Question: Does God still exhibit His wrath toward people when they sin?
Answer: According to the Bible, the answer is “Yes.” Now a fair response would be to say, “Ok, how? What does that look like?” The best description I know of in the New Testament comes from Romans 1…
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is “revealed from heaven” against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. God’s wrath is being revealed now. Yes, but how? We find three answers later in Romans 1:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… (1:24)
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. (1:26)
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (1:28)
If I can summarize what the apostle Paul is saying here, “God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven, and it is being shown, not by restraining evil, but rather by giving people over to evil.” That’s what Paul says in Romans 1. Now, of course, the danger is to see evil behind every rock, and assume everything bad that happens is an expression of God’s wrath.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3)
You can hear the assumption in the disciples’ question: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Something bad happened. A man was born blind. Whose fault is it? Jesus dispels this myth. Not everything bad that happens is a direct result of someone’s sin.
What we have here is a framework for understanding the world. God’s wrath is being revealed, by giving people over to evil. But not every bad thing that happens is a direct result of evil. Trying to discern what is going on in a particular instance is not always easy, and sometimes impossible to know. Sometimes we just don’t know. We should not claim to know more than we do.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8). That is His nature. But the Bible never says that God is wrath. God’s wrath is a response to evil. His wrath is provoked by evil. If sin never entered into the world, God would never have an occasion to display His wrath. God is always loving, but only wrathful as a response to evil.
This sounds like bad news, because we are all tainted by sin. But the good news is that one day God has promised to judge and destroy all evil. God’s wrath is an expression of His love, because without it, evil would have free reign to destroy the people God loves. God will not let that happen. He has set a day when He will make all things right in regard to sin and evil.
In the meantime, before the Day of the Lord, God has done something wonderful.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
We have been looking at how God shows His wrath in the world today by giving people up to their sins. But here we are told that God gave His own Son up for us! What does that mean?
Jesus had no sins of His own. So, why would God give Him up? The apostle Paul says God gave up His Son for us all. He is talking about what Jesus accomplished on the cross. God poured out His wrath on Jesus, as our substitute, for our sins. Jesus became the lightning rod for our sins. All God’s wrath against your sins were poured out on Him. So, when you put your faith in Jesus, there is no more wrath left for you. This is good news for you and for everyone you know.