Conrad Mbewe – “Are We Preachers or Are We Witch Doctors?”
Zambian preacher and author Conrad Mbewe kicked off the third and final day of Strange Fire with a powerful introduction to life in the African church. He vividly explained that many charismatic pastors hold the same offices—and essentially function—as local village witch doctors, taking advantage of the superstitions of their people. The pastors use the peoples’ superstitions to their advantage, insulating themselves from criticism. Mbewe gave a clear call to support the spread of the true gospel in Africa, and to counter the vast damage caused by the importation of charismatic teaching.
Phil Johnson – “Providence Is Remarkable”
During the breakout sessions, Phil Johnson addressed one of the major presuppositions of the charismatic movement—the belief that unless God is regularly moving in miraculous ways in the world, He is altogether absent. He explained that the charismatic mindset sees the cessation of the gifts as nothing more than deism, and that this misconception has led to the widespread watering down of the church’s understanding of miracles. Preaching out of Matthew 10, Johnson described Christ’s commissioning of the disciples and His emphasizing God’s providence and not the gifts He had bestowed on them. By explaining the various ways God regularly intervenes in the world through His providence, Johnson made it clear that God’s engagement in this world is not dependent on His miraculous intervention.
Justin Peters – “Spiritual Shipwreck of the Word-Faith Movement”
Justin Peters’s second breakout session picked up where he left off Thursday, in his exposé of the Word-Faith movement. His apologetic approach provided a clear contrast between the words of false teachers and what the Bible plainly says. He addressed the strange manifestations and bizarre claims of many within the charismatic movement, particularly some practices that parallel behavior common to Hindu cults. He explained that tongues, prophecy, uncontrolled laughter, and slaying in the spirit are not the exclusive domain of charismatic Christianity. What’s more, he made it clear that those manifestations have no biblical foundation or defense.
Nathan Busenitz – “Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard?”
In his breakout session, Nathan Busenitz addressed the question of whether the modern charismatic gifts meet the biblical standard of spiritual gifts. He thoroughly defined the terms of the debate over spiritual gifts, carefully couching them in the historical context of the church. He paid specific attention to three key charismatic gifts—prophecy, tongues, and healing—and carefully walked his listeners through biblical examples of each one. In light of the clear testimony of Scripture, his conclusion was that what we see in the charismatic movement are not the same gifts described in Scripture.
For the second day in a row, Todd Friel sat down for a Q&A with several of the conference speakers. He led John MacArthur, Nathan Busenitz, Phil Johnson, and Conrad Mbewe through a discussion on the practical aspects of dealing with the charismatic church. The speakers took turns answering how best to assist people caught up in the movement, and how attendees can be effective spiritual stimulants in their congregations. As Friel played more video clips and probed deeper into the issues with thought-provoking questions, the speakers emphasized the importance of having a biblical basis for everything in the believer’s life. Each man was compassionate but direct in the need to biblically confront false teaching, and offered encouragement on how to effectively engage people on these important issues.
John MacArthur – “An Appeal to My Continuationist Friends”
To close the conference Friday night, John MacArthur took the pulpit and began by answering many of the criticisms regarding Strange Fire. He directly addressed the claims that the teaching at the conference has been unloving and divisive, saying that “the most loving thing someone can do is to tell the truth” and that “it’s better to be divided by the truth than united by error.” He said he does care about offending people, but he cares more about offending God.
With that in mind, he made a clear call for his continuationist friends to abandon a position that gives license and credibility to the excesses of the charismatic movement. He strongly exhorted them to consider the cost of their continuationist stance, and how it can be a gateway to unbiblical charismatic theology and practice. He closed his time, and the week, by restating his motive to hold the Strange Fire conference. He demonstrated from 1 and 2 Timothy a pastor’s responsibilities—illustrated in the life of Paul—to declare and guard the treasured truth of God’s Word.
We trust Strange Fire was an encouragement to you. In the coming weeks, the audio and video from the conference will be available both here and at tmstrangefire.org. We look forward to how the Lord will use those resources to strengthen His church and grow His people.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B131019 COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You
John MacArthur – “Testing the Spirits”
John MacArthur kicked off the second day of Strange Fire with an exhortation to “test the spirits” of the charismatic movement. He explained that true spiritual warfare is a fight for the mind, and that “for the charismatic movement to succeed,” it has to “turn discernment into iniquity.” Preaching out of 1 John 4, he highlighted several biblical principles for testing the spirits, focusing primarily on the Holy Spirit’s role in exalting Christ. By contrasting the biblical truth about the Person and work of Jesus with the spurious version proclaimed by many charismatic leaders, John made the clear point that a true movement of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t preach an inaccurate Christ.
Tom Pennington – “A Case for Cessationism”
Tom Pennington provided us with a biblical case for the doctrine of cessationism. He began by defining cessationism as the belief that God ended His use of the miraculous gifts that existed during the first century. He went on to explain that miracles were unique in Scripture, showing that they only appeared during profound moves of God, particularly during the ministries of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Christ. Miracles validated those specific ministries, as well as the ministries of the apostles who laid the foundation of the church. When God finished that crucial work, the miracles ceased because they were no longer needed. That teaching has been the church’s standard position on signs and miracles throughout its history.
Phil Johnson – “Is There a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?”
“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” That simple maxim has been the knee-jerk defense for charismatic apologists against criticism of their movement. Their reaction to Strange Fire is just the latest example. In his first breakout session, Phil Johnson attempted to identify anything salvageable from the doctrinal sludge of the charismatic movement. He pointed out a smothering fear within the movement that any criticism will quench the Spirit, noting that discernment is labeled as sinful rationalism. He said the “open but cautious” crowd cannot be content to wait and see what is of the Lord and what is not—and that in fact they should be the loudest critics of charlatan prophets and phony miracle workers. He concluded that the movement doesn’t produce good fruit because it is actually a bramble bush.
Justin Peters – “The Devilish Puppet Master of the Word-Faith Movement”
Justin Peters’s breakout session was loaded with video clips and quotes from Word-Faith and prosperity preachers. Letting the charlatans’ words speak for themselves, Peters was able to easily illustrate how far the movement’s core doctrine is from the truth of Scripture. Focusing specifically on key tenants of Word-Faith teaching, he exposed several damning inaccuracies that color the movement.
Nathan Busenitz – “A Word from the Lord? Evaluating the Modern Gift of Prophecy”
Nathan Busenitz tackled the issue of modern prophecy in his breakout session. He focused on one of three tests that any true prophecy must pass: Does the prophecy possess predictive accuracy? (The other tests focus on the doctrinal orthodoxy of the prophecy and the moral integrity of the prophet.) He explained how those in the charismatic camp—as well as many in the noncharismatic, continuationist camp—have created a second tier of prophecy, one that is not held to the test of absolute accuracy. Busenitz debunked the supposed biblical support for this second, lesser level of prophecy and warned against any teaching that permits and promotes fallible prophecy. He concluded that the “self-proclaimed prophets who fail any of the three tests should consider the serious biblical warnings against falsely claiming to speak for God.”
Christian radio host and commentator Todd Friel moderated a lively question-and-answer discussion between John MacArthur, Justin Peters, Tom Pennington, and Steve Lawson. The focus of their discussion was primarily the theological foundation—such as it is—of the charismatic movement. Friel played several video clips of various charismatic worship services, focusing on key words, phrases, and practices that show up frequently in charismatic teaching. The speakers had visceral reactions to the video clips, which vividly depicted the aberrant theology and brazen manipulation of Scripture that permeates the charismatic movement.
