The Wrath of God and the Gospel (Fred G. Zaspel)
In the new issue of Credo Magazine, “The Forgotten God – Divine Attributes We Are Ashamed Of and Why We Shouldn’t Be,” Fred G. Zaspel has contributed an article called, “The Wrath of God and the Gospel.” Fred Zaspel (Ph.D., Free University of Amsterdam) is pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA, and is the executive editor of Books At a Glance. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel.
Here is the start of Zaspel’s article:
Preachers today often complain that the concept of sin is so foreign to today’s postmodern mind that it seems nearly impossible to get across. Indeed. But if this is so (perhaps we should say, because this is so), the concept of divine wrath is still more difficult. How could God be angry – much less very angry – with us?
But of course the notions of sin and wrath are inseparably linked, and Scripture never loses sight of them as such. The biblical writers do not present divine wrath as a necessary attribute of God as he is in himself but as the necessary outworking of God’s holiness in reference to sin. Wrath is the inevitable response of God to all that is contrary to him and therefore in rebellion against him.
The Nature of Divine Wrath
The righteousness that God requires of us is not abstract or theoretical. What he requires is that we, creatures made in his image, reflect him faithfully – that we display (“image”) in our own persons and behavior the moral and ethical uprightness that is characteristic of him. Because (1) we are God’s image-bearers, and because 2) his law is reflective and expressive of him, he cannot but require that we conform. It is one function of his righteousness that he require the same righteousness of us.
It is because of this connection that God has a deep interest in our ethical and moral conduct. For example, measuring scales and all devices for determining honest dealings with others are said, ultimately, to have been issued by God. “Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making” (Prov. 16:11). Whether we speak in terms of inches, centimeters, pounds, grams, bushels, or ounces, all such “truth” scales are reflective of God’s justice and the justice he requires of us. They all are “from him” in that sense. Accordingly, a just weight delights him, reflecting as it does his own justice. And by the same token, a false balance is repugnant and abhorrent to him as a personal affront and violation of his justice.
All of this figures into the biblical presentation of God’s wrath. Sin is a treacherous refusal of his righteous reign, and given this, God is not indifferent to it. It angers him. In every sin, every transgression of his law, the sinner sets himself in opposition against the lawgiver and thus, inevitably, becomes the object of his holy wrath. . . .
Read the rest of this article today!
Looking back on the first half of the twentieth century, H. Richard Niebuhr famously described liberal Christianity’s understanding of the gospel like this: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” Such a mentality has had its influence and still does today. There are certain Bible stories that you just don’t talk about, not even in church. For many people today, Bible stories having to do with divine wrath, anger, or jealousy are embarrassing. And yet, no matter how uncomfortable they make you feel, it is nearly impossible to get through a book (sometimes a chapter!) of the Bible without coming face to face with these forgotten attributes of God. In a culture that capitalizes on tolerance and love, a focus on divine judgment is considered harsh, even primitive. Gordon Rupp’s words still speak today when he said, “What it means to feel oneself under the Wrath of God is something that modern man can hardly understand.”
Though unpopular to do so, this issue of Credo Magazine aims to make you, the modern reader, feel the weight of these biblical attributes of God. They are forgotten attributes of God, no doubt about it. But our desire is that by the end of this issue you will see just how important these attributes are to the story of redemption and for knowing God in a saving way. As has often been said, it is impossible to relish the grace of God in the cross of Christ unless you first understand the condemnation you sit under as a rebel.
Contributors include Bruce Ware, David Murray, Erik Thoennes, Matthew Barrett, Fred Zaspel, Daniel Hyde, Cornelius Tolsma, Jessalyn Hutto, Michael A.G. Haykin, and many others.