God’s Wrath/Anger Against Wickedness (Morris)

Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Romans Here’s a helpful commentary by Leon Morris on Paul’s discussion of God’s anger or wrath being revealed against man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18):

It is, of course, true that God is love. But it is not true that this rules out any realistic view of God’s wrath.  …Wrath is perhaps not an ideal term, for with us it so easily comes to denote an emotion characterized by loss of self-control and a violent concern for selfish interests. But these are not necessary constituents of wrath, and both are absent from the “righteous indignation” which gives us the best human analogy. In any case “wrath” is the word the Bible uses, and we need the strongest of reasons for abandoning it. It is a term that expresses the settled and active opposition of God’s holy nature to everything that is evil. Until some better suggestion is made we do well to stick to the biblical term to convey the biblical idea. What we should not do is to abandon the idea that the wrath is personal. This leads to the position that God does not care about sin, or at least does not care enough to act. It is impossible to reconcile such a morally neutral position with the scriptural teaching about God. The Bible in general and Paul in particular see God as personally active in opposing sin.

 Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 76.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI


Anger and Us – Our Anger (Powlison)

PowlisonAnger  David Powlison’s book Good and Angry is an outstanding resource on anger.  It does a good job balancing and summarizing the biblical teaching about anger – God’s and ours.   In chapter five Powlison noted the truth that our anger isn’t just a “thing” or an “it,” but something we do as humans.  Here’s a summary of Powlison’s explanation:

  1. Your body operates in the agitated mode.  Anger involves physiology and anatomy.  It has a marked bodily component, obvious in the more dramatic forms of anger.  A general nervous tension pervades your body.  Your adrenaline surges.  The muscles in your face and chest – maybe your fists too! – clench.  Your stomach churns.  The sympathetic nervous system fires up.  You actually feel hot, as blood rushes to your muscles preparing you for action.  Your face gets red….
  2. Your emotions operate in the hot displeasure mode.  Anger is a feeling of distress, trouble, and hatred.  When someone says, ‘I’m angry,’ we usually think first of an emotion of intense displeasure.  Your emotional equilibrium is upset, not calm or happy.  When you don’t like what’s going on, anger adds the emotional charge that says, ‘I really don’t like that!’ …Anger is a passion….
  3. Your mind operates in the judicial mode.  Anger actively involves your thought life.  …When you’re mad, an intense mental conversation takes place. …Anger involves pointed, articulate attitudes and judgments that express the criteria by which you evaluate something as acceptable or unacceptable. …In fact, a microcosm of the criminal justice system plays out in the courtroom of your mind.  You play all the prosecuting roles simultaneously…. [But the] trial is rigged…the verdict is predetermined.  [The other person is guilty as charged.]
  4. Your actions operate in the military mode.  Anger doesn’t only operate in your body, feelings, and mind.  It breaks out into behavior.  And that behavior – whether words or deeds – is about conflict and combat.  Anger goes into action as a military operation.  It’s about winning or losing, identifying enemies and allies, attacking and defending.
  5. Your motives operate in the godlike mode. Anger occurs not only in your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions.  It comes from your deepest motives.  Underlying desires and beliefs are at work – always. …When anger goes bad, it’s because motives operate in the godlike mode.  ‘I want my way.  I demand that you love me on my terms.  I will prove that I am right at all costs…. I want to be in control.  You should obey me, listen to me, attend to my every want….

There’s obviously much more to the discussion, but these are some great observations on how we “do” anger.  For better or worse – usually worse since we’re quite sinful – we all are angry sometimes.  If you want to learn more about good anger and bad anger, how anger relates to the gospel, and what it means to fight against sinful anger, I highly recommend this book: Good and Angry by David Powlison.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

God’s Wrath, God’s Love, and the Cross (Carson)

Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God God’s love and his wrath are on display throughout the Bible.  I realize “the wrath of God” sounds harsh in many people’s ears, but it clearly is a teaching of the Bible.  It’s a teaching that has to do with the perfect justice of God.  Here’s how Don Carson well explained the love and wrath of God:

“The reality is that the Old Testament displays the grace and love of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in new covenant writings.  Similarly, the Old Testament displays the righteous wrath of God in experience and types, and these realities become all the clearer in the new covenant writings.  In other words, both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New.  These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax – in the cross.

Do you wish to see God’s love?  Look at the cross.

Do you wish to see God’s wrath?  Look at the cross.

Hymn writers have sometimes captured this best,  In Wales Christians sing a nineteenth-century hymn by William Rees:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, p 70-71.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015