COMING TO KNOW CHRIST

Friday, December 30, 2005

THE HIDDEN DOCTRINE OF GOD'S WRATH

GOD’S WRATH OR GOD’S DISCIPLINE

That which follows considers God’s Wrath in the specific context of nonbelief. It does not ask or answer the question regarding the correction of sin in the believer’s life. That issue is presented in the entry on this blog titled “Unrighteousness.”

This discussion deals with the consequences of God’s Wrath and the typical manifestation of these consequences as they apply to nonbelievers.

Based on the authority of Scripture, the Wrath only applies to nonbelievers. The important distinction is made that the Wrath manifests itself in nonbelief and is founded in God’s anger.

While the Wrath is the predominant effect in the nonbeliever’s life, God’s discipline, as compared to His Wrath, is the vehicle for correction of the believer and is differentiated from the Wrath in the important respect that discipline is established in God’s love.

The following two verses relate to this conclusion:

“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.” (Rom 5:8,9)

“For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines.” (Heb 12:6; Prov 3:12; Deut 8:5; Rev 3:19)

Romans 1:18-32 establishs the specific basis for belief and the application of God’s Wrath based on nonbelief. Romans 1:18-32 tie these two crucial considerations together. These verses immediately follow this introduction.

It should be clearly understood that God’s anger regarding nonbelief proclaims itself in the form of His Wrath. That God’s Wrath is measured in terms of the consequences for the nonbeliever. A simple summary follows:

· Nonbelief sponsors God’s anger.

· God’s anger sponsors His Wrath towards nonbelievers.

· The Wrath determines specific consequences of nonbelief.

· The Wrath’s consequences are discerned in general, explicit and implicit manifestations.

The outline and substance of the following is faithful to this summary explanation.

With this said, an important qualification applies to the explanation given herein, and that pertains to who is really subjected to His Wrath? This raises a number of additional, profound questions, such as, what is a believer?

The Christian Church is made up of many people who have “one step in and one step out” in terms of their true belief. The question as to “What is a believer?” in a specific Christian context, is answered in the blog entry on Belief and Faith.

One must also recognize that there are many who belong to God who do not have an affiliation with a church or formal religion for various reasons, who are spiritual, who seek and love God in their own quiet, informal way:

Romans 2:14
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts,”

Because of this, one must be reasonably discerning in judging the Wrath’s apparent manifestations in a nonbeliever’s life.

With respect to nonbelief only, the counsel in Romans 2:1 is an appropriate warning on being judgmental regarding the appearance of the Wrath’s consequences in a nonbeliever’s life:

“Therefore you are without excuse, every one of you who
passes judgment, for in that you judge one another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same thing.”


What are those “same things?” They are explained in Romans 1:18-32, the main Scriptural reference that follows.

Certain sections of this verse will be repeated. And the sections underlined, where “God gave them over” are the basis for the presentation of The Wrath’s consequences and manifestations.

After consideration of Romans 1:18-32, the narration starts with a brief review of the reasons why the doctrine of Wrath is generally hidden in the teachings of the Church.

This is followed by a general summary of the Scripture’s revelation regarding Salvation and God’s Wrath.

Since this explanation relies on the revealed testimony in Romans 1:18-32, the question about Belief and the evidence of God is presented, since unbelief is the source of the Wrath.

The explanation proceeds to discuss the divergent teachings on the Wrath. It then reconciles three key verses in Romans before presenting the testimony of four outstanding men of God on the Wrath’s consequences, prior to the culminating section, The Wrath’s Manifestations. This is followed by the writer’s testimony.

ROMANS 1:18-32

These verses are quoted as follows for convenience and edification of the reader. They represent the basis for the teachings of the Wrath as presented in this work.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.


For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.

For they exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their errors.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but give hearty approval to those who practice them.”


THE HIDDEN DOCTRINE OF WRATH

That which follows speaks to a ponderous and awesome subject, the Wrath of God as inspired by disbelief. The Wrath is an incredible doctrine which should deeply concern believers. But it is generally hidden, ignored if not emasculated in the teachings of the Church. Why is this so?

First of all, the Wrath appears to be a hard, sober teaching. For, many have extreme difficulty reconciling a loving and angry God. This subject creates anguish and discomfort on the part of believers who wish to avoid the somber, negative attributes of the Wrath’s teaching. This reaction exists even though the Wrath is a certain reality that effects the nonbeliever; and, that it is also an authentic teaching that draws on those who have embraced Faith to understand the Bible’s revealed message, in witnessing, and in coming to know a “right” relationship with God.

Second, the thought of an angry and loving God suggests the Gnostic concept of Dualism, Marcion’s heterodox teaching, where a power of good and a power of evil exists in the universe. As will be seen, the apparent paradox of two contradictory faces of God, one expressed in love, and then one in anger, is not Dualistic, nor paradoxical, and is not a contradiction. For one face is turned in love to those who love Him, and the other to those who dismiss Him in an attitude of cynical disbelief, the manifested curse of the Adamic heritage. (Rom 5:12)

The loving and wrathful attributes of God confuse the doctrines of Christ’s Church in understanding the difference between people wandering in disbelief, and subject to His Wrath, and believer’s being disciplined for sin through the magnificent agency of His Love. (Heb 12:3-11) It is a subject politely muddled if not avoided.

The Wrath seems to be possessed with inherent controversy, unpleasantness, while being possibly overwhelming, and the apparent antithesis to the predominant Christocentric teaching emphasizing love.

Third, most believers have seen the tragic, sometimes life-lasting, sometimes life-terminating effects of the Wrath in the lives of many nonbelieving friends and love-ones. These effects are typically expressed in the sufferings caused by the general manifestations of ungodliness, degraded passions, and specific acts of depravity, all of these being the consequences of the primordial sin of disbelief.

