Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jonathan Edwards, God's Wrath & Love, and the Extremity of the Gospel

Recently I had the opportunity to read several people's responses to Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The 18th century preacher's sermon gives example after example of God's impending wrath toward sinners, yet in each instance His wrath is withheld for the time being. The time is coming, though, Edwards warns his audience, when mercy will no longer be available and all those outside of Christ will suffer eternally. Yet now, the door of mercy is open and Christ stands, beckoning sinners to come to Him.

Many of these people's reactions to Edwards' sermon showed annoyance, disagreement, and offense. They argued, "A loving God wouldn't send people to Hell," "Everyone makes mistakes but that doesn't make people evil," "If you live a good life and help others God will let you into Heaven," or "God is loving and therefore He will let people into Heaven who deserve it."

I've been sitting on their words for a couple of days. I imagine their responses are probably quite representative of the American opinion at large. Oh America, but what a cheap view of God's love is this! If I am nice to you because you are nice to me how am I showing anything beyond simple civility? But if you rob from me and insult me and I still extend kindness to you, is that not more meaningful? If God's love is demonstrated in that He admits 'good people' into Heaven because they deserve it, how is that love? Is that not simply fairness or obligation?  But if "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" how great indeed is His love (Romans 5:8)!

So often we avoid the topic of God's wrath like an elephant in the room. But it is only when we comprehend the severity--and justness--of His wrath, and our complete and utter depravity, that we can truly appreciate and adore His love. Only when we behold our own unworthiness can we perceive the generosity of the gift! Oh that we would have eyes to see the beauty of the gospel!

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14).

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