The Wrath of God Abideth on Him "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John iii. verse 36)
Two considerations arise out of our text: in what sense we are to understand the teaching that " the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand ", and in what sense the wrath of God abideth on him who believeth not the Son.
The foundation of all sound religious thought is the belief in one God. " Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord ". There can be no two Gods, for God is the Eternal, the Infinite, the one Creator and Sustainer of all creation. Before the Lord came on earth, God was but obscurely known. He declared Himself to Israel through prophet, priest and king - but Israel knew Him imperfectly - as a local tribal God, as a Being of wrath and terror, as an avenging power, as One who would turn from them and abandon them because of their disobedience. It was with Israel as it is with every man - God was understood according to the character of Israelitish thought and life. They saw Him through the dense clouds of their own materialism and ignorance. His real nature was but dimly discerned. And be it noted that when we say Israel only obscurely realised the nature of God, we do not mean that the people vaguely understood the character of some human being living in heaven. Jehovah God indeed manifests Himself in heaven in human form that the angels may see Him, but He is infinitely more than this - He is the Infinite and Eternal, the Reality behind every created thing in the spiritual and natural universe. This is He whom Israel but dimly discerned. They did not know the nature, the quality and the character of that Power behind creation - that Being from whom everything is - that Will that controls the universe. Being little themselves, they thought God was a local spirit. Being cruel themselves, they thought Him wrathful and resentful. And so, in the fulness of time, He declared Himself more perfectly that we might know Him. He came on earth. He did not leave heaven, for He is everywhere. But through His power the mother Mary gave birth to a human being whose inmost life and soul was this eternal God. The Lord Jesus Christ was not another God - indeed if "Godhead" or "Godhood" be rightly understood, the idea would be seen to be impossible. But God expressed His Divine nature, declared His quality, through a Human nature, through a nature like ours, in order that we might more perfectly understand who and what God is. All this was a work Divine - the greatest, most miraculous of God's works, Into all that it implies, man will have the joy of penetrating with his intelligence throughout all ages. But in the Word, this mighty and profound theme is expressed in simplest terms. In the Word of the New Testament, the name " Father " is given to the Divinity; the name " Son" to the Humanity. To the Son, the Father gave all things. Had He not done so, there would have been no full appearance or " coming " of God. The "Sonship"the Humanity of Jesus Christ fully reveals the Father. Everything that the Father has, is the Son's. All the power of God, all the wisdom and love of God, every phase of the infinitely complex character and quality of God, are declared to us through the Divine Humanity. The Son lacks nothing that is the Father's. What if we looked upon the Lord Jesus Christ and saw the wisdom but not the love of God? - the justice but not the mercy? - the might but not the meekness ? But God has declared Himself in fulness. And that is why the Son is loved. Love led the Lord to raise up this Humanity - love led the Lord to glorify this Humanity - for by means of it the race of mankind was to be redeemed. The whole power of God directed towards the eternal welfare of mankind is vested in the Divine Human. God is not the unknown, mystic, Infinite Power as formerly; He is known, approached, understood and loved as God-man, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
And it is just this knowledge of Him, this understanding of His nature and will, and this love of Him, now made more possible, which is the means of human betterment and regeneration. The provision of a humanity and the glorifying of it, the making of it Divine, has facilitated or rendered effective the urgent desires of the Infinite Love, has made men see God as a Being of love, willing the eternal blessedness of the race and working with man in all his waywardness for ultimate repentance and reform.
To believe on Him is life; to disbelieve is death. The wrath of God abideth on the unbeliever. Again it should be clear that the real, vital truth here is somewhat hidden. For creation is from God's Love, wherefore then condemn those who, like Mohammedans, Hindus and Parsees, do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Son? Nothing is more harmful to a wise perception of truth than the glib, tenacious quotation of words. The truth does not lie always on the exposed surface of the Scriptures. But when it is realised that the Son is not a separate person whose recognition by us brings life eternal, but that He is the God of heaven and earth as made known to us in a glorified Humanity, then belief in Him is seen to mean belief in every Divine quality, virtue and feature. For it is precisely these that the "Son" or "Humanity" of the Lord discloses to us. All things of the incomprehensible Divine are given to Him. Everything of the Divine nature is made manifest to us in the Humanity and what is the rejection of all these but the rejection of life itself? The term "belief" means more, of course, than mere recognition, the mere acknowledgment that Jesus lived. Belief, to be sincere and genuine, must involve both love and obedience. The teaching of Jesus is not "believed" until it is obeyed; and no sincere belief could be held in Him by one who hated Him. Belief is at once love and obedience and understanding. And He is loved and obeyed when Divine qualities and virtues are loved and lived. For the Son, as we have urged, is no distinct person separate from God, He is the Humanity revealing all Divine things to us. To reject this Humanity is to reject all that is of God, it is to reject love and truth, and mercy and justice, and charity and humility. All these are born in God, they constitute His nature. The "Son" discloses them - even as our human life reveals all that is in our heart. And wheresoever, throughout the world, love is treasured and truth is hallowed, wheresoever mercy and justice are observed and charity and humility are exercised, there is belief in the Son, for those things are the very expression of the Lord Himself. Where they are not, the wrath of God abides. Not that God is ever wrathful. But where love is spurned, man suffers - where truth is falsified, man suffers where mercy and justice are spurned, man suffers. And the suffering, as ever, is attributed by the evil to the wrath of God. It is the old story of the criminal attributing his punishment to the judge and not to himself. The expressions used in the Word are expressions of appearance, and man's condemnation ever appears to him as the wrath of God.
Life for each man comes through belief in the Son of God, for the Son makes manifest all that is God-like, true and good. The Son was sent for this express purpose - that men might know the Father. God is made known to us, not through another, but through His own glorified Humanity, making clear to us what love is, that we may love - what wisdom is, that we may understand - and by believing, find eternal life.