Many believers have experienced the Wrath imposed in their own lives, during periods when they have wandered from Belief, or prior to that great day when they were “reborn.” They have beheld the human toil, the mortal wreckage, the tale of wrath that unbelief provokes and inspires.

As will be seen, the nonbeliever is really abandoned by God because of the choice to ignore Him. Nonbelievers are prodded by His Wrath, while being mislead by the cutting perspective, the assuring lie, the embracement of a cynical, worldly view that denies God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible’s doctrines.

Fourth, even members of the Faith do not understand God’s plan as stated in Scripture. Informed and curious nonbelievers skeptically ask, “Why is God angry?” They lamely observe “So He created Adam and he disobeyed. So what?”

The broad and profound question as to why He is angry is only answered by an equally profound understanding of His inscrutable plan of the ages. That, according to His divine counsel and eternal purpose, He created mankind and selectively chose those who would be His own over thousands of years of time. (Eph 1:4;1Pete 2:9) That He is angry with those who are not His according to His divine purpose. For this earth is the domain of the Father of Lies (John 8:44), the ruler of the world. (14:30)

As a part of God’s plan, the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, the distinctive being of a person, “designated Son of God in power...by His resurrection from the dead.” (Rom 1:4), came to make direct revelations about the Triune God, and He did this in His Word, the inspired Writings, the Bible. He made promises of salvation and eternal life. And He was nailed to a Cross, to die a humiliating, torture inflicted, horrible death. He was crucified so that God could be appeased; so that His anger would be propitiated (satisfied with a result), at least as far as those who are His elect in Christ are concerned (Eph 1), those who come to embrace God’s witness that His anger is satisfied by Christ’s death; that the foreboding disobedience, the fathering act of disbelief by Adam is forgiven for those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Yes, he is angry. Why? Because unbelieving mankind continues to reject Him, to reject the Son, to reject His Spirit. Yes, he is angry! But, oh how He eternally loves His Own, those who believe He exists (Heb 11:6); those who love Him.

Fifth, besides understanding God’s plan, one must also understand the overall context of His Wrath as applied in His design as revealed in Scripture. It must be made clear that God’s Wrath is central to the reason for:

· Adam’s failure and the consequences for mankind of that failure. (Rom 5:12)

· Christ’s coming and His ministry; His atoning death on the Cross; His resurrection (Rom 4:25); the gift of the Holy Spirit.

· The propitiating aspects of His death, as manifested in the twofold result of:

1) the forgiving of the imputed sin from Adam, and
2) the pardon and release of:

a) the operative Wrath in the daily life of the believer (Rom 1:18);
b) the final judgment reserved for nonbelievers (Rom 2:5).

This is a basic truth generally ignored by the Church. For, as suggested before, it all appears to compromise His real character in the overwhelming pleasure and security of love.

This explanation, therefore, treats the subject of God’s Wrath with the objective of providing an understanding in terms of its relationship to disbelief, the prideful attitude and eternal conviction that separates nonbelieving mankind from Yahweh, Abba Father, the Triune God.

A SUMMARY ON THE WRATH

The following is a general summary of the Bible revelation regarding Salvation and God’s Wrath:

· God created mankind pure and holy, and endowed them with the freedom of choice to have belief or to ignore Him.

· Adam was tried, exercised the freedom of choice, disobeyed, lost his freedom, and became a slave of sin.

· The whole human race fell with him, is justly condemned in Adam and exposed to His Wrath.

· God’s elect are those who acknowledge the evidence of His existence, and by that evidence, have Belief.

· Without any regard to moral merit other than by simple Belief, He converts the elect by irresistible Grace, provides the gifts of Righteousness (Rom 5:17) and Faith (Eph 2:8), justifies, regenerates, sanctifies, and perfects them.

· In His inscrutable, yet just and adorable counsel, He leaves the rest of mankind in their inherited state of condemnation (disbelief), subject to the Wrath. (Rom 1:18)

· He reveals in the everlasting punishment of those that do not believe in Him the glory of His awful judgment.

THE EVIDENCE OF GOD

Martin Luther advises the Christian Saint, in the introduction
of his Commentary on Romans,

“Hence Christ calls unbelief the only sin, when he says, in John 16, ‘The Spirit will rebuke the world for sin, because they do not believe in me.’ For this reason, too, before good or bad works are done, which are the fruits, there must first be faith or unbelief, which is the root, the sap, the chief power of all sin.”

If “unbelief is the only sin” what, then, is the specific biblical authority for Belief in God? For if we are to understand the wrath of God and mankind’s cynicism about God, there must be a solid biblical justification, an explanation that establishes the basis for Belief in God’s existence in the first place.

For, if the basis for Belief does not exist, then unbelieving mankind has a right to be cynical about His existence, it has a justification for being cynical about the representations of His revelation. If there is no basis for Belief there is no basis for His Wrath. This consideration, therefore, cuts to the validity of the total question regarding the relationship of God’s Wrath to cynical nonbelief in the anthropological context addressing mankind’s disbelief.

The answer to this question is given in Romans 1:18-20. It is a clear statement on the teaching of Belief, led by the words “evident” and “seen” in the New American Standard (NAS) Open Bible.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:18-20 doesn’t imply that one accept the “evidence” about God in Faith. It is not a statement that suggests one should “trust” what is known about God. It is a statement which affirms directly, “that which is known about God is evident within them.” The basis for Belief is a personal knowledge resulting from evidence, from things seen, all directed at God!

