Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on God’s wrath abiding on the yet-unbelieving elect


This is something I myself have often wondered about. A couple of years ago, in coming to grips with my conversion and consequently becoming more and more acquainted with Reformed Theology and especially the covenant of grace and sovereign election, I often wondered whether God’s wrath abides on the yet-unbelieving elect (those who are elect but who have not yet heard the Gospel, or those who are elect and have heard the Gospel but have not yet believed it), or whether they abide under his love based on his covenantal promises to them, their sins having been being atoned for, and their pending faith and repentance which the Holy Spirit will still work in them. While throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament prophets, we can see God’s love toward the yet-unbelieving elect, there is nonetheless a sense in which they abide under the wrath of God in their unbelieving state. Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) explains:

“God doth hate his elect in some sense before their actual reconciliation. God was placable before Christ, appeased by Christ. But till there be such conditions which God hath appointed in the creature, he [the creature] hath no interest in this reconciliation of God; and whatsoever person he be in whom the condition is not found, he remains under the wrath of God, and therefore is in some sense under God’s hatred.”

– Stephen Charnock (1628–1680), A Discourse of God’s Being the Author of Reconciliation, in The Works of Stephen Charnock, 3:345

Therefore we see that, while in a genuine sense God loves his elect even in their pre-converted and unbelieving state – based on the atonement of Christ and the covenant of grace – there nonetheless is a sense in which God’s wrath abides on the yet-unbelieving elect until the God-ordained condition of reconciliation (viz. justification by faith alone – Rom. 3:28) is met. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” (Col. 1:21)


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