This “must read” Christian classic is perfect reading for advent season. Writing in the 4th century, Athanasius, one of the greatest thinkers of the early church, argues why the Son of God became human (i.e., the incarnation) — namely to rescue us from our corruption and raise us to restoration with the risen Christ.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (Jonathan Edwards)
CrossWay Community Church
October 31st, 2021
Among others, two thoughts I’ve had while spending time in this sermon:
It would be easy to see how so many in our context will have misunderstood this sermon, and Edwards, if they didn’t attend to its actual meaning carefully. The expression “being in an angry God’s hands” is actually meant as something positive for the sinner, as Edwards uses it. Why? Because it is the very “hands” of this God who otherwise has every right to damn the unregenerate person that keeps them from immediately entering that fate. It is the very God who rightfully abhors you in your sin that nonetheless is forebearing with you to this very hour. As Edwards argues in the sermon (his thesis, if you will), “There is nothing that keeps wicked people at any given moment out of hell except the mere pleasure of God.” For all the talk of God’s anger towards sin, it’s meant to point us to God’s forbearance and his offer of mercy in Christ.
Secondly, Edwards’ descriptions of God’s wrath undoubtedly will rub against our current contemporary sentiments, where we don’t like to think that God is angry with sinners; or if God were to be angry towards the unsaved, that would be reflective of some sort of defect in him. (This probably has something also to do with our loss of the doctrine of divine simplicity, which results in us thinking of certain of God’s attributes pitted against others–but that’s another topic.) However, Edwards doesn’t care about our contemporary sentiments. He presents God’s righteous indignation with sin in unbridled, blunt terms–language I imagine many of us will question or find abrasive, but which is only indicative of the fact that we need to hear it. We’re apt to soften the holiness of God. Edwards’ isn’t. But for as stark as Edwards gets, even he admits: it’s probably not stark enough; he’s really only scratching the surface of God’s ineffable holy hatred of sin.
“Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:3-4)Romans 2:4-5
“The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached … we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful … and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches….”—The Second Helvetic Confession (Chapter I)
“Concerning the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven which the Lord gave to the apostles … all properly called ministers possess and exercise the keys or the use of them when they proclaim the Gospel; that is, when they teach, exhort, comfort, rebuke, and keep in discipline the people committed to their trust. For in this way they open the Kingdom of Heaven to the obedient and shut it to the disobedient. … Christ’s ministers discharge the office of an ambassador in Christ’s name, as if God himself through ministers exhorted the people to be reconciled to God. … Therefore, they excercise the keys when they persuade [men] to believe and repent. Thus they reconcile men to God. Thus they remit sins.”—The Second Helvetic Confession (Chapter XIV)
“Ministers, therefore, rightly and effectually absolve when they preach the Gospel of Christ and thereby the remission of sins, which is promised to each one who believes, … and when they testify that it pertains to each one peculiarly. … The remission of sins in the blood of Christ is to be diligently proclaimed, and that each one is to be admonished that the forgiveness of sins pertains to him.”—The Second Helvetic Confession (Chapter XIV)
Below is a basic denominations & traditions chart I made for the residents while working at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. I’m hesitant to share this here because, admittedly, its overly simplistic and I suspect many will find it unsatisfying or maybe even at times misleading for that reason. Nonetheless, for someone who is less familiar and looking simply to get a basic acquaintance with the general landscape, I hope this can provide a helpful starting place, notwithstanding the understandable short comings of something as brief as this.
Happy Reformation Day!
On this day in 1517, Martin Luther sparked a gospel-protest (“protest-ant”), posting 95 theological assertions for debate (his “95 theses”) to the church door in Wittenberg. His goal was to reform the church. Thus, this movement would later become known as the Protestant Reformation (the protestors’ reform).
Today, known as “Reformation Day,” we remember this movement of recovering clarity on the Biblical gospel. And we praise God that the preservation and advancement of that gospel will never–can never–be thwarted.
This very point then is also a fitting reminder and lesson for us today amidst our political season, believe it or not. If ever there was a time when it felt like the true, Biblical gospel could be muffled and lost, it was probably the time of the Reformation. The Roman religious institution was dominant, not only religiously but politically; and the Biblical witness was outlawed. Could the true church survive? Would the Biblical gospel be preserved amidst such powerful opposition and persecution? Many feel similarly today, with the perceived threat of potential political outcomes.
But don’t doubt God. As Jesus said in Mt 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.” Against all human odds, the gospel prevailed and advanced during the Reformation. So today and forever, the church will survive throughout all ages, and God will always maintain a faithful witness to his gospel.
Today in our sensationalized political climate, many are be tempted to speak (argue) as if the church’s very existence hangs in the balance and hinges on certain political outcomes. If this is so, we become desperate to do whatever it takes politically to gain certain wins. But, frankly, God doesn’t need our compromised politics in order for his church to survive, and we would do well to remember that. An unfortunate irony today would be that the same folks who celebrate this truth in the Reformation might immediately turn and forget it in our politics.
Whatever comes November 3, may “the eyes of our hearts” be locked squarely on the sovereignty of God. Christ is king. And nothing can change that.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” – Psalm 20