In “God’s Wrath, Part 1” and “God’s Wrath, Part 2”, I showed proof from Scripture that God is loving and wrathful in both the Old and the New Testaments. In this article, I’d like to answer objections to the idea of God’s wrath.
In Part 1, we saw that God is love, but also examined several examples of God’s wrath in both the Old and New Testaments. This is proof that, contrary to what many people claim, God is both loving and wrathful in both testaments. In this last installment, we’ll see the importance of understanding God’s wrath and its relationship to the Gospel, learn how God can express both love and wrath, and answer some objections.
The apostle John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). So, if God is love, what is this thing called God’s wrath? How can a loving God also be a wrathful God? Did God change from being a wrathful God in the Old Testament to being a loving God in the New? Are we misunderstanding something?
In part 1, we saw that many interpret 2 Corinthians 13:5 to mean that we should examine our works for evidences of conversion. We also saw that the context shows that Paul’s focus was himself. He expected the Corinthians to see that the fact that they were believers proved that God had worked through him to bring about their conversion. They were to stop listening to people who were maligning him. Now, let’s look at another proof that this verse isn’t teaching us to examine ourselves for evidence of conversion.
Are we Christians supposed to examine ourselves for evidences of conversion? Some very prominent pastors, preachers, and writers would answer yes. They say that we’re to take stock of whether we’re producing works of conversion. These works show that we are really saved. They base this on 2 Corinthians 13:5, in which Paul tells his readers to examine themselves and test themselves. But how does such a teaching square with the biblical assertion that our salvation is entirely by grace through faith? If we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, why should we look to our works as evidences of conversion? Are we to examine ourselves or not?
In part 1, we saw that the growing belief that Jesus is the only Word of God, and the Bible is only the word of men, is like the unchecked growth of a cancer. This is because, by rejecting the written Word of God, this assertion sheds itself of the means God has given to check unsound doctrine and false belief. We also saw that the Bible and Jesus claim the written Scriptures to be the Word of God. The Scriptures testify about Jesus (John 5:39). If we cast off their authority as the written Word of God, how can we know anything with certainty about Jesus, the personal Word of God?
There is currently a growing cancer among professing Christians that is founded upon one simple creed: Jesus Christ is the only Word of God. The Bible, according to the proponents of this creed, is merely a book written by men, and it is not the Word of God.
We ended part 1, “Chosen in Him,” with several questions: Is saving belief a work that is a condition to becoming elect? Does election have conditions? Are there good works we must do to remain one of the elect? Is Jesus’ testimony in Matthew 7:21 that “he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” will “enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” a reference to such works?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love; having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favour in the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
In the above passage, found in Ephesians 1:3–7, the apostle Paul declares that God the Father has “predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself.” As we will see, the implications of this passage answer the question that so many people have, “What must I do to be saved?” Since Paul and the Christian Ephesians were faithful saints—that is, true Christians (see Ephesians 1:1)—the “us” in the passage refers to true Christians. So, what Paul appears to be saying is that God has predestinated Christians (pre-chosen their destiny) to be His children through Jesus Christ. In other words, Christians (who are the children of God by Jesus Christ) are Christians because God predestinated them to be so, not by any choice of their own.
1. It is expressed as being born or begotten again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23).
2. It is called being born from above (the phrase “born again” in John 3:3 and 7 may be rendered “born from above”; see the marginal rendering in many Bibles).
3. Those who are regenerated or born again the Bible calls newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2).
4. Regeneration is expressed as being quickened (made alive) (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).
5. Regeneration is signified by Christ being formed in the heart (Galatians 2:20; 4:6, 19; Colossians 3:10).
6. Regeneration is said to be a partaking of the divine nature (not of the essential nature of God, but a resemblance to the divine nature in spirituality, holiness, goodness, kindness, etc.) (2 Peter 1:4).
7. Depraved, unregenerate man cannot regenerate himself (Romans 8:5–9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).
8. Man cannot regenerate himself because regeneration is a creation and, therefore, not in the power of men to do it (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:16).
9. Regeneration is expressly denied to be of men (John 1:12–13).
10. The efficient cause of regeneration is God only (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–2, 9; 5:1)
God the Father (John 6:44, 65; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3)
God the Son (Galatians 4:6–7; 1 John 2:28–29)
God the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5).
11. The impulsive, or moving cause, of regeneration is the free grace, love, and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4–5; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3).
12. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the virtual or procuring cause of regeneration (1 Peter 1:3).
13. The instrumental cause of regeneration is the Word of God (Romans 10:13–21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25).
14. Regenerate ones have the grace of life given them; they live a new life, and walk in newness of life; where before their understanding was darkened, they now are enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of divine things (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24; 5:8; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5; 1 Peter 2:9; 3:7).
15. Knowledge and actual enjoyment of the several blessings of grace follow upon regeneration (Ephesians 3:16–19).
16. Regenerate ones are made fit and capable for the performance of good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; Philippians 2:13; 4:13).
17. Regenerate ones are made fit for the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).
18. Humans are passive in regeneration (John 1:13; Romans 9:16).
19. Regeneration is of the will of God and cannot be resisted (John 6:37; Romans 8:29–30; 2 Timothy 1:9).
20. Regeneration is an act that is instantaneously done—there is never a middle state between life and death; regeneration is perfect—one can be partly regenerate no more than one can be partly dead and partly alive; yet regeneration always results in spiritual warfare between the old and new man with the new man winning in the end (Romans 6–8; 1 John 5:4).
21. The grace of regeneration can never be lost; one who is born in a spiritual sense can never be unborn (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).
*Adapted from John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1809; reprint, Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1995), 528–538.
You may want to read our article, “The New Birth.”