Archive for the 'Love of God' Category

Does God love the world or only the elect?

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

God is Love

(courtesy ChristArt)

 

By Spencer D Gear

This is a reasonable question:

When christians tell non-believers God loves them, before sharing the gospel. There are many verses I can refer to with regards to the Love shown by God to both believer and unbeliever. But when we say “God loves you”, is there scripture to show this?[1]

After a reply, he wrote this response:

The problem I run into is the context.

1. John 3:16 is the top verse I hear. Does it mean the WHOLE WORLD.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. (John 17:9 KJV)
*why not the world?
2. When verses are referring to believers (Israel/ church) and not unbelievers.
3. I know God sends the rain to both the wicked and the righteous.
A better question I should ask is…..
Would YOU tell Esau “God loves you”?[2]

My response was:[3]

John 17:9 states, ‘I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours’ (ESV).

With regard to John 17:9 and who it is that Jesus is praying for, we get the answer by reading the context. Please read the whole of John 17 to know who Jesus is praying for. Evangelical commentator, Leon Morris, wrote of John 17:9:

Very simply Jesus prays for them. He makes a distinction between the little band of disciples and the world. His prayer is not for “the world”. This does not mean that “the world” is beyond God’s love. Elsewhere we are specifically told that He loves it (3:16). And throughout this chapter it is plain that Jesus came with a mission to the world, and that the disciples were now to carry it on. A little later Jesus prays that the disciples may do certain things “that the world may believe…” (v. 21), and “that the world may know” (v. 23). The world is to be reached through the disciples and it is for His agents that Jesus prays. But He could scarcely pray for “the world” as such. As “the world” it was ranged in opposition to God. Its salvation lay precisely in its ceasing to be “the world”. Prayer for the world could only be that it be converted and no longer by the world. But that would be a different prayer. We see it for example in His prayer for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Now He prays rather for the little group of His friends. Notice that they are again described in terms of their relationship to the Father. They have been “given” to Christ. They belong to the Father (Morris1971:725).

Another wrote:

There are passages in John that can reasonably be interpreted that way [God loved the world, John 3:16] , e.g. John 14:23. Personally I tend towards a more universal concept. Luke 6:35 suggests that our love for enemies is based on God’s own love for his enemies, but I think a reasonable case can be made that God only loves his people, and in John, only the elect.[4]

My response was:

If God only loved the elect, that makes “for God so loved the world” an oxymoron.

It makes God commit self-contradiction, which he does not do. Could it be that your doctrine of God only loving the elect is the one in error? “God so loved the world” cannot be dissected and deconstructed to mean “God so loved the elect”, unless one wants to get into eisegesis.

Luke 6:35 has no relation to God’s love for the world or the elect. It relates to what he told his disciples to do, ‘But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…” It is talking about rewards for believers, not whether or not God loves the world or only the elect. In context, I think you are wanting Luke 6:35 to say something it does not say. Clutching at straws?[5]

Norman Geisler (1999:77) agreed: ‘Few teachings are more evident in the New Testament than that God loves all people, that Christ died for the sins of all human beings (cf. 1 Tim 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2), and that God desires all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9)’.

 

References

Geisler, N 1999. Chosen but free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Morris, Leon 1971. The Gospel according to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Notes:

[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘The Love of God’, toolmanjantzi#1, Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7721033/ (Accessed 3 February 2013).

[2] Ibid, toolmanjantzi#3.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[4] Ibid., Hendrick#12.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#14.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 February 2016.

Can world not mean world?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

(courtesy freeclipartnow.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think that it is possible for people to argue over the meaning of ‘the world’? Yep! I was engaged in such a discussion on an Internet forum where world was made to mean other than world.

What’s the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16?

This is probably the best known verse in the whole of the Bible for evangelical Christians. Many regard it as a summary of the Gospel message. It states: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (ESV).

