~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is a summary a sermon by Brad Ettore. You can read the whole sermon, Learning to Walk in God’s Love (part 2), by clicking here.
By Pastor Brad Ettore …
For the most part, as I’ve studied the Word of God, I typically have taken one topic and studied that topic exhaustively for an entire year by gathering up every scripture that there is about it and really developing a well-rounded understanding of the overall council of the Word of God on a specific matter. I have come to see that this method of study has removed a lot of opportunity for error in what I’ve learned because when you spend a whole year studying every scripture on one topic, you stand a really good chance of getting it right. That said, one big shift that has happened for my theology over 30 years has been my understanding of grace – our right standing with God. Over many years, the Lord began to give me a piece at a time. It probably would have come faster if it wasn’t for the filter that I had. The filter was preventing it from getting to me quicker. He began to break down and break down and break down the wall of what I now know was a wrong theology. And that process has not ended for me – there are still pieces of the grace message that I do not have a full understanding of. One aspect that I have still been wondering about is “what’s the difference between reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and redemption?” They’re all good, but what’s the difference?!? Today let’s take a closer look at reconciliation – because it will help us better understand how we can love people as Christ loves!
The way that probably 99% of Christians share the Gospel is “if you accept Christ into your life, your sins will be forgiven” is not scriptural. They are already forgiven! Unbelievers have already been forgiven of their sins. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 Jn. 2:2) Jesus was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world! Opponents to the grace teaching say “of course Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world, but unbelievers must accept the salvation in order to be forgiven.” It’s not true. I thought that way for at least 15 years, but my understanding of it has changed. For instance, consider what Romans 5:10 says about when reconciliation happens in relation to when you accept Christ: “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.” Look at that timing! When were we reconciled according to that verse? Was it when we accepted Christ into our lives? No! It was when we were still an enemy that you were reconciled – before we accepted Christ! But how could reconciliation for the whole world have already occurred? It was His death that paid the price! It has nothing to do with us. It was an agreement between the Father and the Son. Jesus came and paid the price for our sins and the Father said “accepted.” Look at Ephesians 2:5: “even when we were dead in trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” When did it happen? When we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive.
The whole world, literally, has been forgiven of their sins. However, that is not salvation. Our sins have been paid for by the work of Christ and what it took care of is what the bible calls “reconciliation.” When you have a friendship and you are at odds with each other, you have do something to fix that relationship. Once you do what needs done to fix that relationship, then there is no more animosity – that relationship has been reconciled. We were enemies of God, but Jesus took care of the sin issue so that there is no more animosity between God and man (even though much of the world is still running around living sinfully)! God took all the animosity, put it on His Son and in Him reconciled the whole world to Himself! How? By “not imputing their trespasses!” “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19) So, what the world has now is no more animosity between them and God, but they still don’t have eternal life. Eternal life is the gift that is found in His Son that has to be received to be with God forever. Now the world has the opportunity to come to God because we have been reconciled. Previous to Jesus’ work on the Cross, we were separated from God. Many people will quote Isa. 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” But that is an Old Testament verse! Jesus took care of it. He removed the sin issue. Now we can stand before God! And God says “so, what do you want to do? Do you want to be with me or not? My Son – in Him is life!” This causes the other verses to start to make sense. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 Jn. 5:12) Romans 5:10 sums it up: having BEEN reconciled (past tense) we SHALL be saved (future tense) by His life. His death brought reconciliation, His life brings salvation (eternal life).
Because of the sacrificial death of His Son and the reconciliation between man and God that provided, there is simply no more enmity between man and God. It doesn’t exist any more!!! Nevertheless, I know that many believers think that God is angry with a sinful world, so I looked up every word for angry, anger, and wrath in the New Testament.
“Angry” is used 11 times in the New Testament. Of those 11 uses, only 2 of them are about God, the rest of them are about man being angry. The only 2 instances where it is talking about God being angry with man are in the book of Hebrews – referring to the Old Testament! Were these instances before or after Jesus dies on the Cross? Before! He was angry with sinful man. The bible does say that – but it is all in the Old Testament … you can’t find it in the New! It doesn’t exist.
“Anger” is used 4 times in all of the New Testament, whereas it was used 400 times in the Old Testament! 3 of the 4 New Testament occurrences of “anger” were about man. One was about God (Jesus). It’s in Mark 3:4-5. Look at that situation. Jesus was angry about an attitude they had towards a particular situation. “You prefer this guy remain lame? Your hardness of heart!” That is totally different than God being angry at man because man’s a sinner. And that’s the only occurrence of “anger” that came from God in the entire New Testament.
“Wrath” is used 48 times in the New Testament. The majority of those instances are again dealing with man’s wrath – nothing to do with God. There are many times where “wrath” does have to do with God and I believe this is where we get our idea that God is angry with man so let’s look at some of those right now: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jn. 3:36) See also Ephesians 5:5-6 “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Paul makes it clear. He says don’t let anyone deceive you with empty words that say otherwise. “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
But let’s also consider Romans 2:5-6 “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’ …” We see the future tense continue in Romans 2:16 “in the day when God will judge …” Look also at Colossians 3:5-6: “…because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,” Notice it doesn’t say that the wrath of God is here, but that it is COMING. Jn. 12:47-48 says “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, … the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” There is an opportunity right now to accept Him. But there will be a judgment at the last day! Acts 17:31 also says “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world…” There will be a day when God judges the world. These verses clarify what John 3:36 says. There will be a day when the wrath of God does come. None of these verses say that day (of wrath) is now. John 3:36 is the only one that looks like God’s wrath could be a present tense reality because it says that the “wrath of God abides.” But if you look at all of these other scriptures it makes it clear that the wrath abides but it is not being implemented. 1 Thes. 1:10 says “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus is the answer! The world has been reconciled to God. Now that they are reconciled to God, they have the opportunity to come before God and believe in His Son. The way has been provided to them. They are no longer separated from God by sin. Jesus took care of it.
The whole reason we are looking at this is to try to determine if God is angry towards sinners. You may think “how can theology help me love people?” If you believe God is angry and hating sinful people, it will affect your actions towards others! You sure are not going to be loving if you think God is ticked off at that person! This is an era of reconciliation. God imputed everyone’s sins to Christ. He is not holding any of them against anyone! There will be a judgment day – but it’s not today!God is at peace with all people! When God reconciled us He put to death the enmity between Him and all men! In order to truly love the lost, we have to understand that they have already been reconciled to God. Of course loving people does not mean agreeing with their sin or sinful lifestyles. God is not saying be a doormat and let them walk all over us. BUT, when we get our doctrine and theology right we are able to lovingly tell someone why they are wrong. Love can break down walls. It is about having our theology right to see that God is loving them. If during this time of reconciliation they never receive the Son – if they don’t accept Jesus Christ into their life – then they will stand before God for that rejection of His Son … and the wrath of God will come on them. But prior to That Day, the world has the opportunity to come to the Lord now with no animosity between them and God – so that they might receive His Son. And since there is no animosity between the world and God, neither should we have ANY animosity between us and them! Just love for them. Amen!