Steve Lawson – “The Puritan Commitment to Sola Scriptura”
Day two of Strange Fire closed with Steve Lawson’s excellent examination of the Puritan devotion to the sufficiency of Scripture. He began with a thorough examination of the Westminster Confession of Faith and its assertion of the perfect and complete quality of God’s Word. He then traced the dilution of that doctrine in Quaker teaching, showing the similarities between its theology and that of the charismatic movement. He closed his session with several quotes from the writing of John Owen, who was a staunch Puritan defender of Scripture’s sufficiency. Quoting Owen, he concluded, “As the teachings of the fanatics contain matter alien to . . . the Scriptures . . . shun them as diabolical, execrable, useless, groundless, and false.”
That’s just a brief glimpse of Day Two. We hope you’ll join us today for more excellent Bible teaching. Watch the free live stream at gty.org, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest conference updates.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B131018 COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You
John MacArthur – “Strange Fire”
Strange Fire launched Wednesday morning with John MacArthur explaining the basis and the need for the conference. Starting with the story of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), he described the dangers of fraudulent worship and the vital need for discernment, the lack of which is “the biggest problem in the church today.” The purpose of the conference then is to help the church discern the truth about the charismatic movement, which he said has made no contribution to biblical clarity, interpretation, or sound doctrine.
John closed by highlighting the true work of the Holy Spirit—conforming believers to Christlikeness. Working through the life of Christ, he showed that the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the model for the Spirit’s work in the life of every believer. Put simply, the Spirit’s work is to mature, sustain, empower, fill, and perfect us toward the likeness of our Savior.
Joni Eareckson Tada – Testimony
To begin the second session, John MacArthur introduced his longtime friend Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni has been paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for more than four decades, and she explained how the Lord has used her suffering in that time to grow her spiritually. She once longed for a miraculous healing, like the person at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. And while she obviously has not received that kind of healing, she’s thankful for how the Lord has healed her spiritually in the midst of the suffering she’s endured. She said she wouldn’t exchange God’s sanctifying work for any amount of walking.
R.C. Sproul – “Undervaluing Pentecost”
Even though R.C. Sproul was unable to make to the conference in person, he appeared via video as Strange Fire’s second keynote speaker. Dr. Sproul traced the work of the Holy Spirit throughout redemptive history, leading up to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out and indwelled all believers. His major complaint with his charismatic friends is not that they are overly fixated with Pentecost, but that they actually have a low view of Pentecost. Instead of recognizing that the Holy Spirit fully indwells a believer once, they’ve created a false, two-tiered system of Christianity.
Steve Lawson – “Calvin’s Critique of Charismatic Calvinists”
Steve Lawson opened the third session by asking the question, “What would John Calvin say about the wave of new Calvinists who are ‘open but cautious’ to the charismatic movement?” To answer that question, he looked back at how Calvin dealt with similar controversial movements in his own time. Working through Calvin’s Institutes and his commentaries, Dr. Lawson showed how Calvin understood the apostolic gifts as validation of the apostolic message. He made it clear that Calvin saw no need for the gospel to be revalidated–just faithfully preached. He summed up the session by saying, “If we want to see a new reformation this day, and the revival of Reformed theology continually expand the borders of its influence, we must be exclusively committed to the written word of God.”
Conrad Mbewe – “The African Import of Charismatic Chaos”
Wrapping up day one, Zambian pastor and author Conrad Mbewe challenged the audience regarding the international exportation of the charismatic movement. “The Spurgeon of Africa” spoke about the charismatic chaos in His part of the world, and revealed the true nature of the massive church growth in Africa. He explained how the charismatic church has ignored the Word of God in favor of cultural superstition and prosperity preaching, and that what looks like revival from our perspective is not actually good news. Bible teaching is scarce, and Scripture does not shape the lives of many professing believers. Focusing on Christ’s words in John 17:17, Mbewe passionately emphasized the inability of believers to grow spiritually apart from the teaching of God’s Word.
That’s just a brief glimpse of Day One. We hope you’ll join us today for more excellent Bible teaching. Watch the free live stream at gty.org, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest conference updates.
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B131017 COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You
Putting God first–living according to his word–serves the glory of God and also the best interests of believers, by giving them true wisdom for daily living.
The wisdom of making faith a priority
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) — 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Putting the fear of God before other considerations
Psalm 31:19 (ESV) — 19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Exodus 1:17 (ESV) — 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
Nehemiah 5:15 (ESV) — 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.
Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) — 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Preferring God’s way to sinful advice
Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
The precious wisdom of obeying God:
Proverbs 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.
Proverbs 8:19 (ESV) — 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
Proverbs 8:32 (ESV) — 32 “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.
Following sinful advice:
Numbers 31:16 (ESV) — 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
1 Kings 12:28 (ESV) — 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
Choosing imaginative action rather than laziness or fearfulness
Numbers 13:30 (ESV) — 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
1 Samuel 25:33 (ESV) — 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!
Ephesians 5:16 (ESV) — 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Examples of failure to do this:
Matthew 25:10 (ESV) — 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
Matthew 25:26–27 (ESV) — 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
Matthew 25:44–45 (ESV) — 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Matthew 26:40 (ESV) — 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?
Patient waiting rather than impetuous action
Psalm 40:1 (ESV) — 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 27:14 (ESV) — 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 37:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Psalm 62:5 (ESV) — 5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 123:2 (ESV) — 2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.
Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) — 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Hosea 12:6 (ESV) — 6 “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”
John 2:4–5 (ESV) — 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Revelation 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
The wisdom of making hope a priority
Hebrews 6:19 (ESV) — 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
See also Ps 147:10–11
Psalm 147:10–11 (ESV) — 10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, 11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Putting true riches above earthly wealth
Luke 16:9 (ESV) — 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
Deuteronomy 15:8 (ESV) — 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.
Matthew 6:24 (ESV) — 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Matthew 19:21 (ESV) — 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Matthew 19:29 (ESV) — 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Hebrews 11:26 (ESV) — 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Putting eternal joy before temporal hardship
2 Corinthians 4:17–18 (ESV) — 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Acts 14:22 (ESV) — 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Acts 16:25 (ESV) — 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
Romans 8:18 (ESV) — 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2 Timothy 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Hebrews 10:34 (ESV) — 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
The wisdom of making love a priority
1 Co 13:13 Paul’s concern that love, rather than competition over spiritual gifts, should be made a priority.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) — 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Loyalty rather than opportunism
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) — 24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Ruth 1:16 (ESV) — 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
2 Timothy 4:10 (ESV) — 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
Following the Spirit rather than sinful human nature
Ga 5:16 Merely “human” activity betrays a failure of love for God.
Galatians 5:16 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Psalm 147:10–11 (ESV) — 10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, 11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Isaiah 31:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! 2 And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 3 The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.
Romans 8:5 (ESV) — 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Inner sincerity rather than outward appearance
Romans 12:9 (ESV) — 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) — 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Ephesians 6:5 (ESV) — 5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,
Colossians 3:22 (ESV) — 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Actions rather than mere words
James 2:18 (ESV) — 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Matthew 7:21–22 (ESV) — 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
1 John 3:18 (ESV) — 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Peace rather than disharmony
Romans 12:18 (ESV) — 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 14:19 (ESV) — 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) — 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Truth rather than falsehood
Proverbs 12:19 (ESV) — 19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
Acts 5:4 (ESV) — 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
Colossians 3:9 (ESV) — 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices
Because psychology is a study of human behavior and cognition, people sometimes view it as a comprehensive theory of humanity. No single psychological theory, however, accounts for the sum of human life. It is only through knowing God that we can come to understand His creation, especially the nuances of the human mind and the complexity of human behavior. Only in God’s Word can we find guidelines to live our lives as originally intended. The value of psychology is that some of its theories, when filtered through biblical truth, can offer the Christian helpful insights.
