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Is God’s Wrath Real?

May 1st, 2018

Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

There are two extremes in teaching about God’s wrath that tend to lead us into error: to under emphasise it or to over emphasise it.

Through the centuries there have been different Christian groups who have painted God as a mere God of vengeance, who delights to punish the sinner. This has always led to a Christianity that was fear-based more than faith-based. To this day you can see some of these groups around the world, such as those in the Philippines who walk in Good Friday processionals flailing their backs until they are bloody, seeking to atone for their sins before an angry God. These are mis-characterisations of the biblical teaching of God’s wrath.

But there is the other extreme as well, the propagation of the false teachings of two different gods in the Bible – the Old Testament one and the New Testament one. The Old Testament god, in this teaching, is a god of vengeance and anger. But the New Testament god is one of kindness and grace. But the Bible proclaims that there is only one God, and He is not schizophrenic! If we will examine the Bible carefully we will see that the God of the Old Testament was also patient and gracious, and that same God sent Christ into the world to save us.

The correct way of understanding the wrath of God is not to neglect it, or to over stress it, but to see it in its proper context. As a holy and pure God, God must judge evil. We sometimes say that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. That is only partly correct, for God does not send the sin to hell but the sinner. The Bible does say that God hates sinners (Hosea 9:15), and though any sinner may through repentance and faith be a recipient of God’s love, the point is clear that God’s wrath is real. It might be clearer to see this word “hate” as meaning “to detest” or “to abhor.” (See also this section from gotquestions.org.)

Yet the Bible never says,”God is wrath,” but it does say, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). When Christ spoke of the eternal relationship He had with the Father before the world was made, He described it not as one of wrath but as one of love: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). So the overarching nature of God is one of love, not of wrath, and He loved the world so much that He sent Christ into the world to die for our sins (John 3:16).

Because God is holy and pure, His wrath is not like ours. Ours is mixed with our hurts and anger, our prejudices and lack of understanding. God’s wrath is perfect and just and always right. When God in the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine!” (Deut. 32:35), His point is to teach us to leave the matter of revenge and vengeance into His hands and not to seek to do it ourselves (see Romans 12:17-21). God judges fairly and purely, not in a mind that is misguided by personal hurts and faults.

Speaking of God’s wrath “flaring up in a minute” or being “quickly kindled” in the verse above describes the situation from the human perspective. Elsewhere the Bible tells us:

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10 ESV)

God’s wrath may seem to flare up suddenly to the one whose heart is far from God, who does not consider how his life has offended God’s holiness. But in actuality, God in Himself is “slow to anger.” Psalm 2:12 and verses like it are warnings to us that something very different is going on in God’s heart from our hearts when we sin. We may hurt and abuse others, and go happily along this evil path for years thinking that there will never be a day of reckoning, we may cheat and deceive and lie and steal, we may abuse our own health through addictions, a poor diet, or a lack of exercise, and we may be unjust and uncaring and even cruel and selfish, but be assured that God will hold us accountable.

Suddenly to us God’s wrath seems to flare up, but He has actually been patient. So it is a warning that any one of us could be drawing perilously close to the line of God’s wrath, and that we could be blind to this reality. We should regularly keep ourselves in check, to let God examine our hearts and our actions. As the psalmist wrote: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23). 

And for the one who has never trusted in Christ, each day of his life he is closer to his own death. None of us know when we will die, and though some complain that it came suddenly upon them, that is not truly a valid excuse. Surely, every human being should realise that death can come at any time for any of us.

The solution to all sin is to pay homage to Christ, “Kiss the Son,” or worship Him and believe in Him. The scripture says: “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  His wrath in this passage above is uniquely reserved for those who knew of the Son but did not pay homage to Him, but instead stubbornly persisted in their own way.

justice, Psalms

The Needy Unforgotten

December 3rd, 2014

But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.

Psalm 9:18

My wife and I are involved in not only serving as pastor and wife of a wonderful church in Southern Germany, but we are also involved in addressing the terrible scourge of human trafficking. The plight of the poor is demonstrated in the growth of prostitution and brothels in the world – it is the poor and the fatherless that become prostitutes. The statistics of those trapped in the trade reveal that more often than not, they did not choose prostitution, but prostitution chose them.

For example, prostitutes come from lower classes, from the poor of the world. Over 90% of prostitutes in the West were sexually molested below the age of 8 years of age. Over 90% of them were first prostituted at age 14 or younger. There is a reason why young women go into prostitution and poverty, family dysfunction, and the manipulation of cruel, uncaring people, mostly men but also some women. The pimps, the “lover boys” who lure young, vulnerable women (girls really) into the trade, the johns who pay for prostitution and make it a profitable business, and the common people who sit by and do nothing and allow it to happen – all of these, through their actions, or in their inaction, are part of the forces that trap these young girls into the business. Eventually these girls will leave the business, broke and broken, too old to attract clients.

Reading Psalms 9 and 10 the other morning I was touched by the words of God. The Lord promises retribution for the oppression of the poor, not only retribution against the individual but even against nations that condone or support the oppression. Psalm 10 in particular describes the thinking of the pimp and the “lover boys” who bring these girls into slavery.

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts in the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord…He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”… He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victimshe catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. (Psalm 10:2-10)

These words describe accurately what is happening in many parts of the world – young girls captured from villages, or manipulated by those grooming them for the business, those who know well how to recognize the vulnerable, the children of sexual molesters, the insecure and emotionally vulnerable.

Where is God in this? Has He forgotten their plight? Has He turned a deaf ear to their cries and a blind eye to their pain? The answer is No. He sees and will bring justice – either in this life or in the next. No man or nation can escape the retribution of God who judges those who oppress the poor. Reading on in Psalm 10,

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found outYou hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:14-18)

God is merciful and gracious and He forgives all who repent and turn to Him in true faith. Thank God for His grace through Jesus Christ, without which none of us could stand before Him. But the oppression of the poor – not just through prostitution but in other means of human trafficking – is a moral blight to our world. God will bring justice, and any part we have played in the world’s injustices, we should repent of, stop the behavior, and seek to help the needy. When God’s judgment falls, and it will one day, we will want to be as far away from those who perpetuate the injustice as possible – far from them in attitude, in our hearts, in our secret lives, in our spending, in our conversations, in our activities, in everything about us. We may call them to repent, invite them to come to Christ, but in no way should we be involved in helping to prop up these injustices.

We need to be careful that we do not have a Christianity that is purely cerebral, that is purely idea and concept focused, for this is clearly not the Christianity of the Bible. Biblical Christianity was compassionate Christianity that brought truth, love, and hope to people, in the name of Christ through the gospel and in the name of Christ through physical and material help. Christ commanded help to the poor (Matt 19:21) and commended those who did it (Matt. 25:37-40). The apostles insisted that this was part of the character of Christians, to give to the poor and needy (Gal. 2:10). James went so far as to describe this as “pure religion” that is undefiled before God the Father, or acceptable to Him, was “to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” and to keep himself unspotted by the world (James 1:27). John asked, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17)

How are you helping the poor in today’s world? How are you speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves?

justice , ,