In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous articles we’ve been considering the consequences of our sin. We’ve noted that when we sin, we lose communion with God; God is displeased with us, curses us and gets angry; we also become slaves to Satan. This week I want us to consider that when we sin we become justly liable to all punishments in this world.

When we sin, we deserve to be punished. We have broken God’s law and as God is a just God who cannot let sin go unpunished if he is to remain just, he punishes us even now. But how are we punished in this world?

Firstly we are punished for sin by the authorities in this world. God has placed governments over us with authority to punish us when we do wrong and we are told to submit to such punishments. Paul says: ‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience’ (Romans 13:1-5). If you sin, expect to be punished by the government as God’s instrument of justice.

Secondly we are punished for sin by death and suffering in this world. Paul tells us ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). If we didn’t sin, we would live forever in this world and be free of suffering. But because of our sin we suffer and die. Thus death becomes a perpetual reminder all around us of the presence of sin in this world. We may try to hide such a reminder by not speaking of death if we can help it, but we cannot escape the fact that all of us will one day die as punishment for our sin.

So do you recognise that when you sin you will be punished in this world, both by the government, suffering and death?

Joel Radford