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John 3:16 and the Wrath of God (III)

July 10, 2007

The last two posts (part 1, part 2) have looked at certain aspects of a few statements N. T. Wright has made concerning the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA).  I wanted to show in the previous post that Wright’s “depersonalizing” of God’s wrath against specifically sin, and not sinners, goes against the message of God’s wrath in Scripture, particularly Romans 2.  And if we accept Wright’s model of God’s wrath, we would have to say that all who would die in their sin and experience the wrath of God in hell for all eternity, would be convicted only by association.  This is all very closely connected to Wright’s New Perspective view of justification – as being more ecclesiological, but I have responded to that elsewhere.    

Wright’s statement:

This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent.“ You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.

The question remains, ‘Can God be filled with wrath against actual sinners and still have the capacity to, in love, send his Son to the world?  Does the Bible allow that tension?’  Does John 3:16 negate any wrath against actual sinners needing to be absorbed by another?  One thing that I believe needs to be clear is that we should not equate wrath with hate in the Bible.  I think that is a primary mistake made in all who object to PSA.  God’s wrath is the display of his primary concern – his glory and honor, which has been vehemently exchanged for things less glorious (Romans 1:18-32).  Whatever you believe concerning the atonement, it was the Son who was the recipient of God’s wrath in Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.”  I do not know of an argument that is preserved against the fact that this is plainly showing that God, the Father, is pouring wrath on the Son, his Servant.  Why did the Father crush the Son and put him to grief?  “Because he was numbered with the transgressors” (53:12).  The Father took wrath against the transgressors in his Son.  But we cannot say that the Father hated the Son.  He has eternal love for the Son.  His love for the Son and for the sinners he saves is in complete union with his love for them as well.

Ephesians 2 does not let us equate wrath and hate either.  Verses 1-3 describe the very nature at which we were at odds with God.  We were counted with “sons of disobedience” and “by nature, children of wrath.  Yet, verse 4 shows that God was “rich in mercy” and loved us with a “great love” did not show us the wrath in which we were characterized before by “even when we were dead in our trespasses” (v. 5).  The phrase “even when we were dead in our trespasses” emphatically shows that mercy and love is undeserved, and wrath and anger would be completely justified, but is not shown towards us.  Romans 5:8, of course, shows specifically how God is able to raise dead sinners instead of destroying them in his wrath: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  The reason God is the “just and the justifier” (Romans 3:26) is because he justly poured out wrath against sinners through the sacrifice of his Son, justifying the ungodly, undeservedly, but also mercifully.  The love and mercy of God is short-changed and dulled when we see the depersonalized wrath of God.  We do not understand how great a love that God loved the world with until we see and believe that he chose to send his Son and his Son lovingly chose to go, in order to absorb the wrath due to sinners he saves.   

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 24, 2011 11:48 am

    Thanks for the well explained article on understanding wrath of God to understand His nature as He is a Just God

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