Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Anger and Atonement

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Before the fall man enjoyed fellowship with God, but in Adam we broke that fellowship and rebelled against God. God is the wronged party in this relationship, and Christ is the mediator whose job it is to reconcile God to us. Because we suffer in this life, we find it easy to slip into thinking that we are the injured party.

Reconciliation between God and His fallen creation is necessary because the two are estranged. This raises a debated question in theology: Who is angry at whom? Everyone agrees that we are angry at God. We are estranged from Him. But is it proper to speak of God being estranged from us? Is God angry with us? The Bible frequently speaks of God’s wrath and makes it clear He is sorely displeased with humanity. And because God is the offended party and is angry with our sin, it is God who must be satisfied.

Yet, the Bible also tells us that God the Father is willing to be satisfied with Jesus’ mediatorial work. One of the gravest distortions of biblical faith is the notion that God the Father is a God of wrath, while God the Son is the God of love. Some people believe that the Father is only angry with us, but that the Son identifies so much with us that He goes to the Father and pleads for us. Thus there is a tension in the Godhead itself, as if the Father has one agenda, and the Son has another.

Not so. The plan of salvation is portrayed as authored by the Father because of His love for us. It is true that our sins have provoked God to anger and enmity against us, but God has vented His anger on Christ at the cross and so can love His elect. Thus David writes that “His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Although made in God’s image, people are often guilty of remaking God into an image of their own liking, contrary to God’s own self-disclosure in Scripture. This action, conscious or not, transgresses the first two commandments. Seek to recognize God as He is—even with those attributes “objectionable” to many.