How do we understand the wrath of God, as revealed in Scripture? This sermon excerpt by Pastor Ray Ortlund is an extremely helpful explanation of Romans 3, and how the anger and love of God are inseparable.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…” (Romans 3:23-25)
God’s wrath? Wait a minute. Is God a fuming, frustrated person? Does he have a temper? Is her subject to mood swings? Is biblical propitiation like the pagan concept of throwing a virgin into the volcano to placate the pineapple god? And what if God changes back to anger? After all, we keep on sinning – in the same old ways, too.
The first thing to say is that the wrath of God is a part of the gospel. It’s the part we tend to ignore. Yet we don’t mind our own anger. There is a lot of anger in us, a lot of righteous indignation. Listen to talk radio. In our culture it’s acceptable to vent our moral fervor at one another. We watch it on cable TV news every night. It’s our entertainment. But the thought of God being angry – well, who does he think he is?
Great question. Who is God? He’s the most balanced personality imaginable. He is normal. His wrath is not an irrational outburst. God’s wrath is worthy of God. It is is morally appropriate, carefully considered, justly intense reaction to our evil demeaning his worth and destroying our own capacity to enjoy him. God cares about that. He is not a passive observer. He’s involved emotionally.
The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It never says, “God is anger.” But it couldn’t say that God is love without his anger, because God’s anger shows how serious his love is…
God presented Christ Jesus as a propitiation by his blood (see Rom. 3:24-35). Do you see the beauty in that? In human religions, it’s the worshiper who placates the offended deity with rituals and sacrifices and bribes. But in the gospel, it’s God himself who provides the offering…
What the sacrifice of millions of lambs in the Old Testament could never accomplish, God has done through Christ. He did it out in the open for everyone to see, because God desires your conscience to be set free. The full fury of the wrath of God was unleashed onto a willing substitute at the cross. This is what God put forward so clearly.
Taken from Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009). Content adapted from “The Most Important Word in the Universe,” sermon by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.