Monday, September 29, 2008

The Cup of Wrath

We have previously established from Scripture that God’s wrath over sin is expressed throughout the Bible. And since we are all guilty of sin, we were destined to receive that wrath as a result of God’s righteous judgment against sin in order for God to maintain justice.

We are now going to look at what Jesus accomplished for us to save us from the horror of God’s wrath. In the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:39 , Jesus prayed to the Father that if it would be His will that “this cup be taken from me” (NIV). Also in John 18:11, when Jesus commanded that Peter put away his sword, He emphatically underscored that it was God’s will that He was to drink “the cup the Father has given me”.

The cup that Jesus drank is usually associated with the crucifixion. This connection is assumed based on the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane that the Father would spare Him that painful horror and humiliation of dying on the cross. The cup is indeed connected with the crucifixion of Jesus and that assumption certainly is not wrong. But we need to consider what was in that cup.

Several portions of Scripture speak of God’s wrath. [1]

8For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.
(Psalm 75:8, NASB)

15For thus the LORD, the God of Israel, says to me, "Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. (Jeremiah 25:15, NASB)

22Thus says your Lord, the LORD, even your God Who contends for His people, "Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, The chalice of My anger; You will never drink it again. (Isaiah 51:22, NASB)

9Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Revelation 14:9-10, NASB)

The cup of wrath spoken of in Scripture is a metaphorical expression of the judgment of God. It was this cup that we would have been required to drink as a result of our sinful rebellion. But Jesus drank from that cup in our place so that we would not have to. Jesus drank all of it as our substitute. [1]

When Jesus was crucified, darkness spread over the land for three hours. It was during this time that Jesus drank that cup of wrath for us. Matthew 27:46 records the cry of Jesus approaching the end of that grueling three hours; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Scripture does not reveal to us everything that took place during those hours. The physical suffering that Jesus endured during that time reveals just a glimpse of the anguish that Jesus actually suffered. His soul was in utter anguish as He had to endure being forsaken by His Father. Jesus became sin for us in order to secure our salvation. It was for our sake that God had to forsake His beloved Son.

The words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 describe what took place on that day. Jesus was made sin for us as a judicial transaction on our behalf.

21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus bore each and every one of our sins (1 Peter 2:24), and He did it willingly. What an incredible display of God’s love, that He would offer up His own Son whom he dearly loved to bear the full brunt of His wrath that we rightfully deserved. It was Jesus who was sinless, and yet He was required to take upon Himself our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6). It is this unique love that should cause us to look upon what Christ did with wonder. We will soon be examining a little further what Christ accomplished in His sacrifice in a couple of posts. [2]

1. Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel for Real Life” [NavPress, 2003], pg. 47-48.
2. Bridges, pg. 51-53.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Finally Back Online

Our broadband and cable service are back up after being out for several days. We are fortunate since there are many who still have no power. Getting back to posting may be a little slow though. I have other things going on right now, including co-teaching a class on evangelism with one of the elders from our church. But I still should be resuming my series on the gospel this week.

There was quite a bit of damage inflicted on central Ohio as a result of last weekend’s wind storm. Power outages affected well over 1 million customers in nearly every county in Ohio. Damage was so widespread that Ohio was placed under a state of emergency. Here are some YouTube videos people have taken of the storm and the damage that it caused.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Absence From Posting

I know it has been awhile since I have posted here at Authentic Truth. I meant to continue with my series of posts on the gospel this last weekend, but we were hit with the remnants of hurricane Ike this Sunday which inflicted widespread damage in central Ohio and knocked out our power for several days. Our power has been restored, but I still do not have my broadband Internet service restored yet. I am posting this from another location, but I do not have time right now to post anything of any substance at the moment. Hopefully my Internet access will be restored this weekend and I will resume posting once again.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Justice of God

Before I further discuss what Jesus accomplished for us, I need to discuss God’s justice. I believe this is essential for us to understand man’s dilemma in regard to his sin. Too many people not only have a distorted view of God’s wrath, but they consequently have a warped view of God’s justice as well.