John MacArthur, a prominent pastor, practicing theologian, and author of nearly 20 books advises in his Commentary on Romans 1-8:

“No one can find God on his or her initiative or by his or her wisdom or searching. Yet God has never left mankind to its own initiative and understanding but has graciously provided abundant evidence of Himself. He has sovereignly and universally made Himself evident to mankind. No person, therefore, can plead being not informed of God, because, entirely apart from Scripture, God has always revealed Himself and continues to reveal Himself to mankind.

God is perfectly just and therefore could not rightly condemn those who are totally not informed about Him. As Paul unequivocally asserts (Rom 1:19), no person can rightly claim not being informed of God, and therefore no person can rightly claim God’s wrath as being unjust.

While being informed of God, unbelieving mankind’s choice is to proceed in life in ignorance of Him, by literally ignoring God’s existence. Every person is accountable for the revelation of God that may lead one to salvation from the operative wrath in life (Rom 1:18) and the wrath of judgment to come (Rom 2:5).”

THE DARKENED HEART

Another fateful teaching is provided in Romans 1:21

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Romans 1:18-22, establishes the fact that God’s presence is evident to unbelieving mankind. Further, the result of the real ignorance of God is that nonbelieving mankind’s “heart was darkened.” This leads back to the opening of this passage, 1:18-20 and the ominous warning to nonbelievers, repeated again for edification:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

The rest of this famous passage is Romans 1:24-32. It deals specifically with the consequences of disbelief, the Wrath’s Manifestations, in the section by that title.

It must be emphasized again that the remarkable verses in Romans 1:18-32 establish 1) the specific basis for belief, and 2) the application of God’s Wrath based on nonbelief. These verses tie the two crucial considerations of Belief and the consequences of nonbelief together.

For it is nonbelief which is the source of His anger! As Luther has told us. “For this reason, too, before good or bad works are done, which are the fruits, there must first be faith or unbelief, which is the root, the sap, the chief power of all sin.”

The real message here is nonbelievers are forewarned: the Wrath of God is a certain force, a stipulated reality in their lives!

WHAT IS THIS WRATH?

And what is this Wrath? How terrible it seems to be! In understanding the nature of the Wrath it is important to understand God’s conduct in administering his enmity against disbelief.

It is the natural reaction to think of God’s anger and the Wrath as spectacularly fearsome, which it can be as God has shown in the Flood (Gen 6-7), Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 18-19), Pharaoh and his army in the sea (Ex 14).

J.I. Packer teaches us as follows in his book, Knowing God:

“Thus God’s love, as the Bible views it, never leads Him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us. And in the same way, God’s wrath in the Bible is never capricious, self indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil and irreligion (such as unbelief). God is only angry where anger is called for. Even among mankind, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though it is, perhaps, rarely found. But all God’s indignation is righteous.

Would a God who took much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect? Surely not. But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God’s wrath.”

The Wrath is the “right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil and irreligion such as unbelief....which is a necessary part of moral perfection,” the result of God’s righteous indignation.

DIVERGENT TEACHINGS ON THE WRATH

Continuing with the hope of understanding this great issue, one must, first of all, recognize that the subject of the Wrath is not widely addressed in Churches or by theologians.

It is an uncomfortable subject, a controversial subject, one that is difficult to reconcile with the peace and love of God as exemplified by the witness of Jesus Christ.

John MacArthur confirms this inclination in his Commentary on Romans 1-8:

“Tragically, even many evangelicals have come to soft-pedal the theme of God’s wrath and judgement. Even so much as a minimum mention of hell has been quietly removed from much preaching. Wrath, when mentioned at all, is frequently depersonalized, as if somehow it is worked out automatically by some deistic operation in which God himself is not directly involved.”

Second, there is a sincere divergence by many eminent theologians on the doctrine of Wrath, which may have been caused by the tendency to “soft-pedal” the Wrath theme. By way of example, the very respected contemporary theologian, Lawrence O. Richards, author of the widely received and praised Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, instructs us as follows:

“In regard to unbelievers, God graciously is holding back expression of deserved wrath, to give everyone opportunity for repentance. Those who will not respond to grace store up wrath, a wrath to be experienced in the day of final judgement. It is clear, then, why the Book of Revelation speaks so often of God’s anger and wrath. It is at history’s end that the anger God now withholds will be fully displayed.”

Richards implies the Wrath is not operative in the every day life of the nonbeliever, contradicting MacArthur’s statement quoted at the beginning of this writing:

“Every person is accountable for the revelation of God that may lead one to salvation from the operative wrath in life (Rom 1:18) and the wrath of judgement to come (Rom 2:5).”

Richards holds it is “to be experienced in the day of final judgement.” Espousing a very different teaching than MacArthur, Richards seems to dismiss the ominous teaching of Romans 1:18 and is relying on the less threatening, forbearing Romans 2:5:

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.”

Another example of the divergent teachings of the Wrath is the theology of an English mystic, Julian of Norwich (1342 - 1416). She is known for her Revelations of Divine Love, which embraced the teaching that there is no Wrath in God. Robert Llewelyn states in his book, Love Bade Me Welcome, “Julian will not allow such a conception; her teaching is that the wrath - which she describes as a perversity and opposition to peace and love - is in us and not in God.”

As an advocate of Julian’s teachings, Llewelyn also stresses the point that there is no Wrath in God, either directed at believers or nonbelievers, and he cites others who share this belief. His argument is strongly slanted towards the absence of the Wrath in the life of the Christian Saint, which is a truth supported by Scripture.

There are other eminent theologians that offer a different view from Richards and Llewelyn, especially when considering the further prophetic truth in Romans 1:18:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth (about God) in unrighteousness.”

