Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Wrath 7

In the first five chps of Romans the term “wrath” appears; we are in chp 3 today:

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, ?So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.? 5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God?s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ?Let us do evil so that good may come?? Their condemnation is deserved!


Wrath here is connected (1) to God and (2) to judgment.
A big issue in this text is that God’s glory will win out; that human faithlessness establishes the truthfulness of God’s righteousness; that God’s wrath establishes God’s justice.
There is a kind of objectivity about Paul here: whether he does what is right or not doesn’t matter; God’s own righteousness, justice, holiness, and love are established either way. Here is the beginning of an idea that the Puritans often mentioned: that one could delight in the God of glory and holiness and justice and righteousness and love whether or not one was on the right side of God’s judgment.
Since judgment is a theme here, I would say this text could be either historical or eternal wrath — both variants on God’s justice and God’s act of judgment to establish justice.

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posted May 29, 2008 at 7:09 am

I believe I see several assumptions at work in this passage:
1) God judges the world
2) God inflicts wrath on people
3) We are not in a position to judge God’s judgement. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t in a position to question others’ descriptions of God’s judgement. But Paul seems to tread carefully in even raising the logical possibility of God’s injustice.
There does seem to be more than only a corporate focus in this passage. Paul seems to be thinking of both individuals and community, it seems to me. I believe this would make any line between historic and eternal wrath fuzzy.

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posted May 29, 2008 at 7:12 am

I intend for the last sentence in that comment only to apply to this passage at hand. It is not an encompassing statement regarding all other discussions of wrath.

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Richard Deeble

posted May 29, 2008 at 5:32 pm

One question regarding the passage:
What do we mean be by God’s wrath establishing his justice?
Basically i’m interested in how people understand what we mean by the righteousness/justice of God?
I grew up in the old evangelical tradition that said God’s justice was his commitment to punish sin in light of his holiness, and his righteouness was his ethical standing and goodness which we lack and gain through imputation at the cross. Reading James Dunn, Tom Wright and especially my lecturer Chris Marshall has challenged me to review God’s righteousness more as his commitment to save and be faithfull to his convenant promises, and that God’s justice is basically has the same meaning considering its close relationship to righteousness in both hebrew and greek.
Which view makes sense? Do you have an opinion Scott?

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Scot McKnight

posted May 29, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I’d like to think wrath is simply restorative justice, but that’s only part of the equation — and too often neglected. I quote Wright in my A Community called Atonement where I think he gets this balance right.

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tim atwater

posted May 29, 2008 at 6:01 pm

A tad off message but —
i have just this week finished A Community Called Atonement — and want to say thank you to Scot and recommend this book highly to all…
as Romans is in our lectionary for the next dozen weeks or so starting this week… it’s been a very timely read…
have also been reading through Mark Reasoner, Romans Through the Ages…(which Scot cites at least a time or two in Community)…an excellent side by side look at interp of a dozen of the more often disputed passages in Romans, from Origen to Augustine to scholastics to reformation to Barth to new perspective(s)…
which kinda brings back to thread…
i am going to have a hard time being too certain i ever know what Paul means for sure…
til i’ve sampled through community eyes…
thanks again Scot… and all on this blog

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tim atwater

posted May 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm

PS — Cokesbury has had A Community called Atonement on sale recently and it may still be?

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