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Bible Search. And yet there is this pregnant phrase, "the wrath of the Lamb". It is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world who is to judge the world in righteousness. So it is quite clear that the idea that love and wrath are incompatible is a complete denial of the plain teaching of the Scriptures.
Indeed I would go so far as to say that unless we start with this idea of the wrath of God against sin we cannot possibly understand the compassion of God, we cannot understand the love of God. It is only as I realise God's wrath against sin that I realise the full significance of His providing a way of salvation from it.
If I do not understand this I do not understand that, and my talk about the love of God is mere loose sentimentality which is indeed a denial of the great biblical doctrine of the love of God. The apostle's teaching, then, is that until we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we are under the wrath of God. And the wrath of God is an expression of God's hatred of sin, an expression of God's punishment of sin. It is a clear statement to this effect, that if we die in our sins we go on to eternal punishment. That is the teaching of Scripture.
The wrath of God against sin manifests itself finally in hell, where men and women remain outside the life of God in misery and wretchedness, slaves to their own lusts and desires, selfish and self-centred. The apostle's teaching is that that is the position of all who are not Christians. They are under the wrath of God in this life, they will remain under the wrath of God in the next life.
That is the position of the sinner, according to Scripture. If you object to the idea you are objecting to the Scriptures, you are setting up some philosophic idea of your own contrary to their plain teaching. You are not arguing with me, you are arguing with the Scriptures. You are arguing with these holy apostles, you are arguing with the Son of God Himself If you believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, then you must not say, "But I don't understand". You are not asked to understand. I do not understand it, I do not pretend to understand it.
But I start from this basis, that my mind is not only finite but is, furthermore, sinful, and that I cannot possibly understand fully the nature of God and the justice and the holiness of God. If we are going to base everything on our understanding, then we might as well give up at this point. For the Bible tell us that "the natural man" and "the natural mind" cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God see I Corinthians 2.
It was the desire to understand that led to the Fall. Intellectual pride and arrogance is the first and the last sin. The business of preaching is not to ask people to understand; the commission of the preacher is to proclaim the message. And the message is that all are under the wrath of God until they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But indeed we must go even one step further. That brings us to the second matter.
The apostle says that we are all in that condition by nature - "we were all by nature the children of wrath, even as others". What does this by nature mean? We have already shown in a previous study in this series that this has one meaning only, and that is, "by birth". We were all by our very birth the children of wrath even as others. You notice that the apostle does not say that we "become" the children of wrath because of our nature; he says we "were".
In other words the apostle, in line with the whole of the Bible, does not teach that we are born into this world in a state of innocence or in a state of neutrality, and that then, because we sin, we become sinners and thereby come under the wrath of God. That is not what he says: he says the exact opposite. He says that we are born into this world under the wrath of God; from the moment of our birth we are already under the wrath of God. It is not only something that is going to happen to us, neither is it something that results only from our actions.
There are people who teach that, but that is a blank denial not only of the teaching here but, as we shall see, of the teaching elsewhere in Scripture. He does not say that we are under the wrath of God only because of our nature or because of the manifestation of our nature. He says that we are in that position "by birth". What, then, does this mean? The answer is to be found in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans where it is argued out in detail and thoroughly from verse twelve to the end of the chapter.
What is the argument? Let me summarise it. In that chapter the one great truth the apostle is concerned to prove is that our relationship, as believers to the Lord Jesus Christ is exactly analogous to our relationship formerly to Adam. He keeps on repeating the comparison and goes back and forth. He talks about what was true of us in Adam and then shows what is true of us now in the Lord Jesus Christ. He starts in verse twelve saying, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned", and so continues.
Any careful and unbiased reading of that argument, which is basic to Paul's doctrine of assurance, will compel us to see that all along he says that our relationship to Adam was identical with our present relationship to Christ. If, therefore, we believe that we are what we are in Christ because of what God has imputed to us in Christ, we must also, believe exactly the same on the other side about what was imputed to us in Adam.
That is the argument. But the apostle is not content merely to state it generally, he states it in particular also. Let me pick out the important verses. Take verse twelve: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned. The punishment of sin is death. Adam sinned and death came upon him, yes, but not only upon Adam - upon all men.
As a result of Adam's one sin, death passed upon all men. The last part of the verse explains - "all sinned" in Adam. That is the statement which we will expound later. Then take verses thirteen and fourteen of that chapter. Paul introduces a statement in a parenthesis, beginning at verse thirteen, "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression".
Are you tempted to say, What does all this mean? I cannot follow it, I want some simple gospel of comfort. That is how we tend to speak, we who think that because we live in the twentieth century we are greatly superior to all generations that have ever lived before us. We pride ourselves on our being so learned and intellectual and able to understand great things, whereas previous generations were primitive. But we do not realise that the apostle Paul wrote these words to people who lived nearly two thousand years ago, and that he meant them to understand them.
