This morning, during my devotionals I was struck by the following passage (Isaiah 27:2-5 ESV):
In that day,
“A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
I, the Lord, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
Lest anyone punish it,
I keep it night and day;
I have no wrath.
Would that I had thorns and briers to battle!
I would march against them,
I would burn them up together.
Or let them lay hold of my protection,
let them make peace with me,
let them make peace with me.”
A striking point is the first phrase of verse four, “I have no wrath.” One part of Jesus earthly ministry and his sacrifice upon the cross was propitiation. “He is the propitiation for our sins, …” 1 John 2:2a ESV. Upon the cross, Jesus took the full wrath of God, poured out upon sin. This offering turned God’s wrath to favor (the meaning of propitiation) on our behalf. Now tie this to Isaiah and the idea of God planting a pleasant vineyard to keep and in which he will have no wrath. The vineyard is symbolic of the covenant people of God (Israel in the OT and the Church in the NT). We are the divinely planted vineyard which God prunes and tends. He is the keeper of the vineyard. Jesus used this imagery throughout his ministry. Within his vineyard there is no longer any wrath of God—none, nada, zip. All of his wrath was poured out upon Christ and turned to favor. Nothing he does within his Church (his covenant people) is a result of wrath. All of his actions in the church are love-inspired tending of the vineyard—discipline, correction and improvement. His wrath is never poured out upon us.
God expands upon this though by having Isaiah go on to write “If only I had briars to march against and burn up” (my paraphrase). This seems as if he is wishing to have, within the church, those upon which he could pour out his wrath. However, this actually supports the contention that God has no wrath. It tells us there is no one within the covenant people, his vineyard (the Church) for him to pour his wrath upon. Of course, this is because of the propitiation of Christ. We see this in verse five: let them lay hold of my protection. We, by coming to Christ and receiving his salvation have sought the protection of God. We may not be perfect, but he never will again look upon us in wrath.
Now, let us keep this in mind when dealing with our own sins and the sins of others. When I sin, nothing God does to me will be an act of wrath. He may pour out great suffering and allow great harm to come to my person as a result of his sin, but such has nothing to do with wrath. It is a loving act of discipline and correction. When others sin, I must remember that nothing I do should be seen as permitted as part of unleashing holy wrath upon the sinner. There is no wrath for God to unleash, so he could never inspire me as an agent of wrath against one of his people, no matter the sin. I may be used as an agent of his discipline and correction, but this is always part of God’s favor, not wrath.