Westminster Larger Catechism Study

WLC – Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

In my last post I mentioned we have several more points to be made about sin, before we get to a positive discussion of Grace. Hang in there.

Vos’ commentary may give some light to understand these consequences , but they are worthy of more reflection.

What is the spiritual state of unsaved persons? A state of spiritual deadness which the catechism calls “blindness of mind.”

What is the meaning of the expression “a reprobate sense”? This expression implies a full and willing abandonment to sin, with little or no restraint.

What is meant by “strong delusion”? This expression means a firm, confident belief in something which is not true, but false. For example, the confident faith of the modern world in the evolutionary theory of the origin of the human race is a strong delusion; the Nazi belief (during the Second World War) that the Germans were a “super-race” superior by nature to all other races of man was a strong delusion.

How can it be right for God to send people “strong delusions,” as 2 Thessalonians 2:11 affirms that he does? (a)The Bible often speaks of God’s doing what he does not do himself, but what is done by others. For instance, God withheld the influence of his grace from Pharaoh; the result was that Pharaoh’s heart following its natural inclination became harder and harder against God; then in the Scripture it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. If God leaves people to their own ways, they will choose lies rather than the truth; in this sense it can be said that God sends them “strong delusions. James 1:13-14 teaches that God does not, himself, tempt any main to sin, but that he does permit people to be tempted and enticed by their own lusts. (b) God does not send “strong delusions” to deceive innocent or righteous people such as Adam and Eve were before the fall, but only to deceive those who have already corrupted themselves by choosing sin. All through the Bible God is seen to punish sin by abandoning the sinner to his sin, which always results in even greater or worse sin.

What is meant by “hardness of heart”? This means a condition of moral and spiritual indifference, so that the conscience is no longer sensitive and active, and the person is not affected by calls to repentance nor by the invitations of the gospel. The person who has conunitted the sin against the Holy Spirit is given over to the most extreme form of hardness of heart.

How should we look upon the present condition of the world of nature? The whole world of nature is under a curse of God, as we learn from Genesis 3:17-19 as well as other places in Scripture. Floods, dust storms, calamities of all kinds, as well as bad climates, extremes of weather, thorns and thistles, are all part of this curse. We should realize that the world as created by God was quite different from the world as we know it today. We live in an abnormal world, in the wreckage of a world that has been devastated and cursed by sin. Apart from the testimony of the Bible modern scientific investigation has shown that there was once a warm climate in northern Alaska and other far northern regions. Fossils of palm leaves and other tropical vegetation have been found there in the rocks.

Vos writes more but I will end with his comment on death itself.

In what sense is physical death itself a punishment for sin? Death is called “the wages of sin (Rom 6:23). Wages means “that which we have earned” or “what we deserve.” In the case of the unsaved person, death is simply the wages of sin, a judicial penalty. In the case of the Christian, however, Christ has already suffered death as his substitute. The Christian still has to die, of course, but in the case of the Christian, death is no longer a penalty. It remains an enemy, but it is not a Judicial penalty. Rather, to the Christian, death is a change by which God transfers him to the region and the condition of perfect holiness. Thus physical death, to the Christian, is part of God’s fatherly discipline. It proceeds not from God’s wrath, but from his love in the ease of the Christian.

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