Rev. Anthony Martlew, LTh.
THE WRATH OF GOD
Ephesians 2:1-3 - "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
This text is definitely not politically correct. In an age when the churches bend over backwards to be seen as “all inclusive”, Paul’s epistles certainly do not conform. Nevertheless, these verses do confront us, and they will not disappear because they do not conform with man’s ever changing ideas.
Although Paul was imprisoned when writing to the Ephesian church he was well informed of developments, and knew of the strifes and heresies which had entered. This chapter opens with a form of encouragement to those who remained faithful. In no uncertain words he reminds them that because of their trust in the risen Christ they have been quickened, or made spiritually alive. In a few words he outlines their previous state, making it only too clear that they were Satan’s property. By doing his bidding by thought, word, and deed, they incurred the wrath of God.
Wrath is not a word mentioned in the pulpits these days. The message in many churches and gospel halls is based on God’s love. It does not enter into the minds of the preachers of the love gospel that the Lord has many attributes, and His love is only one of them. The wrath aspect of His Divine Nature is ignored. The congregations are left with a benign God, ever-smiling, and pouring out His blessings upon His children. Thus is removed the need for repentance, for if God is ever benevolent, He will surely overlook our sins! What did Paul mean when he stated that the unregenerate “are by nature the children of wrath”?
Human wrath is equated with uncontrollable temper, but not so with the Lord, for His wrath is Divine indignation. This is a very different concept from man’s wrath.
All the while we remain outside of salvation, we are walking according to the course (or evil ways) of this world. Our text informs us that Satan is prince of the power of the air. Not only so, for he is also prince of this world, a fact acknowledged by our Lord, in John 14:30 -
"Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."
A little understood fact concerning Satan and his angels, is found in Revelation 12:7-12 -
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
We see here that following Christ’s return to heaven after the crucifixion, Satan and his angels were cast out of heaven onto the earth. Now we are well able to understand the reason for the chaos and confusion which reigns on the earth, especially in view of Satan’s shortage of time. Bearing these facts in mind, we may well ask, why are unbelievers “the children of wrath”? It is not surprising that so many are perplexed. The answer to this dilemma is contained in our original text, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.
So, unbelievers are disobedient, to what? There is only one possible answer, disobedient to God’s laws. This makes them sinners, hence God’s wrath.
I John 3:4 - "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
Unbelievers incur God’s wrath because they disobey His laws. Many will consider this to be unfair; is it? Under Common Law, (sadly to be abolished in favour of Roman law) ignorance is no excuse. Many will say that they are not lawyers, and have no access to volumes of dusty law books. However, God’s Law is contained in one small book which may be found in many homes. This prize possession, so neglected and unloved, is readily available to all, and ignored at our peril.
It is this neglect that makes us “the children of wrath”. Satan has done his work well. Centuries of casting doubt upon the truth of Scripture have left this generation in a spiritual fog. As nature abhors a vacuum, it has been filled with false religions and “ologies” that surround us.
In spite of manifold stumbling blocks and blind alleys, the Lord’s loving overtures to mankind never cease. Because of His infinite love He clothed Himself in human flesh, was humiliated, tortured and killed, in order that we may live.
His invitation to eternal life is there for the taking, and yet, man in his arrogance and pride, prefers the way of death. No wonder that unbelievers are the children of wrath. What more could He have done to draw the children of disobedience unto Himself?
Finally, and this is the greatest mystery of all, that at the same time that unbelievers are the recipients of God’s wrath, He also loves them!
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." - (Romans 5:8,9)
Human intellect cannot comprehend so great a mystery. Our spectrum of understanding and knowledge is so limited, for Scripture says that we only “see through a glass darkly”. Even as we are unable to unravel the layers of spiritual truth in these texts, we are able to grasp their essential meaning, and accept them in heartfelt gratitude.
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