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Doctrine of God - Holiness, Jealousy, and Wrath Print E-mail
The Doctrine of God
Sunday, 20 April 2008

I.  Introduction:

 There are certain parts of the doctrine of God that have unfortunately fallen on hard times in the teaching of the Church.  As we have noted before, it is hard to hold together all that the Bible says about God and what often happens is an emphasis on particular attributes at the expense of other attributes.  In our culture the attributes that have seemingly been ‘less taught’ are holiness, jealousy, and wrath (among others).  It is not hard to figure out why these attributes do not receive as much attention.  On the surface we might all think, ‘Yeah, I would rather hear about love, mercy, and grace, rather than holiness, jealousy, and wrath.’  That is understandable.  Yet, we must realize that we cannot truly understand or properly appreciate God’s love, mercy, and grace without considering His holiness, jealousy, and wrath.  Again, the goal is to hold all of these attributes that the Bible reveals together that we might understand and believe all that God has revealed concerning Himself.  Thus, tonight we want to look at these ‘less popular’ attributes.

II.  The Baptist Faith and Message:

 In the general statement about God, He is described as ‘infinite in holiness and all other perfections.’  In the section on God the Son, we read that Jesus ‘honored the divine law by His personal obedience.’  This at least implies the holiness of God in that Jesus was completely obedient to the will of the Father.  It goes on to say that Jesus ‘will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission.’  The reference to Jesus coming to judge also implies holiness and wrath.  In the section on God the Holy Spirit, we read that the Spirit ‘convicts men of sin, righteousness, and of judgment.’  Again, the reference to judgment and the call to righteousness point to God’s holiness, jealousy, and wrath.

III.  Passages:

 A.  Holiness:
  1.  Leviticus 11:44-45, 20:26 The book of Leviticus teaches us over and over again that the Lord is holy.  In the two passages that we read, we see the ideas of consecration and separation.  I point this out to help us understand what the biblical writers meant by the term ‘holy.’  One of the clear meanings of the term is ‘to be set apart.’  God is ‘set apart’ from all created things, just as He calls Israel to be ‘set apart’ from the other nations and His people to be ‘set apart’ from sin.  Peter quotes from Leviticus in his letter when he is encouraging his readers to be holy (see 1 Peter 1:15-16).
  2.  Psalm 99:3, 9 The psalmist praises the Lord because of His holiness, which highlights our need to understand and believe this attribute of God.
  3.  Isaiah 5:16, 6:3 In the book of Isaiah, the Lord is often referred to as the ‘Holy One of Israel’ (see 1:4, 31:1).  The context of chapter 5 shows us the second aspect of the term holy, which is the idea of moral purity.  God is set apart and He is perfectly righteous.  In the vision that Isaiah has in chapter 6, he tells us that the angels that were around God’s throne were calling to each other: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!  The repetition of the term is how Hebrew writers emphasized an idea.  He is not just holy, but He is holy, holy, holy.  In the book of Revelation, we see the angels again calling out this description of the Lord (see 4:8).
  4.  Hebrews 12:10 God disciplines us so that we may share his holiness.  Again, we see that not only is God holy, but expects His people to be holy and He is working to make us holy (consecration and sanctification).

 B.  Jealousy:
  1.  Exodus 20:5, 34:13-14 The Lord commands His people to worship no other gods.  He does this because He is righteously jealous for their affections (which is for their own good as well).  Thus, He is jealous for His glory, which is our good.
  2.  Deuteronomy 4:24, 6:14-15 Again we see the Lord commanding His people to stay away from idolatry and the worship of other gods.  The Lord knows that the only person worthy of our worship and devotion is Himself.  His jealousy is for our good (like marriage).
  3.  Joshua 24:19-20 The Lord commands complete devotion from His people now that they have settled in the Promised Land.  They are not to go after the other gods.
  4.  James 4:4-5 Just as the Lord expected Israel to be set apart from the world, He expects the Church to be as well.  When we go after the pleasures of the world we are playing the harlot just as Israel did (see Ezekiel 16:35-43).  Rather, we should be a faithful Bride and find our joy in the Lord.

