“Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.“
“Gott ist tot.”
“God is dead.” Such was the repugnant proclamation published by 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. A depraved, reputed homosexual, Nietzsche exhibited a virulent hatred of God, Christ, and Christianity. It is little surprise that, following a stay in an Italian asylum and prior to dying the death of a syphilis-suffering lunatic, Nietzsche would also write of his antipathy towards the Bible.
In a work entitled “The Antichrist,” Nietzsche proffered this advice to would-be readers of Scripture:
“One does well to put on gloves when reading the New Testament. The proximity of so much uncleanness almost forces one to do this … I have looked in vain through the New Testament to descry [to catch sight of] even a single sympathetic feature: there is nothing in it that is free, gracious, candid, honest … Everything in it is cowardice, everything is shutting-one’s-eyes and self-deception. Every book becomes clean just after one has read the New Testament.”
Nietzsche’s failure to recognize anything that is “free, gracious, candid, honest” in the inspired revelation of the New Testament gives us a glimpse of just how darkened one’s eyes can be, how frightfully “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13), how being “given over” (Rom. 1:18), one can be. Yet his maniacal muttering about the uncleanness of the New Testament is altogether consistent with the what the unregenerate world in our day often posits regarding the death of Christ. Frequently, from their lightless spiritual fortress of untruth (2 Cor. 10:3-6), the world deems the cross-centered gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as tantamount to cosmic child abuse.
The world’s visceral view of the gospel comes as no shock to the scripturally astute believer. We know that the world will find the Good News an unclean, absurd thing. To them it is folly and foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Cor. 1:23). The unspiritual man cannot apprehend it. (1 Cor. 2:14). Paul acknowledges that “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 4:3). Those “who are perishing” can only be expected to live as if “Gott ist tot.”
Killing God As Judge
Though the contemporary church will rightly decry Nietzsche’s lunatic quip and disregard his blinded view of Scripture, the church today has, in fact, largely committed theological homicide on a fundamental attribute of God revealed to us in His Word. The church has effectively killed – not by outright denial, but by overt disregard – God as Judge.
“As God’s mercies are new every morning toward His people, so His anger is new every morning against the wicked.” Matthew Henry
The popular mantra of shallow, modern evangelicalism isn’t that God is dead, but that God is love. While Scripture certainly affirms love as an intrinsic attribute of God (1 Jn. 4:8), it does not affirm it to the exclusion of His judgment in wrath against man for his sin. While many may have difficulty reconciling the love of God with the wrath of God, Scripture does not. God’s love is not an attribute that diminishes His wrath, either by priority, perfection, or purpose. There are no shadows or variations in the qualities of God’s character (Jam. 1:18). What He is in His attributes, He is in all their perfected fullness.
That God is a God of judgment, rather than of indiscriminate tolerance, a notion noxiously prevalent in our ecclesiastical times, can be seen merely by looking at less than the first half of the opening book of Scripture. Just three chapters in, God, who made all things very good (Gen. 1:31), reveals Himself not only as sovereign Creator, but also as sovereign Judge. He issues a verdict of death for sin on the first couple who each violated His Word. He judges them and casts them out of the perfected bliss of Eden (Gen. 3). A chapter later, He pronounces judgment on their murderous son for his crime (Gen. 4). A couple of more chapters finds God executing a global death warrant on corrupted humanity, save eight, in the flood (Gen. 6). Yet a few more inspired chapters further and man, pridefully united in rebellion and disregard of God, receives again His deliberate judgment at Babel (Gen. 11). Before getting halfway through Genesis, God again exacts His wrath in judgment by dramatically destroying the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19).
