Psalm 7:11-13, “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.”
Many Christians are under the mistaken impression that God’s disposition toward sinful man changed when Christ came into the world. They think that God was wrathful, hateful, and judgmental in the Old Testament, but that He stopped being this way when Christ was born. This is an unbiblical view of God’s relationship to sinful humanity, and the only way to prove this is to show that God’s disposition is consistent throughout both Testaments of Scripture.
Can an all-sufficient and all-powerful God suffer or experience grief? While we must affirm that the God of the Scriptures is self-determining (i.e. His disposition and actions are not governed by the disposition and actions of others) and immutable in His perfections (i.e. His nature does not change), we must equally hold to the truth that He is not apathetic or unmoved by His creature’s response to Him. When the Scriptures speak about God’s grief, it is always in the context of man’s sin. God grieves over the sin and rebellion of His creatures. This grief is the result of the offensiveness of sin to His holiness and of the destruction, misery, and loss that it brings upon His creation.
Genesis 6:6, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
Isaiah 63:10, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.
Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
WRATH OR ANGER
When the holiness, justice, and love of God meet the depravity, injustice, and lovelessness of man, the inevitable result is divine anger and indignation, or the wrath of God. The word translated wrath in the Old Testament comes from three Hebrew words: qetsep (wrath, anger, indignation); hema (wrath, anger, disgust, displeasure, fury, rage, heat, poison); and ’aph which literally means nostril or nose. The word came to denote anger in that the flaring of the nostrils is a sign of anger. In the New Testament, the word wrath is translated from two Greek words, orge (wrath, anger) and thumos (anger, indignation, passion, rage, wrath). In the Scriptures, divine wrath refers to God’s holy displeasure and righteous indignation directed toward the sinner and his sin.
In speaking of the wrath of God, it is important to understand that His wrath is not an uncontrollable, irrational, or selfish emotion, but it is both the result of His holiness, righteousness, and love and also a necessary element of His government. Because of who God is, He must react adversely to sin. God is holy, therefore He is repulsed by evil and breaks fellowship with the wicked. God is love and zealously loves all that is good. Such intense love for righteousness manifests itself in an equally intense hatred of all that is evil. God is righteous, therefore He must judge wickedness and condemn it. In His holiness, righteousness, and love, God hates sin and comes with terrible and often violent wrath against it. If man is an object of God’s wrath, it is because he has chosen to challenge God’s sovereignty, has violated His holy will, has become a fountain of sin, and has exposed himself to judgment.
Today, many reject the doctrine of divine wrath or any similar teaching that would even suggest that a loving, merciful God could be wrathful or that He would manifest such wrath in the judgment and condemnation of the sinner.
They argue that such ideas are nothing more than the erroneous conclusions of primitive men who saw God as hostile, vengeful, and even cruel. As Christians, we should reject any doctrine that would portray God as cruel or ignore His compassion. Nevertheless, we must not forsake the Scriptures’ clear teaching on the doctrine of divine wrath and punishment—there are more references in the Scriptures with regard to the anger and wrath of God than there are to His love, kindness, and compassion. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness, and yet He will punish the unrepentant sinner with a view to administering justice among His creatures and vindicating His holy Name.
Before we proceed any further in our study of the wrath of God, it is extremely important that we understand the holy and righteous nature of God’s wrath. Though man’s wrath is often the result of sinful passions, the wrath of God is a manifestation of His righteousness and holiness.
Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”
Exodus 15:7, “And in the greatness of Your excellence, You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble.”
Nahum 1:2, “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies”
Romans 3:5, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)”
Jeremiah 10:10, “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.”
Colossians 3:5-6, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience”
It is clear from the Scriptures that God is not only a God of love and mercy, but of wrath and vengeance. In His holiness, righteousness, and love, God hates sin and comes with terrible and often violent vengeance against it. If man challenges God’s sovereignty and violates His will, then he will expose himself to His wrath.
