Trembling at the Wrath of God

Intro:  We return to our annual theme in Romans 12.  We have only a few verses left in the chapter. read  Romans 12:19-2019 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

We will consider these verses again next week as well, particularly the implications of verse 20. But today I want of focus on the mention of wrath in vs. 19. I am convinced that the wrath spoken of here is the wrath of God.

My goal today is rather simple. 1) I want to investigate the nature of the wrath of God  & 2) I want to show from Scripture the proper emotional effect of believing in the wrath of God in 3 areas: 1) Our corporate worship, and 2) Our families, and 3) the evangelism of the church.

I.  Defining God’s Wrath – In modern religion it is highly unpopular and uncommon for someone to speak about the wrath or anger of God. Some do not because they do not believe that God experiences or displays wrath. Others do not because it is unpopular and more appealing to speak of God’s mercy and love.

A.  A study with a concordance will show that there are more references in scripture to the anger of God than to His love and tenderness. (A.W. Pink) The English word wrath is defined as “deep intense anger and indignation.” 

B.  The Greek words orge and thumos are used over a hundred times in the Bible side by side, at times hardly distinguishable.

  • Psalm 6:1, “O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.”
  • Psalm 90:7, “We are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.”
  • Romans 2:8 – 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (NIV)

1.  A. T. Robertson: God’s anger (thumos) is his vehement fury or boiling rage. His wrath (orge) is his settled indignation or his settled anger. In other words, in God’s anger the emphasis falls on the emotional, boiling intensity of it. And in God’s wrath the emphasis falls on the controlled, settled, considered direction and focus of its application. But we dare not draw a hard line between them. God’s anger is never out of the control of his wisdom and righteousness, and his wrath is never cool or indifferent, but is always a wisely directed fury. The wrath of God is never less than a perfect judicial decree, but is always more than a perfect judicial decree because it is always full of right and fitting fury.

C.  Defining wrath in our context:  After Paul says in verse 19, “Leave it to the wrath of God“, he further defines this wrath as God’s vengeance, “Vengeance is mine.”. Wrath, in Paul’s use here,  is connected with God’s response to something that deserves vengeance. And then it says, “I will repay.” So God’s wrath is treated as a repayment to man for something man has done.

1.  So just taking this verse alone, with its pieces, we could venture a definition of the wrath of God like this: the wrath of God is God’s settled anger toward sin expressed in the repayment of suitable vengeance on the guilty sinner.

2. The object of God’s wrath is unrighteousness or sin. It is not uncontrolled or irrational. It is discriminating, carried out through God’s omnipotence and omniscience. God hates sin, and so should we. Does it make you angry to see the effects of sin in the lives of people?

3.  Paul tells us in Romans 13 that God executes his judicial anger against some sin here & now through his ordained civil governments as they punish the evildoer.

4.  In time, God’s wrath against sin will be released against all sin. Rom 2:5-6  “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: The time of this wrathful reaction to sin is a day of judgment (day of wrath) , thus God’s wrath is a judicial action, done perfectly through God’s complete knowledge.

 

II. Trembling at the Wrath of God. Do you tremble at the wrath of God? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If God is angry who can stand?

  • Psalm 114:7, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.”
  • Psalm 119:120, “My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.”
  • Isaiah 66:2b,This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
  • Philippians 2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” If you know God-really know God-for who he is in the greatness of his holiness and justice and wrath and grace, you will tremble in his presence. And this is not something you will grow out of. In fact, the immature must grow into it.

A.  “Fear or Fear Not” – “But doesn’t the Bible teach us not to fear?  “Fear not, for I am with you.”  How do we reconcile these verses?  Two important thoughts:

1. Christians do not fear God as those who are destined for the wrath of God. They fear God in recognition of its reality, and because of their rescue from  it. If you are his child, fear God not as your enemy, but fear him as one who was once was your enemy and still is infinite in power and holiness.

ex.  If a policeman saved you from being stranded on a windy ledge fifty stories above the street, would you still be trembling afterwards?  Being safe would not end the trembling. In fact, given the time to contemplate your previous circumstance, you might tremble more. But this trembling is different than when you were on the ledge.

