The Wrath of God in the New Covenant
This is the third article in my series on the wrath of God. To see how well you have been paying attention, I want to ask you a question: In the new covenant, what is the connection between sin and wrath?
Answer: There is none.
Yes, I know the Bible has many scriptures showing how God is angry with sin and judges sinners, but all those scriptures come before the cross.
Jesus changed the game. His sacrifice was the once and final solution for sin.
So when I see cranky Christians protesting at gay rights parades and trumpeting on about the judgment of God, I want to tell them, “Didn’t you get the memo? God already judged all sin on the cross.”
And when I hear TV preachers denouncing America for her many sins and warning of divine retribution, I respond, “See the cross!” A just God cannot punish America for her sins because America’s sins were fully condemned in Christ.
Four scriptures on wrath
Recently, I went through every scripture in the New Testament to see if I could find any that suggest God gets angry on account of your sin. I found none. But I did find four verses that seem to say he does. Seem to, but don’t. Here is the first one:
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified… (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, NIV)
This is a poor translation of Paul’s words. The NIV gives the impression that God is in the punishment business when he is in the justice business. God is in the business of making things right.
A legalist might read this passage and conclude, “God punishes those who disobey. So we better do everything he commands. We need to obey God’s holy law.” But that’s not what Paul is saying. If it were, he would be contradicting what he writes in Romans 7 when he says running back to your old husband the law is committing spiritual adultery with Jesus.
Take another look at the passage above. It says God’s wrath comes on those who don’t obey the gospel, not those who don’t obey the law.
What does it mean to obey the gospel?
The Greek word for “obey” means “to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform”. How do you obey the gospel? You heed it. You open the door of your heart and receive it. If you are a Christian, then you have already obeyed the gospel. If you are an unbeliever, you need to. It’ll set you free.
Okay, next verse:
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 5:5-6)
There is no question that sin is a serious problem and God should know – our sin cost him his life. And it could cost you yours in the sense that those who sow bad seed reap bad fruit.
But God’s wrath is not coming on the children of disobedience because they are doing bad things. It’s coming on account of their unbelief. Look up the word for disobedience in a lexicon and you will see it means disbelief. It comes from a word which means unpersuadable.
The children of disobedience are those who refuse to be persuaded that God is good and that he loves them. I’m not talking about children and those ignorant of the gospel. I am referring to those like Judas and the Pharisees who tasted the heavenly gift and rejected it. They have embraced a lie instead of the truth. They have stepped off the precipice shouting, “I don’t believe in gravity.”
What does it mean to disobey in the new covenant?
The issue is not whether you are naughty or nice but who you trust. Distrust Jesus and you may end up trusting the law. “I’d better keep the commands and stop sinning.” But there’s only one thing that can stop you sinning and it’s not law – it’s grace. The children of disobedience are not sinning because they are lawless but graceless. They sin because they don’t know Jesus and the power of his resurrection life.
The modern church is obsessed with “not sinning.” But if we preached Jesus the way we preached against sin, we wouldn’t have to preach against sin.
Here’s the third verse on wrath.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (Col 3:5-6, NIV)
The NIV has chopped off some important words at the end. Let’s read that again another translation…
…because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. (Colossians 3:6, NKJV)
Remember, disobedience in the new covenant is not “breaking the rules.” Disobedience means disbelief. It’s being unpersuaded about the goodness of God. So Paul is saying the same thing here as in Ephesians 5:5-6.
Are you getting this? The issue is not your sin; the issue is your faith. It’s not what you are doing, it’s whether you are resting in Christ. Do you trust Jesus? Do you believe that his work is the cure for your sin? Do you believe God’s grace can turn a sinner into a saint?
Sinning is the fruit that grows on a tree of unbelief and the axe is applied to the root not the fruit. No one is going to be condemned for their sin or Adam’s sin. But just as Adam suffered loss on account of his distrust, so may we. Trust in self leads to unhealthy and destructive living.
Here’s the fourth and final verse on wrath:
In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (1 Thessalonians 2:16)
This is such an important wrath-verse that I will devote an entire article to it. For now, you’re going to have to take my word for it when I say this passage is not about God smiting the Jews because of their sins. How can I be sure? Because of what Paul says here:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Is there any evidence in the New Testament that God’s pours his wrath on us on account of our sin? There is none, at least none since the cross.
Hebrews 9:26 is right. Jesus is the once and final cure for all sin. We’ll talk more about Jesus and wrath in the next article in this series. Stay tuned.
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I’m a little confused. Part of the post seems to hint at no wrath (now) toward the unbeliever then further down the post seems to say “no wrath” is for believers only. Did I misunderstand? What are your (or anyone’s) thoughts on something like Acts 12:23 (after the cross), “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”?
