Wrath?

God is a wrathful God? Common synonyms for “wrath” are rage, anger and fury. Is that what the Bible means?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:17-18 (ESV).

Vs. 17 and 18 says two things are revealed: “the righteousness of God” and “the wrath of God.” Both are related to the gospel. Wrath is generally understood as God’s judgment on sin.

God is jealous for his people. He is protective. And the day is coming when He will defend His people from those who are out to hurt them. If you saw someone slap your mother, how would you feel? Maybe that illustrates in a little way how God feels about sin because of what it does to His people. God’s wrath is not like human anger or fury. Rather, it is the protective counterpart of His love.

But in this passage the “wrath of God” seems to refer to something else. The rest of the chapter explains what Paul means by “the wrath of God” here.

The passage primarily depicts the actions of the wicked for which God’s actions are a response. But God’s actions are stated three times in verses 24, 26 and 28. In each case the scripture says “God gave them over” (…to do what they wanted to do).

Because people ignored the truth about God and worshiped what He created rather than the Creator Himself,  God abandoned to whatever their hearts desired. And because they continued in their wickedness, God let them follow their passions. Read verses 18-32.

In other words, if I want to do my own thing in opposition to God’s will, He will give me the freedom to do it. As verse 28 puts it, “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.”

God values human freedom. It’s the foundation of His kingdom. His gentle Spirit will draw us to Himself if we will allow it. He will change our hearts and “make us willing to do His will.” But He will not use force. Listen to C. S. Lewis:

There are two kinds of people:  those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your own way.”

According to Paul, an expression of His wrath is to allow us to suffer the consequences of our own choices. That’s frightening!

But could it be otherwise?

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