More on the Wrath of God

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Rom. 5:9 (NKJV)

In my previous post, I discussed the most misunderstood attribute of God, his wrath. The wrath of God should not be confused with the anger of man. We get angry, easily offended, and overwrought in our emotions. We project our emotional outbursts onto God assuming that he responds to disappointment and frustration in the same way we do. But, God’s anger is not capricious. He is not easily ticked off like we are. God’s concern is sin and its destruction not whether his personal rights are being violated.

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished . . . .

Exodus 34:5-7

The kind of God that appeals to most people today would be easy-going in his tolerance of our offenses. He would be gentle, kind, accommodating. He would have no violent reactions. Unhappily, even in the church we seemed to have lost the vision of the majesty of God. There is much shallowness and levity among us.

Prophets and psalmists would probably say of us, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” In public worship our habit is to slouch or squat; we do not kneel nowadays, let alone prostrate ourselves in humility before God. It is more characteristic of us to clap our hands with joy than to blush with shame or tears. We saunter up to God to claim his patronage and friendship; it does not occur to us that he might send us away. We need to hear again the Apostle Peter’s sobering words, “Since you call on a father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives. . in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17) In other words, if we dare to call our judge our Father, we must beware of presuming on him.

It must even be said that our evangelical emphasis on the atonement is dangerous if we come to it too quickly. We learn to appreciate the access to God which Christ has won only after we have first cried, “Woe is me for I am lost.” In R.W. Dale’s words, “It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986).