My thoughts on Acts 12:23 can be found in a post entitled “Who killed Herod?“
I understand that the wrath of God was prepared for those who do not believe in His Son….But how about these Hebrews 12:6…Proverbs 3:12..Revelations 3:19…1 Cor 11:32
Please check out Archives > Scripture Index for articles on these passages.
“But if we preached Jesus the way we preached against sin, we wouldn’t have to preach against sin.”
I like that thought… but, i have an honest question…. if we don’t preach about sin and the need for repentance, from what will people repent?
Michael, “from what?” is an fair question but a better one is “to what?” Repentance is not something we do in response to sin, but something we do in response to love.
This is beautiful insight brother Paul ❤ I'm not sure how to explain the thought that crossed my mind while I was reading this but it went something like, "God is leading me into all truth." I am extremely thankful for the time you spend writing these blogs because they are really helping me to understand the Word of God and to get my mind cleared up from old religious thinking….truly, truly thankful 🙂
Thank you for your encouraging comment. The Holy Spirit does indeed guide us into all truth (John 16:13). I’m delighted that he sometimes uses my words to do that.
Rom 2.4 is good evidence that disobedience is essentially rejecting God’s grace. This flows from a legalistic and judgemental attitude based on self righteousness v3. Wrath comes on such people v8 not only because of their unbelief but also for its fruit which is evil acts v9.
Great Insight brother! I found the preaching of Grace has more power in it then preaching sin.. The preaching of the law increases Sin. We should know this by now. The Churches that preaches law still has the same problems they had decades ago. Pastors running off with their members spouses, Fighting in the church, Children leaving the church wanting no part of it etc. I found by my own experience, Grace has all the power. The goodness of God leads to repentance. Come on Church hook up to the Grace of God and let Jesus be Lord of all.
Hey Paul sorry this is a little off topic but I really need some advice…
E2R has many readers and a good proportion of them are searching for advice, wisdom, answers, etc. You are not alone. However, it is important that we limit these discussion threads to the post being discussed. For different ways to get your questions answered, please read this post.
I guess this means that anyone on this side of the cross such as those in the book of Acts like Annanias, Sapphira, and the sorcerer were punished because of their disbelief.
I will talk more about New Testament examples in later posts, but as I say in the post above, God is not in the punishment business. I know not everyone will agree, but I don’t think he killed Annanias and Sapphira. Nor did he blind Elymas – that was Paul’s doing. In fact, I’ve heard that Smith Wigglesworth did something similar to a demonized man who threatened to interrupt one of his rallies.
Well JP’s take is definitely interesting noting the phrase “a certain disciple” vs. “a certain man” in Acts so apparently he wasn’t a disciple. Anyway I’d rather look through the lens of the cross.
‘The modern church is obsessed with not sinning.’ Of course the modern church is a huge, international and very diverse entity which makes generalisations very difficult. My local Anglican church in the UK isn’t ‘obsessed with not sinning’ so I feel confused. Certainly to be oriented towards ones own behaviour is in itself a sin since we break the first commandment. We fulfil the law by owning Jesus as Lord and by receiving his Spirit. By this we clean the inside of the cup and consequently the outside too. Now I’m not an expert on the modern church but I think there are a very large number of traditional churches that ‘have not bowed the knee to Baal’. This is certainly true in the UK. That said there are some that inappropriately apply God’s wrath.
I find the first part of this post bewildering. Does not the new testament aver that all those who reject God’s grace in the person of Jesus the Messiah will be judged. These are the sons of disobedience. We escape the wrath of God by submitting to Jesus, by believing in Him, by following Him. Now you say that because all sin has been dealt with on the cross that means that the USA is in no way guilty of any misdemeanour. Surely we are only guiltless if we receive God’s remedy for our guilt namely Jesus the Messiah.
God would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for ten righteous. There must be a few more than ten in the USA who are covered by the blood of Jesus. Nations are made of people, so all nations are guilty of wrongdoing. If God starts judging nations for wrongdoing, maybe everyone needs to be a bit nervous. Judgment seems like a good idea… until we realize… all of us have things we could be judged for.
Leave it to Paul to end with a teaser. 🙂 Good post.
I am curious, when it says God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, no longer counting men’s sins against them, would another way to put it in perspective be, it is no longer men’s behavior that condemns or justifies them, but rather whether their faith is placed in Christ’s finished work of the cross? I know we know that placing faith in the finished work of the cross has a transforming impact on how our lives are lived, but it also doesn’t mean we will never behave in a destructive fashion. We need to live in accordance with our new identity, but when we screw up, the Holy Spirit seeks to lovingly remind us of who we are meant to be.
