The God who doesn’t want to be angry

In the debate on theories of the atonement, the word “propitiation” (“atoning sacrifice” in some versions) that appears in various places in the New Testament, is used to demonstrate God’s wrath at sin. Now God’s anger at sin is, as far as I am concerned, a fact established beyond doubt in the Bible. What’s more it is righteous anger – he both has a right to be angry and it is right for him to be angry.

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness

But it is interesting that John doesn’t use “propitiation” as a proof of God’s wrath against our sin, but as a proof of his love for us:

1 John 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Thus we see that the propitiation not only speaks of God’s wrath at sin, but because it was God himself who provided the atoning sacrifice, it speaks even more powerfully of his great love for the people of this rebel planet.

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son

No propitiation could conceivably have been more costly for the Father. The one he loves and delights in more than anything was the price of our salvation.

Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight.”

So we have a God who is angry at our sin, yet who has this amazing love for us. He refuses to simply pretend that he is not angry, he requires the problem to be dealt with properly. He could of course simply have satisfied his anger at our sin by punishing us, but he chose another way. Thus the cross primarily speaks of a God of love – it simply would not have been necessary if God did not love us so much. He is, it would seem, the God who doesn’t want to be angry.

Hosea 14:4 I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger will turn away from them.

3 thoughts on “The God who doesn’t want to be angry

  1. Thanks for you reply on the earlier post.

    I read a great quote from markus barth that ‘the Wrath of God is the tempreture of God’s love for us.’ God’s wrath would therefore denote the holiness of his love?

    I think you are right about the distinction between Christ bearing our punishment and being punished. But in line with my quote from Barth is there a sense in which the wrath of God must save us not just his love? my biggest problem with Stott is his confilct of attributes between wrath and love.

  2. This is what differentiates Christians from other faiths. Humanity is bound to God’s wrath, yet in God’s mercy He sent the Son of His Love to expiate that wrath. Thank God for His Love!

  3. Rom 11:22 speaks of the “kindness and severity” of God. The two are not mutually exclusive. As a parent, I know that my children can incur my (hopefully righteous) anger, without my love for them being compromised in any way.

    To be honest, I don’t know why people have such a problem with God being angry at sin. When I read the recent news about a three-year old girl being kidnapped and raped, it sickened me. God sees every evil act, both those that disgust us, and those that we consider to be “not that bad”. If we were as holy as he is, we would hate sin more not less. (But we would be more loving too)

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