Ask the Pastor: Is God a God of Wrath?
Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – firstname.lastname@example.org or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)
The question submitted this week from a congregation member is:
Is God a God of wrath?
Yes, God is a God of wrath. This is why A.W. Pink said:
Now the wrath of God is as much a Divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if “wrath” were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.
How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom. 9:12) toward it? How could He who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, loathe and hate not that which is impure and vile? The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.
For this week’s quick recommended resources, including Pink’s full article, see the following:
- http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-truths-about-the-wrath-of-god –
Some modern scholars teach that there is no such thing as the wrath of God, but that God is only love. Emphasizing the penal substitution of Christ is thought to be a terrible idea. These scholars—and most folks in general—don’t like seemingly including things in God’s character that we don’t want to attribute to Him – anger and retribution. People no longer understand the idea of sacrifice to a god or deity. To some, it makes the good news not very good. Some have said that the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, seems to sanction a kind of “divine child abuse.”
And, let’s be honest: Sin is not a popular idea today. We feel it’s too discouraging to talk about too much. Carl Henry once wrote of modern misconceptions that modern man has conceived—one of these is the belief in the inherent goodness of man.
Again, let’s be honest: people do assume this. Even Christian ministries don’t like to talk about sin too frequently or at all (see Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, etc.)
Some go so far as to say that it can be harmful to talk about sin. Why do we feel this way? We humans like to imagine ourselves as independent and accountable to no one.
The Puritan Thomas Boston noted 8 things about the wrath of God. It is worth sharing:
1. The wrath of God is IRRESISTIBLE, there is no standing before it; “Who can stand in Your sight, when once You are angry?” Psalm 76:7. Can the worm or the moth defend itself against him who designs to crush it? Can the worm, man, stand before an angry God? Foolish men, indeed, bid a defiance against God; but the Lord often, even in this world, opens such sluices of wrath upon them, as all their might cannot stop—they are carried away thereby, as with a flood! How much more will it be so in hell!
2. The wrath of God is INSUPPORTABLE. What a man cannot resist, he will try to endure. But who shall dwell in devouring fire? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? God’s wrath is a weight which will sink men into the lowest hell. It is a burden which no man can endure.
3. The wrath of God is UNAVOIDABLE to those who continue impenitently, and die in their sinful course. “He who, being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed—and that without remedy!” Proverbs 29:1. We may now flee from it, indeed, by fleeing to Jesus Christ. But those who flee from Christ, will never be able to avoid it. Where can men flee from the avenging God? Where will they find a shelter? The hills will not bear them. The mountains will be deaf to their loudest supplications, when they cry to them to “hide them from the wrath of the Lamb.”
4. The wrath of God is POWERFUL and FIERCE. “Who can comprehend the power of Your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear You deserve.” Psalm 90:11. We are apt to fear the wrath of man more than we ought; but no man can apprehend the wrath of God to be more dreadful than it really is. The power of God’s wrath can never be known to the utmost; for it is infinite, and, properly speaking, has no utmost limit. However fierce it is, either on earth or in hell, God can still carry it farther. Everything in God is most perfect in its kind; and therefore no wrath is so fierce as His. O sinner! how will you be able to endure that wrath, which will tear you in pieces, Psalm 50:22, and grind you to powder! Luke 20:18.
5. The wrath of God is PENETRATING and PIERCING wrath. It is burning wrath, and fiery indignation. There is no pain more intense than that which is caused by fire; and no fire so piercing as the fire of God’s indignation, which burns unto the lowest hell, Deut. 32:22. The arrows of men’s wrath can pierce flesh, blood, and bones—but cannot reach the soul. But the wrath of God will sink into the soul, and so pierce a man in the most tender part.
6. The wrath of God is CONSTANT wrath, running parallel with the man’s continuance in an unregenerate state; constantly attending him from the womb to the grave. There are few days so dark—but the sun sometimes looks out from under the clouds. But the wrath of God is an abiding cloud on the objects of it; John 3:36, “The wrath of God abides on him” who believes not.