Forgive me for posting again but the idea that all sin is automatically dealt with by the cross is surely refuted by Acts 2.28. Peter urges people to repent and be to baptized ‘for the remission of sins’. I cant see how if sins were already unconditionally removed from all people that this process should be necessary. According to Acts 2.28 sins are remitted conditionally on repentance and baptism and so it has been throughout church history.
if you look at the greek text in acts 2:38, the word “eis” is properly translated as “into” – not “for”. peter urges the people to repent and be baptized INTO the forgiveness (remission) of sins. logically, that means “the forgiveness” would have to already exist before a person could be baptized into it…. 😉
The forgiveness may preexist. The issue is whether this remission of sins applies to all men whether or not the are baptised into it. By saying that God is not angry with anybody’s sin the above post seems to be saying that this remission is indeed unconditional. Acts 2.38 refutes this. God’s wrath is not on those who have taken up his offer of forgiveness but remains on those who have not, because they remain in their sins. The position of this blog seems to be that the only sin is unbelief, therefore God only condemns people for this and not their other sins. Although this has a certain logic there are too many other NT scriptures about that refute this idea. 1 Cor 5.5 is a good example of God judging someone for their sin, this time sexual immorality. If all sins other than unbelief were automatically remitted how could this happen?
Forgiveness is indeed a done deal – see Hebrews 9:26. The word forgive literally means to carry away and on the cross our sins were carried away. Jesus on died for your sins once. He will never die again.
I agree, and I think 2 Cor. 5:14-15 supports this. It speaks to the debt of sin being settled but also suggests that out of gratitude no longer living for ourselves (according to the flesh desires) but for Him who died for us (according to the Spirit).
I think that you may be forgetting that the Bible also clearly teaches that there are different judgments. Regarding 1 Cor. 5:5, it doesn’t suggest this is some kind of eternal judgment of wrath. It does suggest that there is a positive discipline tone to what is taking place, destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved. My guess is that it is referring to a natural consequence that comes from choosing to abide in sinful behavior. Sometimes people try sparing a person from consequences of their bad choices or try counseling those who are not receptive, and the verse can simply mean they need to back off and let the person reap what they’ve sown according to the flesh. There is a difference between judgment and discipline, and some judgment has nothing to do with punishment or wrath. I personally believe that God’s wrath or punishment only targets unbelief. However, that does not mean God turns a blind eye to sinful behavior. There are natural consequences that can lead to destruction of the flesh that come from choosing to indulge in immoral behavior. If we persist in those choices for whatever reason, God allows us to reap what we’ve sown. If we snap out of it so to speak, many times God chooses to show mercy in sparing us from some of the natural consequences, but there is still some kind of emotional, mental, or physical harm that results on some level. The bigger question that arises is whether someone’s belief is simply a mental knowledge and theoretical assent that does not result in genuine faith or whether their belief and faith come from the heart and a genuine submission to God’s grace. Even the demons believe, and tremble, and we shall know them by their fruit. A person can consistently demonstrate good fruit and occasionally produce a bad apple on the tree but still be “right with God”, or a person may habitually demonstrate bad fruit despite professing faith in God but perhaps not be genuine in their faith and still sometimes produce good apples. Regardless, if a person believes that their performance is what makes them right with God, then they have taken the grace of God in vain and do not have genuine faith. Ultimately only God knows for sure if a person genuinely trusts solely in the provision of the cross and Jesus shed blood for our salvation from spiritual death.
I believe the idea is that sins are forgiven through the finished work of Christ,and upon accepting him the sins are covered
This is so hard for me to wrap my mind around. I have always been the ‘good girl’ (not sinless, but doing things the right way). For example, I waited until my marriage to have relations with my husband. We took purity seriously. He died within the first year. I never had children. Things haven’t worked out with anyone else (and I have kept myself pure), and now I am too old for kids. Meanwhile, a young Christian girl at my church who was brought up by godly parents and graduated from a Christian college decided to turn her back on all she knew was right, move in with her boyfriend, get pregnant–all the while criticizing, as ‘unloving’, those who did not accept her choices. She now is married to the man, has a healthy, happy little boy, lives the good life. So, based on this kind of thing and the post above, am I supposed to conclude that people can get by with doing wrong? And those who try to do right–what reward is there? May as well have sinned as she did, had more fun along the way, and been blessed in the end. I am having a hard time getting this.