The judgment of God in wrath against rebellious, sinful man is amply displayed in just a short span of the first book of Holy Writ and continues as a consistent theme throughout all of Scripture. While the love and grace of God are threads that are gloriously woven through these historic accounts of judgment, the presence of the love of God, so exclusive a focus for modern evangelicalism, isn’t portrayed in these Genesis accounts as vividly preeminent, but it is clearly discerned. The love of God reflected here, though, isn’t a lenient, gushing affection of God for man. The love underlying these accounts is His perfect love for His own glory (Is. 48:11), His love for righteousness (Ps. 33:5), His love for obedience (1 Sam. 15:22), and His love for justice (Ps. 37:28).
God Is Past Judge, Future Judge … and Present Judge
While God’s judgment is hardly as absent in Holy Scripture as it is covert in contemporary pulpits, few churches might dare deny the veracity of the Scriptural accounts of His judgment. But often these episodes of God’s judgment are considered only historically. We tend to see them as accounts of God’s ancient activity now long suspended. Many believe the Old Testament narratives of divine judgment. Many rightly understand God’s judgment in the New Testament, such as the account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), a graphic display of the Lord’s judgment intended to keep His church pure. Likewise, many will understand that there is a coming “day of the Lord” (Rev. 6:15-17, Isa. 13:9-11), a moment of eschatological judgment through which believers will be secure, but unbelievers will be finally, eternally condemned.
“A god who is all love, all grace, all mercy, no sovereignty, no justice, no holiness, and no wrath is an idol.“ R.C. Sproul
But to accept God’s judgment as solely historical biblical novelties is to fail to understand God as Judge in the present. God’s judgment is not merely historic and neither is it suspended until a future, final event. His judgment is active, present, and acute. The scripturally illiterate may declaim God’s wrath as inconsistent with His love and, like so many man-focused pulpits, favor instead those doctrines more soothing to the self-absorbed modern mindset. But to disregard a major attribute of God is to willfully ignore the “whole counsel” of Scripture (Acts 20:27), to fail to understand the times (1 Chron. 12:32), and to create nothing less than a God who is a mere idol.
God is actively judging today. He is giving people up to their sin. Paul’s outline of God’s judgment in Romans 1:18-32 reveals for us the manner in which He regularly, and righteously, executes continual judgment on man for his sin. In successive steps, Paul shows God’s judgment on sinful man who “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
The apostle’s outline in Romans 1 is the divine playbook of judgment being implemented in our culture today. Man denies God by idolatry of all forms (Rom. 1:23), and is then given over to “the lusts of their hearts in impurity” (Rom. 1:24-25). This is vividly demonstrated in the culturally popular LGBTQ movement, itself a product of the “given up” culture of licentiousness of past decades. The presence of “women exchanging the natural function” with women and men who burn “in their desire for one another” is almost ubiquitous in our world. Subsequent to this homosexual judgment, Paul records the final step of God’s judgment. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28). As the MacArthur Study Bible notes, “God has tested man’s minds and found them worthless and useless (cf Jer. 6:30).”
That idolatry is rampant in the world requires no argument. That homosexuality has become a lauded feature of culture is readily evident. That depraved minds are increasingly becoming culturally normalized can be seen in the reality-denying rise of transgenderism. Such “giving over” judgment of God is widespread and unmistakable, and it is the most severe verdict God can issue. Because the “wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) when God “gives them over” to their sin, He is issuing an irrevocable, eternal death sentence.
“Men trust their own hearts as their best friends, and so they are deceived. It is the greatest judgment that God can lay upon any creature, to give him up to himself: Ps. 81:12, ‘So I gave them up to their own heart’s lusts, and they walked in their own counsels’.” Thomas Manton
Judgment In The Household Of God
That we can gaze upon culture around us and see God’s active, eternal judgment on the sin of man is a fearful thing that ought cause us to tremble. The church would do well to take a warning from the work of the Lord in judgment on the world and examine itself to see that, within the church too, the Lord is actively issuing judgment. Indeed, Peter notes that “judgment begins with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). His judgment on the church is precipitated by the very thing which brought His first judgment in Eden: When His Word is disregarded, His judgment is forthcoming.
