Bad News – Good News: Perfect Wrath, Perfect Mercy

SalvationEaster – Reflections on the passion and the purpose.

As we come away from this joyful season of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection it behooves us to take a step back and examine once again the real purpose behind it all. For those reading this for the first time some of these thoughts and ideas may come as a complete surprise. Hopefully it will give you a fresh understanding of the matchless mercy and grace of our heavenly Father, while at the same time reveal his unquenchable anger towards the sin that robs so many of the life that He longs for us to experience in Him.

St Augustine rightly stated that we were made for a relationship with God and we will remain restless until we find our rest in Him.

The 5th chapter of Romans is for me one of the most exciting passages of Scripture. Here we see a revelation of God’s heart. How you can know how to get from your address to Heaven, no matter how messed up your life may be. This is a clear expression of how to find peace with God for eternity.

As we attempt to unpack this we must recognize that there is an underlying Premise – We will find that God’s perfect Mercy is matched with, and presupposes God’s perfect wrath.

Before we can understand anything of the magnitude of this great mercy we must be smitten in our hearts with some understanding of His perfect wrath. Some theologians refer to this as the “unfriendly side of God”

 There are some principles that will guide our understanding of this.

Principle # 1. The wrath of God is against ALL sin. It would not be perfect if it were not. It would not be complete if it were not against all sins and if there were some sins that were acceptable to Him. His wrath is perfect because it means His is angry against all sins.

You may say that is not how I understand God to be. I understand God only as a forgiving God full of mercy and love. The bible teaches otherwise. Yes, God is love, but God is also justice. He cannot look the other way, ignore sin, and still be a just and loving God. It can be argued that for most, the happiest, most hopeful story in the Bible is the Nativity. But apart from the message of Calvary, the story of His birth is meaningless. The greatest message by far of God’s grace is the message of the Old rugged Cross – but to encounter the message of the cross and recognize it ONLY as a message of God’s mercy and grace is to miss the point. The message of the bloody old cross is also a message about God’s wrath. If you can pass by the cross and with a sentimental curtsy acknowledge His expression of love alone, and miss the fact that this was a message declared in the blood of the only begotten son, the only pure man that ever lived, that God is just and He judges all sin then you have missed the point.

The motivation for the Cross in the heart and mind of God was His perfect wrath and his hatred towards sin alongside His great love for you and me. This love is measured by the fact that He substituted immediate and permanent judgment against us by placing that judgment square upon the shoulders of His Son who became our sin, so that the requirement of a just God may be satisfied.

Principle #2. Not only does God in His perfect wrath deal with all sin, but also he deals with all sinners. Ch 2 & 3 declare that God is Holy, hates all sins, and He is also the judge of all sinners. Religious sinners with their marked bibles that sit in a church pew Sunday after Sunday; Pagan, rebellious, unbelieving sinners that would never darken the door of the church. All are the same in God’s eyes. If rich sinners were excluded… If smart sinners were excluded…If certain classes or colors would be exempt…if certain good works based upon initiative, will and talent and understanding could exclude one, his wrath would be imperfect and his justice unjust. So Paul says Jew and Gentile are all alike in God’s eyes.

Romans 3:9-20 The Message (MSG)
We’re All in the Same Sinking Boat

9-20 So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:

There’s nobody living right, not even one,
    nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
    they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
    I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
    their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
    They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
    litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
    They never give God the time of day.

This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23 NASB)

All sin, all sinners, and thirdly,

Principle # 3 For all eternity.

Luke 16:19

God’s wrath includes all eternity. He does not change his mind in the middle. There is no purgatory.

(Rev 20:13-15 NASB) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of themaccording to their deeds. {14} And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. {15} And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

If your name is not in the book you are lost for all eternity. No other options. God is perfect in his love, in his power, in his knowledge, but also in his wrath. All sinners. Religious sinners. Smart sinners, dumb ones, skinny ones and fat. All.

That’s the bad news today. But thank God there is good news!

The good news. God is not only perfect in his wrath, he is also perfect in His mercy.

