Watering down God’s wrath dilutes God’s love.
In an effort to make the Gospel more seeker-friendly, some Christians avoid talking about God’s wrath, anger, and hatred toward those who have sinned against him. By watering down the wrath of God such people cheapen and diminish the love of God.
Such a faith void of God’s wrath was characterized in the early 1900s by a movement called Protestant Liberalism. In 1937, H. Richard Niebuhr, professor at Yale Divinity School, gave this description of Protestant Liberalism’s theology: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”
As Niebuhr pungently demonstrated, eliminating God’s wrath minimizes the cross, which is the ultimate manifestation of God’s love (see Romans 5:6-8).
Because God is holy, perfect, and sinless, he deserves all glory, honor, fame, praise, and exaltation. However, when we sin—and every one of us sins—we insult God’s holiness. Sin is fundamentally an offense against God, and so he hates sin and punishes all who sin against him (see Psalm 78:19-21, John 3:36, Psalm 5:5, Isaiah 13:11, Psalm 7:11).
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 1:18-19, describes the ubiquity of God’s wrath: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (see also Romans 1:18-31).
So, if we all are godless and wicked, deserving of God’s wrath, how can he accept us? Does God say, “Well, at least you’re making progress”? Does he grade on the curve: “You’re better than average, so I guess I’ll give you a passing grade”? No. God can’t forgive like that because his holiness and justice demand that perfect satisfaction for sin be made.
Instead, what God does is this: He sends his son, Jesus Christ, to bear all our sins so that our sin is paid for by Christ. What an amazing act that the very one who you hated, scorned, reviled, and scoffed at is the same one who took upon himself the death penalty you deserved, and because all your sins are placed on him God declares you righteous. That’s good news!
If you don’t realize that the bad news is that you, because of your sin, are an enemy of God who deserves the death penalty, then you won’t realize the full magnificence of God’s love for you expressed through Christ suffering the death you deserved. Because the bad news is worse than you think it is, the good news is better than you think it is.