The wrath of God, though mentioned only once in this paragraph, is strategically important in Paul’s exposition of the benefits of justification. When we consider the peril we avoided by trusting in Christ, we have all the more reason to rejoice over the blessings of peace with God and hope of future glory.
9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
This verse is an argument from greater to lesser. The greater thing, the harder thing, was for Christ to achieve our justification by shedding his blood. The lesser thing, now the “much more” likely thing, is to save us from God’s wrath on the day of judgment. The only way to escape God’s judgment is to be justified by Christ’s blood.
If you have not yielded to Christ, be warned. “The ultimate threat confronting sinners is neither sin itself, nor the power of Satan, nor even death, but the wrath of God” (Colin Kruse). Divine wrath is a righteous response to human sin and rebellion, and it will culminate at God’s “great white throne” judgment of every person as described in Revelation 20:11–15. God has appointed Jesus Christ to serve as the judge (2 Timothy 4:1, John 5:26–27).
Even though God gives warning of executing his wrath, the majority of people seem not to care about God’s verdict on their destinies. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” Paul said in Romans 3:18 as part of his indictment of fallen humanity.
Jesus left no doubt that judgment awaits and people will be held accountable to their Judge. Jesus told his disciples, “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Hell is real, and the Lord gave a warning of imminent danger for every human being to heed. As I pointed out in the previous message, every human being who has not yet yielded to Christ is under condemnation now.
The necessity of wrath
Why didn’t the God of love simply cancel his wrath and let bygones be bygones? God could not tolerate sin and evil without violating his holiness and justice. Sin and rebellion incurred a debt that had to be paid by death, and God paid that penalty for us at the cross (Colossians 2:13–14). The Father punished the Son for our transgressions and reckoned the righteousness of Jesus to be our righteousness. The cross was the only way God could exhibit both his justice and his mercy without contradiction.
Through the atoning work of Christ, God reconciled us while “we were enemies,” the objects of his wrath. The nature of God is to suffer for others, and this impulse in the divine heart propelled him to die for sinners and reconcile his enemies. In my book I refer to God’s self-sacrificing love as “The Greatest Attraction”—the title of chapter 16, which expounds Hebrews 2:10.
If you think it unfair of God to bring his wrath against unrepentant humanity, please understand that God cannot let evil go unpunished, that God is patient with sinners and gives them time to repent, that the peace, love, and mercy initiative came from God, and that he sacrificed himself to save people from his wrath.
Take the grace exit
As we journey on the freeway of life, some road signs warn us of encountering God’s wrath if we drive on ahead and other signs implore us to turn onto an access road to a land called “grace.” Paul tells us about it in verses 1 and 2. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”
If you haven’t yet taken the grace exit, I suggest you do so now. You will turn from certain judgment ahead and take your stand on the solid ground of peace with God and hope of the glory of God. The only requirement is faith.
Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4–5)
My fellow man, if you are still ungodly, yet you have been prospered by your God, understand clearly the Lord’s intention in your prosperity—“The goodness of God leads you to repentance.” You must not be so unwise, you must not be so wicked as to say, “I am prospering although I am living in sin and, therefore, I will continue to do so.” (Charles Spurgeon, November 12, 1903)