This Scripture appears to be direct and unambiguous. In the context of the total declaration in Romans 1:18-32, the Wrath is revealed. It is revealed from heaven. It is revealed against all nonbelieving mankind, against all ungodliness and unrighteous practices by nonbelievers, against all nonbelieving mankind that suppress the truth about God in unrighteousness.

It should be obvious that Richard’s and Llewelyn’s positions are very different than the writer’s at this point, since he believes Scripture substantiates the Wrath “revealed from Heaven” is active in the nonbeliever’s life.

MacArthur and J.I. Packer provide an important insight into what the Scripture really teaches on this question.

The following is relevant, a confirming elucidation of the divergence of theologians on the teaching of the Wrath and answers Llewelyn’s postulation that there is no Wrath in God. It is from the book, Knowing God, by J.I. Packer, a very respected theologian and author:

“No doubt it is true that the subject of divine wrath has in the past been handled speculatively, irreverently, even malevolently. No doubt there have been some who have preached of wrath and damnation with tearless eyes and no pain in their hearts. No doubt the sight of small sects cheerfully consigning the whole world, apart from themselves, to hell has disgusted many. Yet if we would know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning His wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial prejudices against it. Otherwise, we shall not understand the gospel of salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God.

Nor shall we understand the hand of God in history, and God’s present dealing with our own people; nor shall we be able to make head or tail of the book of Revelation; nor will our evangelism have the urgency enjoined by Jude - ‘save some, by snatching them out of the fire’ (Jude 23). Neither our knowledge of God, nor our service to Him, will be in accord with His Word.”

The real question is whether His Wrath exists in the present experience of mankind, or is it an event enacted “at history’s end” as specified by Richards. Packer answers decisively:

“In the first part of Romans 3, Paul carries on his argument to prove that every man, Jew and gentile alike, being ‘under sin’ stands exposed to the wrath of God in both its present and future manifestation. Here, then, is every person in his or her natural state without the gospel; the finally controlling reality in his or her life, whether he or she is aware of it or not, is the active anger of God. But now, says Paul, acceptance, pardon, and peace are freely given to those who hitherto were ‘ungodly’ and ‘enemies of God’, but who now put faith in Christ Jesus, ‘whom God set forth as a propitiation....by His blood.’ And believers know that ‘much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him’.”

John MacArthur confirms Packer’s teaching and further helps our understanding of this important consideration in his magnificent 538 page Commentary on Romans 1-8:

“The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgement on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of mankind’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under sentence of eternal condemnation and death.

Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath ‘against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.’ As the apostle points out in his Ephesian letter, all unbelievers are ‘by nature children of wrath’ (Eph 2:3), born unto God’s wrath as their natural inheritance in fallen mankind. With the fall, God’s smile turned to a frown. Moses rhetorically asked God, ‘Who understands the power of Thine anger, and thy fury, according to the fear due Thee?’ (Ps 90:11)

Paul is determined for us to know that before we can understand the grace of God we must first understand His wrath, that before we can understand the meaning of the death of Christ we must first understand why man’s sin made that death necessary, that before we can begin to comprehend how loving, merciful and gracious God is we must first see how rebellious, sinful, and guilty unbelieving mankind is.”

With deference and admiration for Lawrence O. Richards and Robert Llewelyn, Scripture clearly teaches the Wrath is an active part of the nonbeliever’s worldly existence, and that the obedient believer is saved from the Wrath by Christ’s atonement on the Cross:

“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.” (Rom 5:8,9)

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thes 5:9)

ROMANS’ TEACHINGS ON THE WRATH

It is important to reconcile the teachings in Romans 1:18, Romans 2:5, and Romans 9:22,23. At the risk of some repetition (1;18; 2:5), each verse follows:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth (about God) in unrighteousness.” (Rom 1:18)

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.” (Rom 2:5)

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory.” (Rom 9:22,23)

ROMANS 1:18

This verse speaks clearly to nonbelievers, the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” This admonition is directed at those who have, and are, ignoring the evident reality of His revelation in nature, in mankind’s conscience, and in Scripture. As surely as a babe seeks the mothers breast, the consciousness of God is an intimate, real presence in the mind of each person.

The following testimony provides a poignant example of the individual’s intuitive knowledge of God:

“A disease left Helen Keller as a very young girl without sight, hearing and speech. Through Anne Sullivan’s tireless and selfless efforts, Helen Keller learned to communicate through touch and even learned to talk. When Miss Sullivan first tried to tell Helen about God, the girl’s response was that she already knew about Him - she just didn’t know His name (Helen Keller, The Story of My Life).” From MacArthur’s Commentary on Romans

It is Skepticism’s argument which culls the ranks of mankind, seeking and selecting converts to atheism and agnosticism, the army of nonbelievers.

ROMANS 2:5

Romans 2:5 speaks to the final judgement and not the day to day administration of the wrath in the nonbeliever’s life. John MacArthur places this truth in perspective:

“To stubbornly and unrepentently refuse God’s gracious pardon of sin through Jesus Christ is the worst sin of all. To do so is to greatly magnify one’s guilt by rejecting God’s goodness, presuming on His Kindness, abusing His mercy, ignoring His grace, and spurning His love. The person who does that increases the severity of God’s wrath in the day of God’s judgement (Rev 20:10-15). When God’s goodness is persistently taken lightly, the result is certain and proportionate judgement.”

ROMANS 9:22,23

These verses speak to the certain truth that His plan is predestined and seeks and fulfills the glorification of those faithful, who are His elect, who believe in Him.