Calvinists often make ‘world’ in John 3:16 not mean the total world of all people. Here’s a sample from Calvinists on a leading Christian forum on the subject, ‘John 3:16 – is it important what the average Joe understands by ‘world’?’[1]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘What matters is what the Apostle John intended not what the reader understands. It is the duty of any reader to pay attention to context and try to understand what John meant. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy to take his words (or any words) at face value and assume a surface-level meaning’.[2]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, why did you pick that one?’[3]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘I guess you misunderstood the question. Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, you chose the one that means every person who’s every lived. Why is that?’[4]

I asked this Calvinist:

1) Would you please document where those 10+ meanings of ‘world’ are found in John’s Gospel?
2) Would you please document from a Greek lexicon there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in the Gospel of John?[5]

How to avoid answering the question

This person’s immediate response was: ‘No. But if you’d like to, go ahead’.[6] Do you see what he was doing? He was the one who made the claim of 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel, but he doesn’t want to provide the evidence. He wants me to do the hard work for him. I won’t fall for that trick. It’s his responsibility to provide the evidence for the claim he is making.

How should I reply to him? ‘Why are you prepared to assert that there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel and not be prepared to demonstrate where they are in John’s Gospel and how those 10 different meanings are defined by a leading Greek lexicon? If you are not prepared to document them, it becomes your assertion with no proof.’[7] His retort was, ‘I’m sorry that you think John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings. How did you determine which one John uses?’[8] My reply to this lie about my position was: ‘Not once have I ever said that. It is your false accusation against me. Please withdraw that statement against me immediately’.[9]

He continued his avoidance of providing the 10+ definitions of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel: ‘So if [you] don’t believe that, then why do you need a list of definitions?’[10] I continued: ‘I asked you to remove your false statement against me. Why have you not removed your false statement and given me a red herring fallacy here? When will you remove this false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[11]

There was more and more avoidance from this Calvinist: ‘On what basis did I know that it was a false statement? It sure seemed true when I said it. You are free to refute it. When you do, however, please explain why you needed me to provide definitions’.[12] My response was to repeat what I’d raised previously:

It was a false statement by you against me because I have never ever stated that there is only one meaning of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. Thus your statement about my one meaning of ‘world’ was an invention.
You need to provide definitions because so far you have only made assertions that ‘world’ has 10+ meanings in John’s Gospel. You have not demonstrated this to be true. Please provide the evidence that I have asked.[13]

He came back with further goading of me: ‘If you honestly believe that John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings, I’ll provide you a link to the various examples’.[14] At this point I reported him to the moderators for his going against the rules of the Forum with his goading of me. To goad means, ‘to prick or drive with, or as if with, a goad; prod; incite’ (dictionary.com).

Further tactics for not answering questions

Image result for clipart question mark public domainThis fellow (and he has done this a number of times to other people and me on various topics) uses a standard tactic when he doesn’t want to answer my question. He changes topics. This is called a red herring logical fallacy.

This is how he did it:

Oz (me): ‘When will you quit your goading me with your repetition of a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[15]

Hamm (my Calvinistic opponent): ‘Do you believe that John uses more than one definition for "world" in his writings? If so, how many definitions does he use?’[16]

Notice what he did. He did not answer my question about when he was going to quit goading me by a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. He got back to what he wanted to talk about: Do you believe that John uses only one definition of ‘world’? I have denied it post after post, but this is what he did when he didn’t want to answer my questions of him re goading me.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Watch for this tactic by people in debate and conversation. What is a red herring logical fallacy? The Nizkor Project describes it as:

Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

Description of Red Herring

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

The discussion on the forum was closed by a moderator who considered the discussion ‘is getting more and more toxic’.[17]

Let’s check out a couple of commentators

What would a leading Calvinistic commentator say that the meaning of ‘world’ is in John 3:16?

Don Carson

CarsonD.A.01

(D A Carson, courtesy Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

 

D A Carson is a Calvinist[18] and his commentary on John’s Gospel describes the meaning of ‘world’:

‘It is atypical for John to speak of God’s love for the world, but this truth is therefore made to stand out as all the more wonderful. Jews were familiar with the truth that God loved the children of Israel; here God’s love is not restricted by race. Even so, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos (‘world’; cf. notes on 1:9). The world is so wicked that John elsewhere forbids Christians to love it or anything in it (1 Jn. 2:15-17). There is no contradiction between the prohibition and the fact that God does love it. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the self-less costly love of redemption’ (Carson 1991:205, emphasis in original).

So God’s love is not restricted to one particular group of people, according to Carson, but God’s love is admired because the world is so wicked but God loves it with the costly love of redemption. So Carson is interpreting ‘world’ to mean the whole world of wickedness.

