This past Sunday, we continued in our series “What does the Bible say…” seeking to answer pressing questions from a Biblical worldview and show the sufficiency of Scripture to supply everything we need for life and godliness. In this sermon, we delved into some heavy subjects looking at the wrath and grace of God, as we sought to understand God’s destruction of His enemies and His command to turn the other cheek.
Question 1: What should we make of the violence expressed against the enemies of God versus the commandment to turn the other cheek? (Matthew 5:38-42)
We began by looking at the initial question which was submitted, trying to understand the seeming contrast between God commanding the nation of Israel to destroy their enemies on multiple occasions with Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount to turn the other cheek. To this question, I gave three concise points of consideration:
- Discontinuity: It must be stated that these are not a one for one comparison. God commanded the geo-political nation to carry out destruction in the Old Testament (not specific individuals), and in the sermon on the mount Jesus is addressing individuals. I believe Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount was consistent with His instruction in the Old Testament with this considered.
- This isn’t pacificism, it is gospel grace: Jesus is not teaching that believers may never utilize self-defense, or that there aren’t just reasons for nations to engage in combat. Rather, he is teaching that when insulted, taken advantage of, or shamed (slapped), we should extend gospel grace to others.
- We wait for God’s ultimate wrath and vengeance: Jesus is not teaching that those who harm or insult us will never face judgement. Rather, we extend grace to them, trusting that God will, in His own timing, deal with their sin.
Question 2: What should we make of the wrath and grace of God? (Matthew 27:46)
We then spent the majority of our time considering the question which I believe lies at the heart of the initial question. If we are to understand the ethic of God commanding destruction as well as extending grace, we must understand God’s wrath and grace. This is made most manifest in the cross of Christ. To consider this we focused on three points:
- The wrath of God: In order to have a right understanding of God, we must acknowledge that God is a God of wrath. It is one of His divine attributes and perfections. This is true out of moral necessity. God cannot perfectly love all that is righteous, good and pure while simultaneously remaining indifferent towards sin and evil. In fact, the Scriptures actually include more references to God’s wrath, anger, and fury than to His love and tenderness. It is crucial that we understand God has a holy hatred and eternal detestation of all unrighteousness (Duet 32:39-41, Ps 7:11, Matt 3:7).
- The long-suffering of God: In light of the truth of God’s wrath, it is crucial to understand God’s long-suffering. That God, time and time again throughout the Scriptures, is patient with humanity and restrains His wrath by His grace. It is true that we see many glimpses of God’s wrath, but humanity has yet to experience the full force of the wrath we deserve. In thinking of this, we must reflect on all our own sins, and cosmic treasons against the Almighty. None of us deserves our next breath or heartbeat, yet God continues to be long-suffering with us.
- The cross of Christ: This leads to the climax of the wrath and grace of God in the Scriptures, which is the cross of Christ. God, in the fullness of His grace, chose to bear the wrath we deserve in order that we might be spared from the penalty of our sins. He was forsaken that we might be made His own possession. All that He requires is our belief in His incredible work of atonement on our behalf. It is a wondrous mystery that our God would love us enough that while we were yet sinners, He would do such a thing for us.
In closing, I challenged the believer present to: (1) be incredibly grateful, (2) have a sense of urgency to share about the shed blood for sin with others, (3) turn the other cheek, and extend gospel grace to others by imitating our Savior. For the unbeliever, the plea was made to believe in Jesus and allow God’s wrath to fall on the cross of Christ for your sins and not upon yourself in the eternal judgement of Hell.