If you are a parent, have you ever gotten really angry at a child, and found out that you misunderstood the situation? Have you ever fumed at a friend over something that you thought had happened, but really didn’t? Was there ever an e-mail that got you riled up, until you realized that you misread it?
If not, maybe it’s just me, then. Getting angry at the wrong things is a weakness of mine, and is often a source of embarrassment.
While studying the Bible, we may have considered the difference between righteous anger (shown by Jesus, for instance), and unrighteous anger (reference James 1:19-20).
Building upon that, though, let us consider a more extreme form of anger, “Wrath”. Much has been said about the wrath of God (you may have read the messages of Jonathan Edwards, an 18th-century preacher who talked about that subject…and, as I understand it, was used by God to lead significant revival). God’s wrath is a real thing, and should be feared if we have not accepted God’s grace. On the other hand, we should be careful not to base our understanding of God’s wrath on the wrath that we see coming from other human beings. The unfounded wrath of individuals, poured out on opponents, rivals, and general groups that they (we?) don’t like, is often a far cry from God’s wrath, both in the reason why it occurs and in the magnitude of its effects. Compared to God, we are selfish, puny beings (which makes it even more amazing that God loves us so much, despite our having rejected Him).
While reading through a commentary1, I came across the term, God’s “righteous wrath”. This is not just someone getting mad because we walked on his lawn, or even a driver getting angry because we backed into his expensive car. God’s wrath is entirely justified (and even to be expected, when we think about it).
For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
Colossians 3:6-7 NASB
Once we understand that we are entirely deserving of God’s wrath, then the magnitude of His gift starts to become more apparent. By accepting God’s offer, we can find salvation from this wrath that we deserve. Jesus remained sinless (unlike us), and did not deserve God’s wrath. When He willingly chose to take on the wrath of God on our behalf, God implemented another path for us. By exchanging our sin for Jesus’ righteousness (not by compulsion, but as a gift that Jesus offers to us), we find God’s grace. And, because the penalty of sin was paid for, God can withhold His wrath from us in eternity, while He still remains holy and just.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Romans 5:8-9 NASB
See also John 3:36.
So, the next time you think that life isn’t fair, be thankful for that. It would be perfectly fair for us to be recipients of God’s wrath, and it is only by His grace that we have another option to return to a wrath-free relationship with Him.
And, if you haven’t talked with God about this gift of grace, please, please do so. There is no wrath that you (and I) deserve where the eternal punishment hasn’t already been covered by Jesus’ sacrifice. God cared so much about you that He sent Jesus to earth for this. Don’t let pride, shame, or ignorance keep you from getting back together with God. He wants you to be part of His family.
So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
Matthew 18:14 NASB
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Romans Volume 1, Jack Cottrell, p.127ff. College Press, Joplin, MO, (c) 1986. ↩
2 thoughts on “Righteous vs. Unrighteous Wrath”
Currently working on The College Press Bible Study Textbook Series, Isaiah Volume 1, Paul T. Butler, College Press, Joplin, MO, (c) 1975. College Press has published some great bible study material through the years. I’ve really appreciated this study in Isaiah. All through this prophetic book God calls his people to repent and return to him, so that he will not have to exercise his righteous wrath on them. Even when they don’t listen, and after exercising decades, sometimes centuries of restraint to give them more opportunity than any human could possibly endure against such rebellion; even before he does exercise his righteous wrath, he repeatedly gives the promise that in his grace he would send One who would crush the power all the evil wordly forces.
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Thank you for sharing that. Indeed, God’s grace and mercy are more difficult for us to emulate than His wrath, but that shows how much greater He is than us.
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