Carson’s comments on John 1:9 are:

‘If the phrase "coming into the world" is understood to be masculine and attached to "every man", then we must translate this verse as in NIV fn. [footnote]: "This was the true light that gives light to every man who comes into the world" (similarly AV). If this is the correct rendering, then there is nothing here or in v. 10 that requires us to go beyond the illumination granted to the entire race in the Word’s creative activity (cf. vv. 4-5). This view is reinforced by a common rabbinic expression, "all who come into the world", used to describe "every man". But that expression is always plural; the construction here is singular. It is best to take "coming into the world" as a neuter form attached to "light", adopting the translation of NIV: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. The most convincing support for this rendering is the fact that "coming into the world" or being sent into the world is in this Gospel repeatedly predicated of him who is the Word. Moreover the peculiar Greek syntax this translation presupposes is a common feature of John’s style (cf. 1;28; 2:6; 3:23; 10:40; 11;1; 13:23; 18:18, 25). What this means is that in this verse it is the Word, the light, that is coming into the world, in some act distinct from creation. If incarnation is not spelled out as forcefully as in v. 14, it is the same special visitation that is in view. Few could read the Fourth Gospel for the second time without recognizing that the coming of the Word into the world, described in the Prologue, is northing other than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’ (Carson 1991:121-122).

In his explanation of the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16, Carson referred back to commentary on John 1:9 where Carson emphasises that ‘world’ means that Jesus’ coming into the world to be a light was to be a light ‘to every man’ (i.e. to every human being), ‘the entire race’, and ‘than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’.

So D A Carson, a Calvinist, regards ‘world’ in John 3:16 as ‘God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos’. So how much of the world is so bad that God’s love needs to send a Saviour? The whole wicked world – every person in the world.

Leon Morris

 

(Leon Morris, courtesy Wikipedia)

Leading Greek exegete and commentator, the late Leon Morris, in his commentary on John 3:16 wrote:

‘God loved "the world"…. The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It is a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (I John 4:8, 16). It is His nature to love. He loves men because He is the kind of God He is. John tells us that His love is shown in the gift of His Son’ (Morris 1971:229).

That is as clear as crystal for Leon Morris: ‘God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite’. All human beings are included in God’s love articulated in John 3:16.

 

Conclusion

Some Calvinists on this Christian forum want to distort the meaning of ‘world’ to comply with their narrow version of God’s atonement – limited atonement. When God ‘gave his only begotten son’ (John 3:16) to die as an atonement, it was based on God’s love for the whole world – every person in the world. This does not teach universalism (all will be saved) but God’s love extending to every human being so that when he sent his Son to die on the cross, it made provision of salvation for the whole world.

We know this as it is confirmed in:

  • I John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV),
  • Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’, and
  • 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’.

Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, janxharris#1, 3 January 2014, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376/ (Accessed 6 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Skala#4.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#7.

[4] Ibid., Hammster#17, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-2/.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#84, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-9/.

[6] Ibid., Hammster#85.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#89.

[8] Ibid., Hammster#90.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#96, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-10/.

[10] Ibid., Hammster#97.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#98.

[12] Ibid., Hammster#100.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#102, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-11/.

[14] Ibid., Hammster#

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#105, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-11/.

[16] Ibid., Hammster#106.

[17] Ibid., Edial#111, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-12/,

[18] In this article, ‘Characteristics of New Calvinism’, D A Carson is associated with New Calvinism. Available at: http://www.newcalvinist.com/ (Accessed 6 January 2014).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Calvinists squirming over the world

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

A simple globe by jhnri4 - A simple globe made in Inkscape.

(courtesy Openclipart)

By Spencer D Gear

Shouldn’t it be crystal clear that God loves the world of people? Doesn’t ‘world’ in John 3:16 mean the whole world of sinful people? The verse states, ‘For God so loved the world,[1] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (ESV).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, leaves no doubt:

The universality already expressed in the title ‘the Son of man’ (1:51; 3:14) and in ‘everyone who believes’ (v. 15), is brought out with the most vivid clearness in the statement that God loved ‘the world,’ ton kosmon, the world of men, all men, not one excepted. To insert a limitation, either here or in similar passages, is to misinterpret. We know of nothing more terrible than to shut out poor dying sinners from God’s love and redemption. But this is done by inserting a limiting word where Jesus and the Scriptures have no such word (Lenski 1943:260).

