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Essays in Salvation

 

Essay Four: God’s wrath toward Christians.

 

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more , having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life. -Romans 5:10

 

A brief WARNING: this post will not be pleasant for Christians to read.  If you are comfortable in your Christian life you might just want to skip this one out.  But if you wish to be reminded of or awaken to fuller spiritual depths read on. 

 

A Christian is not finished being saved once they have placed their hope in Jesus Christ.  Sure they have passed from death to life, they are born again into the family of God, they are a new creation in Christ, and the like, but there are some spiritual things that they still are not saved from.  Christ’s death was the finished work in that it accomplished its goal.  What His death accomplished was the removal of our legal guilt of our sins (past, current, and in the future) before the Father.  This atonement is offered freely for everyone, there are no requirements of right living that we must meet, nor are there any disqualifying acts that we can do to lose this offer.  Furthermore, there is nothing we can do (or not do) to have this salvation removed once it is given.  There are not even any forms that we must fill out giving our name, address, or email.  We are acquitted on Christ’s behalf when we trust in Him.  But the death of Christ is not the end of our salvation.  It is only the beginning.

 

The apostle Paul writes, “if we were…reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more … we shall be saved by His life.”  Once we have put our faith in Christ, what is there for us to be saved from?  And what role does His life play in that salvation?  These are the questions we hope to find. 

 

What does a Christian need to be rescued from?  The answer is found in the previous verse, where Paul is speaking to Christians who have been made righteous by Christ’s death in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having been justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”  According to this verse, Christians need to be saved from wrath.  This is a disturbing thought, especially for those of us who have been taught that God’s wrath is only in store for those who have not been made new.  Let me be clear that God’s wrath does not mean loss of Christ’s righteousness.[1]  So if this wrath of God does not mean Hell what then does it mean and how can we as Christians escape it? 

 

Paul tells us what the wrath of God is at the beginning of this letter in chapter 1 beginning in verse 18:“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”.  This does not say that God’s wrath is only against the unbeliever’s ungodliness as is presumed by much of contemporary teaching, but rather that it is against all ungodliness where ever it may be found.  A two minute read through the remainder of chapter 1 shows that the main consequence of sin is more sin.  In other words the more we suppress the truth the more stupid and animalistic we become.  This is how the present life reveals God’s wrath, and it is very much a possibility for a believer to incur this wrath.  How many times have we seen someone, who belonged to the Lord, was actively engaged in Christian community and life only to abandon it (slowly or suddenly) in order to pursue a life of sin?  Did this individual lose their salvation?  Did they never “truly” believe in the beginning?  What happens to us as we continue in our sin?  No, they did not lose their salvation, for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  Was their faith not genuine when they first believed?  This is not for us to say because only God knows.  Just as a non Christian can live a good life (on human terms) a Christian can live a wretchedly sinful life, (see the Christian who was openly having sex with his step mom in I Corinthians 5).  When we as believers engage in sin we are not booted from the family, but we do incur God’s wrath which is being given over to a depraved life for now, and its dissatisfactions.  But God’s wrath also has future implications for Christians as well and these are the most unsettling.

 

If we look back at Romans 5:9-10 it twice states “we shall be saved” implying a future salvation from God’s wrath.  It is abundantly clear (though rarely preached) throughout the New Testament that Christians will be judged after their death for their actions by Christ.[2]  As one would imagine a faithful life would bring happiness, and an ungodly one would bring sorrow.  The most terrifying passage that the future wrath of God is spoken of as being in store for Christians is found in Hebrews chapter 10:26-39.  (There’s a reason preachers avoid this book in their sermons- we don’t like its message.)  “For if we go on sinning willfully after we have received knowledge of the truth (this means us as Christians), there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful indignation which will devour the adversaries.”  Losing the sacrifice for sins does not mean being booted out of Heaven into Hell, but it does mean that we will face the fearful wrath of God, even as believers.  If we reject the moral truth of God and deliberately follow our sinful desires we will face the terrible wrath of God.  Hebrews continues to say that anyone who broke the Law of Moses was swiftly punished on the testimony of only two witnesses.  “How much worse punishment, do you suppose will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot and counted the blood of the covenant by which he was made holy a vulgar thing and insulted the spirit of grace?”  How bad is this future wrath for us believers who continue in sin?  Apparently it is worse than being stoned to death.  And just in case we want to explain this away as only applying to non-Christians, we are reminded “The LORD will judge His people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[3] 

 

Are we scared of how God will deal with us for our sin yet?  We ought to be.  There is much terror in God, but there is also much comfort.  We will look at that comfort and how we escape this wrath through the life of Christ in the next post.  For now let us be like the Christians spoken of in the final verse of Hebrews 10.  “But we are not those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” 

 

LORD forgive us our sins, and help us to escape the corruption and judgment they bring.  Give us the strength and the grace found in your SON to live the abundant Life that you call each of us to.  Amen

 


[1] I feel the need to constantly reinforce the security of a Christian, because we have been taught that everything bad in the Bible and especially the New Testament is Hell.  An eternity apart from God is not a possibility for a Christian, but there are many other negative consequences for our sins if we so choose to continue in them instead of maturing in Christ. 

[2] I Corinthians 3, II Corinthians 5, Hebrews 10 & 12

[3] Hebrews 10:30-31 (italics mine)

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