In my previous post I asked simply “What or who are we saved from?”, repeating a question asked by Brian McLaren. I am grateful for five comments so far, not counting my own one. Now I will move on to giving some kind of answer.
TC, MzEllen and Alastair are of course right that the question as originally posed presents a false distinction, with an implication that the answer is either/or when, at least according to these three, the correct answer is both/and. But is it really a matter of both/and? I would suggest not, at least not in the way this is sometimes understood.
So, are we saved from God? Does God hate us and want to destroy us, until Jesus somehow persuades him not to? This is how the matter is sometimes presented by popular preachers, and by the church noticeboard in my town which (I am told) proclaims “God hates you”. I am with Ferg on this:
I always found it a strange concept to think that God would send Jesus to save us from Himself.
To me, this idea is not only immoral and repugnant, it also goes against the Bible which, while occasionally (but only in the Old Testament and one quote in the New) stating that God hates sinners, consistently proclaims God’s love for the world and for humankind, and that that is why he sent Jesus.
Of course the Bible does speak of the wrath of God being poured out – but on what? Read Romans 1:18 carefully: this wrath is revealed not against sinners but against human ungodliness and wickedness. True, those who fail to heed God’s warning to separate themselves from ungodliness and wickedness find themselves experiencing God’s wrath, but they are not its intended target:
God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thesssalonians 5:9 (TNIV)
From this perspective, the gospel is like a flood warning. God is sending his wrath as a destructive flood (now metaphorically, but the literal flood in Noah’s time prefigures this) to cleanse the world of all kinds of wickedness. Anything that the flood touches will be destroyed. But first he sends a warning to every human being (Romans 1:19,20), to flee from the coming wrath (Matthew 3:7), separate themselves from evil and find safety in Jesus Christ.
So, yes, we need to be saved both from evil and from the wrath of God. But this is not because God is or ever was against us: rather he is always for us and wants the best for us, which is our eternal salvation. His wrath is a danger only to those who ignore his warnings about what will certainly happen to those who stay in the place of evil which will be destroyed.