To bolster his interpretation that ‘world’ refers to the world of ‘all men’, Lenski also referred to ‘all men’ in 1 Tim 2:4, which states of God our Saviour ‘who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV).

Calvinists on God loving ‘the world’

But that’s not how some Calvinists want us to understand it. I encountered one such person on a Christian forum. He stated:

First, the scripture no where says that Christ died to give men the “opportunity” to be saved. It consistently says that He died “TO SAVE” men.
Second, your position is totally illogical. If God foreknows who will not believe, then there can be no “opportunity” for them to be saved. Christ’s death is nothing more than the basis of their judgment.[2]

How should I reply? I proceeded with this line of reasoning:[3]

Mine is the logical position for these reasons:

  1. God loved the world (Jn 3:16) and not your view of only loving the elect;
  2. God gave all human beings free will as they are part of the ‘whoever believes’ (Jn 3:16). To be ‘whoever believes’, they must have the ability to say, ‘No to the offer’. The corollary of this is that this is the ‘opportunity’ to be saved that is offered to ALL people.
  3. Jesus died for the whole world (1 Jn 2:2).
  4. To have the opportunity to receive Christ, people must hear the Gospel (Rom 10:17);
  5. The omniscient (all-knowing) God has determined that only those who choose to believe receive eternal life (Jn 3:16).
  6. Those who choose to reject this offer are damned – they perish (Jn 3:16).
  7. The final destiny of all human beings is based on how logically God has provided such salvation as here explained.

The Calvinist mentioned above promotes what I think is an illogical position where

  1. God’s injustice is exposed. He does not love the whole world (contrary to John 3:16) and does not offer ALL people the opportunity to respond to the Gospel.
  2. Instead, people are coerced into the kingdom by unconditional election and irresistible grace.[4] And for some Calvinists, the rest are actively damned by an act of God (hardly the actions of the God of love for the whole world).

I don’t fall for the line that mine is the illogical position and this Calvinist’s view is the paragon of logic.

Calvinists can’t accept God loving the whole world of sinful people

So the response to my challenge of his illogical position was,

‘When Jesus said this the belief was that the Jews were the “world” in view. Furthermore, God sent Jesus only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Do you have proof that the term “world” meant to the ancients what it means to you?
You have NOT escaped the problem. If God foreknew who would not believe, then the death of Christ does not provide “opportunity” for them to be saved. It provides only the basis for their condemnation.[5]

This is typical of Calvinists. They cannot accept the plain reading of the text where ‘world’ means the whole world of sinful people. So what did this fellow do? He redefined world to mean only the Jews. My response was: ‘There is not a word in the context to demonstrate that ‘world’ in John 3:16 meant only the Jews. This is what Calvinists like [this man] do to twist Scripture to make it mean what it does not say’.[6] He came back with,

You’re wrong. Jesus spoke those words during His Galilean ministry which was exclusively to the Jews. He said, “For God so loved the world to Jews.

Furthermore, there is not one instance in John’s gospel where the term “world” means every human being. Example: The Pharisees said, “The world has gone after Him” (John 12:19). The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read, “the whole world.” Yet verse 12 says that it was it was a “great multitude.”

They were a great multitude of Jews, not every human being. They were identified as “the Daughter of Zion” (verse 15). They were Jews.[7]

What better way to refute this than to go to a Calvinist commentator who disagrees with him. I replied:[8]

Calvinist commentator, William Hendricksen, agrees with me and disagrees with you. What does ‘world’ mean in John 3:16? Hendriksen states:

The term world, as here used, must mean mankind which, though sin-laden, exposed to the judgment, and in need of salvation (see verse 16b and verse 17), is still the object of his care. God’s image is still, to a degree, reflected in the children of men….

By reason of the context and other passages in which a similar thought is expressed … it is probable that also here in 3;16 the term indicates fallen mankind in its international aspect: men from every tribe and nation; not only Jews but also Gentiles. This is in harmony with the thought expressed repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel (including this very chapter) to the effect that physical ancestry has nothing to do with entrance into the kingdom of heaven: 1:12, 13; 3:6; 8:31-29 (Hendriksen 1953:140, emphasis in original).

So are you going to say that William Hendriksen, the Calvinist commentator, got it badly wrong and ‘world’ in John 3:16 does not refer to the world of mankind?

