Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Under the Wrath of God

The Scriptures teach that God is impartial in His judgments (Exodus 32:33; Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:9; 2 Corinthians 10:6; Colossians 3:25; 2 Peter 1:17; 1 John 3:15; Revelation 21:8; 22:15).  God is opposed to the wicked (Isaiah 52:15; Hosea 13:2; 2 Peter 2:14).  God is just in His punishment of sin.  The person sins because they use their free will to rebel against God and against His will so that the sinner is convicted by God’s law of their sins (Romans 7:7).  The law of God shows them they are sinners and have rejected the law of God by living in rebellious sin.  Thus God does not make people sin but rather He allows people to choose to sin by misusing their wills against God and His law.

The act of the cross is an act of mercy where God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  A true loving relationship exists where the disciple of Jesus humbles himself and repents of his sins and turns to Christ alone for forgiveness and reconciliation to God.  This is not a force relationship but one in which God, who first loved us despite our sinning (1 John 4:10), and we in turn freely love Him (Ephesians 1:13).  The beauty of salvation is that God has provided atonement for those who repent of their sins (1 John 2:1-2).  God truly wants to have a relationship with sinful humans (Romans 3:23-24; 1 Timothy 2:3-4).

The Calvinist understanding of the atonement is that the wrath of God is satisfied by the cross.  I would agree.  But Calvinists teach that the atonement was meant to save only the elect.  They believe this brings true glory to the work of Christ.  After all, they reason, the Arminian understanding of the atonement saves no one but only makes men savable.  In Calvinism, they assert, the atonement is not a failure but actually saves when Christ died to save the elect of God on the cross.

Of course, Calvinist evangelists often preach the atonement much as an Arminian would.  How often have I heard Calvinist preachers calling for sinners to repent, to embrace the Lord Jesus, to turn from their sins, to place their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  I have no problem with this whatsoever.  I preach the same thing.  Some Calvinists will even plea with sinners saying that Christ died for them or that God loves them and has shown His love though the cross.  They will preach that men are under the just wrath of God for their sins.  They will preach that all sinners are in danger of the eternal judgment of God.  I agree with this all!

Yet I ask this question: when are the elect under the wrath of God?  If Christ truly died for the elect then the wrath of God cannot be against the elect since the elect were justified when Christ died on the cross.  Some hyper-Calvinists teach this.  They teach the doctrine of eternal justification.  They are consistent in their view though I completely disagree.  Their logic is that since God knew the elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), in the eternal decree of God, the elect were already justified in Christ who is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20).  This view holds that God chose the elect and then He ordained the fall.

The logic of eternal justification makes sense if you hold to the divine determinism of Calvinism.

Let us go back to the issue of God’s wrath.  Are the elect ever under the wrath of God?  Most Calvinists that I know would argue that the sinners they are preaching to and pleading with to come to Christ are indeed under the wrath of God.  Yet if election is true, the Calvinist is preaching the judgement of God to those who are not under His wrath.  After all, the atonement did not fail right?  The atonement accomplished redemption for the elect.  Jesus laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:14).  The Calvinist then pleading with sinners to repent as the means to salvation is wrong.  The sinner is not under the wrath of God.  The sinner is already part of the elect even before time (or at least when Christ died to save the elect) in the mind of God and so the Lord was not angry with the wicked since they are part of His elect that He saved in His Son.  This is logical.  This is not biblical.

The Bible teaches that sin brings the wrath of God.  Again, the Lord is not partial in His judgments.  The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).  All who sin are under the wrath of God because of His absolute holiness and righteousness.  Scripture is clear that anyone who sins, rebels, or fails to live up to God’s perfect standard is under His condemnation (John 3:19; Romans 1:18; 2:6-11; Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 John 3:8, 15, 20; 2 John 1:9).  God is opposed to the wicked (Psalm 5:5; 7:11).

One need only consider the preaching of the gospel in the book of Acts to see whether the Apostles preached whether people were under the wrath of God.  In each sermon the Apostles preached against the sin of the people.  For example, Acts 3.  Here Peter the Apostle preaches that the Jews killed the holy and righteous one (Acts 3:14) and he called their acts “wickedness” (Acts 3:26).  He called them all to repent (Acts 3:19) and said that all who refuse to listen to the prophet will be destroyed (Acts 3:23) who is Jesus (Hebrews 3:1).  Notice that he was not partial in his judgment of the people.  They had all sinned (Romans 3:23) and all were under the wrath of God.  All needed salvation.  The call was for all to repent.

Again, I ask, if the Calvinist view of the atonement were true, the elect would not be under God’s wrath nor would they be guilty of wickedness since the sins of the elect are placed on Christ.

The answer, of course, is that Calvinism teaches that the atonement is only effectual for the elect and thus while the elect are wicked sinners before Christ saves them, the atonement is only applied to the elect when the elect believe the gospel.  This is based on logic and not Scripture.

Scripture is clear when the atonement is applied to the wicked sinner and that is when the believer repents and believes the gospel.  Before this, the sinner is under the wrath of God but after the sinner repents, the wrath of God is turned aside through the propitiation of Christ.  The atonement is available for all but only affective for those who repent and place their faith in the work of Christ.  The cross saves no one apart from faith (Romans 3:22-27).  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is what saves us (Romans 5:1).  Notice in Romans 5:1 that we are not justified unto faith (as in Calvinism) but through faith.  Plus our faith is in Jesus and not a theological construct about Jesus.  We are not saved by faith in faith or by faith in the faith but faith in Jesus (Acts 4:12).  So many think that their system saves when no system saves.  Faith in Jesus and His saving work is what saves us (1 Timothy 1:15).

The Calvinist evangelist is correct to call sinners to repent and turn from their sins.  He is correct to preach that Jesus will save all who come to God through Him.  He is correct to preach that the blood of Jesus will wash away all our sins (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14).  The Arminian would do the same.  The key difference lies in our theology.  The Arminian is preaching out of their theology while the Calvinist is preaching counter to their theology.

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