Salvation from God's Wrath
“Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; we have been in our sins a long time … There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” – Isaiah 64:5, 7
One of the most powerful aspects of the Gospel, and the Christmas story, is the way that Jesus was sent into a thoroughly hostile world. He came into a messy, complicated world, and he came as a humble infant. This was a world full of poverty, wars, and racial tension. It was every bit as broken as the world we live in today, because it was our world.
Jesus came with a deep concern for the most sinful and downtrodden people he met, and this was the opposite of the way people were used to approaching religious leaders or God. While the Pharisees only seemed to care about those who wanted to follow the law, and people seemed to think that God could not reconcile himself with sinners, Jesus was known for hanging around notorious law-breakers. When he was challenged about this, he explained this in terms of a doctor who came to heal the sick, not the healthy (Lk. 5:27-32).
The Apostle Paul expands on this idea of a physician healing the sick in his letter to the Romans. But instead of talking about a physician, he uses the language of hostile parties: the “good man” and the “enemy.” In this way the Apostle reminds his readers that sin is more than just a bad thing. It does not just lead to death and suffering. Sin is nothing less than an act of animosity toward God. Every sin that has ever been or will be committed has this personal dimension: it is open rebellion against the Creator. Each of us has done enough to provoke God’s holy anger against us personally.
When Jesus came into the world, he did not just have to deal with the effects of sin, he had to deal with enemies, human beings who were hostile to God. Eventually, through the work of the cross, he had to deal with sin itself. And he did all of this as a demonstration of love for people who did not deserve any of it.
The Christmas season is a great time to remind ourselves of the greatness of the Father’s love. Fully knowing the cost, He willingly sent his own son into enemy territory.
It is also a great time to revisit our need for Christ’s work on their behalf. The Christmas story, like the rest of the Gospel message, is for all people, because it reminds us of how God was not defeated by our animosity. The hope of salvation is for the young and old, rich and poor, male and female. It is for people of every occupation and ethnic background. It is most certainly for the most desperately “guilty” people imaginable, perhaps even especially so: yes, even war criminals, murderers, rapists, thieves, adulterers, and liars. Christ died for people who were God’s enemies.
All human beings find their hope for salvation from sin and death in the same person: Christ.