9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
For many people, the idea of God’s wrath is not easy to accept. They write off the idea of the wrath of God as an ancient idea or myth. Some even contrast the perception of the wrathful God of the Old Testament with the compassionate Jesus of love in the New Testament. In actuality, God’s character has never changed, as He has always shown steadfast love to His people who continually sin against Him, while also taking sin seriously and acting in judgment against it and those who commit it.
In 1 Thessalonians 1, we find that the understanding of God’s wrath was an integral part of their life-changing encounter with Christ. In turning to Christ, they had turned away from idols, begun serving God only, and waiting for Jesus to return. Waiting for Jesus to return with the kind of joy the Thessalonians possessed (v. 6) necessitates a proper understanding of God’s wrath and the gift of deliverance from that wrath they had received. They did not write off the wrath of God as an inconsequential fairy tale, rather they embraced the gift of Jesus who, in taking their judgment upon Himself at the cross, saved them from that wrath.
Paul, having heard good things others had been saying about these believers in Thessalonica, wrote to encourage them to continue steadfastly in their faith. We would do well to do the same. When we understand the reality of God’s wrath toward all sin, we gratefully embrace the grace Jesus gives us. When we embrace the grace Jesus gives us, we serve God and wait for Jesus to return. When we wait for Jesus to return, having delivered us from the wrath to come, we are compelled to share the gospel message with others so that they might be delivered from wrath, too.
• Why is it actually a hindrance and not a help to those who don’t know Christ when we try to soften the impression of His anger against sin?
• Who is God calling you to share the gospel with this week? How does a right view of God’s holiness and wrath against sin give an urgency to do this?
• Thank God for the love that He has shown you in Christ by pouring His wrath out on Jesus for your sake. Confess before God the ways you have not always held a right view of His holiness and wrath.