Session 5 – Preaching the Wrath of God (R.C. Sproul)
After lunch on Tuesday, the fifth session of the conference was lead by R.C. Sproul, preaching on the wrath of God. Dr. Sproul’s first statement is that the wrath of God is reserved for those who fall asleep during a sermon after lunch. The text for Dr. Sproul’s sermon is Leviticus 10:1-11.
We struggle with the portrait of God in the Old Testament. We struggle with the difference between the God of wrath in the Old Testament and the God of love and mercy in the New Testament. However, this is a false dilemma. The greatest wrath of God is revealed in the New Testament at the cross.
The offering made by Nadab and Abihu is translated as strange, profane, and unauthorized. And for this they are struck dead by God. When Aaron complains to Moses. Moses reminds Aaron of God’s words – among those who come near me, they must regard God as Holy, and God must be glorified before all the people. And what is Aaron’s response? He holds his peace (he shuts his mouth) before the righteousness of God’s judgment. Who can plead his case before God?
But God was not finished. Not only was the mouth of Aaron shut. He instructed the dead bodies to be taken outside of the camp – out of the presence of God. Think for a minute of all that is done outside the camp. The scapegoat is sent outside the camp. The carcass of the sacrifice is disposed of outside the camp. Lepers were sent outside the camp. Jesus was crucified outside the camp.
But God was not finished yet. Aaron and his sons were forbidden to mourn for Nadab and Abihu. Aaron and his two remaining sons were anointed as holy. He was forbidden to mourn the wrath of God against the unholy. We are never to obscure the difference between the profane and the holy. Do we have a sense of the presence of the holy entering into the sanctuary.
Moreover, consider the experience of Uzzah. The ark was designed so that it would never be touched by human hands. Yet Uzzah profaned the holy with the common. Jonathan Edwards makes the point that the sin of Uzzah was the sin of presumption – presuming that his hands were cleaner than the mud into which the ark would have fallen.
And there are other such accounts. The account of Korah. The account of Ananias and Sapphira. How do we account for these sudden outbursts of the wrath of God? We must start by considering that, before God, every sin is a capital offense. Therefore, the revelation of the wrath of God against these specific sins is an evidence of the mercy of God, the patience of God, the forbearance of God.
Yet, human nature opposes this. The more merciful God is, the more we sin and become hardened to the mercy of God. This is because there is no fear of God. The accounts of Nadab, Abihu, Uzzah, Korah, Ananias, and Sapphira are reminders that the wrath of God is still alive and well. When we are saved, we are saved from God, that is, from the wrath of God. Nobody is amazed by grace any longer.
Here is the progression of our response to grace: at first we appreciate it, then we expect it, then we demand it. Romans 1 reminds us that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. God’s wrath is not random, not capricious. It has a specific target – all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Jesus Christ became this target of God’s wrath for the sins of His people.
To explore this matter further, read the books by Jeremiah Burroughs – Gospel Worship and Gospel Fear.