7. The wrath of God is ETERNAL. O, miserable soul! if you flee not from this wrath unto Jesus Christ; though your misery had a beginning—yet it will never have an end! Should devouring death wholly swallow you up, and forever hold you fast in the grave—it would be kind. But your body must be reunited to your immortal soul, and live again, and never die; that you may be ever-dying, in the hands of the ever-living God. Death will quench the flame of man’s wrath against us, if nothing else does. But God’s wrath, when it has come on the sinner for millions of ages, will still be the wrath to come! Matt. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1:10. While God is, He will pursue the quarrel.
8. However dreadful it is, and though it is eternal—yet it is most JUST wrath! It is a clear fire, without the least smoke of injustice. The sea of wrath, raging with greatest fury against the sinner, is clear as crystal. The Judge of all the earth can do no wrong. “Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world?” Romans 3:5, 6. The Judge being infinitely just—the sentence must be righteous. Therefore, stop your mouth, O proud sinner! Still your clamor against your righteous Judge!
IN-DEPTH STUDY OF GOD’S WRATH AND OUR SITUATION – ROMANS 3:23 AND FOLLOWING
Romans 3:19 – 20: No one will be declared righteous by observing the law. There is an absolute necessity for something else. That something else is the Gospel he announced in chapter 1. This is the heart of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
As we study, we’ll be looking to answer three questions:
1. What is our situation?
2. How can we be saved?
3. Why did God save us?
1. WHAT IS OUR SITUATION?
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
In a word: bad. Everyone is in trouble – separated from God. We are spiritually condemned. We are characterized by faithlessness, unrighteousness, sin, rejection of God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans makes it clear, we are depraved. We have rejected God. See Romans 3:10-19!
We have all sinned in Adam – but we also continue to fall short, we continue to sin. There is something in us that resents God, resents being told what to do. There is something in us that doesn’t want to be told ‘no.’
In Romans 3:23, the language here asserts that we have missed the mark. But it’s more than not reaching our full-human potential. Sin is about our relationship with God. Sin is about what we have done against God, not just His laws, but against Him. God is good, so we now, therefore, face His opposition, His just wrath against us. The human situation is dark – as evidenced in the newspapers every day.
If you’re not a Christian – it may be surprise you that we don’t believe that people are generally good. The Bible tells us we are sinners – Christian and non-Christians alike. We are bo
Is there any hope, given Christianity’s dim view of the world?
In Romans 1:29-32, Paul clearly described the state of our hearts – we are depraved. In Romans 3:21, we have the counterpoint – we are depraved, “but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law!”
The law deceives; it shows what we can’t do. It drives us out of ourselves and shows us that we need another way. Before we go on to investigate the way of salvation in this passage, we need to know there is no salvation apart from despairing of our own righteousness. Christ is not one among many options. We cannot be saved; we cannot be helped, until we are helpless. We will not live until we know our spiritual deadness. Conviction always precedes conversion.
Kids grow out of things – but you cannot grow out of your sins. You will not escape them by growing up. There must be another way to escape sin.
2. HOW CAN WE BE SAVED?
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
A. Only by God.
B. Only by Christ.
C. Only through faith.
A. Only by God – God alone can save us, through His own righteousness. Romans 3:21 – “a righteousness from God.” God has provided His righteousness for us. (Romans 1:17 – In the Gospel, a righteousness of God is revealed.)
We deserve the wrath of God – but now righteousness from God has been made known – by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This righteousness is apart from the law. The law couldn’t bring us righteousness – but witnesses to the One who could.
From Romans 3:24, we see that we’re justified by grace – as a gift. If we are to be saved, it must be by God’s grace.
If you are not a Christian, I encourage you to learn more about this hope-filled news of Jesus Christ. There is no salvation through anyone or anything thing except through the gift of God’s righteousness given through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).
