I was reading today through the first few chapters of the Gospel of John. I love this book and have decided to read through it once a week for the next few months. It may sound like a lot, but it boils down to three chapters a day.
Today I read John 3:36 and was struck by something once again. John the Baptist testifies about Jesus and says, “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”.
Sometimes we begin to think of wrath as something that is coming in the future – you know, the book of revelation and stuff like that. But several places in Scripture make it perfectly clear that wrath is already being expressed. In the future, things will be more fully expressed. Saints get full joy in heaven when the more fully experience God and his love. But that doesn’t mean we don’t experience joy or God or his love now. We do, thank God! The same is true of those who are under God’s wrath. In the future, those who do not believe in the Son will experience God’s wrath in the fullest. However, this does not mean they aren’t under and experiencing wrath now.
John the Baptist makes this clear. “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”. Paul also emphasizes this truth in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”.
We were under wrath, and had God not done something, we would have remained there. In fact, Paul goes on to say in the next verse, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Ã— by grace you have been saved…”
Even in the context of John 3 it is clear that it is God who decisively acts to bring us out from under wrath and grant us life. In talking with Nicodemus, Jesus says “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. We must be born of the Spirit before we can enter the kingdom (which happens at our conversion). In other words, God’s sovereign act of regeneration precedes our exercise of faith and repentance. They are the fruits of being made spiritually alive. They, faith and repentance, are gifts from God. All this is from God so that no one may boast in his presence.
Thanks be to God for what he has done to move us out from under his wrath and into his love.