Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Wrath of God

* Notes from a Bible study I did recently.  Part of a series on the attributes of God.

The Wrath of God

1.     Definition: “God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin.”[1]

2.     God’s wrath is his just reaction to human sinfulness.

a.     Judicial concept—it is the wrath of the Judge administering justice.

b.     No cruelty involved—only justice.

c.      God’s wrath is not like our sinful, human wrath

“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.”[2]

3.     Scriptural texts:

a.     Exodus 32.9-10 (cf. Deuteronomy 9.7-8; 29.23; 2 Kings 22.13)

                                               i.     Idolatry particularly brings forth the wrath of God

                                              ii.     God’s jealousy is closely aligned with the wrath of God against idolatry[3]

b.     Nahum 1.1-8

·      Notice the quotation of Exodus 34.6-7 in v. 3!

c.      John 3.36

d.     Ephesians 5.6; Colossians 3.5

e.     2 Thessalonians 1.6-10

f.      Hebrews 3.11

                                               i.     Quoting Psalm 95 which references the wilderness generation

                                              ii.     Writer of Hebrews repeatedly uses this concept throughout chapters 3 and 4—showing relevance for the Christian community

g.     Revelation 6.16-17—“the wrath of the Lamb” (cf. Revelation 19.15)

4.     Romans: Paul’s presentation of the gospel presupposes God’s wrath

a.     “actually contains more explicit references to God’s wrath than all the rest of  Paul’s letters put together.”[4]

b.     God’s wrath is his reaction to our sin: Romans 4.15 (cf. 5.20; 7.7-13)

c.      God is not unjust to inflict wrath: 3.5

d.     God is willing to demonstrate his wrath on vessels of wrath: 9.22

e.     Timing:

                                               i.     Future: 2.5; 5.9 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1.10)

                                              ii.     Present:

·      1.18—destructive consequences of sin

·      13.4—civil magistrate inflicting punishment on evil-doers

5.     An attribute for which we should thank and praise God for having and displaying:

“As with other attributes of God, this is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God.  It may not immediately appear to us how this can be done, since wrath seems to be such a negative concept.  Viewed alone, it would arouse only fear and dread.  Yet it helpful for us to ask what God would be like if he were a God that did not hate sin.  He would then be a God who either delighted in sin or at least was not troubled by it.  Such a God would not be worthy of our worship, for sin is hateful and it is worthy of being hated.  Sin ought not to be.  It is in fact a virtue to hate evil and sin (cf. Heb. 1:9; Zech. 8:17; et al.), and we rightly imitate this attribute of God when we feel hatred against great evil, injustice, and sin.”[5]

6.     Francis Schaeffer on the judgment of God upon our culture:

a.     The hand of God is down into our culture in judgment, and men are hungry.  Unlike Zeus, whom men imagined hurling down great thunderbolts, God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history.

God can bring His judgment in one of two ways: either by direct intervention in history or by the turning of the wheels of history.  Often it is the peripheral blessings flowing from the gospel which when freed from the Christian base then become the things of judgment in the next generation.  Consider freedom, for example.  It is the result of the Reformation in the northern European world which have given us a balance of form and freedom in the area of the state and society, freedom for women, freedom for children, freedom in the area of the state under law.  And yet, when once we are away from the Christian base, it is this very freedom, now freedom without form, that brings a judgment upon us in the turning wheels of history.[6]  

b.     Finally, we must not forget that the world is on fire.  We are not only losing the church, but our entire culture as well.  We live in the post-Christian world which is under the judgment of God.  I believe today that we must speak as Jeremiah did.  Some people think that just because the United States of America is the United States of America, because Britain is Britain, they will not come under the judgment of God.  This is not so.  I believe that we of Northern Europe since the Reformation have had such light as few other have ever possessed.  We have stamped upon that light in our culture.  Our cinemas, our novels, our art museums, our schools scream out as they stamp upon that light.  And worst of all, modern theology screams out as it stamps upon that light.  Do you think God will not judge our countries simply because they are our countries?  Do you think that the holy God will not judge?[7]

7.     A. W. Pink mentions three reasons why Christians should often meditate on the wrath of God:[8]

a.     So that our hearts would know God’s hatred of sin. 

                                               i.     We excuse sin and treat it lightly. 

                                              ii.     We grow comfortable with idolatry

                                            iii.     My experience meditating on Ezekiel 16 and then seeing a blog denigrating the portrait of God in Ezekiel 16.[9]

b.     Promotes proper fear of the Lord. 

                                               i.     He is no play-thing.

                                              ii.     He is the holy One of Israel.

c.      Moves our heart to praise Jesus Christ for delivering us from the wrath of God.

     [1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1994), 206.
     [2] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 136.
     [3] See my essay “The Jealousy of God.”  Available online: http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-jealousy-of-god.html.
     [4] Packer, Knowing God, 139.
     [5] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 206.
     [6] Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City [1969] in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview—vol. 4 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1982), 216—bold-face added.  See also my blog post “Newtown, CT: God’s Judgment?” in which I discuss how Isaiah chapter 19 can help us understand what contemporary judgment might look like.  Available online: http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/2012/12/newtown-ct-gods-judgment.html.
     [7] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster [1984] in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview—vol. 4 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1982), 363.
     [8] Taken from Packer, Knowing God, 142.
     [9] See Steve Hays’ discussion of Randal Rauser for refutation of Rauser’s disparaging portrayal of God in Ezekiel 16.  Available online: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/08/pygmalion.html.