A generation ago one theologian gave this commentary on those who embraced the feel good kind of Christianity of his day. He said they peddled the idea that “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
Wow. This sounds strangely and sadly familiar.
I honestly don’t think that God’s wrath gets enough publicity in this pop culture of happy, sappy Christianity. But God’s wrath demonstrates itself in two powerful ways: the eternality of a terrible place called hell and Christ being crushed in our place on the cross.
Now you may be thinking that the cross was a demonstration of God’s love and you’d be right. Romans 5:8 makes it clear that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
But it may surprise you that God’s hatred toward sin (aka “thirst for justice”) was another driving motivation for what happened on the cross. Referring to Jesus Paul writes, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice….” Romans 3:25.
Think of the two beams of the cross as two beams of God’s character that come together in one powerful, transformational and beautifully horrific event. One beam is His love for you and me. The other beam is His just character. His justice demands payment for sin. His love offers the life of His own Son as payment for that sin.
Let us preach the wrath and justice of God with broken and humble hearts. Let the souls of those we preach too be filled with trepidation before a God who lit the fires of hell with His sheer hatred of sin. Let us then unveil the love of God with joy and hope, revealing a God who loved us so much that He was willing to pour out all His wrath on His own Son so that we could be rescued from the demise we deserve.
The two beams of the cross bring together the character of God in a visceral way. The tension of these two extremes is what makes Christianity unparalleled among world religions. To be honest I am in awe. The collision of God’s characteristics at the cross is at the same time weird and wonderful. How could anybody make this stuff up? Nobody would. Nobody could.