Is God Mad At You?

Earlier this year the Christian band Pocket Full Of Rocks released the hit song “Come As You Are,” and has ranked fairly high on Billboard.com’s Christian chart ever since. I know nothing about the theological convictions of the band, but have found the opening two lines of “Come As You Are” concerning. They read, “He’s not mad at you. He’s not disappointed.” God is surely a loving God, but telling an unsaved person that God has no wrath towards him does not line up with the Bible.

The wrath of God is not popular today. It’s a topic that many Christians are eager to sweep under the rug. I venture that it is an effort to clean up the Gospel—or maybe even the reputation of God Himself!—in an attempt to make the Gospel more appealing. This is a fatal mistake; it undermines and destroys the Gospel itself.

No doctrine stands or falls alone. The doctrines of the Bible form a web in which each doctrine both supports, and is supported by other doctrines. It frightens me to see Christians pick away at doctrines which (maybe to their ignorance) are vital to the Gospel of Christ. Remove the wrath of God, and you lose the holiness and justice of God, or the sinfulness of man, and ultimately the substitutionary atonement—in essence, you lose the Gospel.

The wrath of God is necessary because of who He is (holy and just), and because of what we are (common sinners). To eliminate the wrath of God, you will either have to dethrone God, or elevate man. The Scriptures don’t allow for either.

In John 3:36 (just a few verses past the oft-quoted 3:16) John writes, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Paul writes, “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).

Christ came to absorb the wrath of God for us! Propitiation (Rom 3:25). That is the Gospel! To remove the wrath of God (as “Come as You Are” seems to do) yet still profess the Gospel, creates a huge problem. “Jesus died for your sins” means nothing outside an understanding of God’s holiness and wrath.

Michael Horton is dead-on, when he writes,

“Where God’s wrath is no longer a problem, Christ’s cross is no longer the solution” (The Gospel-Driven Life, 52).

Let’s not try to restructure God’s PR, but let Him speak for Himself. If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ then God is “mad at you” (so-to-speak), but in His great love has also provided the sacrifice to make Himself favorable toward you through faith (“propitiation”)! Praise God for His grace!

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Is God Mad At You?

  1. Michael,

    Right on! How’s a person suppose to get saved if they don’t know they are lost? How will they know they are lost if they don’t hear about the holiness of God which includes His divine wrath?

  2. This is so very true! Many today, in an attempt to “reach” the lost, have done away with many things that are imperative to the Gospel: the blood, the cross, repentance, and in many cases Christ Himself! This is an awesome article and very well put together! God Bless!

  3. 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “Fear and tremble before God’s wrath with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Make sure your neighbor experiences God’s wrath just like yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Wait…. did I get that right?

    I don’t understand how love and wrath can characterize the same unchanging entity. They seem to be polar opposites — two entirely different personalities — clinical schizophrenia. It’s either love, or it’s wrath.

    I’m a dad. I’ve never felt anything that could be remotely characterized as “wrath” to any member of my family, or frankly any living being. Once in a while, I get mad, but I get over it, and never have I stopped loving them. If the heavenly Father exhibits 24/7/365 unconditional love to all his creation, where exactly does wrath come into play?

    Help me out here.

    • If we have been justified by faith we are not commanded to ‘fear and tremble before God’s wrath,’ because we now have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). Yet this verse also assumes that the reverse is true (if we have not been justified, we do not have peace with God).

      Your comment about wrath and you family is actually quite appropriate. God does not feel anything like wrath toward any member of His family—that is what the Gospel is about. The question is, who is a member of His family? “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).

      The problem, in my opinion, is that you have bought into the pop-christian idea that God “exhibits 24/7/365 unconditional love to all his creation.” It is true that God does “love” even the unredeemed (Jn 3:16 et. al.), and that He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (II Pet 3:9), but He also has an anger against them that flows from His holiness “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” In other words, His love is not “unconditional,” even though that makes 21st century Americans fell warm and fuzzy inside…. To be clear, His love IS unconditional on the one He has justified…. in essence that is the ONE condition—faith. To the one who is part of his family, there is nothing we can do to warrant any more love—Christ has accomplished it all.

