Is God angry with his children?

Is God angry with his children?

“God can be wondrously angry with his children” – Kevin DeYoung

 

For the majority of my Christian life, I was taught and believed that God had anger towards me as a believer because of my sin. This lie (and make no mistake, it is a lie- straight from the enemy’s mouth) kept me in darkness, hiding from God. I was constantly fear stricken, ashamed at the notion of being God’s “red-headed stepchild with whom he was always displeased.” I was terrified of him because of the preaching that I had sat under. I honestly believed that He was just waiting to “have a word with me” about all of my sin the second I breathed my last. Oh sure, I’d still get into heaven…but first…sheer terror. This never sat right with me. While I wrestled with the fear, the gospel kept whispering through the corridors of my mind- and I couldn’t ignore the stark contrast of the two.

 

I presented the two ideas to my pastors, friends, guest speakers at church, anyone really- just trying to get an answer. “How can God still be angry with me- how can he be waiting to judge me as a believer if Christ said it is finished? How can he hold me at arms length when I sin if he says he remembers my sins no more and removes them from me as far as the East is from the West?” I was always met with blank stares, mumbles, and straight up “I don’t know’s”. The response that I got from my pastor’s wife would be the one that sent me in a tail spin. She said “Well, we still have God’s holiness to answer for.”

 

*record skips*

 

What? I still have to answer to God’s holiness?! How does that line up with the gospel when Jesus said “It is finished”? If Jesus’s perfect obedience to God in his life- which qualified him to be the perfect sacrifice to meet the demand of God’s holiness- wasn’t enough to answer to that holiness for me, how on earth is my piddly half-assed obedience to God going to ever answer for that holiness?

 

She didn’t have an answer.

 

God does. God’s answer to his holiness is Jesus. The reason that God turned his back on Christ at the cross? The reason that Jesus cried out, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Is because Jesus was answering to God’s holiness on your behalf, believer. Jesus took on every bit of your sin and mine on that cross. Past, present, future. ALL of our sin. He answered for every single one. He was forsaken by God for every single sin you or I could ever commit. He drank the bitter cup of God’s white hot anger towards our sin BONE DRY. There is no more anger left for you, or me. We will never answer to God’s holiness. To think that we ever could is a complete misunderstanding of our sin nature, of God’s holiness, of Jesus’ substitution- in short, it’s a misunderstanding of the gospel. Frankly, it isn’t the gospel at all.

The way these preachers spin this garbage, is that while you are justified before God (made right with him positionally) your relationship with him can be altered at any time based on your obedience or lack there-of. In other words, they make God’s relationship to us conditional. “God smiles at you when he sees you trying really hard to do the right thing.” The problem with a statement like this is that it assumes that God is okay with mere effort to do the right thing. Which means, that he is pleased with partial obedience. He’s pleased with works that our hearts aren’t into.

 

The truth is, God isn’t pleased with that at all. Jesus preached an entire sermon on the Mount that flies in the face of this idea when he brought the Law up so high it could never be attained. He took it to our hearts. “Ok, you haven’t committed murder. Cool. You ever been angry? BUSTED! UNQUALIFIED!” You want your works to answer to God’s holiness? Then they had better succeed that of the pharisees, who by the way were heavy on obedience externally and yet Jesus called them “white washed tombs”. Stumble in just one part of the law, ladies and gentlemen- you are toast, fully deserving all of God’s wrath towards your sin. That’s the standard. To say or suggest that God is pleased with our best stitch effort is complete insanity- no, stronger than that- it’s a LIE. God is pleased only with perfect obedience. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus was perfectly obedient in our place. The point of Christianity is not “do your best so God will smile upon you.” It’s “God turned his back on his son for all of your disobedience so that God will forever smile upon you.”

 

Oh, beloved child of God. God is not wondrously angry with you. On the contrary, he looks at you and sees his son’s perfect record of obedience. Which means, he’s wondrously pleased with you.

10 thoughts on “Is God angry with his children?

  1. Sarah, this is pure truth and the heart of the Gospel. God the Father put Jesus forward as a “propitiation” (Rom 3:25). The word means the removal of wrath. ALL of God’s wrath towards us was instead absorbed by Jesus on the cross. Therefore there is nothing left for us but love. KEEP PREACHING!!!

  2. Hey Sarah!

    I have been having some back and forth with some folks on twitter who read this article and who have also come into contact with my book “The Fury of God.” In fact, I believe you and I had a great back and forth on this same subject before I knew about this article.

