What God’s Favor Is and Isn’t

Well, hey, thanks again for sending in your questions regarding our sermons on sermon. This last week we talked about grace and God’s favor, and that God’s favor always goes to the unworthy, and that’s why we call it grace. If God’s favor went to the worthy, then it would not be grace. The reason we call it grace is because by definition, grace would have to go to the unworthy. And I made claims like God’s favor always goes to the unworthy, thinking that since all of us are unworthy, if any of us get favor, obviously we receive it through grace because we weren’t worthy to receive it.

So one of you wrote in which we really appreciate and asked, hey, what about some examples, primarily in the Old Testament, but there’s at least one New Testament example where it looks like God gives favor for good behavior and he removes his favor for bad behavior. And so it seems like favor sometimes goes to the worthy and favor is removed from the unworthy. One example which this person brought up is two Chronicles 26 Uziah, King of Judah. He becomes king very young. He does well for a while, so things are going well for him, but then he diverts from the Lord and he gets leprosy.

And it says that he was afflicted for the rest of his life. And so it seems like God removed favor because of his behavior. What do we say about that? It’s a fantastic question, and it pulls on a lot of different themes and parts of theology. And so I’ll do my best to try to tie it all together.

First, we should have a very clear definition of what we mean by God’s favor. And I would say that means that God is for you. It’s romans 831. God is for us. He’s for our good.

He’s for our development. He’s for our ultimate joy with Him. He wants us to grow and progress. He is, for us very similar to how a parent would be for us. The opposite of God’s favor would be God’s wrath, would be God’s condemnation.

And so if wrath is upon someone, that person is not experiencing God’s favor. And the ultimate expression of wrath is, of course, is hell itself. And so that really is a category, a category of someone who doesn’t experience God’s favor. Not everybody experiences God’s favor, so we should be very clear about that. Not everybody does.

And in the ultimate state, of course, there’s hell, and that’s the removal of favor forever. And so just because we say God favors the unworthy does not mean that God favors everyone. But to those God favors through ultimately their faith in Christ favor is extended to the unworthy. And it means that God is for us. Now, one of the ways that God is for us is that he disciplines us.

We talked about this a couple of sermon question videos ago when we were talking about judgment and part of the judgment of God we might understand as discipline of us, Hebrews Twelve, but that is part of God’s favor to us. Just because we’re disciplined and just because it’s unpleasant doesn’t mean that we’re not favored. Discipline is a form of favor. If you’re a parent and you don’t discipline your child, that’s actually disfavor to your child. One way that you favor your child is through discipline.

So if we go back to Uzziah in the Old Testament, we’ll get to the New Testament in a minute, but in the Old Testament it’s very difficult to sort out, is this God’s discipline and God’s favor, or is this God’s wrath and condemnation? Because a lot of times it might look the same. But even if you’re in an affliction, if you’re very uncomfortable, if something’s very painful, that might still be God’s favor. You can look at Psalm 119. It’s happened several places starting in verse 67 of Psalm 119.

The Psalmist says, before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word. He says, It was good for me to be afflicted in faithfulness. He tells God in faithfulness, you have afflicted me. So that is maybe Uzziah wrote that he didn’t. We’re just saying somebody in that position, maybe the person who wrote this could have had something as severe as leprosy.

And they are understanding that severe affliction to be something as favor. So it’s possible in the Old Testament when we see these examples, that it is actually God’s favor upon the person in the form of discipline. It’s also possible, of course, all the instances of wrath and curses, that is condemnation and that is not favor. That also happens in the Old Testament. I remember when I believe I was in college and I read Deuteronomy eleven and it’s all these blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

And I thought I’m cursed because I’ve been disobedient and I need to be good in order to get blessings. But what I failed to understand is that when Jesus comes, the whole game changes. Jesus takes the condemnation that we deserve. He takes the curses that we deserve so that there is no amount of wrath or condemnation or curses for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. We are freed from that.

If you read Deuteronomy eleven and you see there’s curses for disobedience, what you should understand as a believer in Christ is one, yes, that is what you deserve, that is what you deserve, that’s what I deserve. But two, that’s what Jesus took for me on the cross. He took the curse that I deserve. Galatians three, he bore the curse of the tree. And now three, that is what I am free from forever.

Romans eight one there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So we are free from the wrath of God, free from the condemnation of God forever through our belief in christ. So us living in New Testament times, there’s never a question. Those of us living in New Testament times who have our faith in Christ, there is no question. If you’re in any kind of unpleasant circumstance and you wonder, is this God’s wrath on me?

Is this God’s condemnation on me? Is this God’s curse on me? The answer is definitive no, because Christ took that for you. This is the grace that he gave you. This was a substitutionary atonement.

So all of that is over. That doesn’t mean that you won’t necessarily have or that doesn’t mean that, yeah, you’ll avoid all unpleasant circumstances. You will have unpleasant circumstances just because that’s part of life, one. But two, it’s God’s discipline upon you. Could be.

And you might say, like the psalmist in faithfulness God afflicted me. I used to stray from your word, but now I obey it. I’m so grateful that I’ve been afflicted. See, that would be part of God’s favor on you if you are a New Testament believer in Christ, but it will never, ever be God’s wrath. As Romans 828, right, all things work together for the good of those who love Him.

So no matter how unpleasant it is, we know it is getting added to other events, and God is going to use it for your ultimate good, which means it’s part of his favor to you. No matter how unpleasant it is, god is going to use it for your good. Even if somebody intended it for evil, god’s going to turn it back over on its head and not let it accomplish the evil which it was trying to accomplish in your life, and he’s going to use it for your good. Even if it’s again super uncomfortable, super painful, it is part of or God will turn it into part of his favor for always, always, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So if you’re trying to make sense of your life and you’re reading Old Testament, you’re like, this looks like wrath.

It might be wrath in the Old Testament, but you as a New Testament believer, it is never wrath for you. There’s an interesting kind of asterisk in the New Testament of Anias and Sapphira in Acts, chapter five, are they believers and they lie to the community, and then they are struck dead for lying, even though the thing they lied about didn’t really seem very consequential. They could have told the truth and nobody really would have cared, but they lied and then they’re struck dead. So is that God’s wrath or is that God’s discipline upon them? We don’t know.

That’s all we can say. We can say if they really were believers in Christ, then it was not wrath upon them. If they were not believers in Christ, then it could be God’s wrath upon them. But what we do know is for the Christian community at large, god used that event like he uses all events for their good and it strengthened the community and brought them more in line with God’s word and what he wanted. So it’s entirely possible that Anais and Sapphira dropped dead for their own good and for the good of the community.

Right? It’s entirely possible that they experienced wrath, but that that wrath was then used for the good of others in community. What we know for certain, always for trying to make sense of events, is if we’re talking about New Testament Christian believers, there is no wrath, there is discipline. But that’s part of God’s us favor for us. Told you.

It pulls on a lot of themes and has to tie a lot of things together. So we hope that that was helpful. And as always, you can follow up on email or send in another question, which we might get to next week. Thanks a lot for sending this in.