Explanation of Gestalt Therapy
Founded by Fritz Perls, Gestalt therapy is an existential approach to counseling. Its name comes from the German word Gestalt, which means “form.” In the context of Perls’s ideas, Gestalt refers to a unified whole or something that cannot be separated into parts without losing its essence. Gestalt therapy is based on field theory in that it holds that a thing must be seen in its environment to be fully understood. Also, that environment is constantly changing; interrelational connections and process are very important. Perls viewed personality holistically (as opposed to the mechanistic view taken in therapies such as behaviorism). He emphasized the present over the past and process over content. Today, Gestalt therapy is not practiced as Perls originally designed it. His methods are viewed as not particularly supportive of the client, and today’s Gestalt therapists tend to take a softer approach.
Gestalt therapy assumes that humans are consistently in the process of becoming and that personal growth is made possible through insight and relationship with others. Gestalt therapy is aimed at helping clients become more self-sufficient through awareness of their internal and external realities. Counselors also help clients reintegrate or “re-own” any aspects of themselves they may have disowned. Perls was known for being confrontational; he would intentionally frustrate clients at times in order to increase their awareness. Rather than promote a client’s conscious effort to change, Gestalt therapists adhere to a paradoxical theory in which change is a product of self-awareness. So, the key to our becoming more patient is to realize we are impatient. What is important is to be ourselves fully in the current situation; striving to become what we “should” be is discouraged.
Gestalt therapists help clients deal with “unfinished business.” Various techniques bring a client’s past emotional struggles into the present and help him work through those experiences. Gestalt therapists view client resistance to making contact with their environments as informative—something to be explored rather than simply overcome. A therapist’s goal is to help the client attend to the present; dialogue is an important part of the process. Clients are charged with increasing their own awareness and making and responding to personal meaning. Therapists are expected to be themselves and relate with clients personally. A therapist’s ability to be “in the moment” with clients is more important than the technique he uses.
Biblical Commentary on Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy can be challenging to quantify because it is largely experiential; however, we can comment upon certain of its underlying concepts. The concept that people are integrated beings is accurate. We are a complex blend of many interrelated parts, including heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Also, environment is important to who we become (1 Corinthians 15:33).
However, Gestalt therapy places an undue emphasis on its brand of authenticity. Freedom is viewed as being “the true you.” For Christians, freedom is found in submitting to the Holy Spirit. More important than being true to ourselves is being true to God (Romans 6:15–19). It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)—free to celebrate our identity in Christ. He must increase, and we must decrease (John 3:30).
Also, there is some valid concern over Gestalt therapy’s emphasis on self-awareness. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Relying on our own perceptions and creating a “personal meaning” for ourselves will not result in an accurate understanding of truth. At the same time, Gestalt therapists are adept at pointing out inconsistencies, a skill that can be useful in cutting through pretense. Gestalt therapists attend to non-verbal behaviors that belie a client’s words and reveal his true emotional state.
The concept of reintegrating parts of ourselves that we have disowned may or may not be biblical, depending on the part in question. If it is emotions we have disowned, then, certainly, it is biblical to reintegrate them. Emotions are part of being human and provide useful information (John 11:35). Owning our pasts helps us to see where God has intervened and redeemed (1 Timothy 1:12–14). Even owning up to our own sinful drives is helpful. However, Christians should not give in to their sinful natures for any reason. A believer must not fall for the lie that sinning is justified if he is simply “being himself.” Christians have the power of the Holy Spirit to live a sanctified life in Christ; they are being restored to the design God originally intended for humanity. Christians have been made new and are called to put off the sinful nature (Ephesians 4:20–24).
Gestalt therapy can be helpful in bringing to light the human tendency to deceive ourselves and others. It stresses our need to live in the present without wallowing in the past or fearing the future. Its emphasis on living genuinely is also helpful. We need to acknowledge our pain and bring it to God for healing.
A danger of Gestalt therapy is that it relies on humans to be curative in themselves—relationship and authenticity are seen as salvific; being “who you really are” is the supposed cure to life’s ills. The Bible declares that humans are dead, not merely deceived. We need a Savior to rescue us from sin and restore us to life (Ephesians 2:1–5). We need to be set free through a knowledge of God’s objective truth (John 8:32).
Please note that a large portion of this information has been adapted from Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal by Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman and Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy by Gerald Corey.
Genesis 19 tells the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom with his family. His daughters were engaged to local men. Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom, the area where financial and judicial transactions took place, when two angels came into town. Lot invited them to stay with his family. After a rather exciting evening, the angels made sure Lot, his wife, and his two daughters left before God destroyed the city (Genesis 19:13). As they fled, the angels warned them, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away” (Genesis 19:17).
Lot ran, his daughters close behind. “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). She lagged behind. She turned and watched the flaming sulfur fall from the sky, consuming everything she valued. Then it consumed her. The Hebrew for “looked back” means more than to glance over one’s shoulder. It means to regard, to consider, to pay attention to. The Scriptures don’t say whether her death was a punishment for valuing her old life so much that she hesitated in obeying, or if it was a simple consequence of her reluctance to leave her life quickly. Either she identified too much with the city—and joined it—or she neglected to fully obey God’s warning and she died.
We’re fortunate to receive similar warnings. Ephesians 4:22–24 tells us to take off the old self which is ruled by sin and be renewed, putting on the new self that is in the likeness of God. Similarly, 1 John 5:16 says that willful, deliberate sin can lead to death. Lot’s wife wasn’t able to accept that. What she chose to value in her heart led her to sin, which led to her death.
The Bible isn’t clear whether Lot’s wife was covered in the salt that rained down with the brimstone or if her remains were dusted with a coating of salt later. But it is interesting that she is described as a “pillar.” The Hebrew for pillar is natsiyb, which refers to a garrison or a deputy, something set to watch over something else. The image of Lot’s wife standing watch over the Dead Sea area—where to this day no life can exist—is a poignant reminder to us not to look back or turn back from the profession of faith we have made, but to follow Christ without hesitation and abide in His love.
There are some groups, usually affiliated with some form of the “Black Hebrew” movement, who vehemently argue that Jesus was black/African in skin color/appearance. While this goes directly against the fact that the Bible declares Jesus’ Jewishness, meaning He likely had light to dark brown skin, ultimately, the discussion/argument misses the point. Does it really matter that we know the color of Jesus’ skin—whether He was black, yellow, brown, or white? Though this may be a controversial issue for some, the truth is that we simply don’t know what the color of Jesus’ skin was. While there are countless references to Jesus being Jewish as that was His heritage, the Bible provides little, if any, description of what Jesus might have looked like.
It is the prophet Isaiah who gives us the best description of the physical appearance of Jesus: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). If Jesus’ skin color and complexion were important, then God would have told us about them. Furthermore, to presume that Jesus is of one color or another is to speculate on information not found within the Scriptures. As such, it is useless speculation at best (1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:9). The point is that it does not matter in the whole scheme of redemption what color of skin Jesus had (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).
So, what should we concern ourselves with when it comes to Jesus? Peter tells us: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). In other words, Christ has called us to a life of glory and moral excellence, both here on this earth and in heaven. We are to live pure and righteous lives for His glory. And when we do He promises to give us a place in the glory and perfection of heaven. The message of this passage is clear: It is His glory and goodness that attracts man to seek life and godliness in Him. It has absolutely nothing to do with the way He looks or the color of His skin.
