There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
This is a familiar passage of scripture. All too often we use it to create a certain mood and get ourselves into the “Christmas spirit.” The problem is we don’t really think about what this is saying.
Instead of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,”many translations actually render Luke 2:14 to say, “peace among men,” or “peace toward men of goodwill,”or something similar. Since this tends to be the dominant interpretation, most people think that the angels were proclaiming that Jesus’ arrival would stop division, end strife, and usher in a new era of peace on earth. They believe that this announcement means that the Lord was coming to bring peace among men. Yet, that’s not what this verse is saying.
Jesus Himself declared:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
The Lord also prophesied that one of the signs of the end times would be increased war, division, and strife.
Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…all these are the beginning of sorrows.
You simply cannot defend the position that Jesus came to bring peace among people. Now it’s true that there are benefits available for those who will receive the Prince of Peace into their heart. (Isa. 9:6.) By God’s grace, you can turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and operate in a different degree of love. (Luke 6:27–29; 1 Cor. 13). I don’t doubt that there has been a tremendous amount of peace among men as a by-product of people receiving salvation—but that’s not the message the angels were singing. That’s not what Jesus Himself said He came here to do.
Jesus Ended the War
What were these angels proclaiming?
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
They were announcing, “Peace. Good will toward men from God!”
Prior to the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, God was at war against man’s sins. His wrath came upon people because of the sin in their life. Many Christians haven’t mentally separated this out and really looked at it. They just run everything in the Bible together. Yet a closer examination of God’s Word reveals that there was a wrath and a judgment from God against people in the Old Testament that is totally unjustified and wrong in the New Testament. Why? Jesus ended the war between God and man. He made all the difference!
Despite that, most people run all of this together. They still think of God as being angry at our sins. They mistakenly believe that there is still a war going on between God and man, and that every time they sin that somehow or another it’s a new affront against Him. You’ve probably heard people say, “God is ticked off!” and quote Old Testament scriptures about the wrath of God falling on people. “God is angry today,” they insist. “He’s dangling our country over hell by a thin thread that’s on fire, and He’s just about ready to turn us over to the devil.” Some Christians are proclaiming that God is the One who sent the hurricanes and tsunamis that have struck in recent years, and that He’s going to cause other disasters too. Several well-known religious leaders stood up and declared that God was the One who sent the terrorist attacks that happened in 2001, and that this was the beginning of His judgment on our nation. They’re still proclaiming that there is wrath from God towards men.
Yet, this isn’t the message of the New Testament. These angels who announced the birth of Jesus understood the Gospel. They understood that He came to pay the price, to redeem us, and to stop God’s wrath upon sin. The New Testament church should be proclaiming to people that their sins have been paid for. We ought to be telling people the Gospel.
The Gospel is good news. In fact, this Greek word translated gospel actually means “nearly-too-good-to-be-true news.”1 The Gospel is the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news that God isn’t angry with you, that He loves you, and that He wants to extend all of His blessings toward you.
As a whole, the church isn’t preaching this. We’re still telling people that God is angry with them, and then we wonder why they aren’t beating down the doors to get in the church. It’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance! (Rom. 2:4.)
God is just, but Jesus paid the price. (See 1 Cor. 6:20.) He totally changed the way God deals with mankind. That’s what these angels were singing about.
God Isn’t Upset
While summarizing the ministry of Jesus, Paul made the same point in the epistle he wrote to the Corinthians.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17,18
To reconcile is simply to make friendly or to bring back into harmony. Can you see that God is not upset with you?
Some of the things I’m about to share run so contrary to our Christian culture that you may be tempted to reject them and lay this book aside. Nevertheless, I’m just going to step out in faith and make some radical statements, trusting that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to you. I pray that you’ll read the rest of the book and give me a chance to explain. This could be the breakthrough in your relationship with God that you’ve been believing for.
God is not upset. In fact, not only is He not mad at you as a Christian—a point that many believers really struggle with—but He’s also not mad at unbelievers. God is not about to judge this nation.
I used to preach that if God didn’t judge America, He’d have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Our country is as corrupt—or pretty close to it—as were Sodom and Gomorrah. (See Gen. 13:13; 18:20.) I used to proclaim that until my mind became renewed to God’s Word. Now I know that if God were to judge America, He’d have to apologize to Jesus.
Jesus made a difference in the way God relates to mankind. This is what the angels were praising Him for in Luke 2:14. They were really saying, “Glory to God in the highest. The war is over!” The anger and wrath of God has been atoned and appeased. God’s wrath was placed upon His Son, and He isn’t angry with us anymore.
All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18
The Lord made us friendly. He brought us—not only believers, but all mankind—back into harmony with God. The debt has been paid. Now we must receive it. We must put our faith in the Lord before what He has provided has its full effect in our lives. But God’s wrath has been appeased. Man may not be reconciled to God, but God has been reconciled to man. His wrath is over—and He’s given us the ministry of reconciliation.
