The wrath (great anger or rage) of God? But the Bible tells us both to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” and to “refrain from anger, and forsake wrath” (Ephesians 5:1 and Psalm 37:8a, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV). So should we imitate God and show wrath, or should we refrain from showing wrath?
In our after breakfast Bible reading time yesterday my family and I read the section on the wrath of God in Chapter 12, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 1),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994). Defining the wrath of God as meaning that God hates and gets very angry at sin, Grudem argues that since God loves what is good it is natural that he hates what is bad. (Incidently Grudem’s Systematic Theology is the only one of my systematic theology books that classifies wrath as an attribute of God.)
Some Bible passages referring to the wrath of God are:
– “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (Exodus 32:9-10; God was angry because the people had made and worshipped a golden calf).
– “Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you” (Deuteronomy 9:8).
– “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
– “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
Other things that Grudem observes regarding the wrath of God are:
– Although viewed alone God’s wrath arouses fear and dread, when we think of what God (and the world) would be like if He weren’t bothered by sin we should be thankful that He hates and shows wrath against sin.
– As Christians we don’t need to fear God’s wrath because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us [and] since…we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:8b-9).
– When we think about God’s wrath, we should also think about His patience in waiting to act on His wrath. A Bible passage that refers to both His patience and His wrath is Romans 2:4-5, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
– God’s wrath should motivate us to evangelism.
I opened this post by asking, “Should we imitate God and show wrath, or should we refrain from showing wrath?” My answer is that we should do both, refrain from showing wrath in general but imitate God in hating and showing anger at sin.” Grudem suggests that in this regard we should remember the popular slogan to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”