He was not writing to great philosophers; he was writing to simple Christian believers, many of whom were but slaves, and others soldiers in Caesar's household; and he meant those people to understand these things. Shame on us modern Christians who must be spoon-fed, and who just want something nice and easy and simple. If you do not accept this doctrine, then it is God's Word you are rejecting. I again ask, What does it mean? Paul says that until the law sin was in the world.
The law was given through Moses, you remember; but there was that long interval between Adam and Moses, at the least it was. Now during that whole long period sin was in the world, but sin, he says, is not imputed when there is no law. In other words, if there is not a law to define sin, the sin is not brought home to a man. The business of law is to bring the sin home to man's mind and heart and conscience. If there were no laws, for instance, about parking and about motoring, you and I might still do wrong things, but if there were not a law about these matters we could not be punished.
That is what he is saying, "sin is not imputed when there is no law". Here is the problem: though the law was not given until Moses, nevertheless, from Adam to Moses people died. All the people born into the world died. Why did they die? What is it that produced death in those people though there was no law imputing sin at that period? The apostle's answer is that there is only one explanation; they all died because they were involved in the sin of Adam.
There is no other explanation. The only reason why death reigned from Adam to Moses is that that one sin of Adam brought death upon the whole of his posterity. In other words, we are born "by nature the children of wrath". Notice then the next thing, which is still more extraordinary. He says that death reigned from Adam to Moses, "even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression". What can that mean? It means that death reigned even over those persons who had not actually committed an act of sin as Adam did when he fell. Who are they? And there is only one possible answer; they were infants who died in infancy.
All other men sinned. Everybody who has lived since Adam has committed deliberate acts of sin. The only people who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who have not deliberately sinned, are infants who are too young to exercise their will because they are not conscious. Death reigned, says Paul, from Adam to Moses, even over infants also. Why do infants die? There is only one answer. Infants die because Adam's transgression involves them.
But going on to verse fifteen we read, "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift; for if through the offence of one many be dead". There it is again. Then he turns to the other side about Jesus Christ. In verse sixteen, we have, "And not as it was by one that sinned so is the gift" - and then, "for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification".
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The judgment, the condemnation, was by one to condemnation: the one sin of Adam brought this upon the whole of mankind. But conversely, he says, many sins are forgiven in the righteousness of One, even Jesus Christ. Then once more in verse eighteen: "Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation". Is not that as explicit as anything could be? We are "born the children of wrath".
And finally, in verse nineteen, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners". You and I and all mankind were made or, as a more accurate translation puts it, "constituted" sinners by that one sin of Adam. That is the teaching. We are "all by nature the children of wrath even as others".
Ah, you say, I do not understand that, I cannot grasp that, it seems to me almost moral. Of course you do not understand it, Who can understand such things? It is not a question of understanding, it is a question of whether you believe the Scriptures not.
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For the apostle says exactly the same thing in I Corinthians 15, that great and - wonderful chapter which is read at funeral services, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive", and so on. It is precisely the same argument. It is the basis of the Christian faith. Whether we understand it or not, it is the truth. You have to explain the universality of sin; you have to explain the universality of death, and especially the death of infants. And this is the biblical answer. Adam was the whole of humanity and he represented the whole of humanity.
He was our federal head. As the Lord Jesus Christ is the Representative of all who are saved, as His righteousness is imputed to us, so Adam was our representative and his sin is imputed to us.
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We fell in him, we are damned in him and because of his action. In exactly the same way those who believe in Christ are redeemed by Him and saved in Him and righteous in Him because of His action on our behalf That is the argument. If you believe the one side about Christ, you must believe the other about Adam. If you deny this, you are virtually denying that.
Let us be careful therefore. There is nothing more tragic than the way in which Christian people bring the relics of their philosophies and their own understanding into the Christian faith. Many who claim to believe the Bible, and who regard it as authoritative, reject it at this point because they do not like the doctrine, or because they cannot reconcile certain matters.
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But the reconciliation is here before us. Though we were dead in trespasses and sins, hateful and hating one another, polluted by sin, sinful in practice, living in trespasses and sins and under the wrath of God, and absolutely helpless and hopeless, the very God against whom we have sinned, the very God whom we have offended, has Himself provided the way of deliverance for us. He does so in the Person of His own dearly beloved Son, whom He did not spare even from the suffering and the agony and the shame of Calvary and that cruel death.
He has offered us, and provides for us, the way of complete deliverance and reconciliation to Himself in spite of the fact that our sin in Adam and our own sins, and our own sinful state deserve nothing but His eternal wrath.