“And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Numbers 15:32-36)
Today’s message focuses our attention on a difficult passage of Scripture. These verses are not difficult because they are hard to understand. Neither is the context so obscure that we would be left to speculate about the passage’s meaning. Rather, these verses are difficult because we just don’t want to accept the teaching that some of our actions are final and their consequences are irrevocable.
However, the irrevocability of a thing needs not to leave us distraught, so long as we are in the right relationship with the Lord. The Apostle Paul had a “thorn” in his flesh which brought him much grief. Although there is much speculation as to what this “messenger of Satan” was; it is certain that Paul had to live in this condition, for he said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Nevertheless, God’s Grace was sufficient for his need, and this is where our comfort lies (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14)
Considering the negative aspect of this subject, we see the example of God’s wrath as an irrevocable part of His Judgment. The Israelite man was stoned to death after he broke God’s law. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Death is the lasting consequence of sin, and so God’s judgment calls for the exercise of wrath. Perhaps the best example of this irrevocable judgment is seen in the Fall.
The irrevocable nature of Adam’s sin is seen in the fact that it passed upon all mankind – “even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Modern attitudes would declare such a judgment “unfair” and “cruel.” But the finality of the actions of our First Parents brought about their own spiritual death, so that we were not simply sentenced to death, rather we were born dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1).
Couldn’t God (Who is Love) just forgive Adam? But a righteous judge must punish the wicked. So God’s righteous nature demanded a punishment of Adam’s sin in being disobedient to the Divine Command. But we must also note that God did forgive Adam, even making a sacrifice to atone for the sin – the innocent lamb being slain so that Adam’s nakedness might be covered (Genesis 3:21), which points us to another example of God’s irrevocable judgment.
“But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)” (Romans 5:15-17)
Just as Adam was given a charge with lasting consequences, the Second Adam (Jesus Christ) was given a charge with lasting consequences. In Adam’s case, his failure to obey brought irrevocable death on himself and his progeny (his descendants). In the case of Jesus Christ, His obedience brought irrevocable life on Himself and His progeny. The spiritual life that was lost by Adam is given again in Christ Jesus. Born in Adam, we inherit death and a sinful nature bent to oppose God. But in Christ, we have the experience of a New Birth, whereby we inherit Eternal Life and a New Nature, making it possible to love and serve God. Our old man is dead and we live unto God.
The irrevocable nature of Adam’s Sin necessitated the irrevocable act of Christ’s Sacrifice, which secures the irrevocable fact of the Saint’s Salvation. Glory to God! Even the apparent disaster of Adam’s Sin has shown us the Sufficiency of God’s grace to be irrevocable. Even when:
“…we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
“…much more, being reconciled [by His death], we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10)
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:” (Romans 6:8)
Some things in life are final. Their irrevocable nature may cause us to fret as we gauge them by our own standards of fairness. But salvation itself is not fair – the just dying for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). We can rest assured that the Grace of God secures us a Hope that is both blessed and irrevocable.