The Forgotten Doctrine of the Wrath of God
The need to recover the God of the Bible.
23 SEPTEMBER 2017 · 10:00 CET
Humanity’s chief problem is neither a lack of self-esteem nor the state of the world economy nor the advance of Islamic terrorism.
Humanity’s chief problem is the wrath of God.
Sadly, the doctrine of God’s wrath –omnipresent in the writings and sermons of our Protestant forefathers- has all but disappeared from the Western pulpit.
The fearful God of Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones is markedly different to the decaffeinated deity on display in the twenty-first century. Why? Because many theologians believe themselves to be more compassionate and kind than the Lord of glory!
When the apostle of grace, Saul of Tarsus, wrote the letter of letters –the glorious and incomparable epistle to the Romans- he kicked off his Gospel proclamation by announcing the wrath of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
Before preaching us the good news, Paul speaks of the bad news, namely, that the Jews with the Law and the Gentiles without the Law are all under the fierce wrath of God. God’s anger is a key theme that holds the epistle together (2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13: 4, 5).
Paul could not think of the Gospel without first musing upon the terrible reality of divine judgment against sinful men and women. And without this apostolic understanding of the wrath of God, we simply cannot appreciate the glory of the Gospel.
In the Old Testament, God poured out His wrath upon Noah’s generation, Sodom and Gomorrah, the sons of Aaron, King Saul, Israel and the surrounding nations. He unveiled His mighty arm by punishing the wicked. God is a God of wrath.
In the New Testament, He muted Zachariah, fulminated Ananias and Sapphira, struck down Herod and left Elimas blind. And then there is the most powerful demonstration of the wrath of God anywhere recorded: the crucifixion of His beloved and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the One who was brutally broken for the sins of His people. God is a God of wrath.
The whole Bible proclaims this same truth, that humanity’s chief problem is not the devil but the wrath of a righteous, holy and just God. This is the God that we are called to preach upon.
Concepts such as ‘sin’, ‘repentance’, ‘wrath’, ‘judgment’ and ‘condemnation’ must be revived if we are to be faithful to the Lord of hosts. I ask you in all sincerity: when was the last time you heard a sermon preached on one of these weighty themes?
It was for this reason that the aforementioned preachers were so singularly used of God in their respective generations to recover the biblical Gospel. They took humanity’s fallen condition seriously.
They started their preaching with the presupposition of Paul using the Law to accuse the ungodly that “every mouth may be shut and the whole world be guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).
From this non-negotiable starting point regarding the wrath of God against the ungodly, our Protestant forefathers went on to unfold the best news of all, the glorious New Testament Gospel, that is, the righteousness of God which is granted to sinners in the name of Jesus Christ. Oh, blessed be the name of the Lord!
But without the message of God’s wrath against sin, the Gospel means nothing.
I would like to wrap up today by speaking directly to all of my readers who are preachers:
Brethren, it is high time we got back to preaching the Word of God just as it is written. Let us stop seeking the world’s favour! Let us cease from building the church upon an adulterated Gospel (which is no Gospel)!
Let us leave idolatry aside, casting down this false twenty-first century deity for God’s glory! Let us get back to the Gospel of Paul, Augustine, Zwingli, the Puritans, Whitefield and J.C. Ryle! Let us raise up our voices while the day lasts!
Humanity’s chief problem has always been and will always be the wrath of God. Whosoever does not believe in a God of wrath does not believe in the God of the Bible.