This study is based upon the New City Catechism.

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For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:5-6)

Exposition

It is one thing to recognize the sin which so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1-3), to admit we are lawless pagans and disobedient idolaters. However, it is quite another thing to see what shall come from our sin, the necessary consequence of it. The matter concerns God, for as God He must decide what to do with us. How will God respond to our sin? We will use Ephesians 5:5-6 as a guide to answering this question.

First, notice the reality of God’s wrath. Wrath is God’s response to sin. This is implied negatively in verse 5, where sinners have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” God is the One Who makes this decision. The explicit, positive statement is found in verse 6: “because of these things the wrath of God comes.” This is not hyperbole or satire – nor is it apocalyptic, in the case of describing something with fantastic language. God really does have wrath, and He really does manifest this wrath in time and space.

This is important to clarify, because many people cannot stand the thought of God being angry. That He would have dispositions for anything but our prosperity seems vulgar and heinous to such people – such people, coincidently, in whose best interest God’s wrath be fictional. Many favor a God Who accepts sinners “just as you are.” We reply to these unholy ambitions with the mind of God as revealed in Scripture, that God only accepts sinners “just as Christ is” (2 Corinthians 5:21)[1] and with the promise of ridding them of the sin that provokes His righteous indignation.

Second, notice the object of God’s wrath. “The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6, emphasis mine). The recipients of God’s wrath are those who have transgressed His law – the immoral idolaters of verse 5.[2] It is common to say, “God will punish sin.” This is true, but not in a literal sense. Literally, sin cannot be punished, because sin is an abstract, convenient designator, meant to refer to acts of transgression which creatures commit against God. In reality, sinners, not sin, will be punished, and they will be punished on account of their sin.

God will not throw disobedience into Hell, He will throw the disobedient. He will not throw homosexuality into Hell, he will throw homosexuals. If that last example strikes you as insensitive, then I am glad – there is nothing sensitive or subtle about the holy wrath of God that is due for those persons who stand before Him dressed only in their filthy rags of “good deeds.” If God’s grace is for people, then God’s wrath must be for people. Therefore, any preacher who is unwilling to speak of God’s wrath in such personal terms has no right to speak of God’s wrath in like manner. Let us acknowledge and take-to-heart the truth that sinners are the objects of God’s wrath.

Third, notice the reasonableness of God’s wrath. “Because of these things the wrath of God comes” (v.6). It is on account of “these things” (i.e. sin [v.5]) that God’s wrath comes (v.6). Sin is the reason for God’s wrath, and it is a reasonable excuse. No one who comprehends the heinous crimes of disobedience and idolatry can honestly accuse God of overreaction, of using excessive force, of going “too far,” when He pours out His wrath upon sinners. God’s chosen course is justifiable.

That men would even question the reasonableness of God’s wrath is ridiculous, because the true question is not the righteousness of God’s wrath, but the righteousness of His grace. God is just to condemn, but how is He just to justify? God is good to unleash the hounds of Heaven upon criminals, but how is God good to loose Heavenly blessings on those same criminals? Spurgeon once received the complaint, “I cannot understand why God should say that He hated Esau,” speaking of Romans 9:13. The Prince of Preachers replied, “That is not my difficulty, madam. My trouble is to understand how God could love Jacob.”


Question: Will God allow our disobedience and idolatry to go unpunished?
Answer: No, God is righteously angry with our sins and will punish them both in this life, and in the life to come.


[1] That is, in the context of Christ’s perfect life and death on their behalf.

[2] Meaning that those who have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (v.5) are an equivalent group to “the sons of disobedience” (v.6).

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