  • Psalms 130:3-43 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. When our iniquities are considered, who can stand before God (We tremble) Then we are saved by grace-We are forgiven. And we tremble, not because God is our enemy, but because he was, and oh, how terrible it would have been if he had not saved us.

2.  Christians fear God as those who could become destined for the wrath of God. We must also retain our fear for God because if we fall away from the truth, we can be lost.           

  • 1 Peter 1:17 – 7 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
  • Heb 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
  • 2 Cor 7:1 – Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
  • Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Tremble at the prospect of displeasing God, not displeasing man.
  • Isaiah urged Israel to not be afraid of their enemies, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. 13 The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread. 14 He will be as a sanctuary…” If we continue to fear God instead of men, God will become our sanctuary from the wrath of men, and we will not have to fear. (Isa. 8:12-14)

 

III.  The Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God. The true fear of God transforms the whole life of the Christian. Let me mention three areas where this transformation will be apparent.

 

A.  Corporate Worship:  Fear and trembling should be felt especially in our worship services. When we come to worship we are coming consciously before the face of God. Here, if anywhere in the Christian life, there will be a proper fear and trembling. Consider how the Bible connects worship and the fear of the Lord.

  • Psalm 96:9, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!”
  • Revelation 14:7, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
  • Revelation 15:4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

1. Rejoice with trembling:  Our trembling is voiced in the joyful singing of worship.  Christians sing with joy in worship, and Muslims don’t because God is not our enemy, but our Savior. Listen to the way the Bible says it so paradoxically.

  • Psalms 2:11 – 11 Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling.” – Fear with joy
  • Isaiah 11:3 – 3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord..” – Fear with delight
  • Neh 1:11 – O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who delight to fear thy name; This fear is what the saints delight to experience.

2.  Those who know God and have experienced His grace cannot trivialize worship. Have you ever heard that worship should be fun? “Don’t you think we can have fun in worship?”

a.  Is having fun the alternative to fearing God? It is a sad commentary on the superficial condition of our times that one of the most common things said about good experience in ministry and worship is that “we are having fun.”  Worshiping the infinite God calls forth a different emotion than what you experience at the amusement park.

3.  Isa 6:1-8 – In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

B.  Our Families: Particular application to the role of parents. God calls on you to be the kind of parent who helps your children tremble with joy in the presence of God. How can we do that? This responsibility falls especially on the fathers.

1.  Fathers are called to be the special representative of God in the family. As such your children must delight to fear you. 

a.  If they only fear you, and there is no delight in it, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. If they only delight in you and do not fear you, it’s wrong and dysfunctional. In both cases you will have made it very difficult for the children to embrace the true God-the God of wrath and mercy.

  • Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Why? Because that’s the way God is. Hebrews 12:6, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” So when you discipline your child, you display God’s judgment.
  • Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In your discipline, your children are learning what the Lord is like. Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” And do we not therefore delight to fear him? Can you children speak to you with isaiah’s words? “Father, disobeying you is a fearful thing. And I am thankful that it is. But, oh, what a sanctuary you are to me! I delight in my fear of you.”

C.  Our Evangelism: we need to preach the gospel so that people know they are under the wrath of God because of their sin.

1.  Much evangelism strives to show people the love of God, without focusing on one’s rescue from the wrath of God. 

  • Romans 5:8-9 – 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. The love of God rescues us from the wrath of God.

2.  It won’t do to simply present God as a caring loving God. He must also be presented as the Holy and wrathful God, who will punish the evildoer.

3.  If we fear God we will be constrained to talk t our lost friend about Jesus and their sin. Relationships don’t save anybody. It is nice to make and have friends, but sooner or later you need to ask your friend for a few minutes to share the gospel. Then lay it out, wrath and all.

4.  When Paul, the prisoner, had one chance to speak to Felix the governor, Luke tells us, “He reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25). Felix needed to understand the wrath of God.

 

Conclusion:  Evangelism, parenting, corporate worship- and all of life-exist to magnify the glory of Jesus Christ. We cannot magnify the glory of Jesus without trembling before the wrath of God. Jesus is most glorified in His work on the cross to propitiate that wrath in our behalf.

Isaiah 53:4-6Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.