    Let me say up front that I’m not trying to troll, nor do I want to spark an endless debate. My goal is just to raise some questions from Scripture that may help me clarify what is being said in this post. Normally I wouldn’t spend this much time but I’ve been directly asked to respond and twitter proved to be an unfitting arena. Since this article is the one in question this seemed to be the best place to go.

    1. Explain Temporary and Ongoing Judgments Which Occur in the New Testament Church.

    This article closes by saying that God looks at us an sees Christ. He is “Wondrously pleased with us.” It also says that our relationship with Christ cannot be affected by our sin. In fact, Sarah, you go so far to call this “garbage.” So, I need some clarification on a few things.

    Why does God execute judgment on the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthian 11:28-32? The text tells us that some of them had become sick and some had even died because of their mistreatment of the Lord’s Supper. Wait! I thought God was pleased with us? I thought he saw Christ’s perfect righteousness? Why would people be getting sick if he was pleased with them?

    This, naturally, leads to an obvious followup question: Why do Christians die at all? The wages of sin is death. Christ’s death paid the price in full. “It is finished!” Why do we all have to pay the wage of death still?

    Furthermore, why does Hebrews 12:5-12 talks about the “chastening” of the Lord? If all God sees is Christ’s righteousness then on what grounds would we need to be chastened? Afterall, we are perfectly holy, right? If God is really pleased with His children then why would he discipline them? I don’t discipline my children when I’m pleased with them. I discipline them when I am not pleased with them.

    If it’s “Garbage” to say that in Christ we are judicially free from the eternal ramifications of our sin but God is still doing a work in us then what should we say of these passages? None of them make any sense in light of this article’s suggestion that God “Well pleased with us.”

    Another perplexing passage would be 1 Peter 4:17-19 which says it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God. I thought we were done with all of that? According to your post we are. That makes me curious how you handle this passages while still maintaining that God is pleased with us WITHOUT maintaining a distinction between eternal justification and temporal correction/judgment for sin in this life.

    2. Is The God of the OT the Same as the God of the NT? Are We His People?

    This is a more nuanced concern that I have but it speaks to a problem I was noticing on Twitter. Everyone wanted me to prove that God gets angry with his children in the NT. Why the NT? I hope we all agree that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore (Heb 13:8). We should also all agree (but maybe we don’t) that Christ is the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the world (Rev. 13:8) and that OT saints were justified substantially the same way we are (Rom 3:23-26).

    The only reason I can figure that someone would want to avoid talking about the OT is because it is replete with instances of God pouring out his wrath on his people (Israel). The question is should we consider ourselves substantially different particularly in terms of redemption? I don’t think so. Paul seems to indicate that in the NT believers are grafted into Israel (Rom 11:17), are children of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7,8, 29) and fellow heirs/citizens of the same body (Eph 2:19; 3:6).

    If we are operating under the same God, serving as a part of the same people, and redeemed y the same messiah then why are we making a distinction on how God treats “His people” between the Old and New Testaments?

    3. Calls to Repentance, Church Discipline Etc.

    Finally, how do we make any sense of the calls for church discipline and calls to churches to repent in the NT? For example, Paul tells the church at Corinth to excommunicate (discipline) a man who was having sex with his father’s wife (presumably his step-mom). Why does the church need to put him out if God is pleased with this guy? You might argue, “Well a true believer wouldn’t do that.” Actually, as far as we know this guy was put out and Paul later called the church to receive him back. The discipline worked.

    Still, we have this problem. Pastors are encouraged rebuke and correct. Why? Entire churches are called to repent (See Rev. ch 2-3). Why? Why would a “Church” need to repent. In 1 Corinthians 11 we are told to “Examine ourselves” at the Lord’s table. Why?

    None of this makes any sense if we take this article at face value. Church’s should not discipline because God is pleased with the person. People should be able to take communion however they want because God is already pleased with them.

    Conclusion

    The dilemma this article seems to ignore is the simple reality (not lie) that the Bible teaches that we CAN in fact get ourselves in a position where God is not pleased with us and has to discipline us.

    Please understand something. I’m not advocating for a hateful, angry god who Lords over us tyrannically. I don’t think that’s how God operates. On the flip side, I don’t think he’s a fluffy bunny who winks at our sin once we’re in Christ. I seek for a more balanced approach that affirms the loving anger of God that leads to godly discipline of his children (Heb 12:4ff).

    I think once we couch God’s discipline in terms of parental responsibility we begin to understand how he can be angry with us and still love us at the same time. I can be angry with my son for running into the road BECAUSE I love him dearly. We have to stop setting God’s love and wrath at odds with one another and recognize that in the Cross both are on perfect display.

