We are 3 sermons into our Images of the Atonement series and perhaps you’ve been surprised by how often the preachers have spoken about God’s wrath.
God’s righteous and just wrath against sin indicates that he needs to be SATISFIED. Jesus’s SUBSTITUTION was penal in nature in which he received the penalty for sin—including God’s wrath—that we deserved. RECONCILIATION by its very definition indicates that while humanity is hostile towards God, he reciprocates that posture and is wrathful towards sinners.
That is a lot of wrath. Is this necessary? Is it biblical?
I would say ‘Yes!’ on both counts.
Apart from understanding God’s wrath, we won’t truly understand the gospel. And since the gospel is of ‘first importance,’ we best get our minds around this. Furthermore, not preaching God’s wrath, an idea clearly promoted by the Bible, will lead us in the wrong direction.
Michael Lawrence, in his helpful little book called Conversion: How God Creates a People, indicates where not preaching God’s wrath will lead us:
For the gospel to make sense, we must preach the justice and wrath of God. Too easily, however, churches downplay these basic truths and so change the gospel. It's hard to talk about hell and God's wrath. It is much easier to talk about being saved from purposeless lives, low self-esteem, or unhappiness. So we treat Jesus as the solution to a subjective, internal problem. Come to Jesus; he'll give you purpose and meaning. The trouble is, subjective problems can be solved through subjective solutions. I might choose Jesus to gain a sense of purpose, but my friend down the street sincerely chooses a career. Who's to say which is better? It's all subjective. When we fail to preach the justice of God and downplay his wrath, we are talking about some other gospel. We have changed it from an objective rescue to a subjective path to personal fulfillment. (35)
We do not intend to preach a subjective gospel. Our gospel is objectively true. It is ‘good news’ that happened in history and we proclaim Jesus—crucified, buried, risen—as the only means of reconciliation with our Creator. With a message so important that we have been entrusted with, we do well to guard it. And part of guarding it is preaching it. All of it. As the Bible gives it to us.
What we will continue to see throughout the Images of the Atonement series is that the wrath of God is a vital part of understanding this good and glorious gospel. So, we will preach it. We should do so in proportion to what the Bible teaches; no more and no less.
As we get closer to Easter, let's continue to gaze into the crown jewel of Biblical revelation, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and glory in its grace-filled beauty thereby renewing our mind and encouraging our affections.