How do we reconcile the Bible’s teaching of a God of love and a God of wrath?

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How do we reconcile the Bible’s teaching of a God of love and a God of wrath?

There is no reconciliation to be made in God’s nature. God’s love and God’s wrath exist in the context of one another. As surely as a mountain’s peak cannot exist without the valley deep, so God’s love cannot exist without His wrath. The height of God’s love, expressed in what is good and compatible with His design, highlights God’s wrath expressed in judgment of everything that is not good or defies His design. The love of God and the wrath of God are but views of the same attribute of God from different perspectives: His holiness. 

The sovereign God is the supremacy of holiness (Isaiah 6:3). As God is holy, so those who are in the light are made holy by Him (Leviticus 19:2). But those outside the holiness of God receive His wrath: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Most important, what is impossible with man is possible with God. He provides His holiness for us if we believe and receive His divine design in Christ Jesus (Matthew 19:26; John 1:12). Because God is holy, He sent His holy Son to die in our place and take the punishment, judgment, and wrath as our substitute — to sanctify (make holy) His people. 

Only by the wrath of God expressed by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son do we experience the love of God. Christ’s payment satisfies God’s judgment for the sins of those who express their faith in God to redeem them from a hopeless end.

He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by 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 (Isaiah 53:5, 6).

As God is holy, so the children of God have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

Amazingly, those in Christ are holy in Him — with His holiness. Those not in Christ are not holy. “In Christ” means receiving God’s love. Those who are not in Christ receive God’s wrath. It is not reconciliation of God’s nature but rather reconciliation of us with God’s design for creation. If God did not exercise His wrath, He would violate His love to make all things holy, even as He is holy.

While God’s wrath must exist for the expression of God’s love, the Bible teaches that it is conditional and limited in relation to His eternal and essential attribute of love: ​”For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime” (Psalm 30:5, NIV). “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8, KJV; cf. Exodus 20:5, 6).

God’s love demands that the Creator not be indifferent to evil and suffering. Quite the opposite. God’s love justifies or commands God’s wrath. Simply put, divine wrath is the “other side” of divine love and must exist for the holiness of God to be realized. For God to not express His wrath at the corroding and awful impact of human sin would mean He is not a God of love. 

— Elder Chip Hinds


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    Chip Hinds

    Chip Hinds is the Southwest District Superintendent of the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day).