The Love and Wrath of God

I read an interesting article today, specifically saying that the substitutionary death of Christ is not a doctrine which is true to God’s character. If we embrace a substitutionary view of the cross, that teaching portrays God as a blood-thirsty, vengeful being satisfying his need for wrath and punishment of sin.

But we know that God is a loving Father, like we read in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus tenderly cares for his sheep as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). And we all know that “God is love” mainly because First John references this fact a few times.

  • 1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
  • 1 John 4:8 – But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
  • 1 John 4:10 – This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

I have come to believe that any doctrine taken to its ultimate extreme will eventually lead to heresy. For example, the love of God taken to its ultimate conclusion leads to universalism, that all people will be saved in the end because the love of God would never punish anyone, and certainly a loving God would never send anyone to hell.

Yet there must be a balance between the love of God and the holiness of God, because sin cannot be in God’s presence. So, how will sinful human beings come to the Father, unless the Father provides a solution to our sin problem? Some say we should just act more like Jesus, following his example (1 Peter 2:21), conforming to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). But if we fully embrace this teaching to its ultimate conclusion, it leads to a works righteousness. We can even leave the cross out of the picture and therefore the blood he shed is made irrelevant.

While we know that God is love, the New Testament also supports the concept of God as a God of wrath who judges sin. The story of the rich man and Lazarus speaks of the judgment of God and serious consequences for the unrepentant sinner (Luke 16:19–31).

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Theologians (who have studied the Bible much deeper than your average Christian) have taught for generations that the one who believes in the Son will not suffer God’s wrath for his sin, because the Son took God’s wrath upon Himself when He died in our place on the cross (Romans 5:6–11). Those who do not believe in the Son, who do not repent and follow Jesus, will be judged on the day of wrath (Romans 2:5–6). Paul seems pretty clear.

Let’s get back to First John, where the apostle teaches point blank that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins…

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

The word “advocate” is “Paracletos,” one called alongside to help; or intercessor, and “propitiation” is the word “hilasmos,” meaning satisfaction, or the means of appeasing.

While I do not claim to be a Greek scholar, it seems to me that the cross of Jesus, the blood that was shed, somehow appeased or satisfied God’s wrath. Jesus took on the sins of the world but they must respond to his sacrificial death by means of faith in order for the sacrifice to be effectual in the believer’s life. Basically, Jesus died for the whole world, but forgiveness comes only to those who respond to God’s grace with faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Just as the incarnation teaches that Jesus was 100% God and 100% human (not half God and half man), the New Testament can also teach that God is both 100% love and 100% holy. After all, once we have God all figured out, he will cease to be God at all.

I suppose I will end with a quote from Peter…

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:17-19)

I still believe that we had a debt that we could not pay, and Jesus paid the debt he did not owe. The wrath of God is a fearsome and terrifying thing. Only those who have been covered by the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross, can be assured that God’s wrath will never fall on them. “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:9).

We cannot begin to understand God’s justice or wrath unless we first understand sin. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and iniquity (Daniel 9:4-5; Micah 2:1; James 3:6). It embodies everything contrary to God’s holy nature and is offensive to him. So, sin is a crime against God and justice demands a penalty of death and separation from him for it (Romans 1:18-32; 2:5; 3:23). But God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to pay that penalty for us (Romans 5:8-11; 6:23) and made salvation available to all who believe in his name (John 1:12; 3:15-17; 20:31).

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Evangelism in Today’s Culture

proverbs-28-13Our message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation. In other words, our message of transformation must never change while the transformation of our presentation should be continual, adapting to the new languages of our culture.

Lost people have a need for meaning, a need for purpose, a need for forgiveness, a need for love. They want to know how to make right decisions, how to protect their family, how to handle suffering, and how to have hope in our world. These are all issues we have answers for, yet millions are ignoring the message of Christ because we insist on communicating in ways that make little sense anymore.

In a sense, we’ve made the Gospel too difficult for a changing culture to understand. Let me give you this analogy: Imagine a missionary going overseas and saying, “I’m here to share the Good News, but first you have to learn to speak my language, learn my customs, and sing my style of music.” You can immediately see why this strategy would fail!

Yet, we do that all the time in a culture that is in radical flux. If we want to reach people in the current century, we must start thinking differently. I believe the most overlooked requirement in the church is to have spiritually mature members – members who unselfishly limit their own preferences of what they think a church should look like in order to reach lost people for Christ. As Jesus said in Luke 5:38, “New wine must be poured into new wineskins!”

Here’s a simple tradition to break in the 21st century: stop thinking of the church as an institution. Emerging generations are desperately looking for community. You and I may know that the church is a community, but emerging generations have never seen it that way. They’ve seen a list of rules, not a loving community. This is a prime example of an opportunity to restate the eternal truths of the Bible in a fresh, contemporary way.

