“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:35-36)
This passage gives a stark contrast of two realities. The first are those who have eternal life. The second group is those who have no life and the wrath of God is on them.
The same contrast is given earlier in the third chapter of John’s gospel where Jesus says to Nicodemus these words.
“Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)
Here the contrast is given, not condemned, and condemned already. The person who fails to put his faith in Jesus in favor of the love of his own evil deeds, his religion, his church, his family, his work, or a thousand other things, does not wait for condemnation, he is already condemned. The wrath of God is already on him. He is a natural child of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)
The wrath of God is something to be feared and to avoid at all costs. Just what is the wrath of God? The most basic meaning is that God’s wrath is his hatred of sin, or unrighteousness. But it is more than that. It is also His holy vengeance against sin and finally against sinners. God will get even!
God is a God of love but He is also a God who hates evil. He is a God of forgiveness, and second chances, and more, but He is also a God who damns. He cannot be holy and just and not judge sin and sinners in the harshest way possible. This tension is at the very heart of the gospel of Christ.
Paul addressed the Roman believers in the first chapter of Romans by saying the following.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:16-21)
The beauty of the good news is that in the telling “the righteousness of God is revealed” (Jesus). Never forget that the righteousness of God is a person, not a pattern of behavior. When we share the very good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and what those acts affords those who believe, God is revealing His righteousness. God’s revelation is the written word but it is also the spoken word. As we tell he shows.
Paul didn’t stop where most of today’s preachers stop; he went on to discuss the flip side of grace, God’s wrath. Just as sure as God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of the grace of God, just as sure is the reality of God’s fierce hatred of sin.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
Here is the love of God and the wrath of God. There is righteousness and its rewards, and unrighteousness and its sure end. God has gone to extreme lengths to make clear his nature but wicked men and women put the truth away and believe a lie. Oh, they know God but they liked themselves and their evil ways more and their hearts are darkened. They are objects of the furious anger of a holy God.
When Jesus died on the cross as a common criminal God unleashed his wrath against sin upon the Lamb of God for you, in your place, on your behalf. Now just as in Adam all die, all of those who are in Christ live forever!
So here lies before us the crisis of faith. Will a man repent (change his mind about the course of his life) and put his trust in Jesus who took his appointed wrath upon him? Or, will he, like those Paul described, attempt to fashion his own religion and not honor God, or be thankful, and stay on a course of certain damnation and the wrath of God.
I can’t begin to imagine how terrible God’s punishment for sin will be, but we have a glimpse by looking at the suffering of Jesus.
I beg you, forsake your way of doing things and put your whole trust in Jesus. Don’t trust your church membership, your family heritage, or your own goodness. It is the way of destruction, the broad way to hell. You can exchange death for life, wrath for righteousness…..it’s up to you.
Wonderful post for us all.
I think we should be preaching more on repentance. It seems that the topic has become taboo. We try to avoid making anyone upset anymore that we have ignored this essential element of faith.
May all come to repentance!
Great balance, Royce.
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