Friday, June 29, 2012

What is meant by the wrath of God?

I have always wrestled with the term "wrath" knowing that God is unchangeable and a loving God. How can I understand this term and still believe in a loving God?

Fr Patrck Reardon gives a good perspective on this term in his commentary on Psalm 6 (LXX).
Divine wrath is not some sort of irritation; God does not become peeved or annoyed. The wrath of God is infinitely more serious that a temper tantrum. It is a deliberate resolve in response to a specific state of the human soul. In Romans, where the expression appears twelve times, the anger of God describes His activity toward the hard heart, the unrepentant, those sinners who turn their backs and deliberately refuse His grace...
Wrath then is what God directs toward the heard hearted, those who consciously reject God. Yet he says it is not that action of a God who is annoyed or peeved. So what is it?

Paul in Romans 1:24-32 tells us that wrath is where God gives up on us.The Holy Sprit is no longer active in us. We become dead to God. Our conscience becomes what we make it to be.

Fr Patrick writes,
Three times in this passage, the Apostle Paul pounds the point home: "God gave them up..." (Rom 1:24, 26, 28). In this consists the wrath of God: that He turns man lose, that He lets man go, hands him over, that He abandons man to his own choice of evil. The full context of this passage deserves deep reflection, because the moral evils to which God delivers the hard of heart appear to be the very vices characteristic of our own times (Cf. Rom 1:24-32). These verses describe in graphic detail exactly what happens when "God gives them up," and not attentive reader of this text will fail to recognize in it a description of the world in which we live today.
He is how Paul describes the resulting condition.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
This is the result of God abandoning us and people acting out of their biological self-centered pursuit of self interest. If we find ourselves in this state separated from God, realizing God gave us up, knowing that He has left us to our own devices, what are we to do?

Saint Theophan the Recluse tells us that grace is not freely give to those already have known Christ, who know what life in Christ is, and have been baptized, but then chose to ignore Him.
He must give something himself first. He must still be worthy and beseech. It is not enough merely to wish; he must work on himself to attract spiritual arousal by and labor, and learn how difficult it is to acquire...He thirsts but is not given drink, hungers but is not fed, seeks but does not find, exerts himself but does not receive. Sometimes a person is left in this condition for a very long time, to the point where he feels divine reproach, as if God has forgotten him, turned away and betrayed His promise. He feels like "the earth which dirnketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it...but...which beareth thorns and briers. (Heb 6:7-8) He goes through the period of trail, and thanks to his labors and agonizing search, the spirit of arousal once again descends on him as it descends on others as a gift.

 References: Path to Salvation, pp 103-104; Christ in the Psalms, pp 11-12. 


  1. I have found this very interesting and helpful. I would like to share with you a link to a video that I think is on target when applying Romans 1 to the context of modern American society. Thanks for being out there.

  2. Thanks, Phil. The video makes you think.

  3. This makes sense. I think it may be important to point out that everything God does, including turning us over to our own evil desires, is ultimately out of love and with the intent and desire of turning us back to Himself. Even the withholding of grace is a necessary thing because we must exercise our will in order to strengthen it in a godly direction in order to undo the damage of the passions on it. If God immediately gives grace, we don't continue our efforts and this necessary strengthening exercise is short-circuited. In fact, God's withholding of the sweetness of a sense of His Presence is truly His mercy at work on our behalf (though we don't, perhaps, experience it as such at the time--Hebrews 12 comes to mind. At least that's the way I must understand this in order to maintain my vision of God as single-minded in His Love and will for all of His Creation.

  4. Matthew 17
    [4] Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
    [5] While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
    [6] And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
    [7] And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
    [8] And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
    [9] And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

    Revelation 16
    [19] And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
    [20] And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.



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