Blog / The Righteous Wrath of God

The Lenten season is a period of preparation: to draw near to God, gaze at Jesus, and allow your heart to open further to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and comfort. Today, as we begin Holy Week, let’s take the opportunity to see more wholly the character of God. If we allow our default notions about the Lord to be corrected, we can enter into Easter weekend with a fuller appreciation of the acts therein. With this purpose in mind, we start this 3-part Holy Week series by looking at God’s righteous wrath.

Just reading the title elicits a variety of responses. When we think about wrath, we usually envision something like road rage or abuse—out of control and filled with hate. Many are repulsed at the thought of God having wrath, picturing a face red with fury and ready to wield a weapon. Some shake their heads and attempt to replace this image with the loving, passive God they like to imagine. The problem is BOTH images are wrong. They are skewed out of proportion from the true character of God. As Dane Ortlund wrote in Gentle and Lowly: “But there is nothing uncontrolled or disproportionate about God.”* 

The “But” is necessary. It interrupts our fixed image of God in order to correct us. God does not feel emotions as fallen humanity does, but that does not mean God does not experience emotion. So, although it is inappropriate to characterize God as an angry God, it IS true that God has anger—wrath—for anything that affronts His righteousness or attempts to lessen His glory. This includes all sin which separates us from relationship with Him.

This is the way we need to frame His wrath.

One of the implications about our infinite God is that He is ALL of His attributes ALL the time. We cannot talk about His love, grace, and mercy above His wrath; they are equal. Wayne Grudem, in Systematic Theology, puts it this way: “Every attribute of God that we find in Scripture is true of all of God’s being, and we therefore can say that every attribute of God also qualifies every other attribute.”**

The fact is, understanding God’s wrath is a pathway to experiencing new depths of His love, grace, and mercy! Just as all of God’s characteristics are perfect and completely untainted by sin, so His wrath is perfect in its righteousness. It is the right response to sin. God’s response to sin is in perfect alignment with His holiness, and in harmony with His love and grace.

Throughout Scripture we are shown how God consistently removes or repels sin from His presence by:

    Removing Adam and Eve from the Garden after the Fall. -Genesis 3

    Removing the Israelites from the evil in Egypt. -Exodus

    Devoting all Canaanite Kings and people to destruction. -Joshua 11

    Removing disobedient King Saul. -1 Samuel 15

    Sending His Chosen People into exile due to disobedience to the covenant.  -2 Kings 17; 2 Chronicles 36

As true to God’s character as these passages are, they may still be hard to swallow. Womenary professor, Ross Strader, recently answered the question: “What do we do with things we don’t like about Scripture?” with 3 helpful steps.

1. Study

   Read more to find out about what is going on, and what has prompted the passage.

    In all of the examples above, the offending person or persons were not surprised. God has always made it perfectly clear that He is holy, that we are to     approach Him and worship Him only in ways He commands. He tells us this is for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

2. Meditate

    Stop and think about who God is.

    Pray for guidance to know God better through these hard words of Scripture.

3. Examine the passage to make peace with it

    When we examine all that God has done in Scripture we find that, as God has always removed ungodliness from before Him, He has just as persistently, even     relentlessly, pursued us.

    A rebellious people not worthy to stand before Him, we are His treasure, His beloved:

    “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:4, ESV).

    “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV).

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, ESV).

Don’t be afraid to look into this ominous attribute of God. As Grudem states, “this is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God.” And “Furthermore, we should feel no fear of God’s wrath as Christians…who have now trusted in Jesus.”

The wrath of God is written about more than 100 times in Scripture so that we might see it with open eyes and respond with penitent and softened hearts. God’s true desire is shown in the 1 Peter verse above—that in seeing all of Him rightly we might finally collapse humbly into the arms of Jesus, knowing only His sacrifice satisfies God’s wrath. To see life in God’s marvelous light is the only life worth living.

Humble submission to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord over my life IS what my fallen nature rails against. It is that fallen nature that wants to keep away from an “angry God”, instead of seeing God’s perfect love for us in providing His own way to satisfy His wrath—thesacrifice of God the Son. But when, by the Spirit’s prompting we do view God rightly, we are allowed behind the veil, to joy indescribable and overflowing merciful love! There is no measured response here. Once released into the saving arms of Jesus there is an eternal, ever-flowing grace upon grace that saves and sanctifies all of our days, and into heaven!

*Ortlund, Dane. Gentle and Lowly, Crossway, 2020, p.67.

** Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology, second edition. Zondervan Academic. 1994, 2020. pp. 212, 246.

Elizabeth Murphy

Elizabeth Murphy has been following Christ since she was 17. Although this road has not always been straight, she has seen God’s hand in every detour. Elizabeth is blessed with and by her husband of 30 years, John, and 2 grown daughters. As an educator, she has been able to feed her insatiable desire to learn every day and share learning with others. Elizabeth became a student of Womenary in 2016. From the Bible to theology to cozy mysteries, Elizabeth is always absorbed in reading. This still leaves time for enjoying travel with her husband, walking, old movies, and time with extended family and friends. Elizabeth loves to walk alongside fellow Christ-chasers—learning and laughing through life.
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