 C.  Wrath:
  1.  Exodus 32:9-10 When the people of Israel disobeyed the Lord and made the golden calf, the Lord’s wrath burned against them.  His wrath is His holy response to sin and rebellion.
  2.  Ezekiel 22:19-22 Here the Lord is responding to Israel’s repeated shedding of blood.  He tells them that He will pour out His wrath on them for their heinous sins.  Again, this is the holy response of God to sin.
  3.  Nahum 1:2, 6 The Lord will destroy all of His enemies in His fierce wrath.  All those who have continuously rebelled against Him will not get the last word.  At the same time, we should note in verse 7 that the Lord is good to all those who take refuge in Him.
  4.  John 3:36 It is hard to know if these words were spoken by John the Baptist or John the Apostle, but either way, they highlight the fact that the wrath of God remains on all of those outside of Christ.  Like the Nahum passage, all of God’s enemies will experience His wrath, but those who take refuge in Him (in Christ) will be saved and given eternal life.
  5.  Romans 1:18, 2:5 The wrath of God against all unrighteousness is being stored up for the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  Thus, there is coming a dreadful day of wrath when all those outside of Christ will be sent to eternal punishment.  For more on this coming day of wrath see 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9, and Revelation 19:15.

IV.  Implications:

 A.  God’s holiness means that He is completely set apart and morally perfect.  The Bible emphasizes the fact that God is a holy God and expects His people to be holy as well.  Because of His holiness, He righteously responds to all sin and rebellion with holy wrath.  This wrath is never uncontrolled or undisciplined.  Yet, make no mistake about it, it is fierce and should be avoided at all costs.  The only way to escape such wrath is to repent of our sins and place our faith in the finished work of Christ at the cross (see below).  We also need to note that God’s wrath against sin, or the outworking of His holiness, is something that we should be thankful for.  We do not want to live in a world where sin and rebellion are forever tolerated or ignored.  Listen to how Tozer speaks of this: “Every wrathful judgment in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.  The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of the creation are inseparably united.  God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys.  He hates iniquity as a mother hates the polio that take the life of her child.” 1  This is how understanding God’s holiness and wrath helps us understand His goodness and justice.

 B.  God is jealous for His own glory which is our great good.  Obviously, one of the difficulties that many have in speaking of God’s jealousy is the fact that jealousy is normally a sin for humans.  Yet, this difficulty is easily resolved.  First, we need to recognize that there is such a thing as holy jealousy.  As mentioned above, the best illustration of that is a husband’s jealousy for his wife’s affection.  Not that this cannot be sin as well, but for the most part, it is good when a husband is jealous in this way.  Second, God is jealous for the right thing.  His jealousy is righteous and good because He is jealous for His glory.  Someone might respond, ‘But that makes it sound like God is egotistical.’  Again, we have to understand that God is not like us.  It is sin for us to be jealous for our own glory.  Yet, for God, we must ask the question, ‘What else should He be jealous for?’  I mean, is there anything greater than Himself that God should be jealous for?  Of course the answer is no.  Likewise, if God placed anything else but His glory at the center of His affection, then we would be in trouble.  We constantly prize the wrong things (fame, wealth, physical pleasure, etc.), which leads to our own destruction.  Thus, we need God to save us from such slavery and teach us to prize that which is truly deserving of our affection, namely Himself.  Listen to Grudem’s words: “It is healthy for us spiritually when we settle in our hearts the fact that God deserves all honor and glory from his creation, and that it is right for him to see this honor.  He alone is infinitely worth of being praised.  To realize this fact and to delight in it is to find the secret of true worship.” 2  May we indeed delight in the fact that God is righteously jealous for His own glory because it leads to our great good.

V.  Christ and the Cross:

 If you ever begin to question God’s holiness, just think of the cross.  If God did not really care that much about sin and rebellion, then Jesus died needlessly.  Rather, God is holy and Christ died to show God’s righteousness…so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).  So, how exactly does the cross demonstrate God’s holiness and righteousness?  Following Paul in this passage, we see that the cross was necessary because in his (God’s) divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  In other words, who was going to pay for the sins of Abraham and David and all the Old Testament believers?  The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the blood of bulls and goats would not suffice.  Of course we should ask at this point: why is payment for sin even necessary and who requires it? 

The answers to these questions are found in the character of God.  Because God is holy and can only respond to sin with righteous wrath, then someone has to pay for our sin.  Someone has to pay the price or else God will prove to be unjust and not holy.  So how does this work out?  Paul tells us that are sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood.  Christ became our propitiation, our wrath bearer, in our place at the cross.  Have you ever wondered what exactly it is that we are saved from?  We are saved from the righteous wrath of God against our sin (see Romans 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Christ bore the holy wrath of God in our stead.  He bore the wrath for Abraham’s sin and David’s sin and all the sins of the Old Testament saints.  Likewise, He has born the wrath for all of our sins.  God has redeemed us without compromising His holiness by crushing His own Son under His own wrath that we deserved.  All of this so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).  Thus, at the cross, we see the holiness, jealousy, and wrath of God clearly displayed.  Amen.

1 A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1961), p. 106.
2 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 205.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 May 2008 )

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