By Stephen Leonard
“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 2:12
If you saw and remember the movie Moonstruck, with Cher and Nicolas Cage as the main stars, you might remember Cage saying to Cher when she was engaged to his brother: “I want you in my bed. I do not care if I burn in hell.” Such statements, thoughts, or even unconscious thinking proliferates among many in the modern world. Most men and women do not fear the judgment or wrath of God. It does not cause them any concern whatsoever, or any change in their behavior.
R.C. Sproul said: “The most brazen lie of all is this lie people tell themselves: ‘I have nothing to worry about the wrath of God. My God is a God of love.’ If that is your thought, your god is an idol.”
Such non-fearers of God’s wrath use the irrational understanding of God being a God of love to think He could never show wrath simply because He always loves, and therefore, cannot ever be angry. Yet the God of the Bible is very much both a God of love AND a God of righteous wrath! He could not be a God of love if He had no wrath for evil, sin, and malice! He cannot abide evil! The true God is a Holy God.
When you wonder about the problem of pain in the world, pain is there because of the pain sin causes in the world, and because of the disobedience to God in the way men and women live in this fallen world. Pain IS the result of sin and of the unbearable manner in which men treat other men. And pain is a result of both God’s discipline of those He loves, and His judgment of unrepentant sinners.
You are commanded in God’s Word to fear God, because you know He loves you with unconditional love, and yet He hates sin and disobedience. Consequently, He pours out His wrath on His own beloved Son because Jesus becomes sin for you on the cross. He took on your sin and paid its cost that you may be free of a cost you simply cannot pay yourself. Rather, you cling to Christ and find salvation in His blood, the price He paid for you.
At the same time, you also fear God for His righteousness. You hate sin and its results, and you fear God for the wrath He pours out toward those who willingly reject His Son and love disobedience. Romans 1:18 cannot be any clearer, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” And furthermore, Romans 1:18-32, describes the ungodly behavior resulting from such sin choices and the wrath brought upon themselves by that behavior.
As Ecclesiastes concludes with the wisdom of the ages in its final summation: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” This is the very reason you should fear God with a healthy fear in the love you have for Him. You love Him so much that you cannot bear the thought of disappointing Him.
“‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”
(2nd verse of John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing Grace!,” 1779)