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CHAPTER SEVEN

“THE GOODNESS
AND SEVERITY OF GOD”

Honestly Beholding the LORD’s Goodness and Severity

    “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:19-23

God is love and full of “goodness” and those who rebel against Him will be dealt with according to His “severity.” Here we have the Holy Spirit reminding all blood-bought New Testament believers of what God did in judging His own covenant people (the Israelites) when they sinned and refused to return to Him in repentance. He is specifically speaking to Gentile Christians here and warning that just as He “cut off” His covenant people for their sins, so He will not hesitate to do to us if we live in sin without returning to Him in repentance.

Particularly, I want us to make Romans 11:22 our focal point here:

    “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Romans 11:22

Commenting on Romans 11:22, one writer states:

    “It is not hypothetical, it’s a threat!”   

Would the LORD threaten His people? The word “if” always indicates and denotes the possibility and potential of something. After He saved them with the spectacular miracle of the Red Sea the LORD warned His people to remain in Him, their only hope of salvation. To His very own covenant people, the LORD promised that “if” they were to “forget” Him that He would cause them to “surely perish.”

    “And it shall be, IF thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods (idolatry; spiritual adultery), and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 8:19-20

Let’s consider the threat and pronouncement of the LORD in Jeremiah 6:

    “Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited… Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the LORD hath rejected them.” Jeremiah 6:8, 30

Here the LORD calls His own covenant people to be “instructed…lest my soul depart from thee.” Then He says He has “rejected them.”

The following passage illustrates the way the LORD deals with His people if they rebel against Him:

    “But Jeshurun (Israel) waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.” Deuteronomy 32:15-25

As the Creator of all has seen fit, the relationship between Himself and men involves the exercise of the individual’s free will. God deals with men as they choose to exercise their free will in response to His blessed salvation (Num. 13-14; Deut. 30:19; 2 Chron. 15:2; Isa. 1:19-20; Gal. 6:7-9; 2 Tim. 2:12).

    “For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” 1 Samuel 2:30

Friend, do we desire to acknowledge more than just one divine attribute of God or only His “goodness?” What about the “severity” of His holy wrath upon those who sin? Do we desire to obey God’s Word that we witness with our very own eyes here in Romans 11? If so, we must begin immediately to embrace not only His “goodness” but also His “severity.” We are warned in this passage and many others that severe judgment will be upon those who were once His and then go back into sin.

Two truths concerning the nature of God run parallel throughout the whole Bible: 

    1) The sovereignty and grace of God

    2) The God-given free moral agency of men (free will)

Whenever either of these truths is violated, neglected, or not considered with full weight, falsehood is a sure thing. This is why the apostle Paul instructs us to behold both the “goodness” and the “severity” of God (Rom. 11:22).

As a matter of honesty and personal safety, we should begin to view the LORD from both of these divine attributes revealed in Holy Writ. This will not be a popular stance. Seldom do we hear the judgment of God spoken about in the church world today, yet this makes no less severe and true His promise to condemn all who live in sin and don’t repent.

In Romans 11, while speaking of Gentile believers (v11), the Holy Spirit issues a sober warning specifically to all Gentile believers of the New Testament period. Romans 11:22 is an important verse to memorize for all honest, full-counsel, truth-seekers. Let’s read it again.

    “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. Romans 11:22

As we see here, the born again Bible student should study the revealed fullness of the divine nature and attributes of the LORD, including His “goodness and severity.” Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, who was and is and is to come, is shown in the book of Revelation to be the Lamb and the Lion. The Lamb represents His loving nature and reflects the great love He showed to us by coming to be our propitiation or sinless, atoning sacrifice. The Lion nature of Christ relates to His attribute of holy wrath against sin and how He will soon return to bring untold and horrid judgment upon all who have not repented and been washed in His blood and all backsliders (2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Saints, let’s ask ourselves a simple question: why would God here use the term “cut off” if such were not possible? The term “cut off” or some form of it, appears 215 times in Holy Scripture. Doesn’t this theme appear throughout God’s Word?

    “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6

If such a truth shocks us, perhaps we do not have a proper revelation of the severe judgment of a holy God upon sinners and transgressors. If we do not acknowledge the severity of His judgment, we possess an impartial image of the divine in our minds and hearts and “do err, not knowing the scriptures.” (Matt. 22:29) Are we not warned that His very own people will be destroyed for lack of knowledge? (Hosea 4:6)

Concerning the important passage in Romans 11, Donald Stamps, as seen in the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, states:

    “‘THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF.’ Paul directs a grave warning to all Gentile believers, i.e., to all Christian churches, denominations, or fellowships.

    (1) The terrible possibility exists that God will cast away or ‘cut off’ any individual, ministry, church, or group of churches if they do not ‘continue in his goodness’ and in the N.T. apostolic faith and standards of righteousness (v.20).

    (2) If God did not spare Israel, neither will He spare any particular church or fellowship (v.21) if it rejects God’s ways and conforms to the ways of this world (see 12:2). Therefore all Christian churches are to ‘fear’ (v.20), keeping in mind both ‘the goodness and severity of God’ and making every effort to continue in the apostolic faith and practice of the N.T. No Christian church or ministry may presume with confidence that it will never fall under the judgment of God. With churches as with individuals, ‘there is no respect of persons with God’ (2:11).”

