Consider the goodness and severity of God

“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:21, 22).

Paul says this to non-Jewish Christians who through faith have been grafted onto the tree of God's people, whereas many Jews have been cut off because of unbelief.

To have a balanced view of God we must consider both His goodness and His severity.

God's grace is popular; His wrath is not. But actually, God's grace can only be valued by someone who understands the wrath of God.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

“The wrath of God abides on him.” What does this mean? It means that everyone remains under the wrath of God until that wrath is appeased! Wrath is aroused by something that is wrong. Wrath is intense, lasting anger coupled with a desire to avenge or punish. Why is God so intensely angry with us? Because we have done things that are intensely wrong. He is angry with us because of our sins. He is angry with me because of my sins.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).

We humans want to justify ourselves and blame others for our faults, but God says there is no excuse for the bad things we do, and sin makes Him extremely angry.

Yet, God also loves us very much. Thus, He provided a means of expiation. His own Son was sent to make amends for our sins, to bear the punishment that we deserve, so we can escape from the rightful wrath of God.

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Recently I was given a book, "The Truth You Know You Know" (written by Kenneth Rideout, a former missionary who has left the church of Christ) in which the wrath of God is denied: “Wrath and vengeance are totally incompatible with who God is” (page 59), and “God is not angry or wrathful about our sins" (page 89).

These statements are so contrary to the Scriptures that they can only be made, or believed, by someone who is either grossly ignorant of the Scriptures or who rejects the word of God outright.

God says: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).

The wrath of God is a theme that runs through the entire Old and New Testaments.

God was angry with Sodom and Gomorra because of gross immorality including bestiality and homosexual practices (Genesis 19:5; 2 Peter 2:6, 7; Jude 7): “The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath” (Deuteronomy 29:23).

God was angry with the Egyptians for refusing to let Israel go. His wrath is described in the Song of Moses, sung after the crossing of the Red Sea: “Pharaoh's chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You; You sent forth Your wrath; it consumed them like stubble” (Exodus 15:4-7).

In the wilderness, God was angry with His rebellious people. Moses told them: “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord. Also in Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry enough with you to have destroyed you” (Deuteronomy 9:7, 8).

Through the centuries God was angry with His people because they rejected His word and worshiped idols.

When king Josiah heard the law read he realized that God was intensely angry with His people. “Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded ... 'Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book'” (2 Kings 22:11-13).

This was God's reply: “Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants -- all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read -- because they have forsaken Me and burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands. Therefore My wrath shall be aroused against this place and shall not be quenched” (2 Kings 22:16, 17).

Because Josiah repented, judgement was postponed until after his death.

When Jeremiah wrote, however, the time of God's wrath had come.

“So you shall say to them, 'This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.' For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight” (Jeremiah 7:28-30).

“I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they shall die of a great pestilence” (Jeremiah 21:5, 6).

“Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and infant, out of Judah, leaving none to remain, in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands?” (Jeremiah 44:7, 8). And what was the reply of the people? “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you!” (Jeremiah 44:16).

God is angry when the weak are mistreated: “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless” (Exodus 22:22-24).

These are just a few examples of the many warnings in Scripture about the wrath of God. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we are also warned about God's wrath.

Revelation teaches that people serve either the Lord or the beast (Revelation 13:8). What will happen to those who serve the beast? “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 'If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name'” (Revelation 14:9-11).

“So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses' bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs” (Revelation 14:19, 20).

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1).

“Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 15:7).

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, 'Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth'” (Revelation 16:1).

These passages in Revelation speak of God's wrath poured out on the sons of disobedience.

Through the goodness of God, Christians are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

Yet, the wrath of God remains a warning for Christians.

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:3-7).

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them” (Colossians 3:5-7).

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18).

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Only when I realize how angry God is about my sins can I appreciate the blood of Christ.

Only when I realize how angry God is about my sins do I understand why I will be lost unless I repent.

Only when I realize how angry God is about my sins am I powerfully motivated to avoid sin and remain faithful as a Christian.

Consider the goodness and severity of God.

To those who believe in Christ and have been "buried with Him in baptism" (Colossians 2:12) Paul writes: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13, 14).

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28, 29).

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-3).

We can escape the wrath of God by repenting of our sins, believing in Christ and being buried with Him in baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4). As a Christian, I have also sinned. I must repent and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22, 23). Let us not delay. Today is the day of salvation.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive