Q. Under the Old Covenant, there was “divine retribution.” Under the New Covenant there is “reaping what we sow. ” How do these two terms differ? How does grace factor in the equation?
A. The term divine retribution describes God “getting even” with someone who has offended Him. It’s a supernatural punishment of a person or group. The death of Herod in Acts 12:21-23 is a personal example, while the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah would be a case of group punishment.
Reaping what we sow means that as a general rule our actions, whether for good or bad will often be repaid in kind, that all behavior brings consequences. Although it comes from Galatians 6:7-8 where it refers to mocking God, it’s more often thought of as a natural law. The phrase “What goes around, comes around” carries a similar thought, meaning that our approach to the world around us will often be reflected back in the world’s response to us.
The way grace factors into the equation is that because of the pardon Jesus purchased for us with His blood, we’re relieved of the supernatural consequences of our behavior (no divine retribution – Colossians 1:19-20) although we may still have to suffer its natural consequences during our life on Earth (reaping what we sow).