Trinity 11 “God’s anger against you, and how it is turned away”
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 18:9-14
August 19, 2012
“God’s Wrath Against You and How it is Turned Away”
Dearly beloved in Christ:
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Does God still get angry and punish people, or cities, or churches, or whole countries? Or was that just in the Old Testament?
And if God still does get angry and punish people—not only in hell, but also here in time—what turns His anger away?
And finally: is He angry with you? Or is He at peace with you? What should you do if God is angry with you?
Jesus addresses these questions in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. St. Luke is very clear about why Jesus told this parable and who He wanted to hear it. He told it particularly to “people who were confident in themselves that they were righteous.” And then He tells us plainly what the parable means. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
That’s the kind of thing Jesus says that makes everyone like Him. How many people, even today, as Christian America dies—how many people speak evil of Jesus? They don’t. They criticize Christians, the church throughout history, organized religion, preachers. But seldom Jesus.
Why? Because it’s hard not to appreciate it when Jesus points out how people who think they are righteous are condemned, but the sinners and outcasts are accepted by God. We all know lots of people who judge us, or think they’re better than us, and we don’t like them. Jesus shows us here that His Father is merciful to sinners. We hear him criticize people we don’t like, and tell us that God accepts us even though we are not perfect. It’s hard to have a problem with that message.
However, it’s easy for us to be a little off in our interpretation of this passage. Jesus told this parable to “those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”
More than you might like to admit, Jesus may be addressing you.
Don’t you despise others? Don’t you, privately, sometimes, or often, feel contempt for others? It may be that you despise bad Christians, or non-Christians, for gross immorality, or for lack of commitment to Christ and His Word.
Or maybe you despise those you consider Pharisees. Those who seem self-righteous to you, judgmental of you or others. That’s probably more common today, especially outside the church.
And trusting that we’re righteous? That’s us more often than we care to admit. Americans are divided today about morality. But one thing all Americans agree on—young and old, republican and democrat—we all tend to think it’s important to be a good person. We all tend to get upset with people who step outside the boundaries of “being a good person.” We just don’t agree anymore on what a good person is.
Some think you’re a good person as long as you stand for traditional family values, self-reliance, hard work. Others think a good person is one who stands for equality—who is against what they see as oppression or discrimination—against poor people, women, people of color, homosexuals, the environment. But a lot of Americans, if not most, get riled up about people refusing to follow their definition of “being a good person.”
Today Jesus tells us who God is “riled up with”, who God is angry with, and who His anger turns away from. It’s funny, because nowhere in these verses do we see the phrase “God’s wrath” or “God’s anger.” Yet it’s there. He tells the story of 2 men who go into the temple to pray. One goes home “justified”—that is, declared righteous in God’s sight. The other went home—“not justified”, which means—still guilty, still under the wrath of God. Just as today everyone who sits here will go home either “justified” or “not justified,” either forgiven their sins, or still under God’s wrath, with Him personally angry at them.
You see, the temple was not just a worship space; it was where God was present. So to go into His temple was not just a worship experience; it was also like entering a judgment hall. The Jews understood that God was righteous, and that as a result He hated unrighteousness. And though God is merciful and patient and restrains His anger, He also punishes those who sin when they do not repent. He is personally angry with them, and punishes them personally.
The Jews also understood that God’s presence was a gift, but also quite dangerous. People who came into God’s presence and provoked His wrath often died. Thus Isaiah cried out in fear when He saw God and the seraphim flying around Him singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of Sabaoth!” “Woe is me,” Isaiah said, “for I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord of Hosts!” He feared death. And others did die—the sons of Aaron who offered strange fire instead of the incense God gave–and Aaron was forbidden to mourn for them! Uzzah, who touched the ark of the covenant, God’s dwelling place on earth, when he did not have authorization.
To understand Christianity at all, we must begin by knowing that God is righteous. And since He is righteous He hates sin. And that means He is provoked by it, and He pours out His anger in eternity but also in time on rebellious sinners—individuals, churches, nations.
