INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 15: The Wrath of God
The word “wrath” conveys deep, intense anger and indignation. God’s wrath has never been a popular subject, yet Biblical authors never shy away from it. There are perhaps more references to God’s anger than his love. The Bible illustrates God’s wrath throughout history. Nahum 1:2,3,5,6 says this:
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.
Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.
The New Testament continues to illustrate God’s justice, wrath, and the blessing of salvation:
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thes 1:5-10)
Why do we feel so uncomfortable with the subject of the wrath of God (besides our guilt)? Wrath may seem unworthy of God, perhaps showing that God is out of control or cruel. However, God’s wrath is always judicial – he exercises his wrath only to carry out justice in righteous indignation. Just as God’s love never leads God to foolish, impulsive, or immoral actions, neither does his wrath. Cruelty is immoral, yet getting what we deserve is at the root of morality and justice. Wrath is also not what God intends for man, rather it is what men choose for themselves.
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” (Rom 2:5-6)
Romans explains God’s wrath in more detail than the other letters combined:
1. The Meaning of God’s Wrath
Wrath is God's action to punish sin. He loves sinners and hates sin. God delivers justice now and he will in the future. Even today, wrath may be delivered through the civil servant (Rom 13:4). Paul vigorously argues that God is just in meting out his justice.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)
2. The Revelation of God’s Wrath
God’s wrath continues to be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (Rom 1:18) – a present tense, constant revelation. Our consciences testify against us yet we keep pushing the limits of God’s patience. Paul describes how the more man pursued sin the more “God gave them over” to their wickedness:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts (1:21,24)
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator… Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts (1:25-26)
They did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (1:28-32)
3. The Deliverance from God’s Wrath
If “no one is righteous” (Rom 3:10) and “the whole world held accountable to God” (3:19) then our only hope is “to be justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:24). The master plan of God is to send Jesus to “rescue us from the coming wrath” (1 Thes 1:10). The gospel message brings a gratitude and appreciation that Paul described:
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:9-11)
“Our readiness or reluctance to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of how our hearts really stand affected towards him.” AW Pink.
Perhaps by reflecting on God's wrath we will better appreciate the need in this world for justice, morality, and salvation!