In an essay titled “The Wrath of God,” penned for Bruce McCormack’s Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives, D. A. Carson argues,
There must be some sense in which God is praised for his wrath. If I began this essay by intimating that the wrath of God is a “problem,” in certain respects this intimation must be seen as an exercise in misdirection. God’s wrath is a “problem” in that people withdraw from the category and often refuse to face realistically its prevalence in Scripture. But the biblical writers are not embarrassed when they treat the theme. This is surely because, for them, the wrath of God is an entirely just and therefore admirable display of holiness as it confronts sin. To be embarrassed by what Scripture so clearly and repeatedly sets out as belonging to the character of God when He deals with rebels is not the stance of sophistication and moral superiority. Rather, it is the stance of arrogant disbelief. What right does the creature ever have to be embarrassed by the Creator? To disown the theme of judgment is to slouch toward the very first reported instance of doctrinal disavowal–the insistence of the serpent, “You will not certainly die” (Gen. 3:4). Far better and wiser is it to see that the theme of God’s wrath provides, inter alia, another angle into who God is, into the blinding brilliance of His holiness (cf. Isaiah 6). And this must end in worship.
Does the universal flood make you cringe as you think about the millions of men, women, and children who drowned to death at the hands of God (Gen. 6:5-7, 17)? Does the killing of men, women, and children in Canaan by the Israelites in obedience to God’s command make you cringe as well (Joshua 6:21; 10:28, 39; 11:14)? Then repent. We should always rejoice over the justice of God, and never view His justice as something we should be embarrassed about. Of course, we should love our neighbors (including our enemies), but always in a manner that is less than our love for God (Matt. 22:37-39). The doctrine of God’s justice and the doctrine of Hell are losing popularity in Christianity today. Nevertheless, the biblical authors, and even Christ, are unashamed of God’s wrath, justice, and a sinner’s hell. They praise God for His holy character. Consider the imprecatory Psalms (Psalms 5:10; 10:15; 28:4; 31:17-18; 35:4-6; 40:14-15; 58:6-11; 69:22-28; 109:6-15; 139:19-22; 140:9-10), or the disciples shaking the dust off their feet at unrepentant cities (Mark 6:11), or listen to the words of the martyrs crying out in the book of Revelation, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:9-10)? The martyrs appeal to God’s holiness as the basis of His wrath. Because we worship a holy God, we worship a wrathful God who is correctly responding to sin and sinners when He judges us.
God is holy and God is love. Which one do you emphasize more in your ministry? May we never present a God of our own making who is more loving than holy, for this god has no reason to punish his son to save you from himself. Such imbalance between the holiness of God and the love of God diminishes the cross, rendering it pointless. Until we understand the holiness of God, we will never understand the depth of His love, and how scandalous, yet beautiful, the cross really is. For the cross is beautiful to those who are saved by it, yet scandalous as God punishes His Son as a sinner (law-breaker) so that sinners who trust in Him will go free!
When is the last time you worshiped God for His wrath and justice?