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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « What's my theology? | Main | Knowing Our God »

    Is God Angry at Sin?

    "So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia." Revelation 14:19-20

    "He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Revelation 19:15-16

    For those few of you not familiar with him, Rob Bell is one of the leading spokesmen of the emerging (t) church and was featured in a recent Time magazine article. He prides himself on teaching a God of love and not one of condemnation. But his recent “The Gods Are Not Angry” tour, as one blogger pointed out, sounded more like Oprah's god than any semblance of one which represented Christ. Unlike Oprah, whose followers are mostly women over 50, Bells' disciples are predominately young 20-something males.

    One of the main messages that Bell is communicating to his audience, for which he gets standing ovations, is that 'God is not angry because God is love'. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should because it is the vision of god which we hear from pop-culture every day. So from all appearances, Bell is essentially saying is that we should abandon the God of the Bible for a more user-friendly version. How is this different than the anti-doctrinal tactic already used by today's mega-churches? Well, not much except that it is dressed in postmodern garb. It avoids doctrine and goes straight for practice (not orthodoxy but orthopraxy). In other words, it is just 19th & 20th century liberalism refashioned for the current age. Jesus without content and thus Jesus without grace.

    It is not Christianity. How do I know? Consider the following question:

    Do you believe you justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone?

    Can someone even be a Christian if they cannot unhesitatingly affirm this?

    This is and has been a historic confession of the church (based on no small number of Scriptures) for those who come to faith in Christ. Anyone who cannot affirm this, we must boldly affirm, has not even understood the most basic truth about Jesus and the gospel. Fact is, a person cannot truly know themselves unless they have encountered the majesty of God Almighty. If His holiness, sovereignty, and wrath are not preached together with His mercy, and love then the true God has not been preached at all. Bell and others appear to be merely adjusting their idea of god to their their desires and perceived needs.

    Perhaps they are worried that many are preaching in a way that will offend especially if we speak of God's wrath. But if we have a robust gospel which includes ourselves among those who have worshipped false gods and continue to fall short, and if we affirm that we are no better ... and but for the grace of God we would be worse, then there is little to no danger of a message that unnecessarily offends. If we are fellow beggars just pointing the way to bread then it is the opposite of self-righteousness. This means we need to take our cue, not from fundamentalists or from the purpose driven movement, but from the Reformed tradition. Many in the emergent movement are reacting to an Arminian or semi-pelagian fundamentalist preaching of the wrath of God, not a Christ-centered, gospel-driven one. I would agree that they re right to react against what they were taught in legalistic, fundamentalistic churches, but rejecting the plain Text of Scripture is not the answer. A robust understanding of the sovereign grace of God is the answer.

    When we teach the gospel, if we do not point out sin, our idolatry and moral rebellion against a holy God then we are not doing anyone a favor, but are harming them and ourselves. Christ is the remedy for sin, and if we merely preach him as a nice example who teaches us to do nice things to others then we misrepresent him and, in fact, teach legalism again. A true Christian is one who has “no confidence in the flesh”. This means a person who has utterly despaired of themselves. When the Holy Spirit does a work of grace in someone in the hearing of the Law, He convicts them of their sin. Not just sins, but convicts of the fact that they are sinners by nature and can do nothing to save themselves. There is no pride in physical decent or in natural abilities. This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works. Both are equally worthless to God. False teaching, on on the other hand, glories in something other than in Christ alone, always pointing to something that we can do; a resumé we can bring before God to curry His favor, not realizing that He has already adopted us as sons. Not unlike the older brother in the Prodigal son who glories that he has worked for his father all his life, not realizing that God does not first ask us to meet conditions to obtain his love. Those who have confidence in the flesh also tend to believe in Christ PLUS this or that. That Christ saved them, but they must maintain their justification before God by doing something. Glorying in Christ is the antithesis of glorying in the flesh. Pharisees boast before God of what they have done for him. The Christian is one who has empty hands every day and can only thank God for His mercy. He thus relies solely on the righteousness of Christ and realized they would be dead but for HIs mercy.

    Again, in light of revelation, can someone even be a Christian if they cannot affirm that they justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone? I would love to hear your response.

