God is angry at sinners

God is angry at sinners

None of us likes to think of God as being angry with us. For some, the idea of an angry God is an old primitive idea, and we really know that God is love. God loves us, doesn’t he?

Well, yes. But God’s anger is a critical concept for us to understand; it is taught clearly in the Bible. God is holy and perfect and can’t stand sin; his anger burns against all sin and impurity. This is a major problem for all people, for we are all sinful to our core, in what we say, what we do, and even what we think. As the writer to the Hebrews says, it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a holy God.

We see the danger of sinful people coming into contact with a holy God often in the Old Testament. Even after being redeemed in the Exodus and given the law in the wilderness, God’s people could not freely approach their holy God. Only the priest could do so, and only after ceremonial washing, to show that God was pure and was not approached lightly. There are also several memorable occasions where people came into contact with a holy God and it ended badly, such as with Uzzah who died when he touched the ark of God (2 Sam 6:6). God is pure, and we are not; this is a fundamental problem for us. As sinful people, we cannot just live pure lives from now on, for our previous sins are enough for us to face the anger of God and rightful punishment. We need a mediator between us and God, someone without sin, someone who can take the anger of God in our place.

You might have heard of the phrase that God “loves the sinner but hates the sin”. This sounds encouraging, but it is not a Biblical phrase. There are many times in the Bible that God is said to be angry at people, not just their sin. We cannot separate ourselves from our sin; the problem is deeper than that. Otherwise, we might start to think that we are better than we really are before God and have a false sense of security. As if we were pretty good with a few bad traits. If we think that, what we really do is devalue what Jesus has done for us. We think that Jesus’ death was for the few bad things we have done; we almost made it past God’s anger, but we needed help with the last bit. No, the Biblical language is harsher than that. We were dead in our sins and needed to be made alive. We were lost, and we needed to be found. We were objects of wrath that need to be shown mercy.

Our sin is far worse than we think. It impacts our thinking, our speaking, and our doing. It impacts how we see the world and what we want. It disorders our desires, so we chase after the wrong things and don’t seek after God. We are people who rightly face the anger and judgement of God. Which is why it is such good news for God to send Jesus for us! Jesus accomplished what we could never do, turning away God’s anger and making us from God’s enemies into God’s friends. That is amazing grace.