Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: Wrath Of God

If you thought last weeks lesson on God The Judge was hardcore, well this week takes us a step further in dealing the unpalatable subject of wrath and the God who has it as part of his active vocabulary. Remember, if you are new to this study, that you can find all of the previous lessons using the Knowing God category link. There are also study materials for the book available at william.meisheid.com.

Packer begins by using the combined definition of three words: wrath, anger, and indignation to explain the biblical context of God’s wrath. That is required because the definition of wrath as “deep, intense anger and indignation” requires it. Therefore, he goes on to define anger as “stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism, by a sense of injury or insult.” Then he mixes in indignation as “righteous anger roused by injustice and baseness.” So, God can have both a righteously deep and intense displeasure at what he also has a righteously strong antagonism to, which are fundamental injustices and base behaviors. In other words, SIN.

That offends a lot of moderns. It appears to be violent and the post-modern Christian rejects it outright. As I noted in last week’s post, John Shelby Spong, a post-modern pseudo-bishop, in his book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love continues down his long-traveled road of denial, in this case of the possibility that God can even experience wrath. I find it interesting that his “God” is only able to “love”, especially when he denies personhood to Him. How does an impersonal ground of being demonstrate “love”? Don’t ask Spong about his non sequitur. I once had the unfortunate opportunity to listen to this man’s convolutions for an entire evening. He speaks in theological word salad, but in a way that always sound so reasonable, despite being essentially without substance.

If we intend to be Christian we will have to deal with the unpleasant (to us) fact that God gets angry. God gets indignant. God executes wrath on those disserving of it. Yes He does.

Everybody dies. That is a direct result of God’s wrath toward sin. An awful lot of people are going to burn in hell. Sorry, but that’s a biblical fact and is a direct result of God’s wrath toward sin. We may not like it; we may rail against it, but that is the way it is and nothing we do or say is going to change one jot or tittle about it.

When I was a relatively new Christian, I was being discipled by a married couple who had come out of the Dutch Reformed Tradition. They never shrank back from the hard questions. At the time they were singing in the choir with me at our charismatic, evangelical, Episcopal Church. One night while giving them a ride home after choir practice we began talking about the bumps that lay ahead for me in my Christian life. The wife, Sheila, said to me, “Bill, one day you are going to have to face up to the wrath of God and how you deal with that will determine the depth of your future walk in Christ.” Oh how true she was. I have since stubbed my toe many a time on God’s judgment and wrath as well as his Fatherly correction. But as Sheila warned me, advising me to read Job and Lamentations with the utmost care, it was my problem, not God’s. So true.

You should know that in all of the times I have gone through this book, this chapter has been the most difficult for those I have been shepherding along its byways. The topic is so alien to most Christians. Even those who tacitly accept that God has wrath as part of his repertoire don’t want to dwell on the subject for more than a few minutes. For them it is like the Victorian bathroom, better to keep the door closed except when absolutely necessary to get in and out, and never, no never talk about it in public.

Well Packer forces us to deal with it for nine pages and a lot of arguments. He closes with a quote from a Reformed favorite, A. W. Pink in which he earnestly enjoins us to meditate on the solemn reality of God’s wrath.

I won’t belabor the point this week, seeing the difficulty of the subject matter, but I will say that one of the reasons that the observance of Lent has meant so much to me over the years is how it makes the starkness of Holy Week so real and the joy of Easter into a real overwhelming joy. It is the contrast, you see. In the same way, to understand the cross you have to understand divine wrath and then divine love will never sink into the disgusting parody put forth by idiots like Spong. Instead by properly appreciating the wrath of God we can at last understand the motivation behind Paul’s words in Philippians 1:9-11.

And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment], so that you may surely learn to sense what is vital, and approve and prize what is excellent and of real value [recognizing the highest and the best, and distinguishing the moral differences], and that you may be untainted and pure and unerring and blameless [so that with hearts sincere and certain and unsullied, you may approach] the day of Christ [not stumbling nor causing others to stumble]. May you abound in and be filled with the fruits of righteousness (of right standing with God and right doing) which come through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One), to the honor and praise of God [that His glory may be both manifested and recognized]. Amplified

Yes, love that has comprehensive discernment sees all of God and understands what real righteousness is all about.

My prayer is that you never have to experience the wrath of God, but instead since are surely his beloved children you will be able to at least understand it, and with his help, forever flee from it. Grace and peace be with you now and forever.

  2 comments for “Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: Wrath Of God

  1. June 10, 2005 at 12:24 pm

    Excellent post, Bill. Too often, evangelical churches gloss over the fact that such depth of emotion–ultimate love and ultimate sacrifice–also opens the door to ultimate wrath. This is why people have such a problem with the existence of evil, I think; it’s difficult to grasp that supreme love cannot exist without the possibility of supreme evil.

  2. June 10, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    It is all part of the balance of things. Love betrayed (sin) breeds wrath, not because of pettiness, but because of the reality of what occurred and the depth of sacrifice necessary to deal with it. We have such a superficial view of things.

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