In other words, if the LORD divorced His own covenant people (Israel), non-Jewish believers are to “fear” lest they also be “cut off.” Many do not want to accept the Bible reality that we must fear God in truth and obedience or we will be “cut off.” Such a truth does not pander to their idolatrous desire to feel “secure” in their salvation, while living life on their own terms. According to the Bible, if we refuse to fear God and remain obedient to the end of our lives, we will forfeit our place in His kingdom. What could be clearer in this Scripture text?

This is one of the warnings given to New Testament believers in light of the unchanging God’s retribution upon His people when they sinned against Him who is holy and refused to repent.

This is a severe warning to all of His people. According to Romans 11:22 it is indisputable that all who are born again and yet do not “continue in his goodness,” living in faithful obedience to Him, will be “cut off” from His kingdom and suffer eternal damnation in the lake of fire.

What exact judgments upon the Jews are referred to here? Would you like to know one specific incident of God’s judgment upon those who brazenly sinned among His very covenant people? Check out this account in Numbers 16:

    “And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also.” Numbers 16:31-34

The Bible tells us that hell, “prepared for the devil and his angels,” is in the “heart of the earth.” (Matt. 25:41; 12:40)

In this landmark judgment found in Numbers 16, we see that the LORD Almighty caused the earth to open up under the feet of the violators and they were dropped down into the horrible fires of eternal damnation. And these men are still there today, with no reprieve from the excruciating torment they are suffering. Here is a sample of what these people, once the very covenant people of God, are this moment suffering, and so will all those who depart from Christ under the New Covenant:

  • Unquenchable fire. Mark 9:45
  • Eternal damnation. Mark 3:29
  • Everlasting punishment. Matthew 25:46
  • A place of everlasting burnings. Isaiah 33:14
  • Torment with fire and brimstone. Revelation 14:10
  • A lake (ocean) of fire. Revelation 20:15
  • No 2nd chance to escape (utter hopelessness). Luke 16:26
  • Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12
  • A place of eternal remorse (regret). Luke 16:19-31
  • A place of complete consciousness. Luke 16:25
  • A furnace of fire with wailing. Matthew 13:42
  • No rest day or night forever (eternal misery). Revelation 14:11
  • Outer darkness. Matthew 8:12; 22:13
  • A place of sorrows (seething remorse and despair). Psalms 18:5
  • A place of everlasting destruction. 2 Thessalonians 1:9
  • A place of torments. Luke 16:23

The LORD Nearly Killed Moses

    “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.” Exodus 4:24-26

Concerning this text (in Exodus 4), Donald Stamps, in the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, writes:

    “‘THE LORD…SOUGHT TO KILL HIM.’ Moses had neglected to perform the covenant sign of circumcision in the case of his own son. This was seen as a clear sign of disobedience on the part of Moses and his wife (vv. 24-25; see Gen. 17:11, note). Evidently God afflicted Moses with a potentially fatal illness until he had his son circumcised. This incident demonstrates that God’s election of an individual continues on as long as he or she remains obedient (see 2 Pet. 1:10, note).”

If we are going to live outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and with sins not confessed in the sight of a holy God, we should get ready to experience the above listed punishment and also consider that hell and all therein will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). Jesus taught us to fear Him who is able to cast both our souls and bodies into hell and that it would be better to cut off our own hand or pluck out our eye, than to allow that sinning member to cause our whole body to be cast forever into damnation (Matt. 10:28; Mk. 9:43-49; Lk. 12:5).

Like the man who cultivated and had a heart after the LORD, we should openly and swiftly confess any sin we commit - “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” (Ps. 38:18)

Sowing & Reaping

What ever happened to Galatians 6:7-9?

    “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:7-9

In His unfathomable wisdom, the Ancient of Days set up the law of sowing and reaping which we all live under. Those who obey Him by sowing to the Holy Spirit, reap blessings now and forever, while the person who lives in sin – “soweth to his flesh” – will reap eternal corruption.

Paul wrote this letter to “the churches of Galatia.” (Gal. 1:2) So, the apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is addressing here the Galatian believers, not unsaved people. From this foundation we conclude then in this passage that the person who is truly saved never then loses the ability to sow to the flesh and reap corruption. From this we can clearly understand that the born again person can and will reap eternal corruption of soul if he sows to the flesh (lives in sin). And the Bible assures us that such a person will “reap corruption” which includes eternal damnation. Such a truth is further made obvious in that the text says that those who sow to the Holy Spirit will reap “life everlasting.” Also, Galatians 6:9 concludes that one who does not grow “weary in well doing…shall reap, IF” he “faint(s) not.” Again this is a conditional promise. Reaping “life everlasting” is conditional upon the persevering faith of the individual believer who has received initial salvation. The LORD requires a living faith in Him, initial and ongoing to receive final salvation (Matt. 10:22; Col. 1:22-23; Heb. 3:6, 12-14; 10:36-39).

Have you ever cried out to the LORD in desperation saying something like “Jesus save me from myself!” I certainly have on many an occasion and He heard me and delivered me as He promised He would (2 Chron. 7:14; Ps. 34:4). As we have all experienced, at times the intense strength of the sin nature rages in us and when not kept mortified, will wreak havoc. Have you noticed? His grace is sufficient for us in all things but only as we cling to Him in utter desperation of heart and soul!

PRAYER: Jesus, take my life. I desire nothing more than You. Cleanse me of any notion or thinking that is contrary to Your Word and help me to understand Your goodness and severity. Deeply impact my conscience and heart with Your holy conviction. I beg You to multiply the precious and glorious grace You died to provide. LORD, according to Paul’s prayer, I ask You to strengthen me with the might of Your Spirit in my inner man in order that I might more fully please You. I love You LORD Jesus. Amen!

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