Peter also tells us that God “does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34–35). When Jesus calls for us to go into all the world and teach the gospel (Matthew 18:18–20), He is telling us that there are no cultural or racial barriers, that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Paul echoes this in his letter to the churches in Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The color of our Savior’s skin has no bearing on our sharing the gospel. Nor should our neighbor’s skin color have any bearing on our imparting the gospel message to him (Romans 1:16). The apostles of the first century church always adapted to the cultures of the foreign countries, but they never did so at the cost of their fidelity to the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).
Paul may have changed his method of teaching whenever he entered a new culture or foreign land, but he never changed his message. He kept preaching the same things he had always taught, regardless of the color of his listeners’ skin. What mattered was that they received the good news of Christ. The truth is that the message of the gospel of Christ worked then and the gospel still works today! It still reaches into the hearts of those who yearn to know God, whether they are black, white, yellow, or brown. It’s not the color of Jesus’ skin or the color of our neighbor’s skin that matters in our eternal destiny. But what does is that … “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Without trying to sort through everything (or really anything) that has been said at the Strange Fire Conference–let alone sifting through what has been said and done in response–I thought it might be helpful to take a step back and give some historical perspective on the question of cessationism.
In the first section of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith we find reference to at least some kind of cessationism.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)
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The Internet is basically on fire right now; Strange Fire that is. There’s a lot of stuff to say and many things to write, but I have 2 children under the age of 2 and limited time, so I’ll toss out some quick news:
1. Phil Johnson is apparently going to be on the Line Of Fire radio show, hosted by Dr. Michael Brown, on Monday, October 21st. I don’t know which stations carry it, but you can always listen live here or listen to the podcast afterwards. I’ll most likely listen to it that evening while my kids are in bed. Here’s Dr. Brown’s announcement:
2. Dr. Michael Brown has linked to something he’s…
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For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in ungodliness, (1:18)
As Paul begins to unfold the details of the gospel of God in which His righteousness is revealed (see vv. 16–17), he presents an extended discussion of the condemnation of man that extends through chapter 3 and verse 20. He starts with an unequivocal affirmation of God’s righteous wrath.
The idea of a wrathful God goes against the wishful thinking of fallen human nature and is even a stumbling block to many Christians. Much contemporary evangelism talks only about abundant life in Christ, the joy and blessings of salvation, and the peace with God that faith in Christ brings. All of those benefits do result from true faith, but they are not the whole picture of God’s plan of salvation. The corollary truth of God’s judgment against sin and those who participate in it must also be heard.
For Paul, fear of eternal condemnation was the first motivation he offered for coming to Christ, the first pressure he applied to evil men. He was determined that they understand the reality of being under God’s wrath before he offered them the way of escape from it. That approach makes both logical and theological sense. A person cannot appreciate the wonder of God’s grace until he knows about the perfect demands of God’s law, and he cannot appreciate the fullness of God’s love for him until he knows something about the fierceness of God’s anger against his sinful failure to perfectly obey that law. He cannot appreciate God’s forgiveness until he knows about the eternal consequences of the sins that require a penalty and need forgiving.
Orgē (wrath) refers to a settled, determined indignation, not to the momentary, emotional, and often uncontrolled anger (thumos) to which human beings are prone.
God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger and wrath, He would not be God, just as surely as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly hates just as He perfectly loves, perfectly loving righteousness and perfectly hating evil (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). One of the great tragedies of modern Christianity, including much of evangelicalism, is the failure to preach and teach the wrath of God and the condemnation it brings upon all with unforgiven sin. The truncated, sentimental gospel that is frequently presented today falls far short of the gospel that Jesus and the apostle Paul proclaimed.
In glancing through a psalter from the late nineteenth century, I discovered that many of the psalms in that hymnal emphasize the wrath of God, just as much of the book of Psalms itself emphasizes His wrath. It is tragic that few hymns or other Christian songs today reflect that important biblical focus.
Scripture, New Testament as well as Old, consistently emphasizes God’s righteous wrath. Against those who scoff at Him, God “will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury.” The psalmist goes on to admonish, “Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled” (Ps. 2:5, 12). Asaph wrote, “At Thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep. Thou, even Thou, art to be feared; and who may stand in Thy presence when once Thou art angry?” (Ps. 76:6–7). Another psalmist reminded unfaithful Israel of what God had done to the defiant Egyptians who refused to let His people leave: “He sent upon them His burning anger, fury, and indignation, and trouble, a band of destroying angels. He leveled a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, but gave their life over to the plague, and smote all the first-born in Egypt” (Ps. 78:49–51). Speaking in behalf of Israel, Moses lamented, “For we have been consumed by Thine anger, and by thy wrath we have been dismayed. Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy presence. For all our days have declined in Thy fury” (Ps. 90:7–9).
The prophets spoke much of God’s wrath. Isaiah declared, “By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, and the people are like fuel for the fire” (Isa. 9:19). Jeremiah proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched’ ” (Jer. 7:20). Through Ezekiel, God warned His people that “their silver and their gold [would] not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite, nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling” (Ezek. 7:19).
In many well-known ways God expressed His wrath against sinful mankind in past ages. In the days of Noah, He destroyed all mankind in the Flood, except for eight people (Gen. 6–7). Several generations after Noah, He confounded men’s language and scattered them around the earth for trying to build an idolatrous tower to heaven (Gen. 11:1–9). In the days of Abraham, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, with only Lot and his family escaping (Gen. 18–19). He destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the sea as they vainly pursued the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt (Ex. 14). He poured out His wrath against pagan kings such as Sennacherib (2 Kings 18–19), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4), and Belshazzar (Dan. 5). He even poured out His wrath against some of His own people-against King Nadab for doing “evil in the sight of the Lord, and [walking] in the way of his father and in his sin which he made Israel sin” (1 Kings 15:25–26) and against Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, for questioning Moses’ revelations from Him (Num. 12:1–10).
God’s wrath is just as clearly exhibited in the New Testament, both in reference to what He has already done and to what He will yet do at the end of the age. The gospel of John, which speaks so eloquently of God’s love and graciousness, also speaks powerfully of His anger and wrath. The comforting words “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” are followed closely by the warning “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:16, 36).
Later in his epistle to the Romans, Paul focuses again on God’s wrath, declaring, “God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (9:22). The apostle warned the Corinthians that anyone who did not love the Lord Jesus was to be eternally cursed (1 Cor. 16:22). He said to the Ephesians, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). He warned the Colossians that because of “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry, … the wrath of God will come” (Col. 3:5–6). He assured the persecuted Thessalonian believers that God would one day give them relief and that “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [He will deal] out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7–8).
A disease has to be recognized and identified before seeking a cure means anything. In the same way and for the same reason, Scripture reveals the bad news before the good news. God’s righteous judgment against sin is proclaimed before His gracious forgiveness of sin is offered. A person has no reason to seek salvation from sin if he does not know he is condemned by it. He has no reason to want spiritual life unless he realizes he is spiritually dead.
With the one exception of Jesus Christ, every human being since the Fall has been born condemned, because when Adam and Eve fell, the divine sentence against all sinners was passed. Paul therefore declared to the Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He reminded the Ephesians: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3).
In the brief scope of one verse (Rom. 1:18), Paul presents six features that characterize God’s wrath: its quality, its time, its source, its extent and nature, and its cause.
The Quality of God’s Wrath
of God (1:18a)
First, the quality of this wrath is seen in the fact that it is divine, it is of God. It is therefore unlike anything we know of in the present world. God’s wrath is not like human anger, which is always tainted by sin. God’s wrath is always and completely righteous. He never loses His temper. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, “Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. … No wonder, therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to him, nay, so contrary to him; it strikes at his holiness.”