Perfect Wrath, but also Perfect Mercy:

In the same way that his wrath and judgment would not be perfect if it did not cover all, sin, all sinners, for all eternity, it would not be perfect mercy if it did not cover it all for all time.

His mercy presupposes that we are all guilty and ALL require mercy.

Romans 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (helpless), Christ died for the ungodly. It includes the helpless.

(Acts 4:9 NASB) if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well…” This word “sick” is the same word as “helpless”

Its used again in Acts 3 to describe the helplessness of a paralyzed man: “A certain man who had been lame” God’s mercy is not for the strong and the well. The strong never have a sense that they need God’s mercy. It includes all and especially the helpless.

Those without strength in the face of the call to be righteous.

Without strength in the face of the requirements to follow the laws of God.

There is no strength from within to do right. Perfect mercy for those that are helpless. Blessed are the poor in Spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of God. His wrath is perfect, but his perfect wrath is matched by his perfect mercy.

And the mystery and majesty of this whole story is in how His wrath and his mercy could meet. How his wrath could be satisfied and his mercy could be extendedAnd it is narrow. As narrow as the point on pencil. There is only one place where his wrath and mercy meets. At the Cross of Jesus.

God Has Set Things Right Romans 3:21-24 (MSG)

21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

If we are spending all our time telling people how to feel better in the 21st Century. . How to get physical healing. How to get prosperity. How to make friends and influence people…as helpful and needful these may be, all of that perishes with the dying and will be worthless unless there is the understanding that in our helplessness, when those things don’t show up and our goodness and strength fails us, his mercy goes much deeper and has the power to set us free. The real issue is God’s perfect wrath and the need for his perfect mercy.

Christian, beware of your soul. Beware of soulish mercy that will just massage people to make them feel better. We need to get out of the way if that’s all we are doing. We are in Gods way. If they have not got a hold of the truth of God’s wrath and His merciful solution then we need to quit and get out of the way or we will be a stumbling block in the way of their salvation.

Look at that word helpless. When “we” were without strength. We need to quit telling people that there is nothing wrong when there is.
Romans 6:23 says that there is the potential for this God of wrath to turn into the God of Mercy. Not just mercy. Perfect Mercy. Romans 6: 22-23 (MSG) But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Perfect mercy necessitates a Perfect Savior, and so enter the Passion Event.

And this is how we come to that place of satisfaction, back into our predestined place of right relationship with God as Father through the blood of a perfect introducer who is no longer a baby in a cradle, but grew up in every way perfect, so that he would become our προσαγωγη (prosagōgē), “an alongside into relationship bringer”  (From προσάγω (G4317) (cf ἀγωγή (G72))

And this is what Romans 5 is about. Its about perfect mercy. It’s about perfect grace.

Read: Romans 5:1-11

Three things in conclusion:

 I. The Perfection of His Grace.

Christ perfected this grace by bringing us into a right relationship with the Father.

1. Perfected grace has no strings attached.

A story is told of a page in the court of Queen Elizabeth who had an assignment to assassinate the queen. She hid behind the curtains in the Queens chambers awaiting her opportunity to stab the queen to death in her. However, word had gotten out of the attempt and the guards swept the room finding the page. The page was brought to justice, and because of some extenuating circumstances the queen found it in her heart to extend mercy to the page, based upon certain conditions. When the queen pronounced her judgment, she told the page that she would be freed from the penalty of her crime if she would make an oath that she would remain indebted and in service to the queen for the rest of her life, the page responded, “Then let me die, for mercy with such strings attached is no mercy at all.” It is said that the queen was so impressed by this statement, that she freed the page unconditionally. The page ended up in the service of the queen for the rest of her life becoming her most loyal servant.

Once we have partaken of this free grace, there is nothing we can, or need do to merit it. It is a grace which Paul says, “In which we now stand”.

2. Perfected Grace has no term limits.

It is an inheritance. It is not a job assignment or an office of state or government that is passed on to someone else. It is a permanent inheritance. The sense Paul is using here is a perfect tense.