    Sorry for the length. I hate when people ransack my blog so I’ll let this be my final word on this post. I hope this can be somewhat edifying to your readers. Keep pressing on for Christ.

  3. Walther, the godfather of Law & Gospel wrote, “Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.”

    I think understanding Sarah’s comments about the anger of God are helpful in light of her first paragraph. It’s clear that she’s writing out of experience and to others who have been burnt out and broken by preaching that is all law and no grace. By preaching that says God is angry, but ignores that his anger was poured out completely on the cross.

    So can we still say “God is angry,” even to Christians as they sin. Yes. For the Christian, who is deciding to ignore God’s law and cheat on his wife or even for the legalist who makes up rules about what it means be “sanctified.” To that person, we should say God is angry… it diagnoses the problem and points people to the need for Jesus.

    But Sarah isn’t writing to this person, she’s writing to the person who keeps hearing “God is angry” when he knows he’s not good enough, that he can’t measure up, and that God is pissed off at him because he’s far from holy. That person who has been diagnosed and aware of the problem, shouldn’t hear “God is angry” but that He is God’s child because God’s anger was poured out on Christ.

    So does a person, Christian or unbeliever, need to hear God is angry? It depends. For example, when somebody asks, “Does abortion make God angry?” The answer might seem simple to some, but you’d be better off asking, “Why do you ask?” Because the question underneath either reveals whether they are asking out of brokenness or out of rebellion… the reason determines what we share, Law (God is angry) or Gospel (God’s is not angry).

  4. Sarah,

    Thank you for a well thought out and helpful article.

    I believe some of the responses here are having some category errors in trying to respond to you and are completely missing your point. You are not saying that God is not angry with sinners (he truly is) but only that he is not angry with those who are under the blood of Christ (who took the wrath of God for us).

    RJ here has answered rightly, what you have hit on is one of the distinctions between Law and Gospel. Jeremy Lundmark (a friend of mine who was on my ordination council) is missing what you are saying here and I would implore him to read carefully what it is you are actually saying before making assumptions.

    Jeremy,

    I love you brother, but you are incorrect in your response.

    1. Judgments on a church as a group is so that those who are not saved are purified out from those who are, especially in a church like Corinth. Not an individual eternal wrath worked on those who are in Christ.

    2. The nation of Israel is not synonymous with “saved individuals” in the days of the OT.

    3. Discipline as a Christian is out of God’s love for us, not His wrath. Discipline (to teach) is not the same as punishment.

    Your balanced approach is not helping here. One must see that God is angry with sinners (not just their sin) and that he is saving those in Christ, not ignoring their sin or “winking” at it, but dealing with it under Christ and with loving chastisement.

    If I sit under a moment of God’s wrath then being in Christ has accomplished nothing for me.

    – Timothy Easley

  5. I wish that I had some nuanced deep big words that might reveal my knowledge but the truth is I do not have much confidence in my ability to do so and also I am concerned that by me doing so will further flame my desire for validation and self-praise. I am daily increasing in learning what my heart is capable of and how self centered and self worshiping it really is. I am very keenly aware of how desperate I am for the mercy of God in His Son Jesus. For those of us who are desperate for God’s grace have been given God’s grace through Christ. This post by Sarah reveals that those of us who thirst for mercy have it and will always have it and that sounds like good news. To be told that what we just drank did not fully satisfy God’s thirst for righteousness is a very terrifying thought for two reasons. 1. Why would God tell me that He is satisfied with me because He is satisfied with Christ all of which was because of what Christ did and not what I need to do and then take back such a promise and discipline me with wrath because of something that I did? If any of my sin followed Jesus out of the tomb then I have no hope and what the what did I drink down from God? Potential hope or ever lasting hope? 2. If God could be angry, displeased, heart broken over what I do now that I am in Christ, then Christ’ death and blood did not do what it was meant to do. That terrifies me. That is a cheap version of Christ. After all that is said and done, I take hope in knowing that when God is disciplining me He is doing so out of love. I am on my face in the position of an unfaithful follower of Christ. But my Christ is in the position of a faithful savior to me. My cry is have mercy on me, a sinner. I place my hope in that whatever happens now it is out of God’s love for me, his adopted Son. If there was any future anger, wrath, disappointment for me then what Jesus drank down on the cross was not God’s future anger, wrath disappointment for me….and that idea is repulsive to me. I honestly do not know if I helped or hurt in this conversation. My goal was to point to Christ. Hope in Christ.

