Knowing God, chapter 15: The wrath of God

According to the dictionary Packer had at the time of writing this book, ‘wrath’ is defined as “deep intense anger and indignation”. ‘Anger’ is defined as “stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism, by a sense of injury or insult”; ‘indignation’  as “righteous anger aroused by injustice and baseness”.

“A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness.” –A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God, as quoted by Packer.

The biblical writers feel no inhibitions regarding God’s wrath. Why do we?

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For one, it may be that we perceive wrath as being unworthy of God. It implies a loss of self-control, wounded pride or plain bad temper. It would definitely be wrong to attribute to God traits such as these.

But God doesn’t share our limitations and imperfections. God’s wrath is never capricious, self-indulgent, irritable. God is angry only when anger is called for.

Second, to some, God’s wrath suggests cruelty. This isn’t the case:

  1. God’s wrath in the Bible is always judicial, i.e. administrating justice. Those who experience God’s wrath receive precisely what they deserve.
  2. God’s wrath in the Bible is something which men choose for themselves– John 3:18-19. “[T]he decisive act of judgment upon the lost is the judgment which they pass upon themselves, by rejecting the light that comes to them in and through Jesus Christ.”

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“The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character on which we need to meditate frequently. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely we are to realise its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear of God in our souls for God. ‘Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb 12:28-29). We cannot serve Him ‘acceptably’ unless there is due ‘reverence’ for His awful Majesty and ‘godly fear’ of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that ‘our God is a consuming fire’. Third, to draw out our soul in fervent praise [to Jesus Christ] for having delivered us from ‘the wrath to come’ (1 Thess 1:10). Our readiness or our reluctancy to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of how our hearts really stand affected towards Him.”

–A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God, as quoted by Packer.