John 3:36 (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.
People often think of Christianity as a self-help religion existing to help people live better lives. This is not completely untrue, but it misses significant points. Christianity isn’t about getting better at life. It is a message about what Jesus did to save sinners doomed for destruction unless his redeeming work provided what we were incapable of doing.
This implies something significant about us. We are not people who mess up and need some self-help to tighten up a bit. We are condemned sinners in need of a complete rescue from the outside. This message isn’t popular. The reason is because it doesn’t make us the hero. In fact, it reveals that we are the problem. We are broken. We are in need of a complete overhaul, not a tune up.
Our passage today helps us with understanding this. John’s Gospel says that whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. This is great news. If we believe in Jesus, and His finished work on our behalf, we are given eternal life with God. This is wonderful news. Life forever with God without sin, sickness, suffering, or death.
But notice the second half of the verse. John records that whoever does not obey the Son (by following Him as He commands us to) shall not see life. They will die spiritually for eternity. Then the Scripture says that the wrath of God remains on that person who does not obey the Son. This is a huge statement. The wrath of God is His action of retributive justice. It is His rightful response to our sins. Notice that the text says, “remains on him.” This means that without Christ, the wrath of God remains on us. It is already on us for our sins. The wrath of God isn’t a response to rejecting Christianity or Jesus, it is already aimed at us and ready to spill out, unless we come to Jesus. But if we do come to Jesus, the wrath of God swings away from us. How? Because it swung onto Christ for our sakes. The wrath of God is deserved, but in Christ, the grace of God is given. What a Savior we have in Jesus.
Reflection & Journal:
Why do you believe the wrath of God is rarely discussed in Christianity?
How is the wrath of God a right response of God and not something to be embarrassed by?
How do we escape the wrath of God?