BIBLE STUDY FOR “GLORY TO OUR GREAT REDEEMER”
“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
“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. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
– Romans 3:23-26
When you write a song, oftentimes you have good people around you who chime in with thoughts you haven’t thought and points of view you haven’t viewed. Considering “Glory to our Great Redeemer” was supposed to be a congregational worship song, a few of the original lyrics were absolutely unsingable. So, I am grateful to my friends for pointing this out. However, one friend also asked if I was sure I wanted to sing about God’s wrath, especially in the chorus. You see, the third line of the chorus says, “The wrath of God poured out and satisfied.” The wrath of God is not a popular worship theme. You can probably count all the wrath of God songs in the CCLI Top 100 on one hand. Shocking, right?
Now, please don’t assume that I am criticizing the songs in our worship catalog because they don’t address the wrath of God much. I’m not. I haven’t written any of those songs either. And plus, I know a lot of those writers and I can trust that they are writing about what God wants them to be writing about. But this time, it was an issue I could not steer away from. It is too valuable in our consideration of our redemption in Christ. It is too valuable for me personally.
“For all have sinned….” This is one of the first verses I learned as a kid, and I have never doubted it. One look at the world around me or one look in the mirror was enough to convince me. So it wasn’t hard for me to believe that I needed to be justified by his grace. But where does wrath come in?
God is righteous and holy. Sin is a direct offense against his righteousness and holiness. So God actually cannot hold back his wrath for our sin and still be just, still be holy. For God to overlook sin would require a change in his character. It would require for him not to be holy or righteous. So God’s perfect and right response to sin is wrath.
However, in his mercy, God chose not only to expend his wrath but also to receive it. I heard this word “propitiation” many times growing up. But I didn’t understand it until later. One explanation is that a propitiation is something that stands in the way, specifically of wrath. A theological definition is an appeasement of wrath by sacrifice. God chose to appease his own wrath by the sacrifice of his own and only son, Jesus. Jesus stood in the way of God’s wrath. It was wrath I deserved for my sins. In this way, God was both just in his wrath and the justifier by taking wrath I deserved, making it possible for me to be justified.
A couple of years ago, I heard a preacher say, “Some of you feel like God is angry at you because of your sins.” And of course, I agreed with him. Why wouldn’t God be angry? I was mad about my sins. My parents were mad about my sins. So God must be mad about my sin. But as we’ve seen, that’s not really how it works. Fortunately the preacher continued, “God is not angry at you. He poured out all his wrath on his son at the cross and there is none left over for you.” I wanted to disagree with him. It didn’t sound right or fair. But I knew he was correct. Jesus did not die on the cross to take some of God’s wrath while God saved a little parcel for me and my mistakes in 2017. No, Elvina Hall said it right when she wrote “Jesus Paid It All.”
So, you see I had to write about wrath. Because the fact that Jesus received wrath that I deserve is good news. It is the gospel. It allows me to have resurrected life and a relationship with the father. It is one of many reasons we sing, “Glory to our Great Redeemer.”