The eminent and revered John Walvord, Chancellor of the Dallas Theological Seminary, provides the final authority on this passage in his abridged rendition of Chafer’s Systematic Theology:

“The day of divine wrath cannot be escaped except by coming to Christ and trusting His redeeming blood. The Bible does reveal God’s patience towards sinners and His long-suffering in waiting for them to come to himself (Rom 9:22; Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9, 15). The Bible reveals the certainty of judgment on all those who take advantage of divine patience because God is ever holy in character and righteous in His actions, whether in His long-suffering or His judgments (Matt 24:48-51; Rom 2:4-5).

God by His election has chosen some (Vessels of Mercy) but not all to salvation (Vessels of Wrath). The fact of divine election is clearly stated in the Word of God. The fact that man can only partially understand it does not change the certainty of the truth. These teachings are clear in this teaching (Rom 9:23; Eph 1:4-5; 2Thes 2:14; 1 Peter 1:2). In the very act of divine election are choosing some who are obviously not elected or chosen.”

Romans 1:18 displays God’s Wrath to nonbelieving mankind.

Romans 2:5 warns of the further Wrath to be administered to nonbelievers in the final judgement.

Romans 9:22,23 gives the reason why His Wrath is administered to those that refuse Him.

A summary outline provides it is God’s will that He display His power and divine authority:

· “In order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

· While He “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”

· To “demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known.”

· So that believers will know and understand His DivineDecree and plan for mankind.

The irony of this is these ominous lessons from Scripture have no meaning for nonbelievers, for they consider it “foolishness.” People advocating nonbelief are bemused over and silently ridicule the concerns of believers for their spiritual welfare, all of this being the result and burden of cynicism. After all, as stated in Romans 1:21, “their foolish heart was darkened”, a certain truth confirmed in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them,”

PAUL’S AGONY

Paul’s inspired teachings in the book of Romans instructs the reader about the consequences of the Wrath in human terms (Romans 7:7-25):

“For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but the sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”

Guess who provides freedom from “this body of death?” (Rom 7:25)

By his own personal testimony Paul provides a picture of human vagaries that is no different today compared to two thousand years ago, a picture of either being disciplined in love or subject to the Wrath by God.

Was Paul suffering the ravages of unbelief even though he was pursuing the intent of the Law? Was God angry with Paul? Was God’s anger put in the form of Wrath? Or was Paul being disciplined by God’s love. Paul’s testimony in 1st Timothy 1:12-15 is appropriately considered at this point:

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into service even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Jesus Christ. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”

Clearly Paul, by his admission, was suffering the Wrath of unbelief, for even as a practicing Pharisee, he was judging his own conduct not in terms of the new Faith, but by the standards of the Law, “for the Law brings about wrath....” (Romans 4:15).

Philip Schaff establishes the correct perspective on Paul’s agony in Volume 1 of his The History of the Christian Church:

“This remarkable section (Romans 7:7-25) describes the psychological progress of the human heart to Christ from the heathen state of carnal security, when sin is dead because it is unknown, through the Jewish state of legal conflict, when sin, roused by the stimulus of the divine command, springs into life, and the higher and nobler nature of man strives in vain to overcome this fearful monster, until at last the free grace of God in Christ gains victory.”

The human nature is defiled by the sin of disbelief and plagued by His Wrath, and there is no hope that true righteousness may be obtained without first realizing a right relationship with God through Belief in Jesus Christ.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NONBELIEF

Martin Luther helps us understand God’s will, and the roll of the Wrath and Satan, in his Commentary on Romans, the culmination of his lectures on this famous Epistle at the University of Wittenberg in 1516.
Referring specifically to Romans 1:24: “Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them’, Luther states as follows:

“This giving up (‘God gave them over’) is not merely by God’s permission, but by his will and command, as we clearly see from I Kings 22:22-23, where we are told that God commanded the lying spirit to persuade Ahab to act against His will. The same we learn from II Samuel 16:10 and other passages. To the objection that God prevents what is evil, we reply that this is correct, judged from the viewpoint of divine love. But when God deals with transgressors according to His stern justice, He permits the perverse sinner to break His commandments all the more viciously in order that He might punish him the more severely. Viewed from the standpoint of the sinner who is given up (given over), this is indeed a ‘permission’ on God’s part, since He withdraws His saving hand from him and deserts him. But this takes place according to God’s righteous judgement, for it is the most severe punishment to give up a sinner to him whom He hates most (Satan).”

James Dunn, Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham, England amplifies Luther’s statement in his World Bible Commentary, Romans 1-8:

“....God gave them over to what they desired; He did not, it should be noted, give them their desires, rather He gave them to what they desired and the consequences of what they desired. God handed them over to the freedom for which they yearned; not their freedom to them, but them to their freedom..........And thus it becomes clearer that God’s wrath is indeed the converse of His righteousness, since both express and bring to effect the world as God intends it to be: righteousness through faithful dependence on the Creator leads to salvation (and eternal life); wrath through self deceitful pride and self-indulgent desire leads to self-destruction (and eternal death).”

John MacArthur provides additional help in assisting an understanding of this vital question:

“...God gave them over simply by withdrawing His restraining and protective hand, allowing the consequences of sin (disbelief) to take their inevitable, destructive course....Not all of God’s wrath is future. In the case of sexual promiscuity - perhaps more specifically and severely than in any other area of morality - God has continually poured out His divine wrath by means of venereal disease. In regard to countless other manifestations of godlessness, He pours out His wrath in the forms of loneliness, frustration, meaningless, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society. As sophisticated, self-sufficient mankind draws further and further away from God, God gives them over to the consequences of their spiritual and moral rebellion against Him.”

J.I. Packer helps us further in understanding the manifestation of the Wrath in the life of the nonbeliever:

“The unbeliever has preferred to be himself, without God, defying God, having God against him, and he shall have his preference. Nobody stands under the wrath except those who have chosen to do so. The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications: nothing more, and equally nothing less. God’s readiness to respect human choice to this extent may appear disconcerting and even terrifying, but it is plain that His attitude here is supremely just, and poles apart from the wanton and irresponsible inflicting of pain which is what we mean by cruelty.