Unable to reconcile the idea of God’s wrath with his own ideas of goodness and righteousness, one liberal theologian made this claim: “We cannot think with full consistency of God in terms of the highest human ideals of personality and yet attribute to Him the rational passion of anger.” But it is foolish, not to mention unbiblical, to measure God by human standards and to discount the idea of His wrath simply because human anger is always flawed by sin.
God’s anger is not capricious, irrational rage but is the only response that a holy God could have toward evil. God could not be holy and not be angry at evil. Holiness cannot tolerate unholiness. “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor,” Habakkuk says of the Lord (Hab. 1:13). And as Paul declares, neither can love tolerate unholiness, refusing to “rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Cor. 13:6).
Jesus twice cleansed the Temple because He was incensed at the money changers and sacrifice sellers who made His “Father’s house a house of merchandise” and “a robber’s den” (John 2:14–16; Matt. 21:12–13). He was furious that His Father’s house was flagrantly dishonored. Speaking in place of the sinful inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jeremiah acknowledged the rightness of God’s punishment of them, saying, “The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His command; hear now, all peoples, and behold my pain; my virgins and my young men have gone into captivity” (Lam. 1:18). In confessing before Joshua that he had kept for himself some booty from Jericho that was to be reserved for the house of the Lord, Achan acknowledged that the punishment he was about to receive was just and righteous (Josh. 7:20–25).
Even in the warped and perverted societies of men, indignation against vice and crime is recognized as an essential element of human goodness. We expect people to be outraged by gross injustice and cruelty. The noted Greek exegete Richard Trench said, “There [can be no] surer and sadder token of an utterly prostrate moral condition than … not being able to be angry with sin-and sinners” (Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], p. 134). God is perfectly so all the time with a holy fury.
The Timing of God’s Wrath
is revealed (1:18b)
Second, the timing of God’s wrath is seen in the fact that it is revealed, a better rendering being “constantly revealed.” God’s wrath is continually being revealed, perpetually being manifested. Apokaluptō (revealed) has the basic meaning of uncovering, bringing to light, or making known.
God’s wrath has always been revealed to fallen mankind and is repeatedly illustrated throughout Scripture. It was first revealed in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve trusted the serpent’s word above God’s. Immediately the sentence of death was passed on them and on all their descendants. Even the earth itself was cursed. As already mentioned, God’s wrath was revealed in the Flood, when God drowned the whole human race except for eight souls, in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the drowning of Pharaoh’s army. It was revealed in the curse of the law upon every transgression and in the institution of the sacrificial system of the Mosaic covenant. Even the imperfect laws that men make to deter and punish wrongdoers reflect and thereby help to reveal the perfect and righteous wrath of God.
By far the surpassing revelation of God’s wrath was that placed upon His own Son on the cross, when Jesus took to Himself the sin of the world and bore the full divine force of God’s fury as its penalty God hates sin so deeply and requires its penalty so that He allowed His perfect, beloved Son to be put to death as the only means by which fallen mankind might be redeemed from sifts curse.
The British commentator Geoffrey B. Wilson wrote, “God is no idle spectator of world events; He is dynamically active in human affairs. The conviction of sin is constantly punctuated by Divine judgment” (Romans: A Digest of Reformed Comment [London: Banner of Truth], p. 24). The historian J. A. Froude wrote, “One lesson, and only one, history may be said to repeat with distinctness; that the world is built somehow on moral foundations; that, in the long run, it is well with the good; in the long run, it is ill with the wicked” (Short Studies on Great Subjects, vol. 1, “The Science of History” [London: Longmans Green and Co., 1915], p. 21).
We wonder, then, why so many wicked people prosper, seemingly doing evil with utter impunity. But if God’s wrath is delayed, His bowl of wrath is all the while filling up, increasing judgment for increased sin, They are only storing up wrath for the coming day of wrath (Rom. 2:5).
Donald Grey Barnhouse recounts the story of a group of godly farmers in a Midwest community being irritated one Sunday morning by a neighbor’s plowing his field across from their church. Noise from his tractor interrupted the worship service, and, as it turned out, the man had purposely chosen to plow that particular field on Sunday morning in order to make a point. He wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper, asserting that, although he did not respect the Lord or honor the Lord’s Day, he had the highest yield per acre of any farm in the county. He asked the editor how Christians could explain that. With considerable insight and wisdom, the editor printed the letter and followed it with the simple comment, “God does not settle [all] His accounts in the month of October” (Man’s Ruin: Romans 1:1–32 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], p. 220).
The Source of God’s Wrath
from heaven (1:18c)
God’s wrath is rendered from heaven. Despite Satan’s present power as prince of the air and of this world, the earth is ultimately dominated by heaven, the throne of God, from which His wrath is constantly and dynamically manifested in the world of men.
Paul frequently speaks about the wrath, indicating a specific time or type of wrath. Although the nasb rendering does not indicate it, there is a definite article before wrath in Romans 3:5, which should read, “who inflicts the wrath.” In chapter 5 he speaks of our being “saved from the wrath of God through” Christ (v. 9), in chapter 12 of our leaving “room for the wrath of God” (v. 19), and in chapter 13 of believers being in subjection to God “not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (v. 5). In his letter to Thessalonica he assures believers that Jesus delivers them “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
Heaven reveals God’s wrath in two ways, through His moral order and through His personal intervention. When God made the world, He built in certain moral as well as physical laws that have since governed its operation. Just as a person falls to the ground when he jumps from a high building, so does he fall into God’s judgment when he deviates from God’s moral law That is built-in wrath. When a person sins, there is a built-in consequence that inexorably works. In this sense God is not specifically intervening, but is letting the law of moral cause and effect work.
The second way in which God reveals His wrath is through His direct and personal intervention. He is not an impersonal cosmic force that set the universe in motion to run its own course. God’s wrath is executed exactly according to His divine will.
Several Hebrew words which convey a highly personal character are used in the Old Testament to describe God’s anger. Ḥārâ is used ninety-one times. It refers to becoming heated, to burning with fury, and is frequently used of God (see, e.g., Gen. 18:30). Ḥārôn is used forty-one times. It refers exclusively to divine anger and means “a burning, fierce wrath” (see, e.g., Ex. 15:7). Qâtsaph, which means bitter, is used thirty-four times, most of which refer to God (see, e.g., Deut. 1:34). The fourth term for wrath is Ḥemâh, which also refers to a venom or poison, is frequently associated with jealousy and is used most often of God (see, e.g., 2 Kings 22:13). David declared that “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11). “Indignation” translates zā˒am, which means to foam at the mouth, and is used over twenty times in the Old Testament, often of God’s wrath.
Whether the cause and effect wrath or the personal fury of God is meted out, the wrath originates in heaven.
The Extent and Nature of God’s Wrath
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, (1:18d)
The fourth and fifth features of God’s wrath concern its extent and its nature.
God’s wrath is universal, being discharged against all who deserve it. No amount of goodwill, giving to the poor, helpfulness to others, or even service to God can exclude a person from the all Paul mentions here. As he later explains more explicitly, “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:9, 23). Obviously, some people are morally better than others, but even the most moral and upright person falls far short of God’s standard of perfect righteousness. No one escapes.
Men’s relative goodness compared to God’s perfect standard can be illustrated by a hypothetical attempt to jump from the beach near Los Angeles to Catalina Island, a distance of some twenty-six miles. Some people could not manage to jump at all, many could jump a few feet, and a rare few could jump twenty or twenty-five feet. The longest conceivable jump, however, would cover only the smallest fraction of the distance required. The most moral person has as little chance of achieving God’s righteousness in his own power as the best athlete has of making that jump to Catalina. Everybody falls short.
