God’s Love and God’s Wrath

The Bible speaks of the wrath of God in high-intensity language. “The Lord Almighty is mustering an army for war. … Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. … See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it” (Isa. 13:4, 6, 9). Even allowing for the unusual nature of language in the apocalyptic genre, Revelation 14 includes some of the most violent expressions of God’s wrath found in all literature. …

How, then, do God’s love and His wrath relate to each other?

One evangelical cliché has it that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. There is a small element of truth in these words: God has nothing but hate for the sin, but this cannot be said with respect to how God sees the sinner. Nevertheless the cliché is false on the face of it, and should be abandoned. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, the psalmists state that God hates the sinner, that His wrath is on the liar, and so forth. In the Bible the wrath of God rests on both the sin (Rom. 1:18–23) and the sinner (Romans 1:24–32; Romans 2:5; John 3:36).

Our problem in part is that in human experience wrath and love normally abide in mutually exclusive compartments. Love drives wrath out, or wrath drives love out. We come closest to bringing them together, perhaps, in our responses to a wayward act by one of our children, but normally we do not think that a wrathful person is loving.

But this is not the way it is with God. God’s wrath is not an implacable blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against His holiness. At the same time His love wells up amidst His perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at once. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God. …

The reality is that the Old Testament displays the grace and love of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament. Similarly, the Old Testament displays the righteous wrath of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the New Testament. In other words both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax in the Cross.

Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the Cross.

Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the Cross.

—D.A. Carson
“God’s Love and God’s Wrath” published in Bibliotheca Sacra

You can read the entire article here.

Via: Tony Reinke

I Am Not What I Once Was

I am not what I ought to be. Ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be,
nor what I wish to be,
nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was;
a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’

—John Newton

Via: Tony Reinke

Grace Infinite and Everlasting

We often feel as if grace had done its utmost when it has carried us safely through the desert, and set us down at the gate of the kingdom. We feel as if, when grace has landed us there, it has done all for us that we are to expect.

But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. He does exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. It is just when we reach the threshold of the prepared heavenly city, that grace meets us in new and more abundant measures, presenting us with the recompense of the reward.

The love that shall meet us then to bid us welcome to the many mansions, shall be love beyond what we were here able to comprehend; for then shall we fully realize, as if for the first time, the meaning of these words, ‘The love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord;’ and then shall we have that prayer of Christ fulfilled in us, ‘That the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

It was grace which on earth said to us, ‘Come unto Me, and I will give you rest;’ and it will be grace, in all its exceeding riches, that will hereafter say to us, ‘Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’

—Horatius Bonar
The God of Grace

Via: Of First Importance

Sinclair Ferguson on Grace

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson was recently interviewed by the editors at Reformation Trust on the release of his new book titled By Grace Alone. These are some excerpts from that interview…

There are many reasons, but usually they involve three things. First, we have such a low sense of the holiness of God and we are insensitive to the sheer intensity of it. To whatever extent our sense of God’s holiness is diminished, to that extent our sense of amazement at God’s grace will be diminished. Second, we adopt superficial views of our sinfulness and too often guard against the ministry of the Word and Spirit exposing it. Jesus said that it is those who are much forgiven who love much. The reason is that those who are most conscious of their sin become most conscious of their need of grace, and therefore most aware of the wonders of grace. Third, we think too little of the costliness of grace. It comes freely to us because it was so expensive to Christ to satisfy the justice of God on our behalf. Sadly, in our contemporary “Christianesque” subculture, we are weak in reflection and meditation on Christ and the meaning of the cross.

—Sinclair Ferguson

Only sinners need grace. If I do not see myself as a sinner then I will (however foolishly) expect “fairness” from God. If I believe I have behaved “decently” toward Him (after all, I never did Him any harm!), I will expect Him to behave “decently” toward me. That is probably the world’s most popular creed. But it is not the Christian’s creed, nor is it the gospel. Only when I see my sin do I seek grace from God. That is true at the beginning of the Christian life. It remains true right to the end.

—Sinclair Ferguson

It is legitimate to speak of “receiving grace,” and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing this language) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as “means of grace.” That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as John Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself. Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

—Sinclair Ferguson

Via: Ligonier Ministries Blog

Freedom from Self-Preservation

Peter denied Jesus, to preserve himself physically (Mark 14:66-72). Later he denied the gospel, to preserve himself socially (Galatians 2:11-21). But by the time he wrote his first letter, his heart had been set free: “I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (1 Peter 5:12).

What is “the true grace of God”? Not survival, physical or social, but the privilege of sharing in Christ’s sufferings that we may also rejoice when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).  Whatever life thrusts upon us, the true grace of God is to stand firm in that hard place and embrace identification with Jesus.

—Ray Ortlund

Via: Ray Ortlund

The Covenant of Grace

As a narrow vessel cannot contain the ocean, so neither can the finite creature comprehend the infinite good: but no measure shall be set to the enjoyment, but what ariseth from the capacity of the creature. So that, although there be degrees of glory, yet all shall be filled. . . God will be all in all to the saints: He will be their life, health, riches, honour, peace, and all good things. He will communicate Himself freely to them. . . There will be no veil between God and them, to be drawn aside; but His fulness shall ever stand open to them.

—Thomas Boston

Via: Reformation Theology