We need, therefore, to remember that the key to interpreting the many biblical passages, often highly figurative, which picture the divine King and Judge as active against mankind in wrath and vengeance, is to ratify and confirm judgments which those whom He ‘visits’ have already passed on themselves by the course they have chosen to follow. This appears in the story of God’s first act of wrath towards mankind, in Genesis 3, where we learn that Adam had already chosen to hide from God, and keep clear of His presence, before ever God drove him from the garden; and the same principle applies throughout the Bible.”


While rejecting the teaching of God’s Wrath, Robert Llewelyn does make an interesting analogy in the Preface of his book, Love Bade Me Welcome. The writer turns this analogy to the certain consequences of nonbelief, the cultivation of Wrath:

“The rain falls ever clear and pure from the heavens but that which alights on poisoned vegetation itself takes on the nature of poison, yet the corruption was not in the rain but in the ground on which it fell. If you choose to call it God’s rain I must at once reply that it is not the rain as it came from God. And the rain, clean and fresh, continues to fall, however poisoned the land may be. The illustration breaks down at this point. The poisoned land is the corrupt heart, which may be open to receive God’s goodness which then becomes a cleansing and renewing agent; or it may close itself, deliberately rejecting the same goodness, which, so long as this attitude persists, works towards a deeper wrath or corruption within.”

Llewelyn's argument falls in the consideration whether the Wrath is “revealed from Heaven”, as stated in Romans 1:18, or is embedded “within”, in the psyche, in the human makeup of mankind as held by Julian and her advocates.

Certainly Julian would bow to Scripture. Llewelyn’s truth that “so long as this attitude persists, works towards a deeper wrath or corruption within” certainly applies to nonbelief and its consequences.

The Bible substantiates the nature of God’s Grace is an abounding love by God for those who love Him. Conversely, God’s Wrath, in its primordial form, is manifested by the absence of His Love (Rom 5:5), because His love has been rejected, and His existence is ignored by nonbelievers. There is a high price for the rejection of His love and the ignorance of His existence. Rejection of His Love is the basis of His anger. Ignorance perpetuates the Wrath.

It appears that God’s Wrath, in reaction to disbelief, is the power of giving lost nonbelievers over to the magnified consequences of their unrighteousness. That while they attempt to rationalize an illusion of bliss and joy of living, their lives are totally subordinated to the long term reality of suffering, indifference and momentary escapes from monotony and unhappiness. For as stated before, the nonbelieving person does not recognize these consequences in the tedious, wearisome daily travails of the life experience. For, they don’t care. They don’t care in any event! Their reality is the consequences of their nonbelief, the consequences of His anger, the Wrath.

The bitter fruit of rejection, ignorance and not caring is the unconscious day to day experience of wandering to the grave with a complete disregard of His existence and a total unawareness of the reality of the Wrath visited on nonbelievers as a result of His anger. Many times, if they begin to realize the truth, it is too late. They have been captured in an inescapable trap of life where things are not what they appear, or what they seem to be, or what they should be. The only reality is the vacant cloud of weariness, disappointment, depression and a certain miserable death softened by the ending of it all. They need salvation!
Luther, Dunn, MacArthur and Packer specify and confirm the nature of God’s Wrath and its consequences caused by disbelief, which is recounted in detail in Romans 1:24-32:

· God’s Wrath is a decisive reaction against disbelief.

· Because God’s realizable existence is evident.

· Unbelieving mankind rejects God even though His existence is evident.

· God abandons unbelieving mankind to everlasting unrighteousness as a consequence, as a measure of His rightful anger over mankind’s rejection.

· That, His Wrath is the turning over of unbelieving mankind to:

· the consequences of their disbelief;
· the general, explicit and implicit manifestations of these consequences;
· the prince of this world, “to him whom He hates most (Satan).”

THE WRATH’S MANIFESTATIONS

A SUMMARY PERSPECTIVE

While considering the Wrath’s consequences, what is the real manifestation of God’s Wrath in the life of the nonbeliever?

Luther advises us, “He permits the perverse sinner to break His commandments all the more viciously in order that He might punish him the more severely...... But this takes place according to God’s righteous judgment, for it is the most severe punishment to give up a sinner to him whom He hates most (Satan).”

Dunn instructs us the nature of the Wrath appears in those acts or life practices that nonbelievers “have already passed on themselves by the course they have chosen to follow”, that God gave them over to what they desired; He did not... give them their desires, rather He he gave them to what they desired and the consequences of what they desired.... God handed them over to the freedom for
which they yearned; not their freedom to them, but them to their freedom.”

MacArthur advises that,
“In regard to countless other manifestations of godlessness, He pours out His wrath in the forms of loneliness, frustration, meaningless, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society.”

And Packer confirms:
“The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications: nothing more, and equally nothing less.”

God confirms His abandoning judgment in Psalms 81:11,12:

“But My people did not listen to my voice; And Israel did not obey me. So I gave them over to the stubbonness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.”

Luther’s, Dunn’s, MacArthur’s and Packer’s observations are based on the reading of Romans 1:24-32.

MacArthur advises these verses “vividly portrays the consequences of God’s abandonment of rebellious mankind, showing the essence (vv. 24-35), the expression (vv. 26-27) and the extent (vv. 28-32) of man’s sinfulness (in nonbelief). Each of those progressively more sobering sections is introduced with the declaration ‘God gave them over.’”

