The Angry God

Today’s preaching is deficient at many points. But there is no point at which it is more evidently inadequate and even explicitly contrary to the teachings of the New Testament than in its neglect of “the wrath of God.”

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Today’s preaching is deficient at many points. But there is no point at which it is more evidently inadequate and even explicitly contrary to the teachings of the New Testament than in its neglect of “the wrath of God.” God’s wrath is a dominant Biblical teaching and the point in Romans at which Paul begins his formal exposition of the gospel. Yet, to judge from most contemporary forms of Christianity, the wrath of God is either an unimportant doctrine, which is an embarrassment, or an entirely wrong notion, which any enlightened Christian should abandon.

  1. Weakness of Contemporary Preaching
    1. Where does most of today’s Christian preaching begin? Many begin with what is termed “a felt need,” a lack or a longing that the listener will acknowledge.
      1. The need may involve feelings of inadequacy, relationship problems, fears, or simply bad habits.
      2. Basic issues deals with lonleliness or uncontrollable desires.
    2. This theory says that preaching should begin with meeting the “felt needs” of the listener, because this alone establishes a point of contact with a listener and wins a hearing.
      1. In other words, when you preach, preach to fill whatever void the listener is experiencing even at the expense of preaching the truth.
      2. People want to hear positive preaching so preach positive messages that make them feel good about themselves.
      3. This type of preaching leaves no room for the topic of God’s wrath.
    3. Preaching to someones “felt needs” will not establish contact between the listener and God, which is what preaching is about.
    4. Here is how Paul spoke about “felt needs”: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3.
    5. Second way we preach the gospel is through promises
      1. We offer something to the listener, like offering a carrot to a horse attached to a cart.
      2. Using this approach becoming a Christian means getting something.
      3. Think prosperity gospel.
    6. What matters is whether we come into a right relationship with God. To have that happen we need to begin with the truth that we are no in a right relationship to him. We are under God’s wrath and are in danger of everlasting condemnation at his hands.
  2. Wrath: A Biblical Idea
    1. God’s wrath is not the same thing as human anger. This is crucial to understand because we fail in this understanding of God’s wrath. Because we fail to understand what God’s wrath is we become uneasy with the very idea of God’s wrath and think that it is somehow unworthy of God’s character. So we steer away from the issue.
    2. Biblical writers had no such problem with God’s wrath, seeing it has one of God’s perfections.
    3. “One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath” J.I. Packer.
    4. “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness.” Arthur W. Pink
    5. In the O.T. there are around twenty words used to refer to God’s wrath. There are nearly 600 passages on the subject of God’s wrath.
    6. There are two main words in the N.T. for wrath.
      1. Thymos, from a root that means “to rush along fiercely”, “to be in a heat of violence”, or “to breathe violently.”
      2. Orge, meaning to grow ripe for something. It portrays wrath as something that builds up over time.
      3. In his study of The apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris notes that apart from the Book of Revelation, which describes the final outpouring of God’s wrath in all its unleashed fury, “thumos” is used only once to describe God’s anger. The word “orge” is used everywhere else.
    7. Wrath, as defined by John Murray, is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.
    8. Paul uses the word “orge” 100 times in the book of Romans. Paul’s point is that God’s wrath is not a flailing angry type of wrath. God’s wrath is not the wrath that lashes out momentarily at something that offends him. God’s wrath is a wrath this is building up to one day be released on those who show hatred toward God and live a life of wickedness.
    9. None will be saved from God’s wrath, except those who have been imputed righteousness through the death of Christ and subsequent acceptance of Christ as savior.
  3. Wrath Revealed
    1. Not only is God’s wrath being stored up, but God’s wrath is being revealed to us in this age.
    2. It is the “revealing of wrath” that Paul speaks of here, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
    3. The question now to ask, “how is that wrath being revealed?”
      1. Charles Hodge gives three ways God’s wrath is being revealed now.
        1. The actual punishment of sin.
        2. The inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.
        3. The voice of conscience.
      2. D. Marty Lloyd-Jones list these items
        1. Conscience
        2. Disease and illness
        3. The state of creation
        4. The universality of death
        5. history
        6. The cross and resurrection of Christ
    4. Robert Haldan has this to say: “The wrath of God..was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world……..But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin.
      1. Paul develops this argument in Romans 1.
    5. In the actual preaching of the gospel the power of God is demonstrated in the saving of men and women.
    6. In verses 21 through 32 Paul speaks of a downward inclination of the race by which the world, having rejected God and therefore being judicially abandoned by God, is given up to evil.
    7. Mankind is set on a course that leads to perversions and ends in a debasement in which people call good evil and evil good.
    8. Human depravity and the misery involved are the revelation of God’s anger.
  4. Turning Aside God’s Wrath
    1. Taking as an example the situation with Moses on the mount receiving the Ten Commandments, only having to descend the mountain due to great sin by the Israelites, we find how God’s wrath towards his people is held back.
    2. Even though Moses punished the people for making an idol and worshiping that idol judgement still had to be passed on the people.
    3. God was ready to pour out his wrath on the Israelites, but Moses interceded on their behalf. Moses was ready to give up his life for the Israelites.
    4. Moses, who lived before knowledge of Jesus, did not know that a living sacrifice was already pre-determined. Moses could not be a sacrifice for the Israelites as only a sinless individual could be a substitute for a sinful people.
    5. Christ was the only one who could fulfill the task of covering the sins of a sinful people.
    6. This is the message Paul will expound upon in Romans. The place to begin is not with your own good works, since you have none, but by knowing that you are an object of God’s wrath and will perish in sin at last, unless you throw yourself upon the mercy of the One who died for sinners, Jesus Christ.

