Jesus’ sinless life and death on the cross are where judgment and mercy meet.
The Apostle Paul writes about those who are practicing evil deeds which is only serving to store up more wrath against the Day of Judgment (Rom 2:5), so there will be a day when God “will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:6-8). For those who have been brought to repentance and faith in Christ, they can rejoice because it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10). This means that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 15:9). Notice that God has not appointed us who trust in Christ to His wrath; a wrath that will come upon all who reject the truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior and they are sinners in need of saving. It is only those who are self-seeking and not seeking after Jesus Christ and His righteousness (Matt 6:33) that will receive what they have sown in this life. The judgment of God will only be stopped by the work of Christ on the cross, but you must humble yourself and confess your sins before God and put your trust in Christ. That is the point when the wrath of God will “pass over” you, but as the Scriptures teach, “for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:6-8).
The thief on the cross trusted in Jesus very late in his life. He never had a chance to go to attend synagogue, do any good deeds, or have anything to offer to God. Even so, Jesus promised him that that he would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43), but in all honesty, all of us are the thief on the cross. We might have trusted in Christ years ago, but we were all just as in need of God’s mercy as the thief was. The Apostle Paul levels the playing field in that we’re all cut off from God and fallen infinitely short of His glory (Rom 3:23). The foot of the cross is level ground where every single person stands at the same level. God makes no distinction between us (Acts 15:7-9) because of Christ, but also makes no distinction between those who naturally sin less and those who naturally (or desire to) sin more. We’ve all earned the wages of death, but thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ, that He also offers eternal life (Rom 6:23), so it takes only one sin to condemn us, but only One to set us free (John 8:36).
Dying for Enemies
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:6-8 that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person— (like the Thief on the Cross) though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die (like Abraham or Moses)— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What greater mercy is there than to have a Holy God (Jesus) die for wicked sinners? Jesus told the disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Even as those who crucified Him watched, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:43). I remember where Jesus taught us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). He also testified, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). It is abundantly clear from Scripture that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That’s where God’s judgment on sin landed; Jesus Christ, but that’s also where God’s mercy was revealed, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man” (Mark 10:45). No one took it from Him…He willingly laid it down (John 10:18).
Jude writes about witnessing in two different ways. We should “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22), and many do doubt. Some doubt that God could possibly save them. They think they’ve done too much, and can’t come as they are. They often wait until they can clean their lives up, but that will never happen until they come to Christ. It’s not trying to get holy and then come to Jesus, but it’s coming to Jesus and being accounted as holy before God (2 Cor 5:21). Then Jude tells us to “save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:23). Listen to the caring compassion that Jesus has. It says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). Do we have such a heart for the lost? Are we willing to leave the 99 and seek the one that is lost? If not us, then who? Paul may have put it best by telling us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2). This life gives us opportunity to show the world who Jesus’ disciples are (John 13:34-35). We don’t retaliate or “get even,” but rather, as Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). These verses were worth repeating!
Humans may have many definitions of love, but the Bible tells us what love really is, and it is a verb…it is what you do, and for us who believe, it is what Jesus did. Love is not a greeting card, a love letter, or a big kiss. Those are byproducts of love, but they are not love in themselves. Love is displayed in action. Jesus lived a sinless life, gave His life as a sacrifice for us to receive eternal life, then offered the free gift of eternal life (Eph 2:8-9). And even though we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1-7), being ungodly, wicked enemies of God, Jesus died for us (Rom 5:6-10)! Believers have grasped where the judgment of God stopped and the mercy of God started, and it was at the cross. There is no greater love possible than for Jesus Himself to die for unworthy sinners. Here’s why grace is such an amazing thing. He did not give us what we deserved (His wrath); He gave us what we needed (His mercy).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas. Jack is also a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.