The Wrath Of God

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 4a of 83

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

This verse is about the wrath of God.

The doctrine of the wrath of God is an unpopular one. The liberals hate it and will have nothing to do with it except to criticise it. They charge that it is a vestige of medieval theology. But liberals are not the only ones who do not like it. Many so-called evangelicals do not like it too. They prefer to speak of the love of God, while hiding the wrath of God.

Some justify their approach by saying that God does not manifest himself as a God of wrath in the New Testament. He might have done so in the Old Testament, but not in the New. Others justify their approach by saying that the doctrine of the wrath of God is a sure way of chasing away seekers, potential converts and church members.

But the doctrine of the wrath of God is a biblical one. In fact, you can start reading the Bible at any place, and you will quickly realise that there are far more mention of God’s wrath than His love in the Bible. A.W. Pink noted astutely that “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.”[1]

In the same vein, a popular Anglican theologian remarks that, “the Bible could be called the book of God’s wrath, for it is full of portrayals of divine retribution”[2]

The Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, consistently testify of God righteous wrath.

Dr Eryl Davies, who wrote a book entitled, An Angry God? has noted that there are 20 Hebrew words used to describe the wrath of God, and these are used nearly 600 times.[3] In the New Testament likewise, the wrath of God is referred to in many places. We must not think that in the Old Testament God is wrath, but in the New Testament God is love. No, no, “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Mal 3:6) and “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Indeed, in the Gospel of John where the Lord Jesus speaks about the love of God in such passionate terms, He does not hesitate to talk about the wrath of God.  We are all familiar with John 3:16. But do you know John 3:36? Here the Lord says:

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn 3:36)

We can have no doubt that wrath is a perfection of God whether in the Old or New Testament.

But then, very few people today will think it is appropriate at all to talk about the wrath of God when trying to present the Gospel.[4]

Yet this is precisely what Paul is doing. Indeed he begins to talk about the Gospel by speaking of the wrath of God, rather than the love of God as many will do today.

And if you think about it carefully, you will realise that this is the logical place to begin.

·       How can we fully appreciate the love of God or the grace of God, except we first understands the wrath of God? Unless we understand the wrath of God, we will think we deserve God’s love!

·       And how do we understand our need for reconciliation with God except we first understand that God is angry with us for our sin. Tell a man who has not heard about the wrath of God, that he needs salvation, and he would justifiably reply, “What do I need to be saved from? I am not in any danger?”

·       Likewise, unless we understand the wrath of God, the fact that Christ died on the cross would be a hollow doctrine. But once we understand the greatness of God’s wrath, we would understand the fullness of God’s love that is displayed on the cross of Calvary.

But what does the Scripture teach us about the wrath of God? The apostle Paul says:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…

Paul will say a lot more about the wrath of God in the verses following, but from this introductory statement, we  may be learned about: (1) the nature of God’s wrath; (2) the revelation of God’s wrath; and (3) the subjects of God’s wrath.

 …to be continued next issue

[1]A.W. Pink, Attributes of God, 82

[2] J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 135.

[3] Eryl Davies, An Angry God?, 70.

[4] There is a very popular tract published by Campus Crusade for Christ known as the 4 Spiritual Laws. This was written in 1965 by Dr Bill Bright who passed away very recently. More than a billion copy of this tract in different languages, has apparently been distributed. For many, many people, in the world, this tract represents the Gospel. How does this tract introduce the Gospel? It begins with Law #1, which states: “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.”