Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. – Romans 5:9
It’s a frightening thing, the wrath of God. It’s also a real thing. Many evangelical pastors are too afraid to address it because it might drive people away. Professing Christians don’t want to hear about it because they don’t like to think of God as wrathful. Unbelievers, of course, mock it. But one thing is for certain: it’s not going away, because God is not going away.
Needless to say, the wrath of God isn’t a popular concept.
However, the popularity–or lack thereof–of a doctrine shouldn’t dictate whether or not we dialogue about it. Though it may be tough to talk about; though it may petrify us, we nevertheless need to have conversations about it. Even more so, pastors definitely need to preach about it!
Yes, He is Wrathful
“God is love.” We’ve all heard this before, right? This is mostly the response when talking about God’s wrath or implying even slightly that, yes, God will judge humans. People who espouse this rhetoric have fallen in the idolatrous trap of making a god in their own mind–a god who is all love, all mercy, all forgiveness, but no wrath. However, are these people who say this right? Yes, of course they are, partially. God is love. He is a God of love—but He’s also a God of wrath. We need to have a complete understanding of the attributes of God so that we may have a complete understand of His character and nature.
It’s not particularly a hobby to talk about God’s wrath, since we know “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31) and that He is like a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). But we do it nevertheless because we strive to teach/preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
It’s of utmost importance that we talk about God in His fullness, which includes His wrath. It’s imperative we discuss all His attributes. We need to learn about His wrath because the more we do, the more we see the magnitude of something people do enjoy discussing: His love.
The Love and Wrath of God
God’s love is no controversial subject. Proclaiming the love that God has for us will be recurved with virtually universal affirmation. However, can we truly understand the depths of His love if we don’t first see it in light of God’s wrath? Ponder this gem from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
I suggest that we can never truly understand why it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, had to come into this world unless we understand this doctrine of the wrath of God and the judgment of God.
Friends, we can’t truly comprehend the love of God if we do not understand His wrath. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for sinners—great! But do we not also believe that the reason He died is because He was absorbing God’s wrath for sinners? God’s love and wrath intertwine at the cross.
God’s wrath is a terrible thing to think about—I understand. But God’s love for us at the cross is magnified even more so in light of the unrelenting, soon-to-be-poured-out wrath of God. Oh, God loves sinners! He loves sinners so much that He poured out His full wrath on His Son, Jesus Christ, in order that people may be saved.
Salvation Demands Wrath
In an outstanding response to a question at Desiring God, D.A. Carson puts it clearly when he says:
Somehow that righteous wrath must be turned aside or we are utterly undone. We are lost. We face judgment. And that is why the cross is understood in the New Testament not only to cancel sin, but to propitiate God. God becomes both the author and the object of propitiation. He plans things such that Christ bears our sin and guilt and cancels it. But at the same time by cancelling our sin Christ satisfies God’s sense of justice, and his wrath is turned aside. He becomes propitious toward us, favorable toward us, by the plan and decree and purposes of God in redemption.
How was it possible that we were saved? We were saved because God turned His wrath from us and put it on Christ! You don’t believe in the wrath of God? Then you certainly don’t believe in salvation in any meaningful sense of the word! As the famous words in “In Christ Alone” say: “And on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied!”
Friends, let’s talk about the wrath of God. Sure, if you are an unbeliever, you should be frightened by His wrath and turn to Christ in repentance and faith to live; however, for the Christian, we need not be frightened by His wrath–or to discuss it–because His wrath was absorbed by our righteous, sinless Substitute, Jesus Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria
Cover photo courtesy of Johannes Plenio at pexels.com