Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.…
I. Here is laid down the general and fundamental doctrine of true religion; that every man shall finally receive of God, according to what he has done. This maxim is the reason and end of all laws, the maintenance and support of all government, the foundation and ground-work of all religion. By the disposition and appointment of the same Author and Ruler of the universe, the moral consequences and connections of things do, in their proper manner, and at their proper seasons, take place likewise in the world. And could our faculties extend themselves, to take in at one view those larger periods of the Divine dispensations, on which depends the harmony and beauty of the moral world; in like manner as our experience enables us to contemplate the yearly products of nature; we should then probably be no more struck with wonder, at the seeming forbearing of providence to interpose at present in the ordering of the moral state of the world, than we are now surprised, in the regular course of nature, to see grain lie as it were dead in the earth in winter, and seemingly dissolving into corruption; and yet, without fail, at the return of its proper season, bringing forth the certain particular fruit, of which it was the seed.
II. Here is a declaration, that every opinion or practice, that subverts this great and fundamental doctrine; is, in reality and in true consequence, a mocking of God: "God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The word, "mock" (which in the New Testament is in the original expressed by two or three synonymous terms), in its literal and most proper sense, signifies, deceiving any person, deluding him, or disappointing his expectation. Thus Matthew 2:16. At other times, it signifies affronting or abusing any person by open violence. Thus Matthew 20:18. By way of derision, in a scornful, insulting, and despiteful manner. Thus Matthew 27:29. Now in the literal and proper sense of the phrase, 'tis impossible in the nature of things that God should in any of these ways be mocked. But figuratively, consequentially, and in true reality of guilt and folly, all wicked men, who set themselves to oppose God's kingdom of righteousness; who, without repentance, amendment, and obedience to God's commands, expect to escape, and teach others that they may escape, His righteous judgment; are, in the apostle's estimation, mockers of God. And the grounds or reasons upon which they are justly so esteemed are very evident. For —
1. Such persons, as far as in them lies, confound the necessary reasons and proportions of things, and endeavour to take away the eternal and unchangeable differences of good and evil; which are the original order and rule of God's creation, and the very foundation of His government over the universe.
2. But also further, because 'tis an entertaining of very dishonourable and very injurious apprehensions, concerning the perfections and attributes of God Himself.
3. As such persons are, in true estimation of things, mockers of God, upon account of their confounding those essential differences of good and evil, which are the foundation of God's government over rational creatures; and upon account of their entertaining dishonourable and very injurious apprehensions concerning the perfections and attributes of God Himself: so they are still further guilty of the same charge, in perverting the plain revelation of Christ, and overthrowing the whole design of His religion (see Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The doctrine itself; that every man shall finally receive of God, according to what he has done, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; that, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap;" is undeniably proved by all the principles of reason, and expressly confirmed by all the notices of revelation. Yet so manifold and various are the delusions of sin, and such a mist of darkness do the passions and appetites of men continually cast before their eyes; that the apostle thought it necessary to add, with great affection and earnestness, the caution in the text; and to repeat it frequently elsewhere, upon the like occasion (1 Corinthians 3:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:5, etc.). And here, that which first and most obviously offers itself, in our view of mankind, is the deceit men put upon themselves by a general carelessness and inattention. They pursue the ends of ambition and covetousness; they labour continually to gratify their passions and appetites; and consider not at all, that the most High regardeth, and that for all these things God will bring them into judgment. Some judge of God by themselves; not according to the reason of things, but by their own disposition and temper. And because they themselves are not apt to be displeased, unless at things directly injurious to themselves; therefore they flatter themselves that God, who can no way be injured by the sins of men, will not be severe in punishing them; and particularly, that His anger will not be so highly provoked by sins of debauchery or injustice, as by irreligion or profaneness. In which matter they deceive themselves for want of considering, that God is not a party, but the Judge and Governor of the universe; who punishes wickedness, not that He himself suffers anything by it, but as being repugnant to the nature and reason of things, to the eternal laws of His righteous government, to the welfare and happiness of the whole creation. Others there are, who deceive themselves by imagining that God is pleased or displeased with little things, instead of judging of men according to the whole course and tenor of a virtuous or vicious life. Another sort of men there are, who seem to content themselves with a loose and general expectation that they shall fare upon the whole as well as others; and that the multitude of those who live in the same sensual way with themselves cannot be all of them in a state liable to God's severe displeasure. They hope, therefore, that the debaucheries they are guilty of will be put to the account of natural infirmities, and excused as the weaknesses of human nature in general. And here they deceive themselves by not considering, that the very end and design of Christ's religion, was, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, and purchase to Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works; that we might not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind; that we might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. There are still others, who speak peace to themselves in a vicious course of life, upon the mere general notion of the mercy and patience and goodness of God; without at all considering whether they themselves be proper and capable objects of His mercy and compassion. And these deceive themselves, by fixing their attention wholly upon one single attribute of the Divine nature; and consider not God as indued with all those perfections together, which complete the character of an all-wise and righteous governor of the universe. They consider not, that as power, though infinite, is still confined to what is the object of power, and extends not at all to the working of contradictions; so mercy likewise, however infinite, is still limited to the things which are in their nature the objects of mercy. But the frequentest, and, of all others, the most extensive deceits; are the two following.
I. A careless misunderstanding of certain texts of Scripture, wherein salvation may seem to be promised upon other terms, than the practice of virtue and true righteousness.
II. An imaginary design of future repentance.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.