Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), an evangelist from the early 1700’s helped lead revival in early colonial America. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was the title of a famous sermon he delivered on July 8th 1741. Only four days after the 4th of July. Oops, sorry they had not invented Independence Day yet. That was still 35 years away.
The story is told that as he gave the sermon (he actually read the sermon) people clung to the pillars and posts of the church building for fear of being dragged to hell and punished for their sins at the hands of an angry God. Are sinners in danger at the hands of an angry God? Is God angry at you? Romans 1:18-20 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” According to this passage, the wrath of God is revealed, but whom is it revealed against? Paul tells us God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. However, he doesn’t leave it there. He specifies whose ungodliness. It is revealed against those who repress the truth of God. They deny the glory of God and instead glorify man. They are haters of God. Even though they know God, they will not acknowledge God. The wrath of God is revealed against the unsaved who repress the truth of God.
Ephesians 2:4 tells us that before salvation we were “by nature children of wrath”. Ephesians 5:5 tells us “the wrath is upon the children of disobedience?” In the context this is referring to the unsaved. Does God reveal His wrath against the saved? According to Romans 5:9 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Those who have been justified by Jesus’ blood are saved from the wrath of God. God revealed His wrath against Jesus when Jesus became sin for us. God’s justice and holiness were satisfied. How many sins were paid for? You know the answer to that. All of them, past, present and future. Were only the big sins paid for? No! The big sins, the little sins and the in between sins were all paid for. Yet we think God must be a little bit annoyed or disappointed with me when I commit the same sin for the hundredth time. If you are thinking that, you are bringing God down to your level. God knew all your sins. You cannot surprise God with some sin that He has not already taken care of. This does not mean God is happy with your sins that you commit yesterday, today or tomorrow. It grieves Him because He knows how it will hurt you and others.
Sin still brings death to the believer-not spiritual death, but death in their soul and even body. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians that some of the believers had died because of their sin. He uses the term they have “fallen asleep”. There are still natural consequences to sin. If I insult my wife it will bring hurt, pain and potentially death to my relationship with my wife. But God’s wrath will not and cannot be revealed against you. God is at peace with Himself and with you. The wrath of God was revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness when God put the sins of the world on Jesus. In 1830, George Wilson killed a mail worker in his attempt to rob the mail train. President Andrew Jackson pardoned George Wilson, the murderer and mail-train robber, forgiving what would have earned him a death sentence. Wilson, for some reason, refused this offer of pardon. After the Supreme Court decided there was no legal way to make him accept it, he was hanged. What a strange way for a man who is sentenced to death for his crime to respond to a pardon. Yet God has offered a pardon to all mankind by taking the consequences of our sins on Himself. So many refuse that pardon. God concurs with the Supreme Court. You cannot make a person accept the pardon. When a person refuses to acknowledge God and ignores the pardon, the wrath of God is revealed. It is not that God is even angry, Christ satisfied that anger. Yet George Wilson was still hung. The wrath of the government was revealed against George Wilson even though it had offered forgiveness.
What about you? Have you received the pardon? If you have, are you still walking about as if God is angry with you, as if you are still waiting for the lightning bolt to hit you? Are you convinced God is out to get you, so you hide from God out of fear of His anger, believing He is still disappointed in you? Can you imagine if George Wilson had accepted the President’s pardon, yet every day of his life he walked around looking over his shoulder for fear that the hangman was still pursuing him? Why not rest in the pardon. Rest in the love of God that was willing to sacrifice Himself to pay for your pardon. “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God”? The question comes down to, “Is God angry”? Scripture says, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) God did have anger toward the wicked, but because “God IS love” that anger was revealed against Christ on the cross. God so loved the world that He gave. What a shame for the unbeliever to not receive the love of God and the pardon and forgiveness of God. What a shame for the child of God to not embrace what is already his. “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is fear motivated, but “sinners in the hands of a loving God” is life and peace if they will receive it.
The members of Jonathan Edward’s church clung to the pillars of the church for fear that they would be dragged to hell at the hands of an angry God. The reality is that we don’t have to shy away from the hand of God but can cling to the tender hands of a loving God who will not let go of us nor let anyone snatch us out of His hands. The Gospel really is GOOD NEWS. The gospel is not saving us from God’s anger, but saving us to experience God’s love.