In the last half century or so, and as evident from the currently debated issues within evangelicalism, God’s judgment within the church is unarguable. Modern church history is littered with churches and entire denominations who have been “given over.” The inroads of worldliness, gained largely through seeker-sensitive church growth methodologies and the concerted efforts of churches to be seen as culturally and politically relevant, have resulted from – and in – their abandonment of the authority of God’s Holy Word.
In many of these churches, the path to their “given over” status is as simple to trace as following Paul’s outline of God’s judgment. The tolerance of women in the pulpit has led to splits in some churches. Those on the unbiblical side of the issue have moved even further from Scripture’s clear commands. Many now not only embrace homosexuality within their membership, but also within their clergy. Gay Christianity – as if the holy faith once delivered dare be defined by one’s sin – is applauded. Transgenderism is increasingly an ecclesiastically approved gender alternative. Such things are not only embraced, but endorsed, in churches who have been “given up.”
That there are churches now debating allegiance to God’s Word with regards to something as simple as the Lord’s clear gender dictates for leadership in His Church is to watch God’s judgment in action in the professing church. Make no mistake: those churches that take the ancient Edenic path of disregarding God’s Word will face judgment; they will be “given over” to the sin of disobedience to His Word, and that sin will only accelerate their unrestraint. It is an eternally dire matter when Paul’s words are applied to the world, but when they can be seen amply applicable within the professing church, nothing short of the wrath of God can be expected. “And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).
Solomon wrote that “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Prov. 16:20). The judgment of God has fallen on the church, as also in the world, just as it did in Eden, just as it did throughout the biblical historical record, because attention is not given to “the word.” Judgment rather than blessings are the result.
We can look across the carnal canvas of culture or the self-loving landscape of pop evangelicalism and readily see that God’s judgment on men for their disobedience to His Word didn’t end when the Apostle John penned the last word in the last book of Scripture. It is not suspended until the “great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). The wrath of the Lord abides.
God is not dead, as His active judgment confirms. But His judgments are not an unclean thing. May the church that, in practice, exterminates God as Judge forsake its flesh-driven preferences and submit to the perfection of God’s fullness revealed in His Word. When God as Judge is abandoned in our doctrine, eliminated from our pulpits, and disregarded in our practice, we no longer have the God of Holy Scripture, but an idol of our own creation.
Without God as Judge, we no longer have God as Sovereign. We have blasphemously impugned His holy and righteous character and have undone by our preferences what He has so vividly revealed. His loving, eternal plan for the redemption of man is eviscerated of holy motive when God is not Judge. When God’s judgment is erased, so too is the efficacy of the infinite sacrifice of Christ on the cross erased. If God is not a God of persistent, severe, and perfect judgment on sin, the cross becomes a mere spectacle of ancient human injustice, rather than the holy and righteous mechanism displaying God’s amazing grace to sinners.
“Not all the vials of judgment that have or shall be poured out upon the wicked world, nor the flaming furnace of a sinner’s conscience, nor the irreversible sentence pronounced against the rebellious demons, nor the groans of the damned creatures – give such a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin – as the wrath of God let loose upon His Son! Never did divine holiness appear more beautiful and lovely than at the time our Savior’s countenance was marred in the midst of His dying groans – when God had turned His smiling face from Him, and thrust His sharp knife into His heart, which forced that terrible cry from Him, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me’!” Stephen Charnock
As we worship, let us worship the God Who is love and Who is Judge. Let us praise Him that the righteous severity with which He judges sinners has been satisfied in our stead by the perfect, sinless Son of God. Let us grow in understanding that His eternal hatred against sin magnifies the glorious righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us by His gift of faith. Let us thank God that He is a God of utter holiness, utter perfection, utter righteousness, and utter judgment, for in and through these things, He reveals Himself to be an uncompromising God of utter love who will never compromise the “so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3) He has granted to us.
“As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him” Psalm 18:30
“And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind’.” John 9:39