Yes, these texts from Paul about wrath are the sensitive spot for many today, but our task is to look at them, to look them in the eye, and see if we can make sense of them. Romans 4 has the next reference to wrath:
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us …)
Seemingly out of the blue, Paul says the “law brings/effects/produces wrath.” Well, we might ask, how? Since the next clause has the word “violation,” we are led to think the law brings wrath because the law brings a moral clarity that humans fall short of and that falling short leads to the just judgment of God against sin. In such a way law brings wrath.
Paul’s concern here is not universal but with the Jewish people whose sins were turned into transgressions by the Torah (Moo).
But, here is Paul’s bigger point, law brings wrath and faith brings salvation. And “faith” here is “faith in Christ, who himself brings that salvation.” So, Paul distinguishes what happens to the Jewish person who knows the covenant and does not follow Christ and the person who knows the covenant and does know Christ. Paul is pushing in this context against the adequacy of the Mosaic Torah — it is a wrath-slinging set of words.