“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18).
Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions, He is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign and holy. However, of all of God’s attributes the one which often solicits the most controversy and debate is God’s wrath.
Notice the present tense verb phrase is being revealed. God’s wrath is not just a future event (Revelation 14 & 19) but a present reality. Theologian Charles Hodge explains that there are three manifestations of God’s present wrath: “the actual punishment of sin,” “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery,” and “the voice of conscience”
The Apostle Paul also explains in Romans 1:18 that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness belonging to and originating from sinful mankind. Ungodliness is a lack of reverence for, devotion to and worship of the One, True God. Ungodliness reflects the sinner’s defective and adversarial relationship with God (Jude 14-15).
Unrighteousness is the result of ungodliness. It is a lack of conformity by thought, speech and behavior to the person and truth of and from God. It is a life lived in rebellion against God and His Word.
Unfortunately, rather than repent sinful mankind seeks to suppress God’s truth in their unrighteousness. As Dr. MacArthur explains, “Although the evidence from conscience (Romans 1:19; 2:14), creation (Romans 1:20), and God’s word is irrefutable, men choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to their sin (cf. Psalm 14:1; John 3:19–20).”
Commentator Robert Haldane states, “The wrath of God … was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed by the curse of the law on every transgression and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this epistle (Romans) the apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. This same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes his glory, also proves that he is the enemy of sin and the avenger of the crimes of men.… But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin.”
To deny the wrath of God, as many Christians even do, is to attack and deny the very nature of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross on the sinner’s behalf. The purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection was not only to provide redemption, justification and reconciliation on behalf of sinners, but also to satisfy the holy and righteous wrath of God toward sinners. There is one particular word which describes this truth and that is the biblical word propitiation.
Dr. MacArthur comments that, “Crucial to the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, this word (propitiation) carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction—in this case Christ’s violent death satisfied the offended holiness and wrath of God against those for whom Christ died (Isaiah 53:11; Colossians. 2:11–14). The Hebrew equivalent of this word was used to describe the mercy seat—the cover to the ark of the covenant—where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the slaughtered animal on the Day of Atonement to make atonement for the sins of the people. In pagan religions, it is the worshiper not the god who is responsible to appease the wrath of the offended deity. But in reality, man is incapable of satisfying God’s justice apart from Christ, except by spending eternity in hell.” (Cf. Leviticus 16; Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:7-11).
Therefore, even in this brief explanation regarding the wrath of God, we can see that the truth of God’s wrath is crucial in understanding the depth of God’s love for sinners. The wrath of God does not contradict God’s love but rather gives greater significance to His love in sending Jesus Christ.
Take time today to thank God for sending Jesus Christ to take your place and receive on your behalf the wrath of God. If you have not repented of your sin and trusted Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, do so immediately in order to no longer face the wrath of God.
Soli deo Gloria!