Oxford defines it as “extreme anger”. Inside and outside the church, it can be a stumbling block to rightly understanding God’s perfect character. When talking to people about God’s wrath, judgment, punishment, even Hell, it is imperative that we know how to discuss these difficult topics in a way that lovingly points people to Jesus.
Sharing the Gospel starts with God’s creation. Implicit in His creation is an important distinction that often gets overlooked; God’s ownership. God makes the rules, He judges, and He always judges rightly! Misunderstanding this concept sounds like this; “How could a loving God ________?” or “Why would a loving God do this/allow this to happen to me?” Paul obviously heard these objections and others like it; just read Romans 9! Here are some excerpts: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”, and “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy…” These are HARD concepts that we need to pray on, and ask for help with our understanding!
I can remember vividly a recent circumstance where one of my children had done something extremely rude and disrespectful to my wife and I, and I reacted with emotional violence. Towering over my child (physical intimidation), yelling at my child (verbal intimidation); I lashed out in ANGER. The problem is, my anger was rooted in sin, it was not righteous, and it was not for my child’s good. There was nothing LOVING about the way I acted.
We shouldn’t think of God’s wrath like this. God has many attributes. Here, we are discussing wrath. He is also loving, merciful, just, holy, etc. God is perfectly ALL of these things, ALL of the time. So, while exercising His judgement on His creation, He is exercising Love and Mercy at the same time. Our inability to understand this is an issue with us, not an indictment of Him.
Think about it like this… God hates evil, and speaks strongly against it throughout scripture. Would you want to serve a God who turns a blind eye to sin; who tolerates evil? Without God’s wrath, would you have any idea just how serious your sin really is? We need to understand that it’s God’s wrath that cracks open the door for His Mercy and Grace; His judgment creates a NEED for a Savior.
The truth is, we are uncomfortable with God judging or punishing. Our discomfort is an important human response, however. It is this spiritual and emotional discord that drives us to repentance. When confronted with God’s unchanging Holiness, we fall short, and we wrongly defend, posture or justify. Know this…when God displays wrath he is showing His POWER, asserting His OWNERSHIP. Brothers and sisters; it is done for OUR GOOD, and HIS GLORY. The cross displays all of this PERFECTLY, Praise God!
Want to see God’s perfect wrath? Look at the cross. Want to see God’s perfect love, mercy and grace? Look at the cross.