Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gospel Thinking: God is Wrathful


(This is the third article in a series.  You can find the first two articles here and here.)
Once again last Sunday, we were prompted to consider that as believers we are called to allow gospel truth to shape our thinking about our lives and circumstances.  It was another reminder to me how needful is this series of articles, in which we are discovering what it means to be gospel-minded, slowly looking at the bullet points of the gospel to see how each component can help us think rightly about the world around us.
Having previously covered the truths that God is holy and man is sinful, we are ready to move on to the next component of the gospel: God is wrathful.  This idea is not a popular one in our world.  People prefer to think of God as the gentle candy man in the sky who makes no demands and only wants to make us happy.  However, God’s holiness does make demands.  And our sinfulness indicates that without exception we all fail to meet those standards.  The wrath of God flows naturally from these first two truths of the gospel.
The principle of God’s wrath for sin is expressed in Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  We like to rank sins in such a way that some sins are worse than other sins.  And while there is biblical support for some sins being more grievous than others, when it comes to ultimate consequences, all sin receives the wrath of God.  The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness.
A complementary truth is found in Romans 3:10-12: As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."  More succinct is Romans 3:23: All have sinned…  Not a single person is free from the guilt of sin.  We all do it as naturally as we exhale.  And since all ungodliness receives the wrath of God, all people find themselves in the same predicament – they are objects of God’s wrath.
The wrath of God is described in the Bible the most frightening of terms.  God’s wrath against sinners is manifested in a literal, physical hell.  Hell is a place of utter darkness, unquenchable fire, and perpetual torment (Matt 5:29-30; Jude 7, 12; Rev14:11).  It is the just payment for all sin and the rightful destination of all sinners (Rom 6:23). 
So how might the doctrine of God’s wrath help us to think rightly about our own lives?  With the benefit of a couple examples, hopefully we’ll be able to tailor a response to our unique situations.
A man with a chronic illness is dejected about his constant suffering.  He is tempted toward self-pity.  He finds himself questioning God, “why me?”  The doctrine of God’s wrath for sin could shape his thinking in following way: “What I truly deserve is to suffer far worse than I could ever suffer in this life.  I deserve the wrath of God for all eternity, yet by God’s grace I’ve been spared that.  I’m so thankful that the greatest suffering I’ll ever know is in this temporary life.  My present suffering is achieving for me an eternal weight of glory far beyond compare.” (2 Cor 4:16-18)  
A woman laments injustice, as the man who victimized her young son has not been held accountable.  She is tempted to question God and to find some way to bring about justice on her own.  God’s wrath in the gospel could help to view this situation from an eternal perspective:  “No sin will go unpunished.  Though it seems there are lapses of justice in this life, there are none in the next.  I must leave this to the Lord, as He has said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’  No justice I could bring could compare to the justice that He will bring on the last.  I must also remember that I am a sinner, deserving of justice, but saved by His grace alone.”  
I challenge you to take your current circumstances or an issue that is on your mind, and consider how the truth of God’s wrath for sin might help you to view that issue from a gospel-centered perspective.  No one will develop a gospel-centered view of all things without intentionally making time to do this kind of reflection. 
May the Lord continue to use His truth to shape our minds as we think on these things!

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