By Dr. Chris Thurman
God hates sin. God’s holiness and purity give birth to His righteous anger when we do the things He doesn’t want us to do. God doesn’t want us to walk around suffering from panic attacks about His hatred of sin, but He also doesn’t want us to take sin lightly. Let’s examine the most important things about the wrath of God, things we need to know in order to have healthy relationships with Him.
God’s Wrath Is an Expression of His Love
God is righteously angry about sin because He loves us. God is angry when we sin because He knows that we harm ourselves and others when we act immorally. Because God loves us and cares about us, He hates it when we do things that damage our lives and the lives of those around us. Please don’t ever forget that God’s righteous anger toward our wrongdoing comes out of His love for us. It is unmistakable evidence that He cares too much about us to indifferently twiddle His thumbs while we turn into little hellions. God’s Wrath Is Provoked by Our Sin
God’s righteous anger toward sin doesn’t come out of nowhere. He doesn’t suddenly fly off the handle. God’s wrath is triggered by our sin. To put it differently, if God is angry, we are the ones who started it.
God’s Wrath Is Deserved
This news may be hard to swallow: in addition to eliciting God’s wrath, we actually deserve it when we sin. “Trigger God’s wrath” versus “deserve God’s wrath” may not sound like an important distinction to make, but it is.
When you speed down a highway going ninety-five in a sixty-five-miles-per-hour zone and get pulled over by a police officer (as my lead-footed daughter, Kelly, did), you deserve it. Not only does your speeding trigger the wrath of the cop, but you also deserve the ticket you receive. Now, do you think this is the attitude most of us have when we get tickets? A lot of us are angry we got pulled over and try to talk a cop into letting us off the hook for speeding. And we often come up with some real doozie for why we shouldn’t get the tickets we so richly deserve.
Unfortunately, we can be that way with God. We make excuses for why we sin so that God won’t discipline us when we do. And sometimes we go even farther off the rails by feeling bitter and resentful when God finally gives us “tickets.” We need to think twice about being that way toward God, as He is only trying to help us grow and make the world a safer place to live in when He disciplines us for messing up. Our response to God’s discipline, strangely enough, should be to thank Him, given that it is an expression of His love and goodness (Prov. 3:11–12).
God’s Wrath Is an Incentive for Us to Live Holy Lives
God expresses His wrath to try to spur us to live holy and righteous lives. Can you imagine what we would be like as motorists if cops didn’t patrol the highways? Would very many of us obey the speed limit? I don’t think so. Police officers who set up radar traps are giving us an incentive to drive in a more “holy” manner. We ought to thank them for that, not curse them.
God is that way as well. God’s wrath is not His being a sadist who loves to inflict pain; it is His providing us with an incentive to obey Him. If we are wise, we don’t want to bring bad things on ourselves by disobeying Him. Only a fool would purposely incur the wrath of God by being disobedient. Truly wise people obey God so they not only avoid His wrath but also bring about His blessings.
God’s Wrath Expresses Itself in Three Primary Ways
If you study the way God interacts with people in the Bible who sinned, you can make a case that there are three basic ways God expresses His wrath.
First, God’s wrath is expressed by allowing natural consequences to come your way. If you have a lead foot as a driver, God will express His righteous anger about your breaking the speed limit by letting you receive an expensive ticket. If that is enough to get your attention and lead you to slow down, that is as far as God’s wrath will go on the matter.
Second, God’s wrath is expressed in that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Heb. 12:6). The following is an imperfect analogy, but if you get ten speeding tickets in a short span of time, the police will discipline you by taking away your license so you can’t drive. God is that way as well. If the natural consequences of a sin were not enough to get you to repent, God will bring some form of painful discipline into your life to motivate you to get your act together.
Finally, the wrath of God can ultimately take the form of what’s called “a sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16). This is a controversial passage in Scripture. Some theologians interpret it as applying to nonbelievers who end up eternally separated from God because they refused to believe in Jesus Christ as their redeemer. Others interpret it as referring to believers who repentantly sin in such a grievous way that God takes their life (as He did with Ananias and Sapphira). I believe it is saying both. My focus here is on the application of this verse to believers and that God will at times express His wrath in the most severe way by removing us from the planet if we unrepentant do dreadful things. This ultimate expression of the wrath of God is not meant to freak us out or cause us to constantly worry that God is going to take our lives. But it is meant to convey how much God hates sin and that when we unrepentant do the most grievous sins, He is going to have the strongest reaction of all.
God’s Wrath Is Not to Be Interfered With
The wrath of God toward sin is not something most of us want to think about, and it certainly isn’t a common sermon topic these days. Almost as an over-correction to the “hell fire and brimstone” preaching from the past, far too many sermons now are about God having nothing but warm-fuzzy feelings toward us and wanting us to be happy. The wrath of God is not to be ignored just because it is unpleasant to think about. In our efforts to grow into mature followers of Christ, we need to allow God’s wrath to be what it is: an expression of His love and kindness.
Dr. Chris Thurman is a psychologist in private practice in Austin, Texas. He earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Texas. A bestselling author and popular speaker, he has conducted hundreds of seminars for churches and corporations around the country.
© 2017 Dr. Chris Thurman. The Lies We Believe About God: Knowing God for Who He Really Is is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.Rate This Art