Sande, I am very sorry about your husband. I don’t believe anyone can say why that happened, but I hope I can help with your question. If God were to bless us based on our ability to do right, none of us could be blessed. In order to be blessed through the law we would have to obey ALL of it. Since we are incapable of doing that, Jesus did it in our place. He perfectly fulfilled the law for us, then took all of the judgment for our failures. Now we can receive His righteousness and take His place of favor. So God blesses us based on the perfect righteousness of Jesus. He does want us to do right so we can avoid the consequences of doing wrong, but He doesn’t bless us based on our doing right. He can even take our mistakes and turn them around for our good. When our focus shifts from our doing to what He did for us, His goodness increases in our actions and our circumstances. May the grace and peace of Jesus be multiplied in your life -2 Peter 1:2.
Thank you for taking the time to express these thoughts, LJP. They give me more to think about. I don’t hear this kind of thing taught at my church. But the logic of it resonates with me. A person cannot ever justify him/herself by law-keeping or s/he’d have to keep the whole law. Blessings to you for your gracious response.
Thank you for your kind response, Sande. One thing that encourages me is to keep in mind when God blesses someone else in their mess, that means He will bless me in my mess too. I’m hoping and praying for God’s best for you. Blessings
Sande, speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that this young Christian girl you mentioned did not “escape” free of consequences for her choices. God is gracious and merciful. His blessings are not based on our merit. However, there is still damage done when we choose to sin. That doesn’t mean it changes our salvation, but there is heartache and difficulty that comes from indulging in sin. It may not be obvious or evident to someone looking from the outside, and it may take time to surface. However, when lean on God, we can experience His healing. Marriage and children are not what define our “happiness”.
I think you nailed it on the head, Brandon. I am trying to measure blessing in terms of having a husband and children. In my heart, I am happy this girl did not suffer something terrible for her sin. But to think I can sin and ‘just get by with it’ makes it all too tempting. I don’t want to please God. But there are times when I’d rather sin than please Him. Having that extra incentive of knowing it is not a ‘safe’ or wholesome path helps me. But on the other hand, if God were really out to punish us for our sin, I wouldn’t be very safe either.
Well said. I think all of us wrestle with those things from time to time. 🙂
Brandon, I really appreciated your response to Sande. I was saving myself for marriage and failed with my now husband. I know sin brings hurt and it was definitely scary for me to think about giving my body away to someone who could potentially leave me so that was consequence in itself. However, I am accused over and over by the devil that I will not be blessed and have completely failed God. Posts like this really hurt me and resurface that. Isn’t it true that we are all failing? So why does this fail bring curses but if you are pure sexually yet failing in other areas you are to be blessed? I also was taught by many that fornication does not mean sex before marriage. It comes from a greek word for temple prostitution. Also was told that sex before marriage is not applicable to sexual immorality because it is not in leviticus. Deep down I know it is not Gods best because it can bring hurt to people. Does anyone have insight on the things I have heard from people. How come some Christians feel that sex before marriage is okay if they are in a committed relationship? How do we know what is right or wrong without sifting through the law? Can’t everything be seen as considered potentially hurtful in some way? How do we not go to far with the “rules”?
God loves us regardless of how much we sin. This is what frees us.
Simple response that just wipes away my fears and worries. Thank you
Sande, I’m sorry for your loss and also for the lack of fairness you’ve experienced. Your post reminded me of Matthew 20:1-16, but that passage probably won’t make you feel any better. Even though some of us seem less deserving than others, it’s important to remember that none of us are deserving of God’s grace.
But I also have some good news for you. God knows what you’ve been through and how you’ve conducted yourself. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” You’ve been faithful to Him and He won’t forget it in the next life. And when I see you in Glory, I’ll give you a big hug too.
Thank you, ddrem!! God must be so much more gracious than I’d ever imagine, if encouragement like this is a reflection of walking by grace and not law. It makes for a very compelling argument. I appreciate your taking the time to write these words and help me feel better.
Sande, God is more gracious than we can possibly imagine. The fact that He continued to have anything to do with humanity after we rejected Him time and time again (Eden, the flood, Babel, etc.) is proof of just how much more gracious He is than we could ever conceive of being. And the most gracious act of all was the atoning death of Christ that provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. That’s why we sing of His amazing grace; because it truly is amazing!
However, that doesn’t mean our actions do not matter, so please don’t dismiss “law” too quickly. When people first begin to truly grasp the grace of God, there is a tendency to think that our actions are irrelevant. And honestly, it’s a sign that they likely heard the Gospel presented correctly because it is “Christ plus nothing” that saves us.
The finished work of Christ sets us free so that we are no longer slaves to sin. Being free from the slavery of sin, in turn, sets us free to love God and others. Our actions should glorify the God who saved us, and that’s why we are urged to live lives worthy of our calling.
