We have agreed with John, I think, that God is love.
And we have agreed also that God is holy, holy, holy.
Today I want to ask you this. Is God angry and intolerant?
Let me try to unwrap this question and see if we can explore these ideas.
Romans 2:8 says ‘he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves’.
In fact the whole of Romans 1:18 – 3:19 talks of God’s anger, and I suggest that you read it all some time this week.
Colossians 3:6 says ‘the anger of God is coming.’
There are by some counts over 600 verses that mention the anger or the wrath of God, and there are other verses that talk about his jealousy. There is a lot of anger in the Bible, and not just in the Old Testament. What we need to understand about all these references to anger is that never does the Bible say God is anger! Yes, God is love. Yes, God is holy. But never is he anger. God gets angry. He has anger. The anger of God is real, but in some sense it is a secondary characteristic of God.
Love is God’s nature and character. It is who he is. It is part of what makes him God. And anger is not like that.
First, let’s state clearly that God’s anger is unlike our own anger. When you try to think about God’s anger don’t imagine it is at all like your anger. It isn’t. God does not lose his temper and lash out. God’s anger is always controlled. It is his response to something that is outside himself. Anger is God’s response to those things that oppose him. It is because God is holy. Anger is his response to rebellion and opposition, i.e. sin. Human sin and angelic sin.
God loves you by his nature, at all times in all conditions. He is angry only if you rebel. He is the same in the old and new testaments. He is love in both and has anger in both.
If you stop your rebellion, he stops his anger.
Romans 2:4 says, ‘Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?’
This verse says God is not intolerant. Tolerant here means selfrestraint. It means he is angry but holds back his anger. So in that sense God is tolerant. Otherwise he would just wipe us all out because we are all sinful.
But toleration has strict limits. We are not here just talking about allowing people to believe or do things we find detestable.
For example, engineering tolerance is the permissible limit or limits of variation. What this means is that when Boeing make an aircraft they make it from carefully designed materials and parts. There will be some specified margin for say the steel that it must have between x and y percent of material z. But they can never say, hey it doesn’t really matter just use whatever you’ve got lying around.
You cannot, for example, build a jumbo jet from cheddar cheese. A jumbo jet is intolerant of parts made from cheddar cheese, and that is not a bad thing. It’s not a personal dislike of cheddar cheese, it is just a fact that you cannot make planes from it.
Some people have a medical condition known as lactose intolerance. They don’t personally hate lactose. They don’t want to rid the world of the scourge of lactose, but if any should enter their body they experience an extreme reaction. Their body will not tolerate any lactose.
Our planet earth is a miracle. For example; the Earth is just the right distance from the Sun in what is called the ‘Habitable Zone.’ If it were any closer, it would be too hot for life and any further away it would be too cold for life. We could not tolerate the earth in any other place than where it is right now.
We are unable to tolerate a planet without water. Life requires liquid water. Our planet sits just the right distance from the Sun for water to flow as a liquid. In fact, three quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered in liquid water. No other planet is known to have this essential ingredient of life. If the Earth were much closer to the Sun, the water in all of the ponds, lakes, seas and oceans would evaporate away and we would be a dry planet. If the Earth were much farther from the Sun, all of the water would freeze and the Earth would be a frozen wasteland. There is almost no room for tolerance, it would result in death. Tolerance would simply kill us all.
Yes, God is tolerant in the sense of being self-restrained. But actually he is totally intolerant when it comes to sin. And sin makes him very angry indeed.
So yes, God is angry and intolerant? He is not anger. He is not intolerance. But he is angry and intolerant.
Turning back to our reading this morning. If you still have your Bible open please look at Romans 1:18 – ‘God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth.’
And in Ephesians 5:5-6 it says, ‘You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.’
The anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Sin is what is opposed to God. God cannot tolerate what is opposed to him. God is holy and thus he is unable to tolerate what is unholy. He cannot coexist in heaven with rebellion and opposition.
God is angry at those actions by men or angels that separate us from him. He cannot tolerate sin in heaven, so there is no way for a sinful person to enter heaven. Heaven has a severe sin intolerance. And when god gets angry over sin and at sinners, it is because he knows that if only we rejected the sin and accepted Jesus we could have our sin removed and we would then be acceptable and welcome in his presence.
His anger is intended to eradicate sin. We should therefore be thankful for God’s anger and for his intolerance. Because God cannot tolerate sin, there will be no sin in the kingdom of heaven.
Because God loves us all desperately he is angry at that which keeps us away from him and prolongs our misery. He sent us Jesus to save us. We are not destined to suffer as a result of God’s anger. But as Romans makes very clear, God is angry at Christians and non-believers alike. Sin is sin.
Remember what we read just now in Romans 1:19, ‘They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.’
God is holy and we are to be holy. God is angry at everything that attacks his holiness. God is angry at anything that seeks to stain his holiness. The only way to avoid God’s anger is for you to be holy. The only way for you to be holy is through following and obeying Jesus, God’s son. The only place that is safe from God’s anger is to be with Jesus. Jesus is your only salvation. Living a good life, human effort, will never be enough on it’s own.
God’s intolerance is absolute. No sin allowed. Sin is death.
Turn to Jesus and be saved from sin.