But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
How are we to reconcile Scripture’s clear teaching on the wrath of God– His holy hatred of sin– and Scripture’s equally clear teaching on the love of God– that He is slow to anger and quick to forgive? How are we supposed to think about God, preach the Gospel, and live the Christian life, with this tension?
While we can’t answer all our questions about God’s character in this life, this much is clear: God’s wrath and love are not as far separated as you might think. We see them both together, magnifying each other, at the cross.
The cross shows us both God’s wrath and mercy, His love meeting the demands of His holiness. At the cross, God’s anger at sin, poured out on our Substitute, acts for us like binoculars to observe the distant mountain peaks of God’s unchanging love– through the lens of the terrible cost of Calvary, we see clearly just how far God’s love will go to rescue sinners. And conversely, when we look at God’s wrath through the cross-shaped lens of His love, we fall humbled and broken by our own sinfulness and God’s radically glorious holiness.
Here in Romans 5, we see an example of this synergy in action. God’s love is put on display when we were still sinners, as we see Christ dying for us and saving us from the wrath of God. Pastor C.J. Mahaney puts it this way: “Only when we understand God’s wrath toward sin can we realize that we need to be saved from it. Only when we hear the bad news that we’re deserving of judgment can we appreciate the good news that God, through His Son, provided salvation and full, continuing forgiveness for our sins. Only those who are aware of God’s wrath are amazed at God’s grace.”
Dear God, I am awed and humbled by the magnitude of holiness and love that I see at the cross. That You, a perfectly just and holy God, would go so far as to meet the demands of Your justice by suffering in my place, is a staggering thought. Lord, help me each day in awe of Your great love.
“The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” ~GK Chesterton