The reason that Christianity isn’t having a greater impact on our world than it is today is that we aren’t preaching this message.
The Power of God
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.
The meaning of the Greek word translated “salvation” here isn’t limited only to the forgiveness of sins. It’s also talking about healing, prosperity, and deliverance—everything Jesus came to do.2 Therefore, the power of God for you and me to receive salvation (forgiveness of sins, healing, prosperity, and deliverance) is released through the Gospel—the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news—of Jesus Christ.
As a whole, the church isn’t preaching this. We’re telling people, “You’re going to hell. You’re a sinner, and God is angry!” It’s true that before we were born again3 we were—by nature—sinners. Our sin separated us from God. Although this is the truth, it’s not “good news.” It’s not the Gospel.
The Gospel speaks of how God placed all of the punishment for our sins upon Jesus. In spite of our sins, our relative unworthiness, and need, Christ paid the price for us. Justice demanded our punishment, but Jesus took it for us. Now God’s wrath has been forever satisfied. He’s not angry with people. Jesus paid the price, and all we must do is receive that payment. That’s good news. That’s the Gospel!
Since much of the church isn’t preaching the Gospel—the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news of Jesus Christ—people aren’t coming to the Lord. The power of the Gospel isn’t in manifestation much today, and that’s why people are turning away from it.
Now, I’m not against the church. I love God’s people everywhere. However, very few of them recognize the Gospel—as recorded and expressed in the Word—when they hear it. That’s why I usually prefer to hold citywide meetings in a hotel or convention center, rather than in a building called a “church.” I’ve been run out of town, kicked off of radio stations, and removed from television stations for preaching that God isn’t mad anymore. Yet, this is the same message the angels proclaimed at Jesus’ birth.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
They were declaring, “God is not angry. There’s peace. He’s not upset with you!” In spite of that truth, somehow or another, people today just love to let others know just how “angry” God is, thinking that this will drive them away from hell. That’s simply not the way it works.
The Lord has given us the ministry of reconciliation:
God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:19
Notice the phrase “God was in Christ…not imputing.” This word impute means “to hold against.”4 It’s actually an accounting term. If you bought something and said, “Put that on my account,” they would write it down. Then, at the end of the month, you’d have to pay up. “Not imputing”would be like using a credit card to purchase something, yet it is never charged to your bill. That amount isn’t held against you. This verse says that “God was in Christ” not holding man’s sins against them.
This was the reason that Jesus was so radical. It’s why the religious leaders of His day came out against Him. They stayed in power and kept people under their thumb by holding the wrath of God over their heads. They said, “We’re the ones who have the truth. If you don’t come to our synagogue, give us your tithe, and all these other things, then God will get you!”
It’s like the mafia. Guido comes and knocks on your door. He says, “There’s sure a lot of arson in this area, and many stores have been broken into. Your business stands a good chance of getting robbed or burned to the ground. But if you pay me, the boys and I will keep that from happening.” Of course, Guido and the boys are the ones doing all this, but he wants you to pay them their “hush money.”
In a sense, this is what many churches are preaching. “God is angry with you, and He’s fixing to get you. But if you will come to church, pay your tithes, read the Bible an hour a day, do this, and do that, then you can appease the wrath of God. Then He won’t send your children to the hospital, wreck your marriage, or otherwise destroy your life.” I believe that to a large degree the church is like the mafia, saying, “If you’ll pay up, if you will keep up on our list of things to do, then God will stay off your case for one more week.” That’s how they’re trying to motivate people to serve the Lord—and wrongly so.
The Word reveals that God was in Christ not imputing man’s sins unto them. Jesus—both by His life and His message—declared, “God isn’t mad at you anymore. Your sins aren’t a problem!”
Many Christians would like to stone you for standing up and saying, “Your sin isn’t a problem with God.” They’ll ask, “How could you say such a thing? You’re making light of sin. You’re acting as though there is nothing wrong with sin.” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not encouraging anyone to sin. If you just stick with me, I’ll be putting all of this into perspective.
Sin Isn’t the Issue
Anyone who takes what I’m sharing and says, “This is awesome. I love it! Now I can go live in sin,” needs to be born again. The Word declares:
Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1 John 3:3
If you are truly born again and have the hope of being like Jesus, then you’re looking for a way to overcome sin—not indulge it. If you take what I’m saying and tell people, “Andrew is encouraging people to sin,” you’re either lying or you’ve misunderstood what I’m communicating.
When people accuse me of making light of sin, I respond, “You’re making light of Jesus!” I’m not saying that sin isn’t bad and that you can just go live in it. Sin is terrible, but it’s not as big as Jesus. The Lord paid for our sins. (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23.) The payment He made is infinitely greater than the sins of the entire world. One drop of Jesus’ blood was more holy, more righteous, more pure than all of the impurity and ungodliness of this entire world put together. When the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, His sacrifice forever satisfied the wrath of God. Sin isn’t the issue.