Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Wrath of God and the Appropriation of the Atonement

I was reading a book written by a moral government brother and he stated that he did not believe that the atonement of Christ did away with the wrath of God since the New Testament states that God’s wrath remains even after the atonement of Christ. He cites the following passages:

Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. – Luke 21:23

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. – Acts 12:23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:5

On account of these the wrath of God is coming. – Colossians 3:6

For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? – Revelation 6:17

He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. – Revelation 14:10

The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. – Revelation 16:19

He goes on to write:

We are not saved from the wrath of God at Calvary, but we are saved from the wrath of God, because of Calvary, at conversion.  Though our penalty can be withheld, God will only turn from His wrath when sinners turn from their sins.  Those who stay in their sins are those who stay under God’s wrath despite the atonement  that was made for them.  Those whom Jesus died are still under the wrath of God and are going to receive the penalty of hell, unless they repent of their sins and believe the gospel.

Obviously there is much truth to what he states in the above.  I do not deny that the wrath of God still abides on those who do not repent of their sins.  Some Calvinists hold that the wrath of God was appeased at the cross for the elect of God only and thus a penal substitutionary is seen as satisfying God’s wrath for His elect at the cross.  The problem I have with both views is that the wrath of God is appeased in Christ’s atonement only when it is received by faith.  This is the key (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Notice one of my favorite Bible passages in Romans 3:21-26:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

You will notice the passages I underlined.  The atonement, our propitiation (1 John 2:2; 4:10) through the shed blood of Jesus (v.24) are made only for those who appropriate the work of Christ.  John Wesley preached,

Whosoever thou art, O man, who hast the sentence of death in thyself, who feelest thyself a condemned sinner, and hast the wrath of God abiding on thee: Unto thee saith the Lord, not, “Do this,” — perfectly obey all my commands, — “and live;” but, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”The word of faith is nigh unto thee:” Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness, and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”

A sinner must appropriate, by faith, the atonement of Christ in order to be saved and to remain saved.  Our salvation, from first to last, is entirely dependent upon the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.  Our salvation is not our faith, our works, our righteousness but rather our salvation is complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 3:18).  Scripture clearly presents the atonement of Christ as a vicarious atonement in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 26:28; Galatians 1:4; etc.).

Arminius wrote this about the satisfaction of God’s wrath at the atonement for the sinner:

[God] rendered satisfaction to his love for justice and to his hatred against sin, when he imposed on his Son the office of Mediator by the shedding of his blood and by the suffering of death; and he was unwilling to admit him as the Intercessor for sinners except when sprinkled with his own blood in which he might be made the propitiation for sins…In this respect also it may with propriety be said, that God rendered satisfaction to himself, and appeased himself in “the Son of his love.”

As Vic Reasoner writes,

The biblical doctrine of propitiation is based on the premise that we can do nothing to compensate for our sins or turn away God’s anger.  Therefore, God takes the initiative and Himself provides the propitiation in the person of His Son.

Reasoner then quotes Wesley,

The purpose of the propitiation was to appease an offended God.  But if, as some teach, God never was offended, there was no need of this propitiation.  And if so, Christ died in vain.

Christ faithfully died for God and He satisfied the wrath of God against sin.  He shed His blood to atone for our sins and He was condemned for our sins against the law of God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 3:13-14).  Christ died for God and with a view on pleasing the Father.  Jesus willingly laid down His life for the sheep (John 10:11) which would be all those whom would be saved through faith in His blood (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:1-2).  All can come and be saved in Christ (John 1:12-13; 3:16).

My point in all this is to simply show that Arminianism correctly teaches the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.  In my estimation, the penal view teaches that Christ died for God and not merely for our sins.  The focus of the cross was upon God and not humans.  The purpose of the atonement was the satisfy the just wrath of God against sin.  However, I believe that the atonement is only sufficient for those who appropriate His work.  The cross saves no one apart from faith (Romans 5:1).  Those who reject the cross by their unbelief remain under God’s wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18-32).  God’s wrath will be poured out upon those who reject Christ and they will be eternally condemned (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).  The fact that Jesus died on the cross saves no one.  The work of Christ only saves those who place their faith in His saving work (Romans 10:14-17).

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