English Class: Western Literature

Biblical Sanctions

The principle of covenant sanctions is very important in the Bible. From Moses giving the law to the Hebrews to their captivity by other nations to the Sermon On The Mount, positive and negative sanctions play an important role in the outcome of events. The reason sanctions are so important is because they are tied to cause and effect. Our actions are the causes and the effects are the sanctions.

In the Bible, at the end of Deuteronomy Moses tells the Hebrews about the positive and negative sanctions that come with obeying or disobey the law of God. If they would obey God and follow the law they would be blessed. However, if they rebelled against God they would be punished. The Hebrews would indeed see the fulfillment of these sanctions. In the book of Lamentations, for example, the negative sanctions had come on the Hebrews because they were not faithful to God. Their enemies had conquered them and they were now facing the consequences of their actions. Positive sanctions came when they would turn back and follow God. He would free them from their captors and bless them. The Hebrews would prosper while they obeyed God, but whenever they turned away from Him negative sanctions came upon them. We can also see positive sanctions in the Sermon On The Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

~Matthew 5:3-11~

The Beatitudes show clear positive sanctions. Jesus says that those who are pure in heart, who are persecuted, who are merciful, etc. will be blessed. If our actions (the cause) are in accordance with what God commands us to do, we will receive positive sanctions (the effect). As we can see positive and negative sanctions are a foundational principle in the Bible.

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