Archive for the ‘God’s wrath’ Category

Christ’s Death Effects Our Justification with God

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Justification is a forgotten, or at least a much neglected, necessity of the gospel.  Many speak of God’s forgiveness as though every human being needs it (after all – no one is perfect, right?) and every human being deserves it and every human being has it as his or her birthright.  I would agree that every human being needs God’s forgiveness (but it would be an understatement to say the issue only goes as deep as our “imperfection” – see this previous post).  However, we have no rights before God upon which we can claim his forgiveness or demand his forgiveness.  The scriptures are clear that we have no merits before God.  We are utterly undeserving of any of God’s gifts much more the free gift of his forgiveness.

This is why we should adore and tremble in the truth of Romans 3:21.  “The righteousness of God” – the standard we all must adhere to if we are to be justified before God.  Don’t be misled – because of God’s justice and holiness he does not just forgive sin.  The penalty for sin must be dealt out.  There must be justice.  And this is what makes v. 21 so sweet – because the righteousness of God came outside of the Old Covenant.  It was the righteousness of God that can be ours – not through works, but through faith in Christ.

The testimony of scripture is that we have all sinned and so there is no one who is righteous according to the law.  The imagery is of a courtroom.  The condemned, having been proven guilty, stand before the judge awaiting sentencing.  Imagine in our day a convicted murderer standing before a judge in one of America’s courtroom’s asking the judge to please forgive his murderous ways.  A judge who simply says, “you’re forgiven”, is no judge at all because, as a judge, his job is to deal justly with those who break the law.  Where is the justice in mere forgiveness?  You and I would not stand for such a thing even with our corrupt human standards.

You and I – we have broken God’s law and we stand before the Judge who is infinitely more righteous than any judge in the courtrooms of this world.  If the judges in this deal justly, how much more will The Judge of all the earth deal justly.  There is no sweeping of transgressions under the rug.  Justice must be executed.

The gospel does NOT mean that God merely forgives.  The gospel says that God justifies sinners – he makes us right with himself by pouring out the penalty for our sins upon the Holy One, Jesus Christ.  Sin’s penalty has been satisfied by a righteous substitute, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, those who will look to Christ’s death in faith as the means by which God’s wrath was absorbed (a propitiation) will not only be forgiven of their sins, but will receive the righteousness of God – 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  That is justification.  Since God’s wrath is absorbed and the penalty for sins is dealt with in Christ, God is just in forgiving sins.  No one can say that God’s forgiveness granted to sinners is an injustice.  His forgiveness does not contradict his justice.  As Romans 3:26 says, he is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Christ’s death effects our justification.

God’s anger and atonement

Throughout history people have questioned whether or not God is really angry about sin?  And Bible-believing people question what it means that God’s wrath is revealed against sin.  Some say that when Paul talks about the wrath of God being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18), he isn’t talking about a personal, divine wrath.  God is love, right?  He is a forgiving God, right?  He is supposed to be good, isn’t He?  If God is not angry about sin then he is anything but good.  If God does not judge unrighteousness then call Him anything but loving.  God is infinitely angry about sin because He is infinitely good and infinitely loving and infinitely righteous and just.  It is only because God is love that he judges unrighteousness and ungodliness.  It is only because God is good that he is personally and actively angry about sin.  Many speak of a gospel that removes any language of God’s wrath or gives any sense that He is personally hostile against evil or that He punishes sin.  Instead, if His wrath is even mentioned, it is said that when the Bible speaks of God’s wrath it is referring to a natural principle of cause and effect that is built into the universe.  Does sin have natural consequences?  Yes – no one can deny that fact.   But is that all the Bible means when it talks about God’s wrath upon sinful mankind?  C.H. Dodd was one of the leading proponents of this particular view on God’s wrath that says it is just a natural outworking of sin’s consequences.  He wrote that God’s wrath refers not to ‘a certain feeling or attitude of God towards us, but some process or effect in the realm of objective facts.’  What he was saying in essence was that God has no personal response to sin.  I don’t see how anyone could read the Bible and think that God’s wrath is merely a natural process or effect.

Take Exodus 12 for example…to say that God has no personal wrath against sin is not a very good explanation for what happens in Exodus 12.  Do you think the Egyptians thought that God’s wrath was just some type of impersonal consequence to their sin or some natural outworking of a principle of cause and effect built into the universe?  I wonder if you can imagine tucking your children into bed tonight and then being startled awake sometime around midnight.  You get this feeling that something just isn’t right and so you go and check on the kids only to find your firstborn is dead.  Then you hear the commotion out in the streets and find out that the same terror has fallen upon your neighbors.  Then, as the commotion becomes greater, you realize that the entire community has been affected by this.  Then you find out that the entire country has been affected.  Can you really tell me it would occur to you that this is just an outworking of a natural principle of cause and effect that is built into the universe?

I’m sorry, but God went to great lengths on the night of Passover to make it very clear to the people of Egypt and their Pharaoh that He was NOT happy with them.

You see the reason the Gospel is good news is because there is first some very bad news – The wrath of God is coming (Colossians 3:6).  And we are all by nature children of wrath – deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  If God is not angry about sin, then who needs atonement.  Is it any wonder that in a day where the bad news of God’s wrath against sinners has been stripped from the good news of the gospel so many have seen fit to ignore the necessity of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ.