No Moody Deity: Why the Wrath of God is Unlike the Wrath of Man

By Mathew Gilbert

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Lion King, then you’ll surely remember the scene where Mufasa, king of the lion tribe, gazes out at his entire kingdom with his young son, Simba. Mufasa is trying to help Simba see that one day he will be gone and the kingdom will belong to him. The royal lions are gazing out into their dominion of the African safari, which is marked by a glorious and booming sun shining down. Mufasa’s words are, “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” Then, little Simba notices another part of the kingdom that is untouched by the sun. He curiously asks his father, “But what about the shadowy place?” Mufasa responds, “That’s beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba.”

Romans 1 is much like this scene from The Lion King. The first 17 verses shine with the glorious light of the gospel. However, picking up in verse 18 until the end of the chapter, Paul goes to a very dark place. The first half of Romans 1 is the domain of light we not only want to walk in, but all we want to talk about. The second half of Romans 1 is the domain of darkness we would rather ignore. Indeed, we stay away from this shadowy place in thought and action. But as New Testament scholar Douglas Moo has said, “Only when we have really come to grips with the extent of the human dilemma will we be able to respond as we should to the answer to that dilemma found in the good news about Jesus.”

Romans 1:18-32 really is a shadowy place filled with the wrath of God, the power and curse of sin, idolatry, depravity, and judgment. Paul seems to move from the light of the gospel to the darkness of sin and judgment to answer one question: “Why do we need the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation?”

There are few topics or truths in the Bible that ruffle feathers quite like the wrath of God. Even saying, the wrath of God, sounds scary. It’s not something we like to talk about much. In fact, I’ve heard non-Christians say they could easily believe in a God of love, but they could never believe in a God of wrath. In other words, they can believe in a John 3:16 God, but not a Romans 1:18 God.

The problem with this concern is that the John 3:16 God is also the Romans 1:18 God. There aren’t multiple gods revealed in Scripture. There is only one true and living God revealed in Scripture, and he is both loving and holy. Actually, because he is loving and holy, he pours out his wrath against unrighteousness and the unrighteous. But an important question for us to ask is, “What is the wrath of God?”

Wrath is just an intense word that basically means anger. God is angry at unrighteousness and ungodliness. But it is important to remember that God’s anger is not like our anger. It is possible for us to be angry in a righteous or holy way. For example, it is good to be angry at murder, injustice, and evil of all kinds. But most of the time we are angry in sinful ways. Our motivations and actions fueled by anger are usually sinful.

God is never angry in an unrighteous or sinful way. His anger is pure, holy, and right. It is also wrong to think about God’s wrath as the attitude and action of a moody deity. God doesn’t have mood swings or a temper. Instead, in the words of John Stott, “God’s wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it.”

God’s righteousness is the origin of his wrath. If he did not hate and destroy that which is unrighteous, he would rob himself of glory and his people of joy. It is amazing news that God opposes unrighteousness and sin because he also absorbs the very wrath the unrighteous deserve. God’s wrath and God’s love are not enemies. The enemy of God’s wrath is neutrality. If God just ignored our sin, he could not save us from our sin. Instead, God’s wrath is against sin and sinners. And in God’s love he sent Jesus to fully bear his wrath in our place. In the finished work of Christ, God saves us from himself, to himself, and for himself.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Sermons From Sunday (Feb. 28, 2016)

Deep South Reformation would like these Sermons to benefit you and be an aid to help you understand the scripture for God’s glory. If you are a pastor and would like your sermons on DSR, let us know and if you have any other questions please contact us.

Jaime Orozco on Characteristics of a Pure Heart in the Midst of Trial (Psalm 73)

Jarrod Hawthorne on Jesus’ Ministry Begins (Mark 1:9-11)

Greg Gilbert on “Are We There Yet?” (Romans 8:18:27)

Have a great week!


Sermons From Sunday (Feb. 21, 2016)

Deep South Reformation would like these Sermons to benefit you and be an aid to help you understand the scripture for God’s glory. If you are a pastor and would like your sermons on DSR, let us know and if you have any other questions please contact us.

Paul Sanchez on 1 Peter 4:12-19 (Surprised by Fire)

Jake Stone on Daniel 9:1-23 (O Lord, Hear Me)

Greg Gilbert on Romans 8:12-17 (The Heir Up There)


Glorious Spirit (Part Three)

By Andy Reeves

Romans 8:14-17

This passage establishes another pillar supporting the Father’s glorification of the Holy Spirit. In this passage, there is an important chain of events that points to the Father glorifying the Holy Spirit. In this passage we see one of the most important works of the Spirit; adoption as God’s children. First, the passage tells us that those “who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”[1] The Spirit leads people to trust in Christ, thereby making them sons of God. Second, “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”[2] Not only does the Spirit lead people, he also assures them of their faith in Christ and their status as God’s children. Third, the passage tells us that those who are children of God are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”[3] The final step in the process is that the Spirit’s presence in our lives, coupled with suffering for Christ, results in believers being “glorified with him.”[4]

The Spirit enters the lives of people, convicts them of sin, and causes them to believe in Christ. In this act of regeneration and belief, the Spirit applies the work of Christ to believers, and the work of Christ removes the hostility between God and man. The Spirit now indwells believers leading them and assuring them that they are God’s children. Because they are God’s children they are heirs with Christ and will inherit all the riches of God’s love. Finally, since they are also heirs with Christ they will be glorified with Him.[5]

This process is known as adoption. Galatians tells us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[6] The process of adoption involves both Christ and the Holy Spirit. In this passage in Galatians, we see the work of Christ. God sent Christ to live under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that believers may be adopted into God’s family. The passage in Romans 8:14-17 shows the Holy Spirit’s work in this regard. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ, by leading us to trust in Christ, and by assuring us that we are God’s children. “Such adoption was secured for us by Christ, as Galatians makes clear; here it has been made effective in the life of the believer through the work of the Spirit.”[7] Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance.[8] This joint work of adoption will result in believer’s being glorified with Christ.

Now, on the basis of the previous verses, we see that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit play a significant role in our adoption as God’s children. Scripture is explicit that the Father glorified Jesus because of his work on the cross. Hebrews 1:9 tells us that “we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”[9] The Father exalted and glorified Jesus Christ because of his work on the cross and obedience to the Father’s will. “The Father rewarded him with rule over all because he was the obedient Son, because he never strayed from doing God’s will.”[10] The Father also glorifies Jesus by glorifying those for whom Christ died. If the Father glorifies the Son in his work of making adoption possible, and glorifies the adoptees who are recipients of the work of the Son, then it must be concluded that the Father also glorifies the Holy Spirit in applying the work of Christ. The application of the work of Christ causes adoption to take place and is the down payment of full inheritance with the Son.

Romans 8:14-17 shows us the work of the Spirit. If we are led by the Spirit, we are children of God. As children of God, we are heirs with Christ. Since we are heirs with Christ, we will be glorified with Him. If the work of the Son in causing us to be adopted is glorified, then we must conclude that the work of the Holy Spirit in applying the work of Christ is glorified as well. Ephesians 1 comes the closest in making this conclusion explicit, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”[11] In this passage, we see that those who hope in Christ are to the praise of his glory. “The recipients of these wide-ranging blessings of salvation, along with Paul, have been stimulated by this recital of God’s mighty acts in his Son to express their gratitude and praise.”[12] And those who are sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the coming inheritance are to the praise of his glory. All glory goes to God, and we see that the Son and Holy Spirit are included in this glory because they carry out the work of redemption in believer’s lives. Therefore, we can conclude that the Father glorifies the Holy Spirit for His work in applying the work of Christ causing adoption to take place.

[1] Romans 8:14.

[2] Romans 8:16.

[3] Romans 8:17.

[4] Romans 8:17.

[5] John 16:8-11; Colossians 2:8-15; 2 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:14-17; Ephesians 1:11 Romans 8:17.

[6] Galatians 4:4-5.

[7] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Reprint edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 566.

[8] 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:14.

[9] Hebrews 1:9.

[10] Thomas R. Schreiner, Commentary on Hebrews (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 73.

[11] Ephesians 1:11-14.

[12] Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 123.

Andrew Reeves is married to Hannah, an Arkansas native, and a student at SBTS.