Paul says His Son, Jesus, has brought us into a direct and lasting relationship with Father by divine access as is by divine introduction. Our most accurate contemporary word for this idea is the word “entrée”, and here is what it actually means:

One person that knows the King. Another person wants to know the King. The person that knows the Kings gets a hold of the person wanting to know the King and tells him… the King likes you to dress in this manner…The King likes you to behave in this particular way. And the word describing what Jesus has done for us is this word “entrée”, or introducer, an “alongside bringer”.

He has become our introduction into the Kingdom.

Now not only has He given us the manner in which we can come to this King, but He has provided for us far more. In order to get us into the place of favor with the King, He has washed us with His own blood. He has clothed us in His own garments that are acceptable before the king, and He has presented us to the King based upon His own credentials and His right to come into the Kings presence. Through the shed blood of Christ we have been introduced into a permanent state of relationship with His Father who now becomes our Father…No longer is He our judge

II The permanence of His Grace

“where we now stand”

It is place in which we stand not because of our sweat, but because of His blood.

So permanent is this place that not even the passing seasons of sin in the believer’s life can disqualify us, or uproot us from that place in which we now stand. Our pastor, David Walker shared this story of a fiery preacher in Kilgore Texas by the name of Slim Sullivan. He believed this with such conviction – that if you have been saved, if you have been introduced into the presence of the King, paltry professions and passive lip service aside, a person who has a new heart, that if he thought such a one could lose this standing before the Father by one fit of sin – a succumbing to the flesh that profits nothing, he said he would lead that person to Christ, to forgiveness of sin, and then he would take out his 45 and shoot him dead right there before he had a chance to fall into sin ever again! As far as is known he never did have occasion to do this!

This matter of being saved is not about you getting a grip on God and trying to hang on to Him. It is all about being dead in our trespasses and our sins and the great God who loved us before we were even born, came out of heaven and took hold of you and by His Spirit quickened you towards His great love and by that goodness and kindness drew you to repentance and adopted you by choice into His family.

John 10:28-30 says (paraphrased) I have got a grip on you. My Father has his fingers wrapped around my hand, and nothing can take you away from that grip.

Some would say, oh well, that gives me license to sin. That means I can do whatever I want and I am saved. Paul never for a moment intended to say that. If you have that desire. If you deliberately go on willfully delighting in sin without discipline or conscience, then you have yet to be introduced to the King. You have yet to be washed and made presentable by the blood of Jesus. You have yet to be clothed in his righteousness. Your heart has yet to be changed and until then you are under the wrath and Judgment of a Holy God.

If you are truly saved you cannot consistently sin and get away with it. Your Father will not let you get away with it. He will hound you and track you down. The old revivalists called Him the “Hound of Heaven”. He will track you! He will Tree you! And he will climb up after you. He will not let you go! “Oh love that will not let me go. I rest my weary soul in thee”. We need to rest in that assurance.

It would be a terrible injustice if God were to give us this wonderful free gift and then require that we hang on by our fingernails to keep it. It’s not just pardon. Not just payment. It is the imputing of His righteousness. God is never going to change the way He sees the righteousness of His son. And somehow miraculously He sees us through the righteousness of His son and He declares…This one is forgiven. This one has a rightful place in my presence. This one has a place in which to stand. The permanence of that grace!

III. The Enabling of His Grace

Vs. 8-10. We are justified by His death and we are saved by His life. As long as He shall live, so long shall we be saved.

Why, because He is our eternal intercessor. If it was up to me it would be hopeless. God would have to take me out of this fallen body immediately upon my salvation. I am closer to 100 than 1 am to zero and I still struggle with things I struggled with when I was 12 years old. But in conclusion, here is the most wonderful thing.

Romans 8:26-39 The Message (MSG)

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

He is the one that keeps us in the place of grace in which we now stand, AND He is our enabler.

He does not just leave us with this book of instructions and expect us to keep it all together. He enables us by His Spirit. And that is the good news as we reflect upon these days past. When we come to understand these principles behind so great a love and so rich a mercy, motivated by His steadfast and perfect justice, everything changes.

Category: Just Sayin'
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