Excerpts of Romans 1:24-32 are repeated directly, as follows:

“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.... For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another.... And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are not proper,.... “

One may determine a number of manifestations of the Wrath’s consequences from the reading of Romans 1:24:32. The writer has derived three categories from the reading of these verses: General, Explicit and Implicit.

GENERAL MANIFESTATIONS OF THE WRATH

First of all, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity: ungodliness, the desire to be unholy, the absence of holiness, the state of being separated from God.

Second, God gave them over to degrading passions: homosexuality.

Third, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do improper things.
Ungodliness, degrading passions, depraved minds that facilitate doing things which are improper by God’s standard. These are the general manifestations of the Wrath.

EXPLICIT MANIFESTATIONS

a. The Depraved Mind

There are two categories of explicit manifestations of the Wrath. The first is where God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do things which are not proper, in the nonbeliever’s life. These manifestations characterize a somber picture of the human nature (Rom 1:29-31):

· “Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil.
· Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice.
· They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”


This definition of retched human behavior is complemented by a further specification in Galatians, where Paul juxtaposes the contrast of the old nature, that was subservient to the Law, and the new nature obtained by Belief in Christ and the walk with the Holy Spirit. He first specifies the deeds of the old nature:

Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Some hold the “old nature” is the carnal characterization of a Christian. Others hold this describes a nonbeliever walking in the flesh. In either case, the admonition in Galatians parallels and complements the state of depravity specified in Romans:

- immorality, impurity, sensuality,
- idolatry, sorcery,
- enmities, strife,
- jealousy, outbursts of anger,
- disputes, dissensions, factions,
- envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

b. Degraded Passions

The second category of Explicit Manifestations exists where God gives them over to degrading passions, where women “exchange the natural function for that which is unnatural”, where men abandon the “natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another.”

This explicit manifestation of disbelief is the human blight of homosexuality.

This fact is historically and indelibly recorded in Romans 1:26, 27 and is first characterized in Genesis 19, as follows:

Gen 18:20 “And the Lord said, The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.”

Gen 19:4-8 “Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter, and they called to Lot and said to him “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.’ But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.’”

Gen 19:24 “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”

And imposed on these instructions and witness is the important direction provided in 1Thessalonians 4:3:

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality:"

IMPLICIT MANIFESTATIONS

According to the cited authorities, Luther, MacArthur, Dunn and Packer, all who are considered to be outstanding theologians, God gave unbelieving mankind over to the consequences of their disbelief. This is the implied manifestation of God giving them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity: ungodliness, the desire to be unholy, the absence of holiness, the state of being separated from God.

As MacArthur states, “He pours out His wrath in the forms of loneliness, frustration, meaningless, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society.”

Reluctantly, the Wrath appears to find a place in the nonbelievers’ suffering, no matter what the cause is of that suffering, typically resulting from a direct or indirect deprivation, such as the bereavement of a lost loved one, the ravages of debilitating and life threatening disease, the calamity resulting from severe accidents, the disappointment in not achieving what one desires, the failure in a relationship, the punishment for doing something wrong.

The suffering is not the consequence of the Wrath. It is manifested in the suffering; where the nonbeliever chooses to let the suffering be the source of further suffering, a suffering into itself.

The Wrath appears to embrace the horror of addiction, where the compelling desirous attraction to alcohol, drugs, sexual infatuation and disorders of many kinds, eating, work habits, yes - even religion, becomes so powerful the addiction becomes the addiction in the nonbeliever’s life. It is no wonder that “scientific therapy” resorts to the spiritually oriented “Twelve Steps” in the attempt to break this wrathful pattern.

The wrath appears to be especially pronounced in the nonbeliever’s personal obsession with self, although this propensity is also a sin problem for immature believers, subject to His most formidable discipline of the believer’s conscience. (Heb 12:6)

The wrathful manifestations for the nonbeliever spread from the extreme of abject narcissistic behavior to disdainful pride and arrogance. God throws them over to themselves, to a consistent behavior that is most pronounced in the most gifted, the most intelligent, the most fortunate in worldly terms. They are thrown over to their arrogance so that they can attempt to mollify the hopeless reality of their own suffering.

Looking at this in another way, Dunn states, “God handed them over to the freedom for which they yearned; not their freedom to them, but them to their freedom...”

The Wrath appears to settle firmly on the concept that nonbelieving mankind is subservient to the control of suffering instead of being master of and in control of suffering. Here is the great distinction between the nonbeliever subject to the constant ravages of the Wrath and the believer walking with the Holy Spirit, being disciplined in love for moments of disobedience.

For as Victor Frankel states in his highly regarded work, Man’s Search for Meaning, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”

The question becomes in what context does mankind relate to suffering? Is it by being yielded to a freedom that cedes to the control of the wrathful suffering in their lives, a freedom that is not the freedom anticipated? Is this the meaning?

Or is the freedom where one can confront suffering by having self-control, being the master of life’s suffering reality by the support of His Holy Spirit? What is the answer?

“For into this earthly dilemma of mankind there comes the love of God, and that love of God, by an act of unbelievable free grace, lifts man out of the consequences of disbelief and saves him from the Wrath he should have incurred.” (Philip Schaff)

To answer Frankel’s observation that, “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering”, the meaning for believing mankind is the freedom to control personal suffering with dignity, self-respect, with the respect of others, and the consoling truth that the individual witness glorifies God!!

It is by God’s Grace that through Belief and Faith one becomes patient in suffering, courageous facing adversity, strong when facing weakness, superior to all circumstance, victorious over evil, a joyful lover of life’s natural order, the laws of nature and His revealed Word, all which verify God’s existence.

This is the basis for the formidable witness and reconciling joy of the true believer. Christiandom’s martyrs fully substantiate this truth. (Heb 11:32-40) The Wrath subjects the nonbeliever to the control of suffering, where, as stated before, the suffering becomes a suffering into itself.

