How Well Do You Know God (Part 13)
Even though some feel that when God exercises His wrath against people, He is cruel, acting inhumanely and unfairly, this is not the case. God’s wrath is always judicial. He is acting as a holy and righteous judge administering proper justice against sinful people who persist in rebelling against His righteous requirements. As Paul wrote. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deed” Rom.2:4-6.
In the book of Romans Paul deals with the question as to why God had cast off the Jews as His chosen nation. In answering the question, he pointed out several times that it was because of their immoral sins, and their rebellion against God that caused Him to execute His wrath against them. In the process he also shows that all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike, deserve to suffer the wrath of God, for they are all sinners. Yet, even though they were all sinners, God still loved them and provided a plan by which people could escape the final wrath of God. It was through the gospel of Christ, that all who would believe in His Son could be acquitted of sin (seen as righteous) through Jesus’ blood sacrifice. It was the sins of unrighteous mankind, that prompted God to sacrifice His Son. So, Paul writes. “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man). Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?” Rom.3:5-6. God’s wrath can be appeased through His Son.
No, God’s wrath is not cruel. Cruelty is always immoral, and God is not a cruel God. But, in punishing people, He is simply rendering to mankind what they really deserve. Each person will receive retribution “according to his deed,” i.e., what is due them.
Jesus, who spoke a great deal on the wrath of God clearly made the point that God’s retributive judgment upon persons would be proportioned on what they did. Notice His parable in Lk.12:41-48, about the faithful and wise steward in stark contrast to the wicked, unrighteous steward. The faithful and wise steward, even though his master delayed his return, continued to faithfully carry out the responsibilities appointed to him by his master. On the other hand, the wicked, unrighteous steward, knowing his master was delayed in coming, took advantage of the situation and used the time to “beat, the menservants and maidservants, and to eat, and drink and be drunk.” Upon the master’s return he rewarded the faithful and wise steward, but he appointed the wicked steward “his portion with the unbelievers.” Jesus then concludes with pointing out that “the servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself, or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required, and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (I will save a discussion of “Are there degrees of punishment” for a future lesson).
Please understand, God doesn’t want to punish people. Even though “He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” Acts 17:31, He has delayed the time because He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” 2.Pet.3:9. But He is not going to delay forever.
In studying about the wrath of God we also need to realize that when He pours out His wrath, it is man’s choosing, not His. People invite the wrath of God by their refusal to listen to Him, to believe in, and obey His Son Jn.3:16; Heb.5:9. Man has been given a choice. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” Jn.3:17-19.
Jesus gave men the choice to believe in and obey Him when He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me” Matt.11:28-29. To do this He tells them, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” Matt.16:24.
God has done all that He is going to do until the final judgment. At this time man still has a choice. Believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, obey Him, and devote one’s life to serving Him while in this world. If you do this, you can escape he wrath of God. On the other hand, if a person chooses to be by himself, to live without God and Christ in this life, it is his choice. If He wants to continue to defy God, then God will allow him that preference, He will give man what he chooses, but later he will have to face the wrath of God and that will not be pleasant.
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