The Uniqueness of God’s Wrath

The reality of God’s wrath doesn’t mean that He loses His cool with sinners and lashes out at them. This wrath is divine—it is the wrath of God. It is therefore unlike anything we know of in the present world.

God’s wrath is not like human anger, which is always tainted by sin. God’s wrath is always and completely righteous. He never loses His temper. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, “Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. . . . No wonder, therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to him, nay, so contrary to him; it strikes at his holiness.” [1]

Unable to reconcile the idea of God’s wrath with his own ideas of goodness and righteousness, one liberal theologian made this claim: “We cannot think with full consistency of God in terms of the highest human ideals of personality and yet attribute to Him the rational passion of anger.” [2] But it is foolish, not to mention unbiblical, to measure God by human standards and to discount the idea of His wrath simply because human anger is always flawed by sin.

God’s holy anger is not some capricious or irrational rage. It is a just and settled indignation toward all that is evil. In fact, God could not be holy without being angry at evil. Holiness cannot tolerate unholiness. Habakkuk says of the Lord, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor” (Habakkuk 1:13). And as Paul declares, neither can love tolerate unholiness, refusing to “rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Jesus twice cleansed the Temple because He was incensed at the money changers and sacrifice sellers who made His “Father’s house a place of business” and “a robber’s den” (John 2:14–16Matthew 21:12–13). He was furious that His Father’s house was flagrantly dishonored.

Scripture also records numerous examples where sinners concede the rightness of God’s retribution. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledged the legitimacy of God’s punishment of Israel saying, “The Lord is righteous; for I [the nation of Israel] have rebelled against His command” (Lamentations 1:18). In confessing before Joshua that he had kept for himself some booty from Jericho that was to be reserved for the house of the Lord, Achan acknowledged that the punishment he was about to receive was just and righteous (Joshua 7:20–25).

Even in the warped and perverted societies of men, indignation against vice and crime is recognized as an essential element of human goodness. We expect people to be outraged by gross injustice and cruelty. The noted Greek exegete Richard Trench said, “There [can be no] surer and sadder token of an utterly prostrate moral condition than . . . not being able to be angry with sin—and sinners” [citation Richard Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), 134.] God’s wrath is always perfectly just and completely consistent with all His other attributes.

God’s wrath is always consistent with His attribute of justice. His character cannot be impugned because of His righteous indignation. As Paul goes on to say in the following two verses, all who suffer under God’s wrath are “without excuse.”

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20)

God’s wrath is perfectly and completely just.

Used with permission from John MacArthur.

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