Even though the reality of the wrath of God is undeniable, we should also understand that He is merciful. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23), but will delay His wrath and give the sinner ample opportunity to turn away from his sin. Nevertheless, those who continue in rebellion will most certainly face the wrath of God.
Closely related to the wrath or anger of God is His hatred. Words that are often used in association with God’s hatred are abhor, detest, loathe, etc. Many object to any teaching about the hatred of God on the false assumption that God cannot hate because “God is love” (I John 4:8). While the love of God is a reality that goes beyond comprehension, it is important to see that the love of God is the very reason for His hatred. We should not say, “God is love, and therefore He cannot hate,” but rather, “God is love, and therefore He must hate.” If a person truly loves life, acknowledges it sanctity, and cherishes all children as a gift from God, then they must hate abortion. It is impossible to passionately and purely love children and yet be neutral toward that which destroys them in the womb. In the same way, if God loves with the greatest intensity all that is upright and good, then He must with equal intensity hate all that is perverse and evil.
The Scriptures teach us that God not only hates sin, but that His hatred is directed toward those who practice sin. We have been taught that God loves the sinner and hates the sin, but such teaching is a denial of the Scriptures that clearly declare that God not only hates iniquity, but that He hates “all who do iniquity” (Psalm 5:5). We must understand that it is impossible to separate the sin from the sinner. God does not punish sin, but He punishes the sinner. It is not sin that is condemned to hell, but the man who practices it.
What does it mean when the Scriptures declare that God hates sinners? The following should be considered:
First, Webster defines hate as a feeling of extreme enmity toward someone, to regard another with active hostility, or to have a strong aversion toward another: to detest, loathe, bhor, or abominate. Although these are hard words, most, if not all, are used in the Scripture to describe God’s relationship to sin and the sinner.
Secondly, we must understand that God’s hatred exists in perfect harmony with His other attributes. Unlike man, God’s hatred is never the result of some weakness or defect in His character—there are none. Rather, God’s hatred is holy, just, and a result of His love.
Thirdly, we must understand that God’s hatred is not a denial of His love. Psalm 5:5 is not a denial of John 3:16 or Matthew 5:44-45. Although God’s wrath abides upon the sinner, although He is angry with the wicked every day, and although He hates all who do iniquity, His love is of such a nature that He is able to love those who are the very objects of His hatred and work on their behalf for their salvation.
Fourthly, although God is longsuffering toward the objects of His hatred and holds out to them the offer of salvation, there will come a time when He will withdraw His offer, and reconciliation will no longer be possible. Sinful men should consider this truth with fear and trembling.
We often hear about sinful man’s unceasing war against God, but little is taught about God’s unceasing war against the wicked. The hostility between God and the sinner is not one-sided, but mutual. The Scriptures clearly teach that God considers the sinner to be His enemy and has declared war upon him. The sinner’s only hope is to drop his weapon and lift the white flag of surrender before it is forever too late. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.
Closely related to the wrath of God is His vengeance. In the Scriptures, the desire for vengeance is often presented as a vice of wicked men (Leviticus 19:18; I Samuel 25:25, 30-33). Therefore, it is difficult for us to understand how a holy and loving God could be a God of Vengeance. What we must understand is that God’s vengeance is always motivated by His zeal for holiness and justice.
Today, many reject the doctrine of divine vengeance or any teaching that would even suggest that a loving and merciful God could be vengeful. They would argue that such ideas are nothing more than the erroneous conclusions of primitive men who saw God as hostile and cruel. As Christians, we should reject any doctrine that would portray God as cruel or ignore His compassion. Nevertheless, we must not forsake the Scripture’s clear teaching on the doctrine of divine vengeance either. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness, but He is also just. He will punish the sinner with the purpose of vindicating His Name and administering justice among His creatures. In light of man’s sin, God is right to avenge Himself. Three times in the book of Jeremiah, God asks, “Shall I not punish them for these things? On a nation such as this shall I not avenge Myself ?” (5:9, 29; 9:9).
(SOURCE: THE TRUTH ABOUT MAN – PAUL WASHER)
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