Our actions matter, but what matter more are our hearts. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we would be incapable of living the kind of life God wants for us and which is best for us. And even then, it’s still a daily struggle (at least for me) to live righteously. I fail more often than I succeed, but the Lord knows my heart and that I desire to only do good. And with His help and by His grace, the fruit of the Spirit becomes more and more evident in my life. It is my fervent hope that you’ll experience the same, knowing that God has grace to spare for you, too.
hi sande,it is hard to wrap your mind around,i think we have a hard time with unconditional love,grace etc,behavior modification doesn’t get it, because we can never live up to it,Jesus was the only one that could live up to it,i have also,like most of us ,had loss and wondered way,but once i realized how saved,,and loved I was,and began to get intimate with the lord,the intimacy with him blows everything else out of the water,and a have a positive out look for the future……..it grace,grace,grace…hang in there darlin.
Thanks for these encouraging words, Earl. I am trying to hang in there and would like to rebuild my theology with a grace-base. I get snagged sometimes by trying to figure it out. But the idea of relating to God may hold the key. If I know Him personally, I may not even be thinking in terms of who ‘gets by’ with what. Law and Person are such different approaches. I really need to keep letting all this soak in.
You wrote: “In the new covenant, what is the connection between sin and wrath? Answer: There is none.”
One does not simply create theologies based on omissions. This is one of the fundamental rules of theology. That’s even more crucial when there are Bible verses (OT and/or NT) that completely oppose your theory. If I write 2 books and don’t repeat a thought in the second one, does it automatically invalidate it? Don’t think so. To support claims that are in such contradiction to OT scriptures you would need significant NT evidence – Bible verses or passages that provide clear biblical backup to your hypotheses. And this I can find neither in this post nor in Scripture itself.
He isn’t creating theologies based on omissions. You are basing your theology from misunderstanding of English translation, not the original language and context inspired by the Holy Spirit. The more you understand original wording and the meaning behind it, the more you can make sense of how the New Covenant changed the Old. He isn’t setting aside the OT. There is plenty of Scripture that shows how God deals with sin changed from OT to NT.
I’m wondering where in my post I have quoted or misinterpreted any Scripture, and how you come to assume that I base my theology on English translations. I read Ancient Greek and Hebrew and am well aware of grammar nuances and word exegesis. What I observe in this post is fiddling around with minor wordings and insignificant etymological information to prove a major theological concept. I’m returning your accusation that I don’t take into account the context of a Bible verse (not knowing how you come to this conclusion) and ask: Where in the original post was any interest given to the context of the quoted Bible verses? They are completely pulled out of context, refined with some fancy definition from a Greek dictionary to make them sound more trustworthy and theologically valid. Completely one-sided approach of exegesis!
Robert I think you misunderstood the overall point. Those who don’t put their faith in Christ will still be under the wrath of God because they didn’t receive salvation. If salvation is not based on our works (which it isn’t), then it isn’t their deeds that condemn them, it is their lack of faith. That does not mean that our deeds are not important, something that Paul Ellis never suggests. The Bible does clearly teach that there is suffering associated with living according to selfish fleshly desires rather than living by the Spirit. I also believe that how a Believer lives their life impacts the extent of their eternal reward. I think a case can be made for the severity of judgment against an Unbeliever is determined by how they lived their life, but regardless, it is their lack of faith that condemns them to be eternally separated from God. A Believer is NEVER under the wrath of God.
hey robert, this is the third post in a series… i think paul answers your question in the 2 prior posts. 😉
Of course there is little disagreement that the cross is a done deal. The question is ‘is forgiveness a done deal’? ( By done deal I assume you mean that forgiveness of sins is not contingent on anything else but the finished work of Christ. It does not depend on my receiving Christ by repentance, faith and baptism, any kind of confession or forgiving others). Again I return with a heavy heart to Matt 6. 14-15. Now if these verses were in any other context it might just be possible to argue that they had been rescinded by the cross, but they provide a commentary to the Lord’s prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples to pray. It seems to me that if you do away with v14-15 you must do away with the rest of the prayer. In order to reject v14-15 you need to fly in face of 2000 yrs of church history. You need to say that Christians throughout the ages were misguided when they prayed ‘forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.
Ummm, Paul, me and most of the readers here most certainly DO believe that repentance is necessary for salvation to receive forgiveness from our sin. As a Believer, there is still a place for repentance, but it is not for the purpose of “maintaining” salvation. You don’t have to get “re-saved” every time you screw up. However, you may need to evaluate where your heart is at and may need to ask the Holy Spirit for help to grow in an area of weakness. When Jesus preached to people, He had not yet died and made the sacrifice for our sin, but righteousness has always been contingent on faith, not law keeping.
Good word, Paul!