You should know that if you are a sinner, and you do not believe in Jesus Christ, but trust in your own righteousness or some good work or another mediator, the wrath of God remains on you. God’s wrath is not a general thing, just as His grace and love toward those who belong to Christ is not general. It is specific. If you believe in Christ, God’s love for you is personal and specific. If you trust in some other redeemer, God’s wrath is specific. He is angry at you personally. He is against those who reject His Son.
The fear of God is not evident in the way we approach God in church anymore. We act as if God’s not here, or as if God is as harmless as Jiminy Cricket. Reverence is not apparent in the way we approach church. This is not only a problem for those churches with snack bars outside the auditorium. Not reverence, not humility, not shamefacedness, but arrogance and defiance characterizes so many people who consider themselves good Christians. Yet they come to church dressed sloppily and behaving with contempt and arrogance as though they don’t believe that the same God who killed the sons of Aaron is here. Like those boys they forget where they are–who it is we are coming to worship: “Let us worship acceptably with reverence, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews)
They come to receive the holy body and blood of the Son of God which was given and shed for us—they come to receive Christ’s body and blood into their mouths while chewing gum.
And the pastor is supposed to be careful how he speaks to them about it!
+A common illusion is to think that God is not angry with you as long as you’re basically a good person, or
+If you are not conscious of any great sin, then God is probably not angry with you.
+It is easy for religious folk to think that God is not angry with them. They haven’t committed big sins (they think), and they perform religious duties.
+That is good. It’s wrong to think that it doesn’t matter if you’re an adulterer or just think it. It does matter that we try hard to fulfill our duties.
+But righteousness before God is much greater than that.
+Love your neighbor as yourself.
+The Pharisee says, “I’m not like other men.” I’m not greedy, don’t commit adultery…
+I tithe, I fast.
+what God actually commands is “love me with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
+God doesn’t need my fasting. He doesn’t need my tithes.
+He wants more—the undivided love and fear and trust of my heart.
+My neighbor needs my good works.
+He [my neighbor] needs me not to say: “I’m not like other men,” but instead to help him with whatever righteousness I have.
+That is what “Love your neighbor as yourself” means—my neighbor’s sins and woes are like my own, and my righteousness I treat like his. The wrath of God he has deserved I treat as mine, my righteousness I use for his gain.
+The Pharisee should have been afraid. Although he was a religious man, according to the law he was still unrighteous and still provoked God’s wrath.
+Though God didn’t say anything to his bragging, he went home NOT JUSTIFIED
+Fearfully, so do many religious people. They go on trusting not in Jesus only, but in their being basically pretty good.
+there is no fear about their sin, or awe at God’s grace.
+he who is forgiven little loves little.
+The Tax collector
+How does he act…fearful
+Be propitiated toward me, a sinner!
+He knows his only hope is if God accepts an offering for his sin.
+There were times when God was mad and said He would not forgive, not be propitious.
+ He didn’t take it for granted.
+In the Gospel, we are assured of forgiveness. Yet, should we no longer fear God’s wrath?
+Catechism—close of commandments!
+Should we not fear what made Jesus suffer wrath?
This man went home justified.
God accepts an offering and is appeased.
Actually, God prepares the offering; God presents the offering that removes sin. His own Son.
Christ’s humility of mind. He willingly accepts the shame and wrath and agony of the cross.
God applies mercy to you personally, just as His wrath is personal.
Justification—declared righteous with God’s righteousness.
The shame of setting up our own.
Sacrament of the altar, confession and absolution. Here is the personal application of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He proclaims forgiveness in response to your sins. He gives the very same body and blood that bore your sins for you to eat and drink; it is His testament which He bequeaths to you. His will was that upon His death the merit of His suffering would be credited to you, and the pledge of that, the guarantee, is the body and blood of Christ which He gives us to eat and to drink.
How faith leads to selfless love like Christ.
Conclusion: We are justified not because of anything in us, even though we strive for good works—but our justification is that God accepted a propitiation for us—only the blood of His Son.
- A Remedy for Lutheran Antinomianism: from Heshusius’ Sermon for Trinity 3 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- “The Peace of Jerusalem” Luke 19.41-48 Trinity 10 sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)