If you are a Christian – if you have been saved by God’s grace – you should be known as being gracious, generous. Do people in your office view you this way? Do people around your home see you that way? Parents, how are you modeling this to your children? Are they learning that there is a way to earn their salvation, or are thy learning about the gift of God’s righteousness? We need to reflect the Gospel in our relationships with others.
The gracious nature of the Gospel should give us confidence. If our salvation was based on our actions – what we have done – that would not be reason for confidence. If, however, it is based on what God has done – now there is a basis for confidence!
Our understanding of the Gospel should affect the way we deal with folks – understanding what we have been forgiven should lead us to be forgiving. Christians ought to be humble, knowing that we have nothing that we did not receive. Christians know we don’t deserve what we have been given. We are not the religious elite, the moral minority. We are those astounded that for my sake my Lord would take frail fresh and die.
B. Only by Christ. v. 24 – redemption in Christ Jesus. Redemption is the language of the marketplace – we are bought with a price.
Paul does not mean that we become righteous in ourselves, but we are declared righteous. It is a judicial pardon of our sins – we are clothed in His righteousness. We are justified. More than a pardon for our sins, it is a declaration restoring our relationship to a holy God. Not merely that God has let us off the hook – but that there is now no longer any grounds for God to punish us. The punishment has been taken by Christ. We are not trembling on the edge of Hell – but trembling on the edge of Heaven! There is no charge to be made against us. The punishment has happened – happened to Christ.
In 3:23, we know that all have sinned. But in 3:24 – are all justified? No, Paul’s point is that all who are made righteousness – are made righteous in this way. All who are justified are all sinners. All who are justified are justified only through Jesus.
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
God presented Jesus as a propitiation, a sacrifice, by His blood. Death is a result of sin. But Christ had no sin, so why did he die? His death was also a result of sin – the sins of others.
Propitiation is the means by which the wrath of God is removed. It is more than just a covering of our sins – the sacrifice fully satisfies the wrath of God. God has shown us the way of propitiation – He has provided the way.
In Pagan tradition, people try to placate the gods by making sacrifice. In Christianity, God provided the sacrifice. The death of the Son allows the Father to forgive with justice and mercy, thus perfectly fulfilling His own holiness and love. Jesus Christ was killed that we might live.
C. Only through faith.
The benefits of Christ’s life and death come to us only through faith.
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
Faith is more than knowledge, more than agreement that is so, it is trusting. Faith in itself does not save us; it does not cause us to have salvation. Christ does the saving. The righteousness of God comes to us through faith.
In 3:25, it is “faith in his blood.” God saves whoever has faith in Jesus.
In 3:22, the righteousness of God is for all who believe. This is exclusive and comprehensive. Exclusive – only to those who believe. Comprehensive – available to all. Believe and you shall be saved, justified, redeemed.
This is a call to you, non-Christian friend. Jesus Christ lived the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died. You are called to turn from your sins. You are not getting a good return from them now; you will not get a good return in the future. Turn, and believe. Trust in Him.
Christians: Do you want your co-workers to come to Christ? How will they come if no one shares this message with them? Think of 2 or 3 people you see in the average month who are not Christians. Would you like to see them saved? How will they be if they don’t hear the message? Could they hear it from you? Will they?
WHY DID GOD SAVE US?
God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
These verses show us that to demonstrate God’s justice – to be just, and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.
After the calf episode described in Exodus , God proclaimed he does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6-8). If that is so, how could God forgive rebellion and sin? At the cross, God displays His justice and His mercy. He reveals Himself as just and the justifier.
God continues to reveal Himself to the world, and He does so through His people. We are to shine in this crooked generation – we are to look different. Through the church the manifold wisdom of God is revealed. Through the church – through regular folks just like us, He reveals Himself. He desires the truth to be made manifest – that He is just, and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus Christ.