    When into dumpsters of sin I dive
    To feast on things that rot
    My Friend, My King Who is Alive
    Is Faithful when I’m not

  6. Here is a recent blog post on this subject from pastor Ray Ortlund, who has proven to me over the years of his love for the gospel of grace….I wasn’t sure if the link would work so I just cut and pasted it:

    “Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 19:2

    A prophet said that to a righteous king. And I have no problem with it at all.

    The cross of Jesus satisfied the condemning wrath of God against us (Romans 3:21-26). Now, through faith alone, we step into the circle of divine acceptance forever. But Hebrews 12 also reminds us that, precisely because we are now God’s beloved children, he will discipline us along the way. Our justification and adoption are not at stake. That was settled at the cross, and we received our full reinstatement with the empty hands of faith. Now God is deepening us in our sanctification, which includes painful disciplines. That is the “wrath” the prophet spoke of in 2 Chronicles 19:2. It means that our Father is not emotionally detached as he grows us up. It means he is emotionally engaged. When he disciplines us, his heart graciously feels fatherly indignation, grief and anger as part of his love. If, when we offend him and harm others, God felt nothing but a placid equanimity, could we even trust his heart? He is really connecting with us.

    The cross removes God’s condemning wrath. It does not remove God’s disciplining wrath. Condemning wrath sends a sinner to hell. Disciplining wrath prepares a sinner for heaven. God is psychologically complex enough — even human fathers are complex enough — to cherish his erring child and to chastise his erring child, both at the same time, plus more, with the various emotions appropriate to every aspect of the relationship.

    Jesus rebuked Peter (Mark 8:33). The Lord disciplined the Corinthian church, so that some even died for their irreverence (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). The Vinedresser prunes his branches for greater fruitfulness (John 15:2). The risen Lord, who is so for us, also said to his early churches that he had things against them (Revelation 2:4, 14, 20). He said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Revelation 3:19).

    I say all this, because my morning Bible reading took me into 2 Chronicles 19, and verse 2 demanded some thought. It is a serious matter. If, within the totality of the ways of God with us, he includes disciplinary wrath, then we will want to face that and adjust. I do not say this in order to align myself against any person or group in the present Christian scene. I love all my friends, both those who are worried about antinomianism and others who are worried about legalism. Both concerns are important — though I myself always worry more about legalism, and I think I’m right to do so. But my motive here is simply to be a biblical Christian, as much as I can be. I value our man-made theological systems less than I value the Bible itself. Our systems are valid. But the Bible itself always deserves to correct our systems and summaries and formulas.

    If you have understood the gospel to be saying to you as a believer, “All God ever feels about you is approval and warmth and joy” — I don’t see that in the Bible. A fuller view of the heart of God might help you account for some of the pain in your life, as his love pursues you in a profound way. Let’s always see the love of God where he puts it, even if it shows up in ways we didn’t expect, including ways which our incomplete theology taught us did not exist. If we will let the Bible speak to us with its own complexity, we will more fully revere the love of God, we will more wisely understand our own experience, and we will more helpfully care for one another, as we all stumble together toward heaven.

    “His anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.” Psalm 30:5

  7. Thank you, everyone for taking the time to read my piece, to process it, and to leave feedback. Even though many of us are in disagreement, this means a lot to me as a writer, thinker, and lover of God’s word. I appreciate you guys for engaging respectfully. We all know that’s a rare thing to see anymore!

    I’ve taken some time to think, pray, talk with some friends- and I honestly believe the difference lies in this Law/Gospel distinction (as RJ stated). The difference in whether or not we believe God is angry with us- or that our relationship with him can be altered- goes right back to how we view the Law and the Gospel.

    I’ll be honest and open and say that this Law/Gospel distinction has made a difference in my understanding how God relates to me as a sinner (yes, I believe that I’m a sinner- that was called into question via twitter). And while I’ve been given incredible freedom to run to the Lord (instead of hiding bc of a belief that he’s angry or disappointed in me) I still have so much to learn when it comes to a Law/Gospel theology. I won’t leave an answer like I have everything figured out, because truthfully, I don’t. I’m wrestling with all of these things. What I do know is that Jesus said “It is Finished”. He meant it. Romans says that we are dead to the Law. It no longer has the ability to condemn us- and that right there is the key to all we are discussing.

    What I have decided to do- is to reblog a post from a dear friend of mine who happens to be a Law/Gospel theologian. The way that she explains it is so clear and helpful- she does a much better job than I can at this point in my understanding. So instead of responding in my own voice, I’d like to leave her words because I think it will serve us all best on this topic. I will post soon.

    Thank you all again!

    -Sarah

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