Words from Packer on the Wrath of God

The Lord has really been rocking me J.I. Packer’s “Knowing God”. After finishing up chapter 15, where Packer discusses the wrath of God, I wanted to share some quotes from him.

Bible history… loudly proclaims the severity as well as the goodness of God.

Clearly, the theme of God’s wrath is one about which the Biblical writers feel no inhibitions whatever. Why, then, should we? Why, when the Bible is vocal about it, should we feel obliged to be silent?

There seems to be a misunderstanding of the anthropomorphic language of Scripture – that is, the Biblical habit of describing God’s attitudes and affections in terms ordinarily used for talking about human beings. The basis of this habit is the fact that God made us in His own image so that human personality and character are more like the being of God than anything else we know. But when Scripture speaks of God anthropomorphically, it does not imply that the limitations and imperfections which belong to the personal characteristics of us sinful creatures belong also to the corresponding qualities in our Holy Creator; rather, it takes for granted that they do not.
Thus, God’s love, as the Bible views it, never leads Him to foolish, impulsive, immoral actions in the way that its human counterpart too often leads us. And in the same way, God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for.

… All that God does subsequently in judicial action toward the unbeliever, whether in this life or beyond it, is to show him, and lead him into, the full implications of the choice he has made.

The unbeliever has preferred to be by himself, without God, defying God, having God against him, and he shall have his preference.

The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give men what they choose, in all its implications: nothing more, and equally nothing less.

God’s wrath is His reaction to our sin, and “law brings wrath” (Rom. 4:15) because the law stirs up sin latent within us and causes transgression – the behavior that evokes wrath – to abound (Rom. 5:20; 7:7-13).

If you want proof that the wrath of God, revealed as a fact in your conscience, is already working as a force in the world, Paul would say you need only look at life around you and see what God has “given them over to.”

Yet if we know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning His wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial prejudices against it. Otherwise we shall not understand the Gospel of Salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God. Nor shall we understand the hand of God in history and God’s present dealings with our own people; nor shall we be able to make head or tail of the book of Revelation; nor will our evangelism have the urgency enjoined by Jude – “save some, by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23). Neither our knowledge of God nor our service to Him will be in accord with His Word.

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One thought on “Words from Packer on the Wrath of God

  1. Shawn says:

    Great book.

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