The believer is given true freedom in joy, and as a witness to others, that the suffering is subordinated and under the believer’s control.

Therefore, it generally appears that in the nonbeliever’s life, where God gives “them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”, the suffering becomes the suffering, the desire becomes the desire, the addiction the addiction, the problem becomes the problem, where there is no control except the subordination of control to the problem, where a freedom sought becomes a constraining burden, where the problem is obsessively held, promoting hideous implications that enforce the propensity for self centeredness and exclusionary social conduct as a function of complaint, indifference, unhappiness, depression and various forms of sickness.

It is so sad, for it can all be resolved by the simple love for God. And this solution is absolutely free -- the greatest bargain in this life!

These "findings" by the writer appear to be the implicit ravages of the Wrath, the consequence of nonbelief, specified in Romans 1:24-32.

THE CONTRAST WITH A BELIEVER

Contrasted to all of this, it is really incredible to see and behold the witness of true Christian saints, especially the elders in Christ. Do they sin? Not very often. Are they disciplined (Heb 12:6)? They certainly hope so. Are they chastised by Him? Always in love. Are they subject to His Wrath? Absolutely not. For God loves them! Do they suffer in any way like lost nonbelievers. Only in love, never in anger, and never in the circumstance where suffering creates suffering. Are they in control? With God’s help, they are always in control!

Do they have freedom? Yes, by His grace, a very special freedom.
These Christian Saints possess the Fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Lewis Sperry Chafer instructs us in his revered eight volume Systematic Theology:

“As employed in the passage now being considered, the nine words which denote the fruit of the Spirit represent superhuman qualities of character; they could in no natural circumstances be produced by human ability; they are divine characteristics. Similarly, these nine graces taken together are constituted the one fruit of the Spirit. The singular form “fruit” being used is explained by the fact that these nine graces form an indivisible whole. The Holy Spirit will not produce a few of them and not all of them. If any are present, all will actually be present.”

THE CONTRAST WITH THE NONBELIEVER’S LIFE

The manifestation of the Wrath in the nonbeliever’s life typically yields a diminishment of true love for others, a certain emphasis for the love of self and realizes a way of life where joy is a rare circumstance if it is true joy at all.

· Where peace is an abstraction and then only rarely obtained.

· Where the test of patience is an effort of will and not a natural inclination in terms of one’s relationship with others.

· Where kindness is more often affected rather than being the natural reaction of love.

· Where goodness is often contrived rather than being the natural order of life.

· Where faithfulness is a test and not a result.

· Where gentleness expires with the first challenge.

· Where self-control is managed by self-will or anger and not by the guiding Spirit of God.

· Where the mind tends to welcome a depraved state.

· Where impure sexual lust becomes the primary motivation while excluding the wonder of true love.

· Where impurity yields to the compounding of desires in a sense of self-centered gratification.

· Where in impurity’s embracement suffering becomes a suffering into itself, a controlling factor, a factor that subordinates a person’s freedom and ability to master and control their own life.

Yes, these are apparent if not certain manifestations of His Wrath in the life of nonbelievers, taught in Romans 1:18-32 and as confirmed by Luther, Dunn, MacArthur and Packer.

THE WRITER’S TESTIMONY

It is certainly appropriate to meditate on the Wrath of God, and the writer does so “experientially” in contemplating the errors of his life:

What were the manifestations of the Wrath in this nonbeliever’s life? He certainly exhibited a love of self, a way of life where true joy was rare, and that only occasioned by the love of his wife and children. Where peace yielded to discontent, the test of patience always failed, where kindness was most often affected, goodness was most often contrived, where faithfulness was always a test, where gentleness expired with the first challenge, where self-control was nonexistent. Yes, the good Lord gave this nonbeliever over to his freedom, to the consequences of his desires, where his suffering became a suffering into itself, a controlling factor in his life.

I could go on, but I am sure you are saying that I am too hard on myself. No, not really. There is nothing really unusual about me (Gal 5:16-21). It is simply a manifestation of His Wrath (Rom 1:24), for it was my choice that I have had disbelief, to ignore His evident witness in my life, to be ignorant of the revelation in His Word. I have no excuse (Rom 1:20,21). Do you?

I thank God that I was delivered from my cynical disbelief, from my ignorance of His revelation in Scripture, from my ignoring others, such as my son, who gave witness to God’s Truth to me. I thank God that I was delivered by my reaching for Him when He reached for me. I thank God that the Wrath has diminished in my life; that His prompting of chastisement to me is now done in Love.

The important concept upon which this writing relies is the Bible is Truth and not a lie. If God is evident, and He is, nonbelieving mankind has no excuse in not believing in Him. Further if there is a Wrath, and there is, and if that Wrath is truly operative in the life of the nonbeliever, and it is, it too must be evident, an attestation that goes beyond Scripture, a reality perceived and understood by believers, if not by nonbelievers.

J.I. Packer helps this understanding. He captures in a few words what it means to be saved, to be delivered from the Wrath, to be saved from self by being right with God:

“If the ‘wrath of God is revealed from heaven (Rom 1:18) against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’, and a ‘day of wrath’ is coming where God will ‘render to every man according to his deeds’ (Rom 2:5), how can any of us escape disaster? Is there any deliverance from God’s Wrath? There is, for ‘Being now justified by blood, we shall be saved from (God’s) wrath through Him.’ (Rom 5:9) By whose blood? The blood of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. If we are Christ’s, through faith, then we are (made righteous) justified through His cross, and the wrath will never touch us, neither here or hereafter, ‘that is ‘Jesus who delivers from the wrath to come’ (1Thes 1:10).”

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