Wrath, Sin & Grace – An Exercise In Theology On The Run

Last Wednesday night saw Rebecca and I visit the bible study/home group of Ros and Andy in Richmond, and a really good discussion stemming from things they’d been discussing in previous weeks and that came up from the passage we were looking at. The notion that God’s wrath is often expressed in leaving us in sin:

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
– Romans 1:18-25

This had us ruminating a little, and I had a brief moment of illumination as I considered the possible implications of this. If God’s wrath can be expressed in allowing me to continue to choose to operate out of my sinful nature, then this gives an incredible inference for the opposite of this. By this standard, any time I have broken out of sin, any sin that I don’t have issues with can therefore be considered an expression of God’s grace towards me. Maybe this is foundational stuff, but the direct understanding of it in this way was something very new to me.

This obviously must have some key changes to how I now see other people. Where before I might believe that my choices and my own goodness had somehow enabled me to break from a sin that others struggle with (making me a better, stronger person than they are), in this light it is only through the grace God has given me which allows me to be in the place I am.

There’s parts of this concept that I’m not as comfortable with: there’s an element of predestination in this model of thinking that I can’t quite resolve, but it’s already proven helpful in helping me to understand my interactions with others and interaction with God. I want to hear what you think – it’s been a while but the theologising is back at TheGeoffRe(y)port. Take the opportunity:)

4 Replies to “Wrath, Sin & Grace – An Exercise In Theology On The Run”

  1. OK, I’ll wade in first.
    How about the notion that God’s wrath is constant and impersonal in relation to any sin in light of his purity/holiness, and that it’s actually been our choice to expose ourselves to it (that is, to refuse the offer of grace/refuse to recognise God’s glory).

    for example:
    24Therefore God (begrudgingly, but without choice) gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts

    I’m not a massively wise man, but the notion of predestination in our picture of post-JC/NT God just doesn’t fit. I could accept that some will live ‘better’ or ‘more blessed’ lives than others, but the concept of “sorry, don’t like your shoes” is too-unlike-God (in my estimation) to swallow.

    Likewise the picture of God chucking a tanty because we say no to him doesn’t fit with my theology: everything else about Him says patience, another chance, please won’t you…

    I AM a massive post-modernist (if you choose to believe that massive is quite large/extreme – it’s up to you after all): and I really, really gel with the concept of it boiling down to a single choice of ours: yes, or no. (which is PM in that the individual is empowered (or is that just Gen X/Y?): but it IS an absolute, which isn’t so much PM)

  2. I like what you’re saying Matt, and I’m sure there’s an element of that somewhere in there. I’ll have a think about what you’re saying and post a properly thought out response

    (Sorry about the delay showing your comment – wordpress held your comment in moderation)

  3. Geoff, I would like to hear how it has proven helpful in helping you to understand your interactions with God and others.

  4. OK Rhonda – I’ll have a go.

    It means that as I see people struggling with sin issues (and in particular sin issues that I’ve not had problems with in the past) it’s a lot easier to recognise that I don’t have some moral high-ground because that’s not a problem for me: it becomes about where God has chosen to hand out grace. And likewise, as I consider other areas where I’m struggling with, while there’s undoubtedly a recognition that I need to be making the change, it’s asking for God’s grace to work through my life, rather than something I can do off my own steam.

    Not sure if that makes wonderful sense, but hopefully you get the idea

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