Saved From What?
I hate sin. I hate the tempting promises it makes, all the while keeping its hidden blade of terror out of sight. I see its effects and weep at the wake of death and destruction it leaves behind. But as much as I hate sin, God hates it more… much more. And therein lies a problem, THE problem.
Too often though, I fear that we present an unbalanced gospel – one that is heavy on the “God is love” and light on the “wrath of God.” Each truth is an integral part of the gospel, but neither by itself is the gospel. We dilute God’s act of sovereign rescue if we sentimentalize Him to some unbiblical form of sappy love. A quick way to gauge your understanding of salvation through the gospel is to ask the question “Saved from what?”
Read the Psalmist’s words:
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalms 7:11-12)
Some people have a hard time thinking about God like this and instead have created in their minds a very different version from the God in the Bible; one that I would submit is no God at all. The God of ancient Israel who’s “wrath burned hot” against sin is the same God of today. God’s perfect justice demands that He be this way and His immutability demands that He remain this way.
Lest I present a skewed picture myself, let me offer in fact, that God is love… and therein lies a solution, THE solution. The transcendent truth of this reality is mind-boggling. What in the world does it mean that God, in His very being, is love? As difficult a question as that may be to answer, it might be helpful to see this love in action. As a matter of fact, it might be helpful to see both His wrath and His love in action, simultaneously.
But where can we go to see such a thing? Where is the one place where God’s love and God’s wrath are observable and merge in a way that both are perfectly and completely displayed for the world to see?
And here lies the cross, the cross of Jesus Christ.
When you look at the cross, with Jesus hanging there, His weight tearing at the flesh held in place by spikes, blood flowing freely from His wounds, suffering unimaginably, dying – when you see that… see God’s wrath being poured out. See God’s anger and hatred of sin. See God’s utter contempt and condemnation of sin in the flesh of His perfect Son. And see Christ Jesus drinking God’s wrath to the very last drop.
When you look at the cross, with Jesus hanging there, the infinitely Undeserving paying the penalty for the infinitely deserving, freely laying down His life at the will of His Father, suffering our death and judgment, bearing our sin, dying – when you see that… see God’s great love for His children. See God willing to sacrificially intervene on behalf of unworthy guilty sinners, because He loves us. See God not only offer, but finish His eternal purpose of bringing glory to His name and saving a people to himself.
We do no justice to the fullness of God’s love by dismissing God’s wrath. In fact, we empty the cross of its power and cheapen the price Christ paid through His death and suffering if we try to leave it out of our understanding of the gospel. The reality is that we are all in trouble before a perfectly holy and righteous God because of our sin.
And here lies the gospel… the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
By my sin and yours, we built the cross that God hung His Son on to die. Even still, we can have an assured hope that our guilt will not be counted against us if we recognize Jesus as our Savior, as the supreme treasure that He is, as our one and only path to reconciliation with God. That really is good news.
“There is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
*The title question came from Mr. Ed, an older and wiser saint from my church.