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Kindness and Sterness

Romans 11:22-24
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (NIV)

Some think that God is only kind to people; while others think that He is only stern. The Bible says that He is both kind and stern at the same time, depending on our response to His promises. Those who believe experience His kindness, as He grafts them into the promises of Israel, and includes them in the family of God. Those who continue to disbelieve experience His sternness, as He cuts them off from God's family inheritance.

True faith is not about passively accepting our cultural background, but actively believing the Word of God. The Lord takes no delight when His people rebel, and He is still willing to receive back those who repent and believe His promise of salvation.

The Apostle Paul was convinced about the importance of responding actively to God's Word. So he took great trouble to teach, explain, urge and persuade people to understand God's promised salvation in the gospel, to believe it and then be willing to take action upon it (the first action was usually baptism). The task of the disciple-maker includes making it clear that God demands an answer. His kindness is waiting for those who believe and His sternness for those who persist in unbelief. The Christian gospel is useless if it merely affirms the delusion that God loves everybody and therefore all will be saved. The gospel divides people according to their response; so its message must include a call to respond, along with its promise and warning.

Almighty God. Thank You that You never speak in vain. Thank You that every promise You issue demands a response of faith. I know that You always take action to bless those who believe Your Word. Forgive me for my passivity when I hear Your Word. Forgive me also when I do not grasp the seriousness of Your gospel promises or the sternness with which a refusal to believe is met. Help me to have a proper relationship with You and encourage my family, friends and colleagues to do the same. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams