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Sermon - October 11, 2015

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1231

October 11, 2015                                                                                            Romans 5:1-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

 

“God’s Wrath, God’s Grace, God’s Love”

 

  • God’s Wrath

 

Well, this is not a pleasant topic to preach, but it is certainly a neglected topic – the wrath of God.  One of the reasons we seldom preach on God’s wrath is the danger of misunderstanding.  There are many false understandings about God’s wrath.  One of those misunderstandings is the thought that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament is a God of love.  This is simply not true.  The God of the Old and New Testaments is the same God!  Another misunderstanding is that God’s wrath and God’s love are somehow competing attributes.  Not so. 

 

What we do with God’s wrath is deny its existence.  In today’s modern thought where nothing has much consequence, we speak only of love and acceptance and being nice so that wrath or anger is taboo.  Another way we treat wrath is the notion I’ve already mentioned as if the God of wrath was eliminated by the God of love in the New Testament.  Sorry, not so for God is God in both Testaments.  A more subtle treatment of wrath is that we lay on God our own wrath similar to making God in our own image.  Now this argument is much more complicated than that simple statement, as if that statement were simple!  But suffice it to say that God’s wrath is not like ours.  Some argue that God’s wrath is cause and effect.  But, it is not my intent to go through all the theological discussions on God’s wrath.

 

My contention, and that of others, is that God’s wrath is a part of God’s love.  God’s love would not be real love if not for God’s wrath and the Bible portrays God’s love as having potential for wrath.  The Bible certainly says that God is love.  The Bible never says that God is wrath.  They are not two sides of the same coin, but God’s love is so vast and so deeply committed that wrath is one expression among many of His love. 

 

One might argue that the opposite of love is hate.  But I would argue that the opposite of love is indifference.  Romans 12 tells us to let love be genuine and to hate what is evil.  The reason we hate what is evil is precisely because we love what is good and right.  The worst thing in the world would be a God who is indifferent to us.  A God who did not care.  A God incapable of love.  This is the definition of all the false gods.  They are not purposefully indifferent because they are actually nothing, but the result is the same, indifference.  God’s wrath is only possible because of God’s love.  If God was never angry, he would never be loving.  Love is the source of wrath.  If God did not love us, he would be indifferent.  If anything, we should be deeply thankful for God’s wrath because in his wrath we know that he loves. 

 

Not to compare my own wrath with God’s but take this analogy as a close second to God’s love and wrath.  One day my youngest daughter, Megan, and I got on the topic of boys and she told me that every boy who had any interest in her was afraid of me!  Of course, my first thought was “good!”  That was the plan all along.  I did not have to do anything and don’t think I did do anything on purpose to demonstrate that the wrath could be evoked at any moment.  Partly that wrath was possible because I love my daughters and if anyone did something to harm them, wrath would follow!  Now, I understand the biblical command to be angry but do not sin.  But that seed of fear was evident in all the boys.  I think is it a healthy response to God to have a seed of fear, after all, Jesus said not to fear those who could destroy the body but fear the one who could destroy your soul and body (Matthew 10:28).

 

Modern Christians emphasize love at the expense of wrath.  We do so because we are soft.  We are politically correct.  But I think most of all we do so because love is in short supply for many people.  If we pay attention, wrath is also in short supply, in the form of discipline.  Many parents seem to discipline their children less and less I assume from fear that their children will not love them or that they will not be properly raising their children.  But if wrath is completely absent from parenting, there is little reason for obedience from a child.  Now, I know we have to be careful about how we say these things, because abuse is a potential in our own sinful nature, but instead of seeking to show wrath without becoming abusive has not been the issue.  It is that we have sought to eliminate wrath from any part of loving. 

 

Ok, let’s get to the text! 

 

Romans 5:9  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 

 

Jesus has saved us from the wrath of God.  Now I believe that this is the wrath that comes through judgment.  We will be judged having been justified in Jesus Christ.  We have no fear of this wrath.  We are saved from it. 

 

1 Thess. 5:9-11  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

Again, the wrath of God is not ours to fear, for we are not destined to suffer God’s wrath, but we are saved in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we are to live with Jesus.  This is a word of encouragement to us and the Good News that we can use to build each other up!

 

These two verses speak of the believer being spared in God’s wrath.  The other side of that is the consequence to the unbeliever, they will know the wrath of God one of these days.  So too will the nations.  Some even believe that America will know God’s wrath if not already experiencing it.  As we move away, as a nation, does God’s wrath come into play?  We sing God bless America, but will God bless a nation that kills the unborn, whose leaders deceive, that disrespects the Judeo-Christian foundations, and denies God’s sovereignty?  Perhaps.  

 

 

  • God’s Grace

 

Let’s get back to Romans 5.  God’s grace is powerful in this section, 1-8,

 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

 

We stand in God’s grace.  That is, we actually deserve God’s wrath, but because of what Christ has done we can know God’s unmerited favor.  In this passage we might conclude that because of God’s grace we have:

  • Been justified by faith
  • Peace with God
  • Access to His grace
  • Joy in hope of God’s glory
  • Even joy in our sufferings
  • God’s love
  • God’s gift of Jesus who died for us.

 

Al of this assures us that we are saved from God’s wrath.

 

 

  • God’s Love

 

Romans 5:8 - But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

It is amazing isn’t it?  While we are rebellious sinners, while we were at our worst, God still loved us so deeply that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that he might die on our behalf.  This is love.  God could have shown nothing but wrath because of our sinfulness.  He would have been completely justified in wrath.  But he chose a different way, a different expression of love in giving his Son and showing his grace and mercy. 

 

  • What then shall we say?

 

I want to address something all of us have either thought or said or heard said, that God hates the sin and loves the sinner.  I know I’ve said it once or twice, but the phrase has always seemed a bit incomplete to me.  Does God hate the sin and love the sinner?  Yes, God loves the sinners in the sense that he wants the sinner to repent and be saved.  God loves the sinner in that he sent his Son for sinners.  Yes, God loves the sinner in that Jesus was sent to be with sinners to call them home.  But God hates sin and at its root sin is a part of the sinner.  Sin is attached to us.  Psalm 5: 5 says, “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  How do we set that verse alongside Romans 5:8 that god loves us even while we are yet sinners?  Augustine spoke of God loving his creation and yet hating what we had become in sin.  It is perhaps a mystery too deep for us to contemplate as I have read multiple theologians wrestle with this question. 

 

Here is a new proposed slogan:  God hates the sin and is angry with the sinner because he loves the sinner (and wants to save the sinner).  Well, that is perhaps way too long for a slogan! 

 

Consider this, God’s wrath and God’s grace and God’s love are all seen in the cross of Jesus Christ.  His wrath in that Jesus’ death has saved us from that wrath.  His grace in that Jesus took our sins upon himself.   His love in sending his Son to die for us.  Wrath, grace, and love are all present in the cross of Christ. 

 

Give thanks for Romans 5:9  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Wrath of God articles:

The idea for this sermon was first seeded here: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/07/no-squishy-love

A much more detailed discussion can be found here:  http://www.theologynetwork.org/Media/PDF/Tony_Lane-The_Wrath_of_God_as_an_Aspect_of_the_Love_of_God.pdf