The second emphasis of this phrase is on the nature of God’s wrath. It is not like the wrath of a madman who strikes out indiscriminately, not caring who is injured or killed. Nor is it like the sin-tainted anger of a person who seeks to avenge a wrong done to him. God’s wrath is reserved for and justly directed at sin. Asebia (ungodliness) and adikia (unrighteousness) are synonyms, the first stressing a faulty personal relationship to God. God is angered because sinful men are His enemies (see Rom. 5:10) and therefore “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
Ungodliness refers to lack of reverence for, devotion to, and worship of the true God, a failure that inevitably leads to some form of false worship. Although the details and circumstances are not revealed, Jude reports that Enoch, the righteous seventh-generation descendant of Adam, prophesied about God’s coming “to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14–15). Four times he uses the term ungodly to describe the focus of God’s wrath upon sinful mankind.
Unrighteousness encompasses the idea of ungodliness but focuses on its result. Sin first attacks God’s majesty and then His law. Men do not act righteously because they are not rightly related to God, who is the only measure and source of righteousness. Ungodliness unavoidably leads to unrighteousness. Because men’s relation to God is wrong, their relation to their fellow men is wrong. Men treat other men the way they do because they treat God the way they do. Man’s enmity with his fellow man originates with his being at enmity with God.
Sin is the only thing God hates. He does not hate poor people or rich people, dumb people or smart people, untalented people or highly skilled people. He only hates the sin that those people, and all others, naturally practice, and sin inevitably brings His wrath.
The Cause of God’s Wrath
who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (1:18e)
“But how is it,” we ask, “that God can hold everyone responsible for moral and spiritual failure, and be so angry when some people have so much less opportunity than others for hearing the gospel and coming to know God?” The answer is that, because of his sinful disposition, every person is naturally inclined to follow sin and resist God. This phrase could be rendered, “who are constantly attempting to suppress the truth by steadfastly holding to their sin.” Unrighteousness is so much a part of man’s nature that every person has a built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress and oppose God’s truth.
As Paul declares in the following verse, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (v. 19). His point is that all people, regardless of their relative opportunities to know God’s Word and hear His gospel, have internal, God-given evidence of His existence and nature, but are universally inclined to resist and assault that evidence. No matter how little spiritual light he may have, God guarantees that any person who sincerely seeks Him will find Him. “You will seek me and find Me” He promises, “when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
But men are not naturally inclined to seek God. That truth was proved conclusively in the earthly ministry of Christ. Even when face-to-face with God incarnate, the Light of the world, “men loved darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20). As David had proclaimed hundreds of years earlier, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good” (Ps. 14:1). Sinful men oppose the idea of a holy God because they innately realize that such a God would hold them accountable for the sins they love and do not want to relinquish.
Every person, no matter how isolated from God’s written Word or the clear proclamation of His gospel, has enough divine truth evident both within and around Him (Rom. 1:19–20) to enable him to know and be reconciled to God if his desire is genuine. It is because men refuse to respond to that evidence that they are under God’s wrath and condemnation. “This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that … men loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19). Thus God is angry with the wicked every day (Psa. 7:11).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 59–68). Chicago: Moody Press.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
Today’s preaching is deficient at many points. But there is no point at which it is more evidently inadequate and even explicitly contrary to the teachings of the New Testament than in its neglect of “the wrath of God.” God’s wrath is a dominant Bible teaching and the point in Romans at which Paul begins his formal exposition of the gospel. Yet, to judge from most contemporary forms of Christianity, the wrath of God is either an unimportant doctrine, which is an embarrassment, or an entirely wrong notion, which any enlightened Christian should abandon.
Weakness of Contemporary Preaching
Where do most people begin when making a presentation of Christian truth, assuming that they even speak of it to others? Where does most of today’s Christian “preaching” begin?
Many begin with what is often termed “a felt need,” a lack or a longing that the listener will acknowledge. The need may involve feelings of inadequacy; a recognition of problems in the individual’s personal relationships or work or aspirations; moods; fears; or simply bad habits. The basic issue may be loneliness, or it may be uncontrollable desires. According to this theory, preaching should begin with felt needs, because this alone establishes a point of contact with a listener and wins a hearing. But does it? Oh, it may establish a contact between the teacher and the listener. But this is not the same thing as establishing contact between the listener and God, which is what preaching is about. Nor is it even necessarily a contact between the listener and the truth, since felt needs are often anything but our real needs; rather, they can actually be a means of suppressing them.
Here is the way Paul speaks of a felt need in another letter: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). “What their itching ears want to hear” is a classic example of a felt need. In this passage the apostle warns Timothy not to cater to it. Obviously he himself did not structure the presentation of his gospel around such “needs.”
Another way we present the gospel today is by promises. We offer them like a carrot, a reward to be given if only the listener accepts Jesus. Through this approach, becoming a Christian is basically presented as a means of getting something. Sometimes this is propounded in a frightfully unbiblical way, so that what emerges is a “prosperity gospel” in which God is supposed to be obliged to grant wealth, health, and success to the believer.
We also commonly offer the gospel by the route of personal experience, stressing what Jesus has done for us and commending it to the other person for that reason.
The point I am making is that Paul does not do this in Romans, and in this matter he rebukes us profitably. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it like this:
Why is he [Paul] ready to preach the gospel in Rome or anywhere else? He does not say it is because he knows that many of them [the Romans] are living defeated lives and that he has got something to tell them that will give them victory. He does not say to them, “I want to come and preach the gospel to you in Rome because I have had a marvelous experience and I want to tell you about it, in order that you may have the same experience—because you can if you want it; it is there for you.”
This is not what Paul does.… There is no mention here of any experience. He is not talking in terms of their happiness or some particular state of mind, or something that might appeal to them, as certain possibilities do—but this staggering, amazing thing, the wrath of God! And he puts it first; it is the thing he says at once.
The reason, of course, is that Paul was God-centered, rather than man-centered, and he was concerned with that central focus. Most of us are weak, fuzzy, or wrong at this point. Paul knew that what matters in the final analysis is not whether we feel good or have our felt needs met or receive a meaningful experience. What matters is whether we come into a right relationship with God. And to have that happen we need to begin with the truth that we are not in a right relationship to him. On the contrary, we are under God’s wrath and are in danger of everlasting condemnation at his hands.
Wrath: A Biblical Idea
There is a problem at this point, of course, and the problem is that most people think in human categories rather than in the terms of Scripture. When we do that, “wrath” inevitably suggests something like capricious human anger or malice. God’s wrath is not the same thing as human anger, of course. But because we fail to appreciate this fact, we are uneasy with the very idea of God’s wrath and think that it is somehow unworthy of God’s character. So we steer away from the issue.
The biblical writers had no such reticence. They spoke of God’s wrath frequently, obviously viewing it as one of God’s great “perfections”—alongside his other attributes. Says J. I. Packer, “One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.” Arthur W. Pink wrote, “A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God than there are to His love and tenderness.”3
In the Old Testament more than twenty words are used to refer to God’s wrath. (Other, very different words relate to human anger.) There are nearly six hundred important passages on the subject. These passages are not isolated or unrelated, as if they had been added to the Old Testament at some later date by a particularly gloomy redactor. They are basic and are integrated with the most important themes and events of Scripture.
The earliest mentions of the wrath of God are in connection with the giving of the law at Sinai. The first occurs just two chapters after the account of the giving of the Ten Commandments: “[The Lord said,] ‘Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger [wrath] will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless’ ” (Exod. 22:22–24).
Ten chapters later in Exodus, in a very important passage about the sin of Israel in making and worshiping the golden calf (a passage to which we will return), God and Moses discuss wrath. God says, “Now leave me alone so that my anger [wrath] may burn against them and that I may destroy them.… ” But Moses pleads, “Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people” (Exod. 32:10–12).