If we examine 1 Cor 5 we find a situation where repentance is needed to maintain salvation. But note that here the sin is something very serious and not some peccadillo. We do not slip out of fellowship with God every time we transgress. There is a general covering of grace over us which protects us in our minor sinfulness, this is what it means to be in Christ. As we are submitted in humility to God and truly penitent the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. This will involve some confession of sin as the Spirit leads us. But if we continue in major rebellion against God then our salvation is in peril as for the man in 1 Cor 5. He would clearly need to confess this serious sin and repent of it before he could be readmitted into church fellowship and spiritual security. This does not challenge the idea of grace but rather affirms it. As we are penitent we receive the grace of God but if we are proud and reject God and His law we spurn his grace. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble 1 Pet 5.5.
Mr. Midmore, what you describe is that some sins are greater than God’s grace or greater than the blood sacrifice of Jesus. We are righteous by receiving the completed work of Jesus, not by our behavior. Only perfect righteousness is righteous enough and only the righteousness of Jesus is perfect. God resists those who attempt to be righteous their behavior, but He gives grace to those who realize they need the righteousness of Jesus.
LJP, What I am saying is not that ‘some sins are greater than God’s grace’ ( even though blasphemy against the Holy Spirit certainly is) but that we can wilfully remove ourselves from Gods grace. We do this in a number of ways, one which is described by Paul in Galatians is to go back to seeking to be justified by the works of the Law. But this is the only way. By continuing wilfully in sin we acting proudly and are placing our salvation jeopardy. The man described in 1 Cor 5 is such an example. Pride leads to self-righteousness but it can also lead to wilful sinfulness.
I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that distinguishes between major and minor sinfulness. However, I can see a difference in someone who is knowingly committing acts of sinful behavior and is unrepentant, versus someone who may stumble from time to time but is seeking to live their lives in accordance with their identity in Christ. Is that what you mean? I would be tempted to wonder though whether someone who is pursuing ongoing unrepentant sinful lifestyle was ever saved in the first place. When you have truly tasted the goodness of God and surrendered your heart to Him, I don’t see how it’s possible to turn your back on Him. I think there is a difference between a conversion of the mind or mental assent versus a conversion of the heart and genuine belief.
Brandon, thank you for your comment as it made me think. If a child said ‘sorry mummy and daddy for being so miserable today’ we would accept this as covering a number of peccadillos. But if our child had burnt down the school we might expect a more explicit confession of the sin. Thus we differentiate naturally between degrees of sin and expect appropriate confession and contrition accordingly. We do this because we are made in the image of God. If we say that Jesus sacrifice covers all these sins automatically are we not saying that there is no difference between a Christian who has been obedient to God and one who has ‘burnt down the school’. Now I believe in confession that leads to forgiveness, so I can say that if the Christian who has ‘burnt down the school’ confesses he will be forgiven. But if you don’t believe in confession these two Christians are automatically on an equal footing with God. Sure God loves them both the same but he will not act towards them the same.
For starters, a child is not loved any less when committing minor acts of disobedience versus “burning down a school”. There are different degrees of consequences, absolutely. However, as a parent, the commitment to that child does not ebb and flow based on their behavior. God’s love for us and our salvation is based on our position, not our behavior. Our identity in Christ is what determines how God deals with us. We are not saved one day and lost the next based on how we perform. Confessing our sins for forgiveness is not done to “receive” forgiveness. The Bible is extremely, explicitly clear that Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave alone is the only basis for salvation. Yes we have to receive that gift by faith, and we are transformed by an ongoing commitment to surrender our lives to Him, but that does not mean we will never have moments of stupidity or sinfulness, great or small. We confess our sins for the assurance of forgiveness. Sin of any “size” causes problems for us, and we may have some serious learning experiences as a result, but confessing and repentance are not for the purpose of restoring our position. They are for restoring our peace and fruitfulness. Jesus sacrifice was not “half the battle”. It does require a response, but He alone provides the atonement.
I agree that repentance is necessary and good, and I generally have to do it multiple times per day. But if you’re saying that Christ’s atoning death only covers “minor sinfulness” in our day-to-day lives, then you’re saying His sacrifice on the cross was insufficient to pay for the sins of the world. You’re also saying that it is “faith + something” that justifies you. That’s dangerous ground to tread on when you don’t know what else God might deem more than a “minor” sin. After all, the frequency of so-called “minor” sins could make them “major” in God’s view. Whether you’ve been saved for 20 minutes or 20 years, that’s a frightening place to be.
There is a tendency for us to condemn the sins we don’t personally struggle with and, in the process, minimize our own sinfulness. I was fortunate in that, when I was initially brought to repentance, God performed an amazing work in my life and a lot of my outward problem areas were fixed in an instant. As I’ve since learned, that’s not the case for most people. Many struggle with particular sins for years after coming to Christ. And so do I, albeit in less visible ways. It’s called sanctification, and it’s a lifelong process. Only when we see Christ face-to-face will it be completed.
