I was then barely sixteen. I had neglected the true God, and when I was carried off into captivity in Ireland, along with a great number of people, it was well deserved. For we cut ourselves off from God and did not keep His commandments, and we disobeyed our bishops who were reminding us of our salvation. God revealed His being to us through His wrath...
- Patrick, Confession, Irish, 5th century
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
- Romans 1.18, 19
We don’t hear much about the wrath of God. We like our God loving, tolerant, patient, and only wrathful against the very worst of human beings, and then, only on that great Day of Wrath.
Wrath and Jesus just don’t go together in our minds. Very unpleasant and potentially offensive, this wrath stuff. Best left aside.
Watch out for that whip behind His back, friends.
Paul insisted that the wrath of God is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.There’s nothing future tense about this, and the target group is large. God is now revealing His wrath against those who resist Him and His truth.
We think the world is getting worse and worse because it has turned its back on God. But that’s only half the story. The world is getting worse and worse because the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against it.
And against us?
Patrick knew the reality of Paul’s teaching. He came to realize that he himself had become the object of God’s wrath. He had scorned the commandments of God, disobeyed the teaching of his church, professed to be a Christian but didn’t take his calling seriously, and neglected to work out his salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12). Consequently, finding himself among those who resisted God and suppressed his truth, Patrick came under the wrath of God for a season.
Once he came to that realization, Patrick devoted himself to prayers of confession and repentance, seeking the Lord in prayer as many as a hundred times each day and night, as he wrote in his Confession.
It was in the midst of those agonizing prayers, under the hand of God’s wrath, that the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD) had its origins.
God reveals His wrath against all those who, by their opposition to or neglect of righteousness, promote ungodliness and rebellion against Him. God has His own ways of getting our attention. In Patrick’s case, it was deprivation, fear, loneliness, and long nights of hard labor, keeping the sheep of his master. In the case of the unbelieving world, God is gradually giving them up to their bad choices and false idols, so that they become increasingly wicked and self-destructive (Rom. 1.18-32).
What about us? When we who profess to believe in Jesus fail to take up the pursuit of God’s Kingdom and righteousness, when we neglect to work hard at bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1), when we ignore or diminish His Law, when we deny our calling to be witnesses and make disciples (Acts 1.8; Matt. 28.18-20), when we try to substitute our ways of doing God’s work for His ways (Matt. 16.23), what are we thinking? That God just looks down upon us and says, “Oh, well, no big deal”? Does not our loving heavenly Father care more about us, than to let us meander away from Him without some firm discipline to correct our ways and recover us to our proper path (Heb. 12.3-11)?
Patrick understood. The wrath of God comes against all who would thwart His purposes – whether by open rebellion or mere neglect – as He seeks to bend them back toward His ways. Pray for the world under God’s wrath, that He would bring them to shame and regret, and to seeking Him (Ps. 83.16).
And pray for His people. I believe the Church today is under the wrath of God, albeit an early stage. He has turned His face away from us, so that we do not long for His Presence, know little of His strength, are subject to the anger and scorn of our neighbors, are drifting from our moorings in the truth of His Word, are failing in our mission to make disciples, and are succumbing to the materialistic and pop culture of our day.
God gives us up to our sinful ways when we neglect His truth, forsake the path of righteousness, and strike out on our own way in life. What captivity, what enslavement, what hard labor awaits us before we will come to our senses, confess our sins, and repent?
We shouldn't ignore the wrath of God; it’s quite possible we may already be under it.
1. According to Hebrews 12.3-11, why does God discipline His people?
2. How does Patrick’s example encourage us to begin coming out from under the wrath of God?
Psalm 38.1-8, 17-22 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
O Lord, rebuke me not, nor chasten me in wrath!
Your arrows pierce my sinful heart and fill my path.
Your heavy hand weighs down; my flesh and bones grow weak.
My sins oppress, confuse, confound – I cannot speak!
My sinful wounds grow foul, and fester painfully;
I bend and groan within my soul most mournfully!
Sin fills my every part; conviction stings my breast.
Lord, ease my numbed and burning heart and grant me rest!
My sins I now confess; my anxious soul relieve!
Though foes are strong, Lord, heal and bless all who believe!
Forsake me not, O Lord! Repay my foes with wrath.
Stand by me with Your saving Word and guard my path!
Let Your face shine in favor on me, O Lord, so that I…
The Church Captive
Our book, The Church Captive, provides an opportunity to look at today’s Church against the backdrop of our Christian past, to discover the extent to which we have become captive to the world and may be coming under the judgment of of God. Order you copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Da Paor, p. 96.