Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reasons We Need the Doctrine of God's Wrath

Rob Bell is the founding "pastor" of "Mars Hill Bible Church" in Grand Rapids, MI [the reason for the quotation marks in that statement will become apparent below]. Bell has received national attention primarily due to his book Velvet Elvis and his series of NOOMA videos. Last week, Bell made the news (at least within evangelical circles) because some information was released about his upcoming book, Love Wins; if his publisher's description of the book is to be trusted at all, it seems that in this book, Bell promotes universalism.

In a video promoting Love Wins, Bell poses a series of questions that, unless he is just being extremely provocative, also seem designed to drive readers to universalist conclusions. Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College, provides a very helpful biblical response to Bell's questions on his blog.

Meanwhile, Kevin DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI, responds to Bell's seeming rejection of the doctrine of Hell with an excerpt from his book, Why We're Not Emergent. DeYoung lists a number of reasons why we need the teaching concerning God's wrath:
1. To keep us honest about evangelism;
2. To forgive our enemies;
3. To risk our lives for Jesus' sake;
4. To live holy lives;
5. To understand what mercy means;
6. To grasp how wonderful heaven will be;
7. To be motivated to care for our impoverished brothers and sisters;
8. To be ready for the Lord's return.

DeYoung mentions the above subcategories under the larger category: "Believing in God’s judgment actually helps us look more like Jesus."

I would like to submit two more reasons that we need the teaching concerning God's wrath. These two reasons may be implicit in the explanations that DeYoung gives for his list, but hopefully it will be beneficial to make these explicit under separate headings. I would place the following two reasons as subcategories under the larger category: 'Believing in God's judgment actually helps us to know Jesus.'

We need the teaching concerning God's wrath:

1. To make sense of Jesus' teaching.

Jesus was referred to as "Teacher" by His enemies (Matt 12:38; 22:16), His disciples (Mark 4:38; 9:38; 10:35), and Himself (John 13:13-14). To know the Teacher, we must seek to understand His teaching. In regards to Hell, DeYoung appropriately mentions Jesus' teaching in Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 25:31-46. Many more verses could be added to this list; to name a just two: Matthew 5:27-30, Matthew 11:20-24. In these verses Jesus teaches of a coming judgment in which all of humankind will be separated into two broad categories: some will be welcomed into eternal life, and others will be cast into eternal fire. Much of Jesus' teaching is nonsensical if we deny or disregard the teaching concerning God's wrath.

2. To drive us to faith in Christ.

Jesus famously said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). He went on to say that His mission was not to bring condemnation into the world: "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:17-18a). Then Jesus added: "But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18b). This sobering word concerning the state of condemnation in which the unbelieving exist is meant to be a warning to those who may simply admire Jesus' teaching, while considering belief to be optional. The teaching concerning God's judgment against unbelievers drives us to seek to know Christ and trust in Him.

If the above statements concerning God's wrath are correct, then believing in God's judgment is crucial for knowing Christ and becoming more like Christ.
A Christian, by definition, seeks to know Christ and to become more like Christ. Those who seek to deny God's wrath/judgment should seek a name for their beliefs other than "Christian."

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