Others have crosses to bear that we don’t, and that’s no reason for us to look down on them or think we’re any more assured of our salvation than them. If we don’t struggle with sins that are on display for all to see, we should thank God for that. It’s by His grace alone that we do not.
First I said that God loves us the same. Next in your riposte you switched from saying that God loves us irrespective of our actions to saying God deals with Christians irrespective of our actions. This is not how parents treat their children. If we are sinful God will discipline us, if we honour him he will honour us. If we are proud he will resist us, if we are humble he will give us grace. If we obey his commands he will give us his spirit, if we do not our house will collapse. He still loves us in Jesus.
I think you are misunderstanding what I meant, or I wasn’t clear enough. When I referred to how God deals with us, I was talking about our eternal fate, meaning that believers are not subject to God’s wrath. I completely agree that we receive discipline from God when needed, because God disciplines those He loves. Discipline is not punishment though. It is training, which like any athelete will tell you, can sometimes be painful. Growth is often painful.
The problem I have, Brandon, is that if the grace teachers (e.g. Joseph Prince) are right and God does not ever sees any sin in a Christian how does he discipline us for sin. For example if he never sees our pride he will never have the grounds to resist us.
I overheard what you said, I hope you don’t mind if I chime in. 🙂 You brought up a good question that got me thinking and led me to a few more. Is the role of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin? Since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, who did Jesus convict or discipline? What did God mean when He said, “I will remember your sins no more”? Would a prideful person seek God for help? What does the Bible say it is that actually causes change in a person?
Well said LJP.
I believe that the Holy Spirit’s “conviction” is to convict us of our identity in Christ. It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Brian, I am not saying that God does not “see” our sin. It’s just that it isn’t imputed against us, at least that’s what the Bible says. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still lessons to learn and that there aren’t still destructive consequences that come from pursuing sinful behavior. A policeman will respond to a criminal that has no connection to him differently than that same policeman will respond to one of their offspring who has committed a crime. The consequences may be similar, but the ultimate outcome is different.
Brandon , what you say seems close to the mainstream Protestant understanding that God does not impute sin to us because of our faith in Jesus (justification) but nonetheless sees our sins and disciplines us for our sanctification. I agree with this entirely. This distinction, however, is often not made clear by many grace teachers. Now it seems to me that part of this discipline will involve God telling us about our sins. One way he does this is by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also persuades us that we are God’s sons. We know we are Gods sons because he disciplines us. When, therefore, the Holy Spirit convinces (or as some say ‘convicts’) us of sins he also confirms our identity in Christ.
Brian, I get what you’re saying, and I can see how it can be looked at that way. In some cases it can be a semantics issue. From my experience, I would say that when the Holy Spirit is reminding us of what our identity is, the focus is more on, “This is who you are meant to be. Are you walking in that identity?” When we are faced with that reminder, we know full well where we have fallen short. I am not saying that the Holy Spirit may not give us teaching moments, pointing out the need for course adjustments or allowing us to see the danger of pursuing a particular path. I am just saying that it doesn’t come from a place of wrath or punishment. It is a loving thing done out of care and concern, in a loving manner, not condemning, shaming, or rubbing our nose in guilt.
The Beauty was all around them. He was meant to be their satisfaction; He was a gift to be enjoyed. Some, however, felt everything about the Beauty should be understood. They wanted to simplify the Beauty into something that could fit their comprehension. They reasoned, “when I figure out the Beauty, I will be like the Beauty”. A few even purposed to use the Beauty for their own agenda. They occupied themselves with trying to define the processes that brought about such Beauty. They debated and studied and debated some more until it became so mechanical, they lost sight of the Beauty altogether. There were many, though, who beheld the Beauty and were overtaken and amazed. The Beauty was intoxicating, the Beauty gave them Life. The Life produced the Beauty in them for more to see and so it was as others beheld the Beauty, the Beauty spread throughout the land.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18
This is very evil and misrepresents the truth of what the entire scope of the Word of God says. Please Mr. Paul Ellis, REPENT and turn to God, the True Living God of the Bible. you have decided to see God through a tinted lens of your own perception. The Four Scriptures you are trying to explain away can easily be “used against you in the courts of law.”
You think God doesnot exercise wrath against sin? I don’t think so. Rather, I think you do, yet because of the strong delusion that has been released towards you, you choose to believe a lie and in that manner, you risk damnation as you urge many impressionable “babes in Christ” to embrace this sugar-coated gospel.
Salt is not easy on our tongues unlike sugar. We are called to be salt. What happened to carrying the Cross? What happened to “striving” to enter through the narrow gate?