The Bible explicitly tells us that we will all face judgment before God (Hebrews 9:27). It generally goes without saying that the vast majority of us would want to receive mercy, rather than to receive the full brunt of God’s justice. But we are faced with a huge problem, since God’s justice will come with certainty, not allowing any room to accommodate any concessions. And we also must keep in mind that although God may delay His justice, it will indeed ultimately come to pass. [1]

6For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8; NASB)

We must also consider that God’s justice is inflexible. The very definition of justice means that “we get exactly what we deserve – nothing more, nothing less.” In human systems of justice, there tends to be tension between justice and mercy, where often one prevails over the other. But this tension does not exist with God; His justice will always prevail. And it is this justice that must prevail in order to keep His moral government from failing. [1]

Drawing from John Owen, Fred Zaspel describes the necessity of this justice.

‘"[V]indicatory justice is the very rectitude and perfection of the Deity. . . . For if such a law were not made necessarily, it might be possible that God should lose his natural right and dominion over his creatures, and thus he would not be God."(21) It would be impossible for God not to punish sin. Without it, justice would not be maintained. It would be a denial of his veracity to impose a law with threats against disobedience and not follow through.’ [2]

In order for God to maintain His justice, all sin must be punished without exception. God never exercises mercy at the expense of His justice. Unfortunately, there are those who believe that God forgives just for the sake of forgiveness. But this is completely contrary to what Scripture teaches. God must impute His justice without exception.

To summarize the main thrust of an illustration given by Jerry Bridges, let’s say that there is a man who is convicted of murder. There is no doubt that he is guilty and has been judged so through due process by the judicial system of that state, and this individual has been given a death sentence. But let’s say that the governor does not agree with the death penalty and grants a full pardon to this man. While the governor would have the authority to do so, what do you think the public reaction might be? It is likely that they would be outraged at this action of injustice. [1]

But when people think that God should relax His justice and simply pardon all of us for our sin, they are asking God to do the exact same thing in the aforementioned scenario. But God’s divine nature cannot do that. You see, this would require God to exalt one attribute, His mercy, at the expense of His justice.

So this is the dilemma of our human condition; if we are to experience forgiveness, God’s righteousness must be satisfied before we can receive salvation for our sins. Since no one has perfectly obeyed God’s law and we are all guilty of breaking God’s law (Romans 3:9-20; James 2:10), we are all under condemnation before God. It would seem that we are without any hope in this world.

But God in His mercy has provided the way of forgiveness of man’s sin through sending His Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die in our place to satisfy His justice. In fact, this is the ultimate expression of His divine love. John Piper explains:

“The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: "God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was "to demonstrate [God's] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable - he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.” [4]

However, it is this expression of divine love that the world looks upon as foolishness. The world does not want to acknowledge that they have actually committed any sinful acts worthy of divine retribution, let alone acknowledge that these sinful acts necessitate the death of Christ, and that there is nothing that man can do to rectify their guilty standing before God apart from the work of Jesus Christ. But their denial of this reality will not in any way change the facts. As Fred Zaspel explains,

“If there is a God and if He is righteous, then all unrighteousness will one day be punished. Indeed the knowledge of this aspect of divine righteousness is innate in every man. Though they deny it, still they "recognize [epignontes] the righteous judgment [dikaioma] of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death" (Rom.1:32). No denial of the facts will alter their reality. Knowing it they hate it, and hating it they deny it, but only to become more culpable. It is one horrible prospect that awaits the sinner.” [3]

But the fact remains that the only remedy for the transgression of man’s sin is the finished work of Jesus Christ through His sacrifice. Only Jesus could satisfy God’s righteousness and justice. I will be discussing more on this subject soon.

1. Jerry Bridges, “The Gospel for Real Life” [NavPress, 2003], pg. 41-43

2. Quoting and commenting on John Owen; from Fred G. Zaspel, “Four Aspects of Divine Righteousness: God’s Justice in Dealing with Sinners”, [Reformation & Revival Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997]

3. Fred G. Zaspel, “Four Aspects of Divine Righteousness: God’s Justice in Dealing with Sinners”, [Reformation & Revival Journal, Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1997]

4. John Piper, “The Goal of God’s Love May Not Be What You Think It Is”, Desiring God, October 14, 2000