    For Further Reading
    5 Puritan Evangelism Lessons For Todays Churches by Joel Beeke

    Posted by John on December 10, 2007 03:48 PM

    Comments

    Amen! It is quite sad that while these men are claiming to have a desire to point people to Christ-- or "give them Christ in their native tongue"--they end up stripping the gospel of it's Savior. What need do we have for a Savior if God's wrath is not against us? I figure the emergents would say that we do not need God's wrath because we have a Savior (or probably something more vague)...but nonetheless....my intent for posting is to ask a question that I was struggling with in preparing a sermon. In what way (or can we at all) say that God is angry with Christians when they sin? It seems to me that God is certainly displeased with us whenever we sin and we will receive His discipline. But I think Scripture reveals that God's anger and wrath have been bore by Jesus. Therefore, am I right in concluding that God is no longer angry with Christian's because of the Cross? If that is so, I think the problem with Bell's theology is not so much that he denies the wrath of God--but that he is a universalist. If he were saying that God is no longer angry (as far as settled disposition) towards His sheep then I would probably agree--but when he extends it to the entire world he becomes a universalist and thus heretical. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. As per your question, one of my favorite passages may be an obscure one but I find it helpful:

    "But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. - 1 Cor 11:31-32

    A Christian is one that when he sins he should be fearful of a Father's discipline, but not have the fear of a slave, who may be cast out. God has affectionately given his covenant in Christ's blood for an inheritance that cannot perish, spoil or fade, but while we live on this earth our Father will discipline us, not to condem us, but for our good. This passage above teaches that if we judge ourselves rightly, then we would not need discipline, and when we do not rightly acknowledge and reject our sin, God disciplines us so that we will not be condemned along with the world. There is a proper and improper fear of the Lord. The proper one obey, not in order to be saved but because you are. The desire to obey springs from a renewed heart. But it also has a healthy fear simply due to the righteousness of God and our standing before Him.

    Further, "we [believers] have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear"; that is, God has not given it to us, "for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7). To sinning believers God says, 1 Samuel 12:20; "Fear not; ye have done all this wickedness." That is, not with that fear which would have made them fly from God, as concluding that they were not now his people. And the reason is, because sin cannot dissolve the covenant into which the sons of God, by his grace, are granted. Consider the following: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail" (Psa 89:30-33).

    Now, if sin does not dissolve the covenant; if sin does not cast me out of the covenant in Christ's blood, which is made with us personally with the Son of God, and into the hands of which by the grace of God I am placed, then we ought not to fear with the same kind of fear as an unbeliever in their condemnation. Sin, after that the spirit of adoption is granted, will never dissolve the relation of Father and son. God's chastising of his children for their sin, is a a sign of grace and love, and not of his wrath. When we drink of Christ's blood and eat of his flesh, these "remind" God not to treat us as our sins deserve.

    Our fear, therefore should be the the fear of children, not as slaves fear a tyrant. We should therefore have believers to look upon his rod, rebukes, and chastisements, and also upon the wrath which he inflicts, to be but the dispensations of their own loving Father. He may inflict sufferings, but they are ultimately for our good. This helps maintain in our soul a son-like confession of sin, and a justifying of God under all the rebukes that come to us in His Providence.

    Problem is, Bell, in his bullhorn guy video, appears to blatantly affirm that we should withhold the bad news from unbelievers, which is absurd. I recall, Karl Barth was a universalist in the sense he believed that Jesus' sacrifice paid for the sins of all, and all we needed to do was let them know they were already forgiven. Bell sounds a little like this, though it is wrapped differently. The liberal church that followed Barth eventually abandoned the great commission as a result.

    JWH

    Good post -
    Dr. Bruce McCormack at Princeton Seminary began his course on the Atonement with a 3 week lecture on the Wrath of God. We cannot begin to talk about our salvation until we realize why we need a savior and from what we are being saved. The beauty of the message of scripture is that the wrath of God is not separated from the love of God; rather, God's wrath is a manifestation of His love.

    Ok, but let me zero in on one point:
    With regard to the statement: "This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works."

    AFTER we are saved, does not God want us and REWARD us (Mt 6:1-6,16-18) for good works? Of course, we understand that such works do not grant salvation in any way; I think it is more clear to say we repent of good works for the purpose of EARNING salvation. After regeneration, then, how can good works be worthless to God if we are rewarded for them?

    Hi Eric

    The context of the statement is to one who is coming to faith in Christ. He must repent of his good works and bad works. What this means is that he must repent of TRUSTING in his good works, which is the natual tendency of those who do not know Christ, and perhaps one of the most damnable sins of all .... The remnant of the covenant of works remains with all of us .. since we all intuitively know it is true that if we perfectly obeyed God and his commandements (an impossible supposition), we woud not need a savior. But many unbelievers are under the delusion that if they just had more good than bad on the balance of their scale, God would be okay with them.

    But the truth is that even AFTER regeneration, a believer must constantly remind himself of the gospel lest he think anything he has does not spring from Christ's mercy. There is a deep seated tendency in us all to pride ourselves in our doings and so easy to forget that all we have is a gift of Christ's mercy. So we must all repent daily of trusting in our good works. Pharaseeism was not an isolated error in 1st century Judaism, it is alive and well in the chuch today. Unless we remind ourselves that we need the gospel as much as unbelievers, then we too will natually pray "thank you Lord I am not like other men... I do this and that" Instead, we ought to consider ourselves NO BETTER THAN the unsaved except for Christ's mercy alone. We strive after doing good works not in order to be saved but because he has given us a new heart which delights in the law of God .. delights in Christ...good works springs from a renewed heart and yes, God will reward us for them, yet a true Christian will throw down his/her rewards before Christ, for He alone deserves the glory!!!

