What Are We Supposed to Make of God’s Wrath?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

Ephesians 5:6

Ephesians 5:6 delivers bad news. God's wrath is coming "on those who are disobedient." What should we think of this? How should we respond? Do we have to think about God's wrath? Should we talk about it?

Historically, Christians were less tentative than we are about the wrath of God. Perhaps in your high school English class you read Jonathan Edwards' classic sermon from 1741: "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." In this sermon, Edwards speaks of "the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God" and the fact that we are on our way to this pit apart from God's grace. Edwards isn't exactly downplaying God's wrath, is he?

In reaction to preaching like this, and in a culture where tolerance and acceptance are highly esteemed, many Christians have backed away from mentioning or considering the wrath of God. We have emphasized God's love and grace without mentioning that God is saving us, not just from our own hurts and messes, but also from his own righteous judgment, what Scripture often calls God's wrath.

When we hear the word "wrath," we might envision selfish tantrums and petty fits of rage. But, in the biblical understanding, God's wrath is not like this at all. It is much closer to what we would call "righteous indignation." Yes, it involves emotion. But it is emotion that stems from a deep sense of injustice, from hatred of the hurt that sin does to God's creation and his beloved people.

Paul mentions God's wrath in Ephesians 5:6 to remind us that God doesn't benignly overlook immorality, impurity, or greed. God does not minimize the evil of sin. Rather, God detests it and judges it. But this is not the end of the story, as you may recall. Back in Ephesians 2, we learned that we, like the rest of humankind, are "deserving of wrath" (2:3). God has every right to find us guilty and sentence us accordingly. But, "because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy" saved us by his grace (2:4-5). This is true even if, at times, we fall back into sin. But God's plan for us is that we would leave behind the life worthy of wrath and live in the freedom and holiness of his grace.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the phrase "the wrath of God," what comes to mind? Does this phrase make you uncomfortable? Why or why not? Have you been delivered from God's wrath? How? What difference does this make in your life?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for delivering me from your wrath through your grace in Christ. Thank you for taking the judgment that I deserved upon yourself in the Son. Thank you for declaring me "not guilty" and giving me a new life in Christ.

Help me, Lord, not to use my freedom as an occasion for sin. May I learn to feel toward my sin as you do. And as I realize the justice of your judgment upon me, may I revel in the salvation I have by grace through Jesus Christ. May I live out this salvation each day, avoiding the actions that characterize a life apart from you.

For your grace and mercy, for your great love, for the chance to live in an altogether new way, I give you thanks, O God. Amen.


Reclaiming Sabbath Keeping

Sabbath is more than a day off. It is a turning of the entire being toward God—a time set apart to contemplate life and work and praise the Creator for it all. The Christian observance of Sabbath is set apart by its lack of rules—there is no strict way to keep Sabbath in Christianity. It’s not a “must” of our faith. And yet, to ignore this fourth commandment is to miss some of God's richest blessings for his people. Join us for The High Calling series on Reclaiming Sabbath Keeping as we explore what the Christian Sabbath might look like and glimpse some benefits and challenges of Sabbath-keeping in today's productivity-driven culture.

Image above by Armando Maynez. Used with Permission. Via Flickr.