Personal Reflection

Wrath as defined by Websters; (1) strong vengeful anger (2) retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement. I think it’s safe to say that a number of people, possibly even a majority, do not want to accept this attribute of God. “How could a loving God be one full of wrath?”, they ask themselves. “My god is a loving god”, some say. While God is a truly benevolent and merciful God we, specifically Christians, cannot and should not deny that God is also a God of wrath and all of the Holy Text supports this attribute of God. While God is also a God of wrath, we must remind ourselves that wrath is not the only attribute at work in God. When we speak of the Wrath of God we must also speak of all the other attributes of God, at work in unison with one another. In other words when we see wrath from God, we also see love, justice, mercy, decree, foreknowledge, etc. all working together and in perfect unison. We cannot separate one single attribute and say that God is just showing this attribute, all attributes are there and all are working together. I want everyone to understand this point because so many times we want to focus on one attribute and neglect the other attributes as if they do not exist which leaves God one dimensional in his dealings with his created people. If we do not see God as he truly is, with all his attributes, then we will shape God into what we think he should be and soon begin to move ourselves into a higher position than God.

Selections from “The Attributes of God” by Arthur W. Pink on the attribute of The Wrath of God

“It is sad indeed to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least wish there were no such thing.”

“Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with his goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.”

“He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto him. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I life up my and to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I wield my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me” (Deut. 32:39-41)”

“Because God Is holy, he hates all sin; and because he hates all sin, his anger burns against the sinner (Psalm 7:11)”

“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.”

“The wrath of God is his eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which he passes upon evildoers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against his authority, a wrong done to his inviolable sovereignty.”

I highly recommend that you find a copy of Pink’s “The Attributes of God” and read it in its entirety. I want to make another point very clear. The Holy Text speaks more about God’s wrath then it does about his tenderness and mercy. This does not mean that we should elevate one attribute over the other. It is because of God’s mercy and tenderness that his wrath is present also. One attribute cannot be present without the other attributes, something I myself find hard to wrap my mind around. I would encourage you to do a study on the attributes of God, either individually or as a group, and begin to see how these characteristics of God work together for the good of those who believe in God and submitted their will to God’s will.


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