In this early and formative passage, Moses does not plead with God on the grounds of some supposed innocence of the people—they were not innocent, and Moses knew it—nor with the fantasy that wrath is somehow unworthy of God’s character. Rather Moses appeals only on the grounds that God’s judgment would be misunderstood and that his name would be dishonored by the heathen.
There are two main words for wrath in the New Testament. One is thymos, from a root that means “to rush along fiercely,” “to be in a heat of violence,” or “to breathe violently.” We can capture this idea by the phrase “a panting rage.” The other word is orgē which means “to grow ripe for something.” It portrays wrath as something that builds up over a long period of time, like water collecting behind a great dam. In his study of The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Morris notes that apart from the Book of Revelation, which describes the final outpouring of God’s wrath in all its unleashed fury, thumos is used only once of God’s anger. The word used in every other passage is orgẽ. Morris observes, “The biblical writers habitually use for the divine wrath a word which denotes not so much a sudden flaring up of passion which is soon over, as a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature.”
John Murray describes wrath in precisely this way when he writes in his classic definition: “Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.”
We find this understanding of the wrath of God in Romans. In this letter Paul refers to wrath ten times. But in each instance the word he uses is orgẽ, and his point is not that God is suddenly flailing out in petulant anger against something that has offended him momentarily, but rather that God’s firm, fearsome hatred of all wickedness is building up and will one day result in the eternal condemnation of all who are not justified by Christ’s righteousness. Romans 1:17 says, on the basis of Habakkuk 2:4, that “the righteous will live by faith.” But those who do not live by faith will not live; they will perish. Thus, in Romans 2:5 we find Paul writing, “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
But it is not only a matter of God’s wrath being “stored up” for a final great outpouring at the last day. There is also a present manifesting of this wrath, which is what Paul seems to be speaking of in our text when he says, using the present rather than the future tense of the verb, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” How is this so? In what way is the wrath of God currently being made manifest?
Commentators on Romans suggest a number of observations at this point, listing ways in which God’s wrath against sin seems to be disclosed. Charles Hodge speaks of three such manifestations: “the actual punishment of sin,” “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery,” and “the voice of conscience.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones lists “conscience,” “disease and illness,” “the state of creation,” “the universality of death,” “history,” and (the matter he thinks Paul mainly had in view) “the cross” and “resurrection of Christ.”
Robert Haldane has a comprehensive statement:
The wrath of God … was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed by the curse of the law on every transgression and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this epistle the apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. This same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes his glory, also proves that he is the enemy of sin and the avenger of the crimes of men.… But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin.
Each of these explanations of the present revelation of the wrath of God is quite accurate. But in my opinion Paul has something much more specific in view here, the matter that Charles Hodge alone mentions specifically: “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.” This is what Paul goes on to develop in Romans 1. In verses 21 through 32 Paul speaks of a downward inclination of the race by which the world, having rejected God and therefore being judicially abandoned by God, is given up to evil. It is set on a course that leads to perversions and ends in a debasement in which people call good evil and evil good. Human depravity and the misery involved are the revelation of God’s anger.
A number of years ago, Ralph L. Keiper was speaking to a loose-living California hippie about the claims of God on his life. The man was denying the existence of God and the truths of Christianity, but he was neither dull nor unperceptive. So Keiper directed him to Romans 1, which he described as an analysis of the hippie’s condition. The man read it carefully and then replied, “I think I see what you’re driving at. You are saying that I am the verifying data of the revelation.”
That is exactly it! The present revelation of God’s wrath, though limited in its scope, should be proof to us that we are indeed children of wrath and that we need to turn from our present evil path to the Savior.
Turning Aside God’s Wrath
Here I return to that great Old Testament story mentioned earlier. Moses had been on the mountain for forty days, receiving the law. As the days stretched into weeks, the people waiting below grew restless and prevailed upon Moses’ brother Aaron to make a substitute god for them. It was a golden calf. Knowing what was going on in the valley, God interrupted his giving of the law to tell Moses what the people were doing and to send him back down to them.
It was an ironic situation. God had just given the Ten Commandments. They had begun: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:2–6). While God was giving these words, the people whom he had saved from slavery were doing precisely what he was prohibiting. Not only that, they were lying, coveting, dishonoring their parents, committing adultery, and no doubt also breaking all the other commandments.
God declared his intention to judge the people immediately and totally, and Moses interceded for them in the words referred to earlier (Exod. 32:11–12).
At last Moses started down the mountain to deal with the people. Even on a human level, quite apart from any thought of God’s grace, sin must be judged. So Moses dealt with the sin as best he knew how. First he rebuked Aaron publicly. Then he called for any who still remained on the side of the Lord to separate themselves from the others and stand beside him. The tribe of Levi responded. At Moses’ command they were sent into the camp to execute the leaders of the rebellion. Three thousand men were killed, approximately one-half of one percent of the six hundred thousand who had left Egypt at the Exodus (Exod. 32:28; cf. 12:37—with women and children counted, the number may have been more than two million). Moses also destroyed the golden calf. He ground it up, mixed it with water, and made the people drink it.
From a human standpoint, Moses had dealt with the sin. The leaders were punished. Aaron was rebuked. The allegiance of the people was at least temporarily reclaimed. But Moses stood in a special relationship to God, as Israel’s representative, as well as to the people as their leader. And God still waited in wrath on the mountain. What was Moses to do?
For theologians sitting in an ivory-tower armchair, the idea of the wrath of God may seem to be no more than an interesting speculation. But Moses was no armchair theologian. He had been talking with God. He had heard his voice. He had receive his law. Not all the law had been given by this time, but Moses had received enough of it to know something of the horror of sin and of the uncompromising nature of God’s righteousness. Had God not said, “You shall have no other gods before me”? Had he not promised to punish sin to the third and fourth generation of those who disobey him? Who was Moses to think that the judgment he had imposed would satisfy a God of such holiness?
Night passed, and the morning came when Moses was to ascend the mountain again. He had been thinking, and during the night a way that might possibly divert the wrath of God had come to him. He remembered the sacrifices of the Hebrew patriarchs and the newly instituted rites of the Passover. God had shown by such sacrifices that he was prepared to accept an innocent substitute in place of the just death of the sinner. God’s wrath could sometimes fall on the substitute. Moses thought, “Perhaps God would accept.… ”
When morning came, Moses ascended the mountain with great determination. Reaching the top, he began to speak to God. It must have been in great anguish, for the Hebrew text is uneven and Moses’ second sentence breaks off without ending (indicated by a dash in the middle of Exod. 32:32). This is the strangled sob welling up from the heart of a man who is asking to be damned if his own judgment could mean the salvation of those he had come to love. The text reads: “So Moses went back to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exod. 32:31–32). Moses was offering to take the place of the people and accept judgment on their behalf.
On the preceding day, before Moses had come down from the mountain, God had said something that could have been a great temptation. If Moses would agree, God would destroy the people and start again to make a new Jewish nation from Moses (Exod. 32:10). Even then Moses had rejected the offer. But, after having been with his people and being reminded of his love for them, his answer, again negative, rises to even greater heights. God had said, “I will destroy the people and save you.”
Now Moses replies, “Rather destroy me and save them.”
Moses lived in the early years of God’s revelation and at this point probably had a very limited understanding of God’s plan. He did not know, as we know, that what he prayed for could not be. He had offered to go to hell for his people. But Moses could not save even himself, let alone Israel. He, too, was a sinner. He, too, needed a savior. He could not die for others.
