Preaching wrath and grace

I find one of the most difficult areas of preaching and teaching about God is how to communicate his wrath and his grace so that sinners know God is primarily for us and not against us; that he wants what is best for us and goes to great lengths to show it. Ebenezer Erskine’s sermon, “the sure and solid grounds of Faith’s assurance” is a great example of a demonstration of how to show God is not only an enemy but merciful and kind.

so long as we conceive God to be an implacable enemy, our prejudice and enmity against him will remain and while enmity against God stands in its full strength, against it is absolutely impossible we can have any trust or confidence in him; instead of drawing near to him with full assurance of faith, we flee from him like our first parents, under the awful apprehensions of his wrath and vengeance: but let us once be persuaded that he is a God of love, grace, pity, and good-will in Christ, then, and never till then, will we put our trust under the shadow of his wings (Ps 36:7). And, therefore, to break the strength of our enmity and prejudice, and so to conciliate our trust in him, he is at the greatest pains imaginable to persuade us, that he bears a hearty liking and good-will toward us in Christ. And there are more especially these three ways God takes to convince us of his good-will toward men upon earth.

1. By solemn proclamations and declarations of his mercy and grace. e.g. Exodus 34:6-7 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty

2. By solemn oath. e.g. Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.

3. As if his word and his oath were not enough to convince us of his mercy, love, and good-will toward us, he hath given the most convincing and practical demonstration of it that was possible for God to give, and that is, by giving himself; in the person of his eternal Son, to be incarnate, or manifested in our nature; yea, to be made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted. O how great is this mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh! Without controversy, great and unsearchable is the mystery of love and good-will that shines with a meridian bistro in an incarnate Deity. If God had not loved us, and borne such a hearty desire after our happiness and salvation, would he even made such a near approach to us as to dwell in our nature, when he passed by the nature of angels? Yea, he was not content to become one with us in nature, but he goes further, and becomes one in law with us; he puts his name into our debt-bond, and becomes “sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” e.g. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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4 Responses to Preaching wrath and grace

  1. Mark says:

    The Lord God is Love itself.
    It is an appearance to us in our fallen spiritual state that the Lord is angry and full of wrath towards us. We need to learn that nothing of evil is from the Lord, much less does He kill. But we are the ones who bring evil upon ourselves, and ruin and destroy our spiritual life because we have seperated ourselves from the Lord’s love.

    • neilrobbie says:

      Hi Mark, welcome to Transforming Grace!

      Your comment is interesting. I agree that God is good and that he does not do evil. Evil is part of a post-fall world, where we brought evil upon ourselves.

      We need to be careful to say that God is love and that his anger is like a mask because God only appears angry with evil, because God hates evil.

      God knows all things. [1 John 3:20 God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.] He knew good and evil before the fall, and offered Adam and Eve the same knowledge through eating from the tree of that name. (Gen 2:9) So, God is not ignorant with respect to evil or naive. God was not surprised by evil, he wasn’t caught off-guard by sin. Yet, God hates evil [Zechariah 8:17 “do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”] So, God has always known what evil is and has always hated it and so, God hates evildoers, [Psalm 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.]

      God has promised to execute evildoers (Gen 2:17 and Rev 20:14). Which is why Christ came to die in our place (1 Pet 3:18). God is good and used the evil targeted at Jesus for the good of many.
      Which is why those who love God should hate evil. [Psalm 97:10 O you who love the LORD, hate evil!]

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Neil, thanks for your responce.
    I agree that God was not caught off guard by evil.
    My understanding of what God has been trying to do since the fall of man is to find new ways to bring people back into a meaningful relationship with Him.
    The stories of the old testament are filled with His truths, some clearly visible but most hidden from our immediate understanding, all trying to lead people back to Himself. Through the people and events of the old testament the Lord is sharing His love for us clothed in these truths of His Word.
    Because we incline to evils, people were always being destroyed by evils when they moved away from the protection of the Lord’s love and truth.
    When we turn away from the Lord we deny that He is the sorce of life and assume that we are our own sorce of life and destiny. When thing start to go wrong we react against the Lord because from our self pride and importance “we couldn’t have done anything wrong” so it must be the Lord’s fault. This is the state of the world before God came to earth.
    Therefore He had to come to earth Himself to teach us the truths that lead to love. He showed us His true nature, one of love and compassion and to dispel the appearance we had that God was angry.
    The Lord God, Jesus Christ loves the just and the unjust, He has great love for evildoers and is gently trying to lead then out of the harmful loves for self and the world to a better life. There is great joy when one that was lost is found.

  3. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for your comeback. I want to say “yes” and “no” to your summary. You said “Jesus Christ loves the just and the unjust, He has great love for evildoers and is gently trying to lead then out of the harmful loves for self and the world to a better life”.

    Yes, Jesus loves the just and the unjust” but that love cannot be the same sort of love. We need to distinguish between:
    1. the love of Christ in his death for sin, so that all should come to repentance.
    2. the love of Christ for his brothers and sisters, made righteous through faith in his death

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