Many Christians, while they are passionate about sharing the Gospel fall short of proclaiming its full message. In an effort to soften the blow and make the Gospel more palatable, even ministers today have watered down the uncomfortable parts of the Bible. 

Often, the message we hear is “God loves you”. And while this is true, it’s only half the message. The “God loves you ” only approach to the Gospel leaves out an important part of God’s love which is God’s wrath and justice against sin. 

This approach, therefore, makes for a man-centered Gospel. As a result, it’s insufficient to bring people to true repentance that leads to salvation because, in essence, it denies the Gospel in its entirety. So Join me as we delve into the intricacies of the Gospel to unravel the importance of acknowledging both the love and justice of God in His redemptive plan.

God’s wrath and justice

God’s Wrath

To understand the Gospel, we need to understand God’s love in light of His attributes. God’s attributes such as love, justice, righteousness, grace, mercy, immutability, and goodness fit together perfectly into one whole that can be summed up as “God is Holy”. 

When Isaiah encountered God in a vision, he heard the angels crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!” (Isaiah 6:1-3). This shows that God isn’t merely holy but His holiness is to the superlative degree. In other words, He is very, very, very Holy.

The problem with the “God loves you” Gospel message is that it isolates God’s love from His other attributes. Mainly His righteousness, justice, and altogether holiness. Since God is “extremely” holy, the gravity of our sins against Him is much deeper than we often assume. So we dare not trivialize it because the Bible doesn’t.

A quote by DA Carson on why saying "God loves you" is not the complete Gospel

Being Holy, God cannot tolerate even the slightest wrongdoing. And yet, the Bible says that we have all sinned by breaking God’s law (Rom 3:23; 5:12). Therefore, His divine justice demands that His wrath be unleashed upon sinful people as a penalty for sin: 

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. Nahum 1:2 ESV
Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. Jeremiah 30:23 ESV
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 ESV 
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 2:5 ESV 
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 5:6 ESV
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. John 3:36 ESV

God’s Justice

Being a righteous judge, He can’t let sin go unpunished otherwise that would make Him unrighteous (Psalm 7:11; Prov 17:15). God demonstrates His righteousness and justice through the 10 commandments. They are not only a reflection of what He expects of us, but also of who He is. As a result, sin is an offense against God himself and according to God’s divine law, its penalty and remedy is death. For the Bible says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Additionally, Ezekiel 18:4 says that “…the soul who sins shall die.” 

Moreover, throughout the Scriptures, it’s clear that there had to be shedding of blood for the atonement (payment) of sins (Heb 9:22). In the Old Testament, there was the sacrificial system where a spotless lamb would be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the Israelites. Likewise in the New Testament, Jesus once and for all paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross (Matt 26:28).

Romans 3:23 says,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:23‭-‬25 ESV

The word “propitiation” refers to appeasing or satisfying God’s wrath by meeting God’s righteous and holy requirement ( 1 John 2:2; 4:10). In other words, by dying on the cross, Christ took upon himself the full force of God’s wrath for our sins. By doing so, he reconciled those who believe in Him to God:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:10‭-‬11 ESV

Essentially, by taking on God’s punishment for our sins, Christ saved us from God Himself. He saved us from the wrath of God against sin which is eternal damnation in Hell:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9 ESV

“God Loves You” Vs God’s justice

So how then can we say that God is love yet He demands a penalty for our sins? Isn’t that a contradiction?

God’s wrath and justice, like His love, are all a part of His nature and character (Psalm 11:7). They are not mutually exclusive but both are both supremely natural to Him. God doesn’t have a fraction of each of His attributes but a 100% of each. And everything He has, He is.

God’s love is always upheld by His justice, conversely, His Justice is upheld with love. God’s nature is such that His justice is totally loving and His love is totally just.

So how does God uphold his justice with love?

The Bible shows that because of love, God will not permit men to disobey His Law. It’s not loving to permit sin to continue as it leads to destruction. As such, God’s love reacts to that which is evil in the form of wrath.

And how does God demonstrate His love while upholding His justice?

Through the cross. The love of the Father is evident in sending the Son. The love of the Son is seen in suffering for the sin of His people. And the love of the Spirit is evident in implementing the blessings of salvation. The depths of the love are exercised by the three Persons of God (John 17:1-5).

It’s a perfect trinitarian work where each person of the trinity freely and voluntarily does their part to redeem and reconcile humanity to Himself.

It is at the cross of Christ where God’s justice and God’s love intersect. Christ’s death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath against our sins, revealing His justice. And in Christ’s willingness to undergo such a torturous death for undeserving sinners like us, God’s love is demonstrated.

God’s Wrath Still Applies to Unbelievers

Sinners who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior receive God’s own righteousness as a  gift (Romans 3:23–26; Ephesians 2:3–7). This gift is a result of His justice, not in spite of it. Although our sin requires that we die, He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place on the cross. Thus proving that His justice was not disregarded but rather satisfied (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9).

However, those who reject God’s free gift of salvation from His wrath are still deserving of God’s divine judgment:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:17-18 ESV

And while this fact might rub our sensibilities the wrong way, it’s important to remember that it’s not unloving for God’s justice to burn fiercely against sinners and evil. After all, if we, as sinful human beings, reserve the right to burn with indignation against injustice, why then is it morally wrong for God to do so? 

And yet God’s wrath is not like ours. It’s not tainted with selfishness, unrighteousness, or conceit. It’s pure and results from a love for what is right. Moreover, it’s not loving to allow sin to continue. We have to make peace with the fact that sin must and will be fully punished by God. And it is this reality that inspires the conviction to willfully seek salvation that is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Why God’s Wrath in Light of His Love is Important

There is no arguing with the fact that the core message of the Gospel is God’s love, which was manifested through Jesus the Messiah (John 3:16). But it must be presented in the right order and context. Otherwise, ‘God’s love’ results in affirming sinners in their slough if it’s preached in isolation. 

Chances are high that they will assume that God would never condemn someone He loves to damnation. As such, they will think it’s okay to continue in their sin.

It’s only until a person understands God’s holiness, the gravity of sin, man’s depravity, and his condemnation to hell, that he can grasp God’s infinite love and mercy. God’s love and mercy make no sense without this underlying conviction. 

According to John 16:8, it’s the Holy Spirit that causes this conviction as evidence that God is bringing the sinner to spiritual truth. A sinner is prepared to hear about God’s solution to his sin issue when he starts to feel the burden of his sin and dreads the impending wrath of God. 

The desire to repent and seek salvation can only truly find a place in one’s heart when they are convinced of their complete depravity, their repugnance before a holy God, and their deserving of God’s wrath.

Final Thoughts

Presenting Jesus as a “God of love,” who never criticizes, judges, or condemns emasculates and cheapens the Gospel. It leads to easy-believism without counting the cost it takes to follow Christ making for false converts. After all, who wouldn’t want a God whose calling is to affirm and make them happy? No one.

But we do people a disservice when we fail to present the full Gospel to them. Sure, it might cost you your friend or family but it’s this truth that will set them free. So be encouraged.

Allow me to ask, have you given any thought to God’s wrath, which you rightfully deserve as a sinner? Have you accepted God’s generosity in the form of the gift of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross of Calvary to atone for your sins? I implore you to “believe” in Him and accept His free gift of salvation today. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.


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  1. avatar
    Charity says:

    I really enjoy reading your articles, ..I am blessed. So clear and satisfactory.

    Thoughts I couldn’t put out , out there.

    1. avatar
      Wanjiru Ng'ang'a says:

      Thank you so much, Charity. I’m very humbled.

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