Professing Christians and pastors and churches all over the world are undermining the glory of God’s love. How so? By advocating for God’s love in denial of his other attributes and actions. That’s what Pastor John explains today, in a clip from his 1999 sermon on Romans 5:9–11. Today’s clip was sent to us from a longtime podcast listener named Grant Harms.
The sermon is on Romans 5:9–11. Let me read this glorious text first: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Pastor John is going to expound this main text in a moment, after he makes a point from Revelation. Here’s Pastor John.
Revelation 20:15 says this: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” What’s that? What’s that like? Revelation 14:10–11 describes what it will be like in the lake of fire: “[They] will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever.”
This is fire — or like fire. I’ve heard some people say, “Fire is just a metaphor.” And I say, “Just a metaphor? What are metaphors for? Metaphors are because you can’t describe the reality. Metaphors don’t overstate; they understate.” It says fire not because it’s less than fire, but because we’re groping for language to describe the horror of it. If it’s a metaphor, it’s worse than fire. And it’s torment, and it’s forever — no getting out. This is not purgatory, which doesn’t exist. “Forever and ever” — it’s the strongest word for eternity in the Greek language. It’s a phrase that stacks words: forever and ever and ever. This is terrifying, terrifying, terrifying.
What Only God Can Do
And the question is, Who will rescue us? Who are you counting on to rescue you from the wrath of God? Because your conscience tells you that you have not lived up to his law, and you are under judgment. You don’t need the Bible to tell you that, though it does. Who are you counting on to rescue you from the wrath of God?
“There is one person who can rescue us from the wrath of God — and only one: God.”
Well, the answer of the New Testament is that there is one person who can rescue us from the wrath of God — and only one: God. Only God can rescue us from the wrath of God. Let me show you why I say that. There are five main verbs in Romans 5:9–10, and they’re all passive. Let’s count them:
- “we have now been justified”
- “shall we be saved”
- “if while we were enemies we were reconciled”
- “to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled”
- “shall we be saved”
Those are five passive verbs where we are being acted upon: We are being justified. We are being reconciled. We are being saved.
So, who’s doing it — the Father or the Son? Answer: the Father. Why do I say that? God the Father is justifying, reconciling, and will save from his wrath. Why do I say that? Look at verse 10. It says, “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” Now, you wouldn’t say that if the Son were the actor here of the reconciling. You don’t say, “The Son reconciled us to God through the Son.” You can’t say that. That doesn’t make sense: “The Son reconciled us to God through his Son.” You say, “God the Father reconciled us to God through his Son.” And so I ask, Who is the Savior from wrath? God the Father saves us from his wrath.
Love’s Highest Point
Oh, this is important. It shouldn’t surprise us. Look at Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God loves you. And God is so angry with you that his love will rise to the heights of rescuing you from his anger.
Now, let me make something really clear here, because this is so important. Don’t make the mistake of defending the love of God by denying the wrath of God. Because what you do when you try to defend the love of God by denying the wrath of God is destroy the love of God. Why? Because in the Bible, the highest point of the love of God is his rescue from the wrath of God. If there’s no wrath, the whole fabric of the Bible unravels. The greatest love that God ever showed you was rescuing you from wrath.
“In the Bible, the highest point of the love of God is his rescue from the wrath of God.”
That’s the point of Romans 5:6–8, is it not? Oh, there are so many people who try to rescue God as a God of love by denying the fabric of the Bible. By denying the wrath of God you destroy the love of God — at least the way the Bible conceives of it. The highest point of love toward you was the cross. And the only reason there had to be a cross is because of the just wrath of God. Were there no just wrath about to be poured out upon the world, he would not have bruised his Son. And that was love. Oh, that was love.
More Than a Mere Example
So please, please, let’s not join the crowd of liberalism. I’m defining liberalism for you. If you wonder what liberalism is, I’m defining it now.
Liberalism removes the just wrath of God and the substitutionary atonement that describes the love of God as the rescue from that wrath. And liberalism has a benevolent Father and a Son who sets an example of how much the Father loves in suffering.
That is a destruction of biblical religion entirely.