Conclusion

There is not a word in the context of John 3:16 to demonstrate that the meaning of ‘world’ was only to the Jews, a limited group of people. This Calvinist was engaging in a typical tactic of Calvinists I have encountered on Internet forums. When someone objects to their Calvinistic interpretations, they set about to redefine terminology in terms of Calvinism. This is known as using a question begging logical fallacy.

If Calvinism starts with a presupposition that Jesus did not love the entire world of sinners and did not die on the cross for all of these sinners, every verse they read that gives a contrary view is made to agree with the presupposition. That is, the conclusion agrees with the presupposition. We cannot have a logical discussion when any one of us uses illogic. And logical fallacies promote illogical thinking.

For further investigation of the truth that God loves the world and Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, see my articles:

I also recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Works consulted

Hendriksen, W 1953. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to John (2 vols complete in 1). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretations of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (limited edn assigned by Augsburg Fortress).

Notes:


[1] The ESV footnote was, ‘Or For this is how God loved the world.

[2] The Boxer#389, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘In Arminianism, God excludes some people from salvation’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7815138-39/ (Accessed 28 April 2014).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#390.

[4] For brief definitions of ‘unconditional election’ and ‘irresistible grace’, see the CARM definitions at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (accessed 19 June 2014).

[5] The Boxer#395, Christian Forums, Soteriology DEBATE, ‘In Arminianism, God excludes some people from salvation’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7815138-39/ (Accessed 28 April 2014).

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#397.

[7] Ibid., The Boxer#398.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#399.

 
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

God’s hate: Isn’t that obnoxious?

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Hate Pride     God is Love

    ChristArt                                                 ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Surely the God of love would not be so loathsome that he would demonstrate hate towards anyone?

Yet we have these statements about God:

checkerboard-arrow-small  ‘And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”’ (Isaiah 6:3 NIV).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 NIV, emphasis added).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts’ (Isaiah 5:16 NIV).

But there is another side to God’s actions:

snowflake-red-smallThere are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him’ (Proverbs 6:16 NIV, emphasis added).

snowflake-red-small ‘Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”’ (Rom 9:13 NIV).[1]

snowflake-red-small ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18 NIV).

snowflake-red-small ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46 NIV).

How is it that the God, whose essence is holiness, love and righteousness/justice, can hate, be angry, and send people to eternal punishment? Norman Geisler provides this helpful insight:

God is not only merciful to the repentant, but He is also wrathful upon the unrepentant. These actions are not incompatible, since they are exercised on different objects.

The definition of God’s wrath

A number of Hebrew words are translated as ‘wrath.’ Charown (Ex. 15:7) means ‘burning anger,’ ‘fury.’ Aph (Ex. 22:24) means ‘ire,’ ‘wrath.’ Ebrah (Num. 11:33) depicts outbursts of passion, anger, or rage. Chemah (Ps. 59:13) literally means ‘heat’ and, figuratively, ‘anger.’ Qetreph (2 Chron. 19:2) speaks of a rage.

The New Testament word for ‘wrath’ is orge. It carries the meaning of ‘strong desire,’ ‘violent passion,’ and ‘ire’ (see Eph. 2:3; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 6:16). As applied to God, wrath means His anger at and hatred of sin, His righteous indignation at all evil, and His jealous execution of judgment on unrighteousness. However, wrath, while rooted in God’s essential nature as just, is not an attribute, but an act that flows from His unchanging righteousness (Geisler2003:396-397).

The answer is fundamental: The God whose essential essence is holiness, love and righteousness, cannot tolerate sin in his presence. To those who repent, God demonstrates his mercy. But for those who are unrepentant, they can expect God’s wrath as a manifestation of his hatred of sin.

God’s wrath is a manifestation of his essence of holiness and righteousness/justice. ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you’ (Psalm 89:14 NIV).

God’s wrath against evil has its foundation in His essence/nature of unchanging righteousness. So the wrath or hatred of God against sin is not God’s essential nature but flows from God’s immutable (unchanging) righteousness.

C S Lewis put it well:

‘God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we must need a nd the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger -according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way’ (Mere Christianity, chapter 5,We have cause to be uneasy‘).

What a sad day it will be for those who reject the One who makes imputed righteousness possible through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice!

Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Notes

[1] This is citing Malachi 1:2-3.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.