised, Dr. John R. Rice is one of the most underrated Christian leaders of our time. His accomplishments are nothing short of miraculous. He has put the fires of evangelism and soul winning into the bones of more preachers than any other man. Daring to be different in an age when Hell-fire-and-damnation preaching is not emphasized, Dr. Rice simply did it because, as he noted, ‘Jesus did”

 

God Bless John Rice! I am not about to downgrade him as a person or to doubt his calling and accomplishments in Jesus his Lord. What I want to write about here is the way we all preach from our own BIAS.

Brother Rice preached from the Hell-fire-and-damnation BIAS which he obviously believed was the only view to have and he preached it with passion and conviction. As a result tens of thousands of people came to faith in Jesus Christ. All good, God uses everything as long as Jesus is preached.

So here comes my angle….which is not only mine but many others as well including many of the church Fathers before St. Augustine steered the church down the path of wrath and damnation forever and ever. Be that as it may, my particular BIAS is that God my Father and your Father is a merciful person. Merciful even to the extent of overriding his judgement.

I listened to Rice preach in his convincing style, hearing him present his view(bias)of God, Jesus, man, sinners, the cross, sin, judgement, death, wrath, eternity etc etc….and I heard half truths and half scriptures being used as proof texts.  This is nothing knew to me. I myself was a Hell and damnation preacher and also a member of a fundamentalist church that upheld all that John Rice taught.

ROMANS 6:23

If you are familiar with the “Roman road” plan of salvation for sinners you know that Romans 6:23 is a main part of that plan. In the message Rice preached and a myriad of other preachers since and before him, he quotes Romans 6:23 to prove that if you sin you will die.

Rom 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

But the trouble is that Evangelist John Rice and others only quote the first clause of the verse! They shout–THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!!! So they reason from that, STOP SINNING!! Or they may ask “What are you going to do about your sin, because you will surely die as a result of it?” Listen to Ev. Rice below..

He declares that the wages of sin is death!! Yes brother….what does the rest of the verse say?

….but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!!! Rom 6:23

I could just as easily stand up in front of a congregation and with the same authority as John Rice declare emphatically and authoritatively to every listener – the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Do you have the courage to see that dear reader. I am no more wrong or right  than John Rice in declaring my preferred view or bias of God’s will and purpose by declaring the last half of the verse than he is in declaring ONLY the first half.

The whole point of Paul telling his readers that the payment for sin is death is so that he can magnify God’s mercy through the sacrifice Jesus made for sinners. If we stop at the first half of the verse, we fail to magnify Jesus and we fail to preach the truth. But who am I against such a legend as John Rice?

Every year on December 25th many millions of people remember the gift of a Saviour being born in a manger…a Saviour Who would grow up to give his life as a ransom for many–ie, ALL OF US. All of us need a Saviour..God knew that..daaaaa. So our loving heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son to die on a cruel cross for sinners so that EVERYONE  may receive God’s free gift of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sinners and Saints die….it does not matter how hard you have tried to NOT SIN….you still die. Name any of your favourite holiness preachers—they are all dead.

But you say…it’s not physical death that Rice is preaching about it is spiritual death…a death that lasts forever and ever and ever in the lake of fire.

Glad you pointed that out to me.

Preacher Rice also went onto use Hebrews 9:27 in the same fashion.

Heb 9:27  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 

Here once again, he is using half a scripture to prove his BIASED view that Judgement is coming to unrepentant sinners. This is the Gospel he knows, and he preaches it with authority. He says That this verse declares that God shall judge you after you die…..but fails to mention the rest of the sentence!! The context clearly shows another story!

Heb 9:26  He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself
Heb 9:27  And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 
Heb 9:28  so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. 

The awesome thing all around the half verse Rice quotes is that sin HAS BEEN PUT AWAY BY JESUS ONE TIME SACRIFICE….WHEN JESUS CARRIED AND BORE ALL OUR SINS …ALL MANKIND’S SINS! HE HAS BORNE THEM AWAY INTO AN EMPTY TOMB!! WHAT SIN????

SIN HAS BEEN PUT AWAY! Believe it.

The verse in the middle–verse 27…is NOT THE THEME OF THE GOSPEL…Rice says that judgement is the theme all through the Bible. But the point of mentioning judgement is to highlight what that judgement will be for all people. It will be in their favour. Why? Because Jesus has already carried everyone’s in and has paid the price already.

Sure those who do not have Jesus do not know such a thing as forgiveness of sin. But God is not going to hold that against them. God is for them….that is why Jesus came. He does not pout and give up on anyone. They shall come to the knowledge of Jesus one day through the preaching  of the good news and the pouring out of the Spirit of Grace and supplication.

All mankind is reconciled to God. All mankind is forgiven already! But they do not know it. Go and tell them. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.

There is forgiveness with God that He may be feared(worshiped, extolled, lifted up, glorified!!)

Surely every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess before God that Jesus is their own personal LORD and that in Him ONLY do they have righteousness and strength. [Phil 2:10 and Isa 45:23]

The only account God wants to hear when we stand before Him is: “Jesus is my righteousness, I have no other!”

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