TO CHEW ON: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36
We 21st century Christians struggle with the concept of God's wrath. Why? Perhaps because we interpret it in human terms, as a loss of self control, or a sign that God feels powerless, has wounded pride, or is just bad-tempered and miserable. The tendency is to equate God's wrath with the wrath of, say, a parent that furied down on us out of the blue, seemed unusually harsh for our 'crime,' but was unpredictable too in that sometimes we got away with wrongdoing — it sort of depended on the parent's mood.
J. I. Packer has devoted an entire chapter of Knowing God to God's wrath. Hear his explanation of what God's wrath means and how it fits with His more popular attributes like love, mercy, and justice:
"God's wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for. Even among men, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps rarely found. But all God's indignation is righteous. Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect? Surely not. But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God's wrath" - p. 167.
He goes on to explain how God's wrath doesn't make Him a monster because:
1. It is always judicious — the wrath of a judge administering justice (Romans 2:4-11).
2. It is something we choose for ourselves. Two verses from John 3 bear that out: Jesus' testimony about Himself (3:18) and John's testimony about Jesus (3:36).
"The basic choice was and is simple — either to respond to the summons 'come unto me...take my yoke upon you and learn of me' (Matthew 11:28 ff), or not; either to 'save' one's life by keeping it from Jesus's censure, and resisting His demand to take it over, or to 'lose' it by denying oneself, shouldering one's cross, becoming a disciple and letting Jesus have His own disruptive way with with one" - J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 169.What is my response to the fact of God's wrath? What is yours?
- Do we begin to comprehend God's total and complete aversion to sin?
- Does His hatred and wrath against it put in us a healthy fear of Him and aversion to that same sin into us?
- Do we begin to appreciate what Jesus did for us when He died, taking the blow of God's wrath in our place?
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being against sin and moral evil. Please work in me the same revulsion against sin that so readily wiggles its way into my life in so many manifestations. Than You Jesus, for taking the wrath of God for me. Amen.
MORE: Want to read more?
If you want to read more about God's wrath, check out the quotes and links in the "wrath" entry of Rebecca Writes blog series "Theological Term of the Week."
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.