Wrath is an attribute of God.

“Wrath, the Bible tells us, is an attribute of God. The modern habit throughout the Christian church is to play this subject down. Those who still believe in the wrath of God (not all do) say little about it; perhaps they do not think much about it. To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex, and self-will, the church mumbles on about God’s kindness, but says virtually nothing about His judgment…The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the subject.” J. I. Packer 

Numbers 16:46So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.”

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4 Responses to Wrath is an attribute of God.

  1. tracy Villanova says:

    Didn’t Jesus pay for all our sins with His blood and Gods wrath was fully satisfied?

  2. andydoerksen says:

    I respect and admire Dr. Packer – but in this case he’s wrong. Nowhere does the Bible state that wrath is an “attribute” of God. This is a common belief among Calvinists – as if God, by His very nature, carries around some sort of anger-baggage that He simply “must” express in order to be true to Himself. This is a tragic caricature.

    I certainly believe that God pours out wrath on sin; I’m NOT one of these “Love wins!”-type guys. However, wrath isn’t an “attribute”; it’s the _expression_ of an attribute. What, then, is the divine attribute that God’s wrath manifests? Answer: His love of righteousness. When that is violated, then God, as the Ultimate Judge, must – in order to be true to Himself – judge the violation.

    It’s not as if, prior to the Fall, there was “wrath” rumbling and burbling within the heart of God, just desperate to be “let out.” That’s because before any of His creatures began rebelling – there was nothing for God to be angry about or to judge or to punish. But He _always_ loved His own righteousness; that IS one of His attributes. And thus it’s His love for His own righteousness that prompted Him to judge and punish sin after sin came into being.

    Moses said to the Israelites after their 40-year wandering: “Remember and do not forget how you provoked Yahweh your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against Yahweh.” (Deut. 9:7)

    The nature of divine wrath is indicated here: rather than an “attribute,” it’s something that only appears after God has been “provoked.” It is the divine outcome of human “rebellion,” Moses tells us. Wrath is _responsive_, not attributive: it’s a response (a) driven by Divine love of righteousness, (b) directed at sin.

    If Calvinism were true, it would seem to mean that God’s “default setting” is anger. But the wonderful biblical reality is that His default setting is _love_: first for Himself (the Members of the Godhead for each Other), then for His creatures.

  3. Chris says:

    I do not think His wrath is like ours, which is usually revenge, rage, self-righteousness

    • andydoerksen says:

      Rage, no; that usually entails lack of self-control.

      Self-righteousness – yes! According to Dictionary.com, to be self-righteous means “confident of one’s own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.” When humans are “confident of [their] own righteousness,” this is a _bad_ thing, for the simple reason that we have no righteousness of our own.

      But in God this is a _good_ thing because He *IS* righteous! And He is justifiably “moralistic” in the sense that He wants all of creation to reflect His own character. Hence “His promise [of] the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) And this is a fantastic thing because “righteousness” = conformity to God’s perfection, including holy love and joy.

      And revenge? . . . Yes! Because God has every right to avenge Himself against those who have wronged Him as well as their fellow creatures. And the Bible isn’t shy about declaring this, either:

      “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. . . . I raise My hand to heaven and declare:
      As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will take vengeance on My adversaries and repay those who hate Me. . . . Rejoice, you nations, concerning His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants. He will take vengeance on His adversaries; He will purify His land and His people.” (Deut. 32:35, 40-41, 43; cf. Psa. 94:1; Isa. 34:8; 59:17; 61:2; Jer. 46:10; Mic. 5:15; Nah. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:8; Jude 14-15)

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