The Christian faith is chiefly concerned with the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a sentence seems too plain to have to utter. However, Jude found it necessary to remind the saints for all time “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) The Christian faith has a content. The content of the Christian faith looks to Christ as the God-man, the Savior. But what does it mean that Christ is Savior?
So often the image of the Christian message has been twisted to turn Christ into a self-help guru. He becomes a means towards some end that is already within our hearts before we come to know Him. It may be a desire for greatness, or health, riches, or honor. Whatever it is, Christ has so often been seen as a tool to enable us to achieve our own dreams. Such a Christ is entirely foreign to the Bible. Jesus does not exist to make you healthy and wealthy. In fact, as history attests, following Christ may cost you everything, including your life. If Christ’s role as Savior is not meant to save you from financial hardship, or physical sickness on every occasion, what did He come to do?
As Savior, Jesus rescues His people from the wrath of God. It is so easy to forget that Christ was sent to save His people from their sins. We speak of “His people” because Scripture speaks of a particular group of people. Not everyone goes to heaven. Simply turn to Christ’s own words in Matthew 25:31-46. Some truly receive the penalty of their sin which is eternal suffering and condemnation. To deny this is to deny the words of the New Testament for whatever may suit our fancies. And some have indeed preferred a fiction of their liking to the truth of God’s Word. However, it is to the Bible that we must turn not our opinions for we will be held accountable to what God has said. Therefore, we look to the very first chapter of the very first book of the New Testament for a succinct explanation of Christ’s coming in the first place.
The angel of God came and spoke to Joseph, the man who would raise Christ, and declared these words to him while Christ was in the womb. Matthew 1:20-21 gives us the full story, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (ESV) In these angelic words we find a definite target for those who will receive the benefits of Christ (“his people”), and a definite reason behind their need for salvation (“their sins”). The Apostle Paul will later provide imagery that helps explain the saving work of Christ, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…” (Ephesians 5:25 ESV) Christ came to prepare a people for Himself.
What do we do with the wrath of God? Now this is a subject that has fallen out of vogue, but only in part. We no longer expect to hear of the wrath of God in churches, but that is likely because too often pastors lay the greater fear on the wrath of men. We find the wrath of men and women abounding in the present world, from every social and political spectrum. Outrage is properly in vogue. But the wrath of God is unwelcome. Why is that? Simply put, it is because we have failed to take seriously God’s Word. We have found someone else’s word to be more convincing, more authoritative, more desirable and useful to our various little kingdoms. The wrath of God is integral to the Christian message and indeed was a regular point of God-honoring preaching in the Old and New Testament itself as well as in the subsequent generations. One need only look to the First Great Awakening and the work of God that began in this nation under the preaching of men like George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and Gilbert Tennent.
What our world needs today is a return to this central message of the work of Christ. We read of this elementary idea in John’s Gospel, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) Without Christ we are under God’s wrath. But if we believe in Jesus Christ, if we confess our need for Him as our Savior and God, then the words to the Romans are made ours. Paul wrote “we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9)
Would you pray with me that God would bless our world with an awareness of both God’s wrath in righteousness, and our only remedy in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ who will come again to the joy of every believer, and the horror of those who have spurned Him.