Oh D- D- Dear, Dear
Ivan, lovingly I have to submit something you might consider. Brother Ellis is not going light on sin. If you read some of his other posts, you will get a clearer picture of where he is coming from. He is simply presenting the case that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Many who follow his blog are long-time Christians (not babes in Christ) who have been burned–even discouraged from pursuing God–from a lifetime of ‘hellfire and brimstone’ threats to get it right before God…or else. There is another approach, and it is quite biblical: Jesus paid the price, He took on the wrath of God and nailed to the cross the record of the charges against us (I am not citing book, chapter, and verse here, but I am sure you recognize the scriptures to which I refer). We need to walk in that freedom, not in condemnation and constantly worried that our flawed performance will somehow disqualify us. And in walking free, we will live out the Grace of God with all its implications for holy living. God bless!
Take great care sir. There is a greater sin than a “sugar coated gospel”.
The article here very clearly states- “His sacrifice was the once and final solution for sin”
By calling this evil you are trampling the blood of Christ and counting it a common and powerless thing. (Hebrews 10:29)
By saying that the blood sacrifice of Jesus did not once and forever deal with the sin of the believer is to discount large portions of scripture.(Hebrews 9:12-14 & 24-26 for a concise example)
Salt can kill if handled or ingested improperly. The true salt of God is sweeter than any sugar for it gives life and is the power of God unto salvation.
Jesus is not only the narrow gate He is also the narrow way. If you do not enter into Him you are lost but once you enter in you are His sheep and can go in and out finding pasture and rest.
Ivan, salt IS easy on the tongue when it is used properly. Salt is also a preservative, not some distasteful medicine as you would use it. Taking up our cross and “striving” to enter the narrow gate has nothing to do with our “good works” and everything to do with faith in what Jesus did for us. Perhaps you’ve read the letter to the Galatians? The Apostle Paul was preaching to them AGAINST the very thing you advocate.
1 Corinthians 15:55-58 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
It is not OUR work that we give ourselves to, but we surrender to the Lord’s work within us. Our “work” or labor in the Lord is walking by faith and growing in our identity in Christ. HE produces the “good works” within us. We do not manufacture them.
A friend told me of one of your posts. From what I see, you got some good point. You made one point that I totally agree with. It’s why my own writing is focused on the love of God the Father towards us.
While it’s good to mention God’s anger towards sin; it’s does no good if that’s all anyone hears. It’s better to fully know of the richness of the Father’s love and His willingness to help us with our sin problem.
Re: “There is no question that sin is a serious problem and God should know – our sin cost him his life.” I don’t see it like that. It cost him an unimaginable time of suffering, but it didn’t cost him his life. He got it back.
I have been reading E2R for about 18 months now… I desperately want to believe the Good News you share, Paul.
I came looking for an explanation of 1 Corninthians 5:5, John 8:34 and Matthew 8:15-17. Can anyone help?
Revelation 16.. 7 bowls of wrath, surely you can give some insights as they were excluded in this….
“If you are a Christian, then you have already obeyed the gospel.”
That is sooooo good!
You are in error because you do not understand the scripture,Christ stood clear distinction in saying He did not come to destroy the law but to fufill it,so that no flesh could be justified.Proverbs 17:15 says : “he who justifies the wicked an he who condemns the just,even both are an abomination to the Lord” and in Romans 3 GOD justifies the wicked,His grace through Jesus Christ!This is the problem right here!Matthew 7 : 22 – 23 : ” Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” iniquity!lawlessness like a law was never given!Be careful what you preach!Judgement Day is judgement before God!
The rejected ones in Matthew 7 are workers of iniquity because Jesus does not know them. If Jesus does not know them they of course are not justified because justification comes by faith. This does not negate anything in the above article. It is the gospel pure and true.
Brother Paul, I have enjoyed and been blessed by your writings on the “wrath of God.” Wondered how Ananais and Sapphira’s demise would be dealt with as it relates?
Thanks John. You can find my article on A&S in the Archives or by using the search box in the side bar.
when I hear Grace preached I hear __________ he preached part of it was you know you’re a low-down dirty dog yes send full thing you he said yeah sitting on the sofa yeah you’re right tell me something I don’t know yeah well let’s smoke another one he says but then what you don’t know is God’s not mad at you come home grace and mercy is waiting for you well that may not be exact quote but grace and mercy
Jesus tasted death ( he really died not just tasting like a sip of wine and spitting it out)
tasting in the book of Hebrews means more than just trying it out (Jesus really died for us)
Adam and Eve sinned and due to sin diseases and suffering entered the world. Are diseases and suffering part of God’s curse to the sin. Or is it brought by devil to this world for joining with him?