Reflections on God’s Wrath | Dr. Oren Martin

Do you want to grow in your understanding and appreciation of God’s bountiful love? Then meditate on his wrath. Now before you punch your roommate in the throat (metaphorically speaking), just think with me for a moment about this: God’s grace and love are not received apart from the exercise of his holy wrath. The storyline of Scripture shows us this.

Genesis begins with God’s “very good” creation, but that creation sought to become like God, and thus de-god God, and as a result God in his holiness had to judge and punish sin (and sinners). And judge sinners he did. All received God’s just judgment and wrath: Cain (Gen 4), wicked mankind in a great flood (Gen 6-9), rebellious Korah and his cohorts (Num 16), King Saul (1 Sam 15), King David (2 Sam 11), King Solomon (1 Kings 11), and idolatrous Israel (2 Kings 17, 25).

So much for love, huh? What about all that ‘God’s mercy and love’ talk? Well, God’s wrath against sin paved the way for his triumph in mercy (Gen 3:15). Indeed it’s through the loving act of the Father sending his beloved, willing Son—who joyfully went to the cross—to die in the place of sinners and bear the wrath that they (we!) deserve that God’s mercy and love (and wrath) are most fully displayed (Rom 3:21-26). In fact, it’s at the cross where God’s love and wrath meet. It’s only through God’s wrath poured out on the righteous One that the wicked ones can receive God’s love. Indeed the wrath of God enhances our appreciation of God’s bountiful love.

So how should we respond? First, worship God for his holy wrath displayed in judging our sin. Second, be wrathful as God is wrathful (kill your own sin!). Third, like Jesus, weep for those under God’s wrath and compassionately and courageously proclaim the forgiveness-bringing, life-giving gospel (Matt 23:37-39). Finally, long for the day when we will be made perfect in love and will never fear God’s wrath (1 John 4:18).

There are many today who minimize or detest the notion of God’s wrath, but not those who have been delivered from it (1 Thess 1:10). Praise God for his wrath. Praise God for his mercy.


Dr. Oren Martin serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at Boyce College and Southern Seminary. He serves as a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church and has recently published Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan (IVP, 2015) and “The Land Promise in Biblical and Systematic Theology” in Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2015).