Emerging generations are also focused on the experiential, and that means we have to adjust the way we teach and preach because most traditional churches focus almost exclusively on the intellect. In the 21st century church, we not only want people to know about God, we also want them to actually encounter God.

Of course, this means rather than preaching simply for information, we should also preach for action. Our message is not meant to just inform, but to transform the lives of those in our congregation. In almost every single sermon I preach every point has a verb in it – something to do. What are you going to do now that you know this godly truth?

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[This is an excerpt from Rick Warren’s article at pastors.com ]

Make Friends to Make Disciples

The idea of living the Christian life is to impact those around you for the kingdom of God. Check out this challenging word from Rick Warren, based on Romans 12:16.

Everybody’s looking for a true friend — not just acquaintances but people who are there with you when you need them most. God wants you to build true friendships with the people that are already in your life so that you can share the gospel with them. God has put these people — your co-workers and classmates, neighbors and teammates — in your life specifically so you can share with them about the most important decision they will ever make. If you don’t tell them about what Christ has done for them, then who will?

The Bible says to “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16 NLT)

Christians tend to fall into one of two extremes: isolation or imitation. Some Christians say, “I don’t want to get polluted by the world. I’m just going to isolate myself. I’ll build a wall and my own little culture.” Isolation doesn’t work! How are you going to build any friendships that way?

The other extreme is imitation, which says, “Let’s be just like the world. We’ll dress like the latest pop star. We’ll say whatever we want about other people. We’ll have whatever values and goals popular culture tells us we should have. We’ll be no different from the world.” That’s not what God wants you to be, either. He doesn’t want you to give in to the lowest common denominators of society.

The answer is not isolation or imitation. It’s insulation and infiltration. The Bible says you’re to be salt and light in the world. You’re to penetrate the world with God’s goodness.

When I go out to dinner and order sea bass, the first thing I have to do before I can eat it is put salt on it. That fish has lived its entire life in salt water, yet I have to put salt on it. What’s going on? That fish is insulated. If God can take a fish and keep it in salt water its entire life and not have the salt permeate the fish, then certainly God can take any believer, put us in the world, and keep us from being corrupted by the wrong values.

God wants you to be holy and secure in your faith. He also wants you to walk out your door into the world and get to know the people he’s placed in your life. As you build relationships with people around you and share Truth with them, you are to be in the world but not of the world.

“The Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

Talk It Over:

  • Why is it sometimes easier to isolate ourselves rather than get to know other people on a deeper level?
  • What are some ways you have fallen into the trap of becoming an imitator of the world?
  • If you were the only representation of Jesus Christ that someone had in his or her life, how would they perceive Christianity? How does that make you want to change?

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What’s the Point of Salvation?

Have you ever asked the question of why God offers salvation? To begin, we have to ask the meaning of salvation.

Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering. To save is to deliver or protect. The word carries the idea of victory, health, or preservation. Sometimes, the Bible uses the words saved or salvation to refer to temporal, physical deliverance, such as Paul’s deliverance from prison (Philippians 1:19).

More often, the word “salvation” concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. When Paul told the Philippian jailer what he must do to be saved, he was referring to the jailer’s eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31). Jesus equated being saved with entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24-25).

Some people focus on the God of love who draws human beings to himself, that he wants us to follow him out of love rather than out of fear, and that we should not emphasize God’s wrath or anger. But God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with. It is not just about our decision to follow the teachings and behaviors of Jesus. The doctrines of sin and salvation explain why the blood of Christ and the atonement were necessary in order to come to God on his terms rather than our own. When we talk about the gospel, it is impossible to do so without including 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, the cross and the resurrection.

What are we saved from? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, we are saved from “wrath,” that is, from God’s judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9). Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves the removal of sin.

Who does the saving? Only God can remove sin and deliver us from sin’s penalty (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

How does God save? In the Christian doctrine of salvation, God has rescued us through Christ (John 3:17). Specifically, it was Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection that achieved our salvation (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:7). Scripture is clear that salvation is the gracious, undeserved gift of God (Ephesians 2:5, 8) and is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

How do we receive salvation? We are saved by faith. First, we must hear the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Then, we must believe, fully trust the Lord Jesus (Romans 1:16). This involves repentance, a changing of mind about sin and Christ (Acts 3:19), and calling on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

A definition of the Christian doctrine of salvation would be “The deliverance, by the grace of God, from eternal punishment for sin which is granted to those who accept by faith God’s conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus.” Salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God alone for provision, assurance, and security.

[Much of this is from www.gotquestions.org]