Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5:9)
We are told that we will be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus. People tend to single this verse out when talking about the wrath of God. They make it seem as if loving Jesus is trying to save us from our wrathful Father. However, if we are to read Romans 5 in context, we will see that the theme here is love.
Just a few verses before, Paul says we will have assurance of hope because of our experience with the love of God; being poured out in us through the Holy Spirit.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Rom. 5:5 NLT).
And in the verse right before the wrath verse, He says what is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful statements in Scripture:
But God shows and proves his love for us by the fact that when we were at our worst, being controlled by sin, Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:8).
Why then mention wrath? He is enforcing how much we are loved by making a contrast. “When we were at our worst”, God could have easily done away with us. But instead, he demonstrates His love towards us! You see then, the context here is love, not wrath. Paul is trying to build an unshakable confidence and hope in our Father and our Savior.
But we cannot ignore the subject of God’s wrath. It’s one thing to view Scripture in their context; its another to try to make a Scripture fit into our current view. All of us, myself included, have done the latter to some extent, but I aim to view Scripture as is, so I do not want to dismiss this issue of wrath.
God IS love. There is no verse in the bible that says, “God is wrath.” His wrath, as I am defining it here, is His passionate reaction aimed at against anything that is against love. It is actually an expression of love.
But what the church often really preaches is that God HAS love and He also has wrath. He then makes a decision as to which one to wield based on some mysterious “sovereign” mumbo jumbo. In this view of God, He is the God of love one moment and then switches over to the God of wrath. What’s worse is we then wonder which one we will receive.
Religion makes it seem that God’s wrath is personal and that His love is impersonal. For example, when God is angry with someone or something, it is personal. He is personally offended and is gonna open a can of Almighty on the poor fool. But His love is spoken of as some esoteric, distant reality that is just out of reach. Religion does not encourage an intimate friendship with God but is quick to emphasize God getting “personally” ticked with you.
I propose that the opposite is true. God loves us personally and individually. His wrath is not aimed at an individual human being but at sin. God loves all men, desires that they be saved, is not willing that any should perish, and does not delight in the destruction of the wicked. His wrath towards sin affects those who choose to remain in sin and darkness even though light has come into the world. Grace that brings salvation has appeared to all and we are to be ministers of reconciliation. (see 1. Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9, Ez. 18:32, John 3:18-19, Titus 2:11, 2 Cor. 5:19)
God is good. His wrath is not evil, but is against all that is evil. He urges all to respond to His love. Those who refuse His love are choosing wrath even though God has chosen to forgive them. He is not a respecter of persons, but is a respecter of human will.
To sum it up, we are saved from wrath because we have been saved from sin and wrath is aimed at sin. Jesus became sin and at that point, sin was condemned in His flesh. In this way was the wrath of God toward sin expressed (see 2. Cor 5:21, Rom. 8:3-4). The wrath that we “will be saved” from refers to the wrath expressed against that which opposes the gospel of grace by which we are saved. As Paul said to the Thessalonians,
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… (1 Thess. 5:9)
To further clarify this point, let’s go back to the beginning.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, did God show up and say something like, “How dare you! Now you will see me as the God of wrath even though you knew me as the God of love!”
No, He was still the same God of love. He was not confused about His identity, Adam was. This is why God said, “Where are you?”
God then implements His justice by dealing with the root cause of the problem, sin Himself. He said to the serpent,
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Immediately, God went about making things right. He went to such depths of sending his only Son. Then He and the Son took down the serpent, condemned the culprit (sin) through a selfless sacrifice. He crushed the head of sin so hard (disarmed the enemies’ authority) that He bruised His heel. This speaks of the passionate and violent act of love at the cross.
We can now rest in assurance that we have been rescued from our past and have a great, bright future with our wonderful God. All of God, including His wrath, is now for us, so who can be against us?