      • Thanks for that.

        If we are to repay evil with good, where does wrath fit in? If we are to love our enemy, where does wrath play a part? If Jesus says to forgive 70×7 times, at what point do we demonstrate wrath? And if we’re asked to embody this unconditional love towards others, as expressed so beautifully in Jn17, how can we remotely envision a Father of wrath?

        “Christ has accomplished it all.”

        And yet the vast, vast majority of souls throughout history have never heard of Jesus. If Jesus “accomplished it all”, and if only those “who believe in his name” become “children of God” then the vast majority of humanity has been ignored by God and has utterly lost the religious lottery. That makes no sense, theologically or otherwise. God, by definition, is omnipresent, omniscient, and universally accessible.

        I can’t imagine that a person born into a Buddhist or Jainist or Native American or Austronesian culture (etc. – who lives their entire life in such a culture) is somehow spiritually inferior or less loved by God to someone who happens to have a Christian birthright. If our theology doesn’t successfully integrate all of historical humanity; if our theology of God’s love isn’t consistent throughout history and geography and the random accident of one’s birthplace, then such a deity is akin to the myriad village-tribal gods throughout history.

        The Christianity you’re describing seems like belief in the power of our own belief, focused more on future personal reward (heaven, salvation, etc.) than transcendent love in the here and now; focused more on possessing “right information” than becoming Christ-like; fear-based and limited rather than love-based and truly unconditional.

  4. In all honesty Clegg, “the Christianity I’m describing” is simply the Christianity of the Bible. Scripture is the only revelation we have of Christianity… without it we would have no Christianity. It makes no sense then, to associate yourself with Christianity (as you seem to do) while denying the doctrines of Scripture. That would be like me claiming to be a Mormon while saying I disagree with the doctrines contained within the Book of Mormon. What is the point?

    You can say you don’t like the teachings of Scripture, and therefore don’t like Christianity. That is your prerogative. But to claim Christianity while denying clear teachings of Scripture is incongruous.

    It is understandable that you do not like/understand some of the harder teachings of Scripture. The ways of God are completely antithetical to the ways of the world’s system. This is why Paul said, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” I hope you do not take this post, or that quotation as mean-spirited in any way. I honestly hope that God will do a work in you as you study these things out. Read the first three chapters of I Corinthians when you get a chance; and read John and Romans.

    • “It is understandable that you do not like/understand some of the harder teachings of Scripture.”

      My approach is embedded deep in Christian tradition. We apply the “harder teachings” (as you say) with exceptional care. Or, like M. Luther, we might temporarily “set aside” anything that we perceive contradicting God’s love. Not that we redact the hard sayings (like T. Jefferson), but rather we don’t try to “force” them into our personal hermeneutic until we can integrate them maturely into a “rightly divided” presentation that multiplies grace, charity, and unconditional love.

      You’ve quoted the bible well, but have not addressed my original curiosity on how YOU personally reconcile wrath, vengeance, and retribution with Christ’s love. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I can train a smart parrot to say bible verses. (or as A.W.Tozer was fond of saying, “if someone can talk you into Christianity, someone can talk you out of it.”).

      There are a large number of difficult OT and NT sayings that don’t seem loving towards others, but in fact seem blatantly vengeful and retributional. When I can’t find love in a saying, I wrestle with it internally, but avoid applying it outwardly as an act of love. To do otherwise would be personally disingenuous and contradictory. Doesn’t mean there’s not love embedded in the saying, just means I can’t find it. Tell me .. from your heart .. how you’ve found love in retribution, wrath, and vengeance.

      “to claim Christianity while denying clear teachings of Scripture is incongruous.”

      Much of what we read in the NT and OT is not applicable for today. Much of what is written is a cultural relic that has no place in today’s world. I’ll give you one example, and leave the scores of others as an exercise for you.

