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Sinners in the Hands of a Misunderstood God

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"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life." John 3:16 There’s a famous sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards, an 18th century evangelist.

The first time I heard of it was in a high school English class. It was in the context of learning more about the cultural landscape from this time period of American history in order to better understand the books we were reading. At the time, I was impressed with the title and Mr. Edwards’ straightforward approach to presenting the gospel. But over time, the initial impression wore off.

As I started reading and considering the Bible more, I began to realize that sinners are not in the hands of an angry God, but instead, they’re in the hands of a “misunderstood” God.

Yes, the God of the universe is “misunderstood.”

He’s viewed as an angry, gray-haired God scowling down from heaven and waiting to strike mankind with lightning at any moment. His sole purpose, according to this view, is to judge and condemn mankind. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Instead, God loves man, and it saddens Him that mankind sins and falls short of His glory. It breaks His heart that so many people choose a life of sin over coming to Him as the loving Father that He is.

Let’s consider some examples to see more of this loving and forgiving God.

The Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery

In the gospels, there’s a story of a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). She’s found out by a group of religious Pharisees who bring her to Jesus to test him.

They said, “Teacher, this woman has been caught committing adultery, in the very act. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What then do you say?”

Their expectation was that Jesus could only say she should be put to death because that’s what the Hebrew law indicated should happen. But an amazing thing occurred.

Jesus stooped down and wrote with His finger on the ground. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said,

“He who is without  sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

One by one, beginning with the oldest and continuing to the youngest, the Phrasisees walked away. Their test was thwarted.

Jesus, who was the very God incarnated to be a man living on the earth, didn’t condemn the guilty woman. Rather, he exposed the religious Pharisees, and showed them that they shouldn’t judge this woman because none of them were without sin.

Not only so, but Jesus,  the only person worthy to judge her (based on his status as a sinless man and the eternal God), refused to do so. After the Pharisees left, he spoke to the woman and said,

“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more” (v. 11).

He didn’t judge her or condemn her. He had mercy upon her and directed that she go and sin no more. This compassion doesn’t exist in the concept of God that many people know.

Let’s consider another example.

The Prodigal Son

Another story from the gospels is that of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. This one doesn’t involve Jesus directly, but instead, provides a parable that reveals the heart of God the Father.

In this parable, a man has two sons. One of them asks his father for his inheritance, and then he leaves and squanders the money by living dissolutely. His situation becomes so dire that he can only find work with a pig farmer and ends up living among the pigs and eating their food.

Instead of enjoying his rightful place in his father’s house, he lives like a slave in the pig pens of another man.

After a time, he comes to his senses and realizes that even the servants in his father’s house live better than he currently is living. So he determines to humbly return to his father and offer to live as one of his servants.

As he walks back toward his father’s home, his father sees him from far off, leaps up with joy, and runs to greet him. The father falls on his son’s neck and kisses him affectionately.

The father was so happy he had returned! The prodigal son who once had been lost had now come home!

In his exultant joy, the father calls for a feast. He orders the fattened calf to be slaughtered, a robe of the highest quality to be brought, and sandals to be placed on his son’s feet.

The son says he has returned to live as a servant because that’s what he deserves, but the father ignores the request. His concern is not for his son to serve him nor for the fact that he had lived dissolutely and squandered his inheritance. All he cares about is that the son has returned. The long lost son has returned! It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to feast!

In this parable, the son represents us, the sinners, and the father represents God, the eternal Father. The Father is not focused on our sins, no matter how deplorable they are. He only cares about us, His long-lost sons. He cares that we return to Him. His heart is a one of love and concern. His desire is that we would come back to live in His house as His sons and enjoy all of His riches. He’s not angry with us; He only longs that we return.

What an awesome story to illustrate the very heart of God!

Let’s consider one more example to better understand this wonderful yet misunderstood God.

The Only Begotten Son

There’s another story, this time from the Old Testament, of a man named Abraham (Gen. 22:1-24). For the longest time, he was unable to have a son and prayed that God would give him one to be an heir. After a very long time, God answered this prayer and blessed him with a son named Isaac.

Eventually, God decided to test Abraham. He asked him to take his son to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice there. It was nearly unbelievable that God would ask such a thing, but Abraham obeyed.

Along with two servants, Abraham brought Isaac to Mount Moriah. Leaving the servants at the bottom of the mountain, he brought Isaac to the top to offer him as a sacrifice there. He tied him up on an altar and raised a knife to offer his son as a sacrifice to God, but before he could follow through with the act, God intervened.

He spoke to Abraham and said,

“Do not stretch out your hand upon the boy,  nor do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld  your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:12).

As he listened to God’s speaking, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket.

Abraham unbound his son, replaced him with the ram caught in the thicket, and offered the ram as a sacrifice to God.

You may be shocked that God would ask such a thing of Abraham, even though he intended to replace Isaac with the ram all along, but there’s something special to see in this story.

Abraham represents God the Father and Isaac represents God the Son. In order to save us from our sins, God sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die for the sins of the world as the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

He didn’t spare his very own Son. Isaac was spared, but God willingly gave His only begotten Son to die for mankind. Why? Because He loves man. His desire is for all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3-4).

Consider this famous verse:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16).

What we see in this verse is that God loves all mankind, including us. He loves us so much, that He was willing to give His only begotten Son as an eternal sacrifice for our sins so that we might receive God’s life and become His sons and heirs. He did this because of His great love for us .

Yes, we’re fallen and sinful and need to have our sins forgiven and washed away by believing into Jesus and by confessing that we need Him to cleanse us from our sins. But God is not preoccupied with this. More than anything, He loves us and wants us to come back to Him. He’s ready to receive us with open arms and to give us His very best.

So now you can see why it’s a misconception to view God as an angry God waiting to judge and strike down mankind. He’s a loving, forgiving, and compassionate God who longs for us to return to Him.

What God really wants is for all men to be saved and to live as sons in His house. Would you like to be a son of God? Would you like to live as an heir in the Father’s house and partake of all his riches? To do so, simply pray:

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for Your great love for me.
Thank You for sending Your only begotten Son, Jesus,  to die for my sins.
Thank You for loving me—even a sinner like me.
Dear Lord Jesus, I open my heart to You.
I believe You died on the cross—shedding Your blood for my sins.
You rose from the dead to give me Your eternal life. 
I open my heart to receive You right now.
Wash me from all of my sins.
Come into my heart and live  in me.
Thank You Lord Jesus for dying for me.
Amen.
 

 

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About Joe Putnam

Hi. My name is Joe. I live in Irvine, CA, and I help with some of the technical aspects here at Holding to Truth. I also contribute posts from time to time. Please leave a comment to let us know what you enjoyed from this post. Thanks!

6 Replies

  1. It is so true. Even in our experience, after we do something for which we feel ashamed before God, He doesn’t come in to strike us down or judge us, but rather to love us and cherish us.

    If there’s one thing or one person that God hates it is Satan, His enemy. So if there’s anyone in this world that believes that “God wants to judge you, and He hates you!” this means he/she is deceived by God’s enemy. God loves us, and His desire is to SAVE and bring us to the full knowledge of the truth.

    Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Joe Putnam

      Amen. There are things that God hates, and he does get angry at times (even with His people), but He’s not an angry God waiting in heaven to zap people if they fall or fail. He’s a loving and forgiving God who longs for people to turn to Him and receive His Son as their Savior. And if we fail as Christians, He doesn’t want to judge or condemn but instead waits for us to turn back to Him and to apply the precious blood of Jesus His Son. He’s waiting to forgive us, not zap us.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. This is a great, and faithful, presentation of who God really is. God is both righteous and loving. Man is the object of His affection. Though man is sinful, Christ took care of the sin problem on the cross. The Righteous died on behalf of the unrighteousness, fulfilling God’s righteous requirements, in order that God could reach us in His love!

    What should we do? We should simply come to God, realizing that Christ as the best robe has been prepared for us, and open to receive Him. God’s desire is that we would enjoy Christ as the fattened calf in God’s house. We simply need to come to Him!

    1. Amen. We can enjoy Christ as the fattened calf in God’s house! Hallelujah! :)

  3. Dan Paley

    Such a misunderstanding keeps people (both believers and unbelievers alike) from enjoying all that our loving Father has for us. We must always remember that the lamb of God bore all our sins on the cross. He suffered under God’s judgement in our place. Now there is no reason for us to bear those same sins again or to suffer that same judgement. The sooner we recognize Him as our substitute, the sooner we can enter into a lifelong feast with our loving Father.
    Thank you for such a helpful post!

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