“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” Ephesians 2:3
For many people, the wrath of God seems to be a kink in His character. It is a quality we might think inconsistent with a holy, righteous and loving God. But the reality is that the very attributes we worship in God are the source of His wrath. A God of love, mercy and compassion is justifiably angry at sin because it violates, distorts and destroys His image and His purposes.
Paul does not mince words when he says all of us who have gratified the cravings of the flesh are “by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). We are doomed, he says, but what does God’s wrath actually look like? The word “wrath” inspires images of an angry, vengeful God who sends lightning bolts from heaven to punish disobedience, but this is not how Scripture portrays His wrath. It is not arbitrary, nor contingent upon the gravity of our sin, but is entirely rational in that it is the consequence of our own actions.
In Romans, Paul writes, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of people” (Romans 1:18). Three times Paul says God “gave them over” – to their sinful desires, their shameful lusts and their depraved minds. God displays His wrath by saying in effect, “If you are going to engage in sin, I will let you go. I will hand you over to it, but it will never be your friend. It will destroy you.” Though it breaks His heart, the wrath of God is expressed in allowing the corruption of sin to do its work of destruction within us.
Left to ourselves, we are doomed, justly deserving of all the consequences of sin. But thanks be to God, He has raised us to life and rescued us from sin. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith,” says Paul, but he clarifies, “and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our salvation is entirely dependent upon the work of the Lord Jesus. He was born spiritually alive and lived without sin, remaining obedient to His Father. As the only sinless person, Jesus qualified as our substitute, and by taking upon Himself all our sin, the just wrath of God was satisfied on the cross.
Jesus became what we were, deserving of judgment and wrath, so we might become what He is, the righteousness of God. We who believe in Him are now recipients of His love, His compassion and His righteousness, and not just in this life. Though generations and millennia pass, we will remain throughout eternity the recipients of “the incomparable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7).
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I cannot thank You enough for being my substitute. Thank You for taking on Yourself the wrath I deserved and replacing it with Your righteousness. In Your most precious name.