      EPH 6:5
      Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

      In Paul’s culture, slavery was accepted as a right thing, even a Godly thing (read Philo, etc.). But Eph 6 is a cultural relic with absolutely NO place in today’s world, or today’s church. There are still forms of slavery today, but no Christian would dare invoke Eph 6 to support such practices. Today, Christians fight to free the slaves. Today, the correct Christian response to slave owners is the OPPOSITE of Eph 6:9. Today, we say “slave owners STOP – you are doing evil – let your slaves go immediately.” We counsel the slaves not towards “obedience” but to resist and flee their masters, and we assist governments and NGOs in helping towards these goals.

      • I apologize for the delay. Last week was finals week at school…

        “we might temporarily ‘set aside’ anything that we perceive contradicting God’s love.”

        Why do you find it necessary to make God’s love, in particular, the rubric for interpreting the rest of Scripture? Why not another attribute of God? It seems that you arbitrarily grab one of His attributes, (seemingly) attach to it your own personal ideas about love, and then use it to critique the rest of Scripture. When you come to Scripture and find that “God is love” all you have is a question, not an answer. What I mean is, now you must ask, “what is this love which God is?” The answer only comes when you study the rest of God’s acts. You must not say “God is love,” attaching to “love” all of the Western baggage that comes with that term, and then question Him whenever His actions don’t seem to fit.

        The same thing could be said about wrath. Wrath for God is not an erratic, out-of-control emotional response.

        I believe it was Sproul who points out that it is only God’s holiness that is ever elevated to the third degree (“holy, holy, holy” Isaiah and Rev). He is never called “love love love” or “mercy mercy mercy,” or “wrath wrath wrath.” Holiness is His defining characteristic. That is, He is separate, other, absolutely different than us. Because of this we should recognize that every one of His attributes is going to beyond a simple definition; especially not a definition given by pop-culture. I’m not saying you have done that, I’m just saying it’s something to think about.

        “Tell me .. from your heart .. how you’ve found love in retribution, wrath, and vengeance.”

        This is a good question, and I think the answer comes from a few directions.

        First of all, it should be noted that while God does reveal His wrath (Rom 1:18), He never reveals it without a mixture of mercy (thank God!). That is, there is often love in the midst of wrath. In Hab 3:2 the prophet Habakkuk cries out, “in wrath remember mercy” after coming to the realization of the judgment that was about to befall his nation. We can be thankful that He does this—in wrath He does remember mercy. Were it not so, we would not be here today. The reason for this mercy, according to Rom 2:4-5, is to lead people to repentance.

        A second thing to realize is that without wrath, love doesn’t mean much. Imagine you hear of a man who has to endure the news of his daughter’s murder. He ultimately, after much anguish and tears, forgives the murderer. This is an incredibly and moving display of mercy and forgiveness. Yet imagine the same situation, but involving a man who is incapable of negative emotion—he only loves everybody with a smile, all the time. The news of his daughter’s death doesn’t even phase him; he simply embraces the man and says, “it’s no problem!” …It’s not a perfect illustration (and by no means a point-for-point allegory), but I hope you get the point. The first man shows real mercy, authentic forgiveness. Forgiveness costed this man a great deal (just as it costed Christ—His very life and fellowship with the Father). While the second man showed unconditional love, it is a remarkably unmoving, and almost chilling story. His love doesn’t seem like authentic love.

        Without wrath the work of Christ on the cross is meaningless, and God’s love is diminished. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace… But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering”—in this He accomplished salvation. We were saved from God, to God (I Pet 3:18). It’s a paradox full of truth and beauty.

        Now, I have said something about love in the midst of wrath, and love through wrath, but I may not have directly answered your question about love *in* wrath. The answer, as far as I can tell (and I may be wrong) is that the only love in wrath is interTrinitarian. In other words, there is no love towards the person for whom there is wrath. As far as I can tell, wrath is the just action of God against unrepentant rebellion, and is not primarily about love. I do not have a problem with this because I am not tying to force everything through the rubric of a particular understanding of love (and that is where, I think, you make a wrong turn).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s