But there is One who could. Thus, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). That person is Jesus, the Son of God. His death was for those who deserve God’s wrath. And his death was fully adequate, because Jesus did not need to die for his own sins—he was sinless—and because, being God, his act was of infinite magnitude.
That is the message Paul will expound in this epistle. It is the Good News, the gospel. But the place to begin is not with your own good works, since you have none, but by knowing that you are an object of God’s wrath and will perish in sin at last, unless you throw yourself upon the mercy of the One who died for sinners, even Jesus Christ.
 Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 128–136). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
God is capable of many emotions. We want to examine some of these in this section. We will apply this section as we go through the different aspects of God’s emotion.
Pity: What is pity? Funk and Wagnall mention, “Grief or pain awakened by the misfortunes of others…. That which arouses compassion….” (“Funk And Wagnall’s Standard Desk Dictionary”; New York: Funk and Wagnall Inc., 1976)
At times my wife and I see people stranded on the freeway with car trouble, and pity is immediately on the scene. This is probably due to the times when we have been in a hurry to get somewhere and we have had trouble. For example the time we were planning to visit my father in the hospital in Omaha and we lived in Denver. We found out late Friday that I had to work Saturday so that meant driving to Omaha Saturday evening and then back to Denver Sunday, then to school early Monday morning. At about two o’clock Sunday morning the fuel pump went out about 15 miles from nowhere. We completed the trip yet, this is why I hurt for troubled motorists, and is part of the reason that I stop if things look safe.
Psalm 103:13 should be of great comfort when we are hurting or in hard times. “As a father piteth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”
As a parent we often feel pity for our children. Once one of the boys had a great need once and there was no way that I could meet that need as a parent nor could he meet it himself. I felt very badly for the situation, but you know what? God had perfect pity for that son as well as for me, for He knows perfectly how we feel and he feels with us.
Wrath: What does wrath mean? Funk and Wagnall mentions, “Extreme or violent rage or fury; vehement indignation.”
I suspect that the later thought of “vehement indignation” would be most fitting where God is concerned. However the first thought of rage and fury may well relate to the Lord Jesus when He was cleansing the temple of the trash.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
You can rest in the fact that God will most assuredly take care of any wrongs that have been done to you. Not only will God take care of it, He will take care of it completely and justly.
Compassion: What is Compassion? Funk and Wagnall tells us, “Pity for the suffering or distress of another, with the desire to help or spare.”
When working in mid-Nebraska, a young woman came into the store and she was a shambles emotionally. She didn’t come into the store for a purchase, but to just unload on anyone that she could find that would listen. When she left, I was off center for an hour or two, trying to figure out how I could help her. The desire to help was from the compassion I had for her troubles.
Psalm 145:8, “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Think of that one. FULL of compassion. If you need any, He has it. He, the infinite in size is full, Full, Infinitely Full of compassion.
Webster mentions that compassion means to sympathize or bear or suffer. Wow, when that hard time hits not only do we have all the pity that we need, but we have all the co-suffering that we need. God is there to bear with us when we have burdens to bear.
It has crossed my mind to wonder just how much God suffers as He works with His children. As a parent, there are times when I see one of the kids doing something that I know is going to cost them dearly, either in money or in emotion. I want to, at times, shield them from those costs, yet know as a parent that they need to go through those times for growth.
God must see us walking into some real problems and hurt knowing that His children are hurting.
Hate: Funk and Wagnall relates to us, “To regard with extreme aversion; detest.” My wife will be the first to tell you that she “HATES” bugs. Bugs of any type, size, color or harmlessness. One day we were driving around in the van in Scottsbluff, Nebraska when a grasshopper blew in through the vent and she panicked. We stopped and could not find the critter.
About fifteen minutes later she noticed the thing on her leg. Remembering my concern over her outwardness of her hate which resulted in a scream, which resulted in a panic stop because I thought something was about to hit us, she calmly but emphatically stated, there he is. I panic stopped again, thinking a kid was about to dart out from behind a car. She hates bugs.
Psalm 5:5, “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” I must say that I am very glad that I am saved and standing in the shadow of the Lord Jesus. God has a pure hate but it is also a complete and just hate. I am so thankful that I do not have to face that hate.
Jealousy: Funk and Wagnall has several definitions, but this one seems to fit the idea of God’s jealousy best. “Vigilant in guarding: to be jealous of a privilege.” Or in God’s case, of His people.
Deuteronomy 5:9, The Lord told the Jews not to bow down to idols for He was a jealous God. This jealousy is elsewhere likened to that of a husband for his wife. The husband jealously cares for and keeps her from all things.
The media seems to play on the jealousy of the husband for his wife and seeks quite often to poke fun at it. This jealousy is not necessarily bad. It is the total desire for his wife to be what she should be to him, and I might add that the wife should have the same type of jealousy for her husband.
The jealousy portrayed in movies of the mistrust and doubt is very negative and should not be in a marriage.
God has sought out a people for Himself and He is jealous of any attempt to take them away from Him.
Grief: What is grief? Funk and Wagnall, “Deep sorrow or mental distress caused by loss, remorse, affliction, etc.”
Judges 10:16, “And they put away the foreign gods from among them, and served the Lord; and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” God grieved or hurt for the children of Israel. He is a God that hurts when we hurt. Indeed, He probably hurts for us when we don’t have sense enough to hurt ourselves. In the case of sin we are at times suffering before we realize it and He is already grieving for us.
Rejoicing: Isaiah 62:5, mentions that the Lord rejoices over us as a bridegroom over his bride. That’s rejoicing. Right You Married People? The only difference is that His rejoicing is perfect and complete whereas we often, as men, rejoice over the outward.
I have to wonder how God feels when one of His creatures comes to know Him as Lord and Savior.
Laughing: Psalm 2:4, “He who sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.” The context is that God laughs at the attempts of men to cause God trouble. I can’t imagine even thinking that there is any trouble that we might give to an all-powerful God.
I suspect that He may laugh at some of the antics that believers try to pull on Him as well.
Sympathy: Funk and Wagnall, “The quality of being affected by the state of another with feelings correspondent in kind.” Isaiah 63:9, “In all their affliction he was afflicted,” When the world is against us and we feel like the card I gave my wife once that said, “It’s you and me against the world and personally I think we’re gonna get creamed.”, God is on our side and pushing back at the world with us. He is with us in all things as we walk with Him.
One is left to contemplate the feelings of God at the time when man led His Son to Calvary, and then killed Him on the cross. One is left to contemplate the feelings of God as He viewed the martyrdom of His saints over the centuries.
What are the meanings of the previous terms when they are used of God? The definition would be the same as with man, except that there would be no taint of sin involved in God’s. These attributes would be fully functional, and resident within God from eternity past, in a complete and pure form.
 Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.
How Do We Selflessly (Not Selfishly) Participate in God’s Prosperity Plan?
After examining God’s Word, it is evident that God’s will is not that every believer experience good health or possess great wealth. Our bodies and our things are destined to turn to dirt! God’s plan for us is that we entrust our lives to Him and let Him work in and through us to accomplish His purposes for us. We are to trust Him with our lives, and His Spirit works in and through us to accomplish His will. – “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Selflessness 101: TRUST HIM (God’s Prosperity Plan)
Thank God for what He has given to you.
“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19–20)
Rest in God as your Provider.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
Uphold God’s perspective on possessions.
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
Seek God’s provision in each and every circumstance.
“The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.” (Isaiah 43:20)
Trust in God and not in what you possess.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
Honor God with what He gives to you.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.… Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:32; 2:45)
Invest in heavenly treasures not in earthly things.
“You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:34)
Manage well what God entrusts to your care.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)