    Hi Joel,
    Will you define these terms?
    "legalistic, fundamentalistic churches"
    The terms are thrown around so often that it causes confusion and false accusation to many, along with slander to cause others to not listen to those who might be wrongly labeled as such.
    Thanks

    "...reacting to an Armenian or semi-pelagian fundamentalist preaching of the wrath of God, not a Christ-centered, gospel-driven one. I would agree that they're right to react against what they were taught in legalistic, fundamentalistic churches ..."

    I would like to understand this observation in greater detail.

    The "fundamentals" as published around 1916 and affirmed again in the 1920s began to define the "fundamentalist movement":
    (1) The Inerrancy of Scripture
    (2) The Virgin Birth of Jesus
    (3) The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ
    (4) Christ’s bodily resurrection
    (5) The Historicity of The Miracles

    In our present time, fundamentalism has lost it's attachment to it's birth certificate, and seems to imply some kind of man-centered moralism and expressed by rule keeping to earn and keep God's favor prior to, and after, salvation.

    Is this what you mean? If so, are they modern day expressions or organizations that will help clarify what you mean?

    best regards,
    jcf

    How can anyone claim to read the bible and say that God does not get angry at sin.

    Now, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who resist the truth in unrighteousness. That's what Romans says. There isn't that much other revelation that unbelievers get, besides the revelation of God in creation.

    It irritates me also to read some Reformed thinkers who are so influenced by Platonic and philosophical thought that they confuse etymology with meaning and try to argue that God does not have emotions because the derivation of the words that make up 'emotion' has something to do with changing, as if that had anything to do with the issue.

    okay!! none of you know if god is angry or not!!!! i am doing a paper on heaven and hell and there is NO way anyone knows if we have an angry god or not!!! i believe in god but we cant get into his head and actually think we know what he is thinking!!! sooo the question still and will forever stand... is our god an angry god!!!

    Joshua - I hope you found the resources for your paper. Here's my thoughts about the broad question - Is God an Angry God?...

    Yes and no. Better to say that God does exhibit anger, but one can't fully appreciate who God is if he stops there. First, the word most often used for God's anger and wrath in the New Testament sounds a lot like our modern word "orgy". Not quite the same meaning though but close. It described a display of anger that was very complete; very much fully poured out. You'll find a lot of examples in Revelation and other passages that talk about judgment on those who reject God.

    Of interesting note are some passages which talk about God grieving. That's an odd feeling for and "angry God" to have. In Gen. 6:6 God grieved before he brought the flood. He also grieved when he subjected Israel to 40 years of wandering (and death of that generation). So we need to understand that judgment is pictured as God pouring out His wrath, but we also see that God grieves as if judging is not his favorite thing to do.

    Finally, it is difficult to picture God who died as an innocent man on a cross in our place to be an angry God. If there was ever a time for God to be angry with our race, it would have been at the crucifixion of Christ. However, Jesus's last words did not include "Father, kill them all" did they? They included "Father, forgive them..."

    We need to hold God's personal qualities all together - heroic love, holiness, anger, grief, providence - in order to represent Him fairly.

    it amazes me that while you speak of Jesus you don't follow God's word from the king james bible. so how do you profess godliness when you and the people throw so much confusion in the eyes of and in the hearts of those who supposedly believe in Jesus. in conclusion the best thing to do is go to revelations 22:18-19 and read God's true word from the king james bible and learn that you are wrong for using such material since your new age bible is written by lucifer/satan the devil himself, may God bless you anywat. shalom.d

    God is angry with the wicked every day, as we see in Psalm 7:11. God will never stop being angry with obstinate, rebellious, selfish people. God is angry, because sin destroys value; it hurts Him and others. It is outside our design. And we must preach that, YES.

    BUT, isnt His main motivation for salvation LOVE and not appeasing wrath? Isnt it His kindness that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4)? Didnt GOD love the world, BEOFRE the cross (John 3:16)? Isn't salvation all about reconciliation to Him (2Cor.5)?

    We need to show sinners that He is a God of love who waits for them with open arms; who has provided a way to forgiveness through the cross. The cross wasnt to "appease the gods...". It was to display that God upholds and cherishes the law, but wants to administer mercy and forgiveness.

    I am not justifying Bell or any other post-modern universalists; since that is unbiblical stuff. BUT preaching the God of love who is after reconciliation must be priority.


    God did not need to sacrifice Jesus in order to vent His anger. Jesus did not die on the cross in order to make God more disposed toward man. The atonement came from a pure heart of love for man!!!

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