Thursday, October 12, 2006

Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...

Paul acknowledges that God has wrath. Webster says wrath is “retributory punishment for an offense or crime; divine chastisement.” Simply put, wrath is righteous judgment, retribution, giving sinners what they deserve. Without wrath, the Gospel is meaningless. Likewise, without sin there is no need for the Gospel. Why would we need salvation if there is no such thing as God’s wrath or our sin? To be technically correct, when we are saved, we are not only saved from sin, but from the wrath of God against our sin. Paul begins here to introduce the bad news, and he takes it seriously. He will take from Romans 1:18 all the way to Romans 3:20 talking about nothing but the bad news—that we are sinners and that God has wrath that’s being revealed; there is a consequence to sin.

Men are godless and wicked. Paul says that all of mankind, who all suppress the truth, are godless and wicked—impious and immoral. There is rebellion against both God Himself and His Word. There is no respect for Him as Who He is, as to His character, nor is there reverence for His Law, the decrees He has revealed. The wrath of God is against this irreverence. Nothing is worse than irreverence toward God.

Now we as Christians are not subject to this wrath. Paul here is describing the situation for mankind before anyone has been reconciled. He is telling the believers in Rome about the wrath of God against pagans, against those who profess no faith in the True God. Throughout the New Testament Epistles, written to believers, there is acknowledgement that “once you were not a believer.” Ephesians 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature [or our flesh] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of [or as shown by] your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Thus we can say that everyone has a conversion from false faith or non-faith to true Christian faith. We have gone from objects of wrath to objects of grace; from objects of justice to objects of mercy. But Paul is taking the time to explain that once we were not believers, and even now there are many who are not believers. And that being the case, God’s wrath is upon unbelievers, and it was upon us. Paul is explaining that here.

Men suppress the truth by their wickedness. There is no such person has an atheist or agnostic. All of mankind knows the truth. We just suppress it. There was a time when we suppressed it. Indeed, we may still do so today. We might think, “Did God really say…?” There will be people who cry out “Lord, Lord!” who suppress the truth, the reality of Who God is and what He has done. They cry out to a false god, one who did not create the world and does not sustain it, one who is merciful and loving but not just, one who cannot save, or maybe one who is certain to save but will not punish or be wrathful. Thus Christ will say to them at the end, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”

There are a lot of people who think they will argue with God on the last day. They’re thinking that they’ll give Him a piece of their mind. Paul says that every mouth will be shut on that day, because there is no defense. We are created in the image of God, yet we were ungodly. We had the law of God written on our heart, yet we were unrighteous. We are in rebellion against God, everybody in the world, unless they’re in Christ Jesus. And even those in Christ were once not. Whether you like it not, that is the situation. We stand before Him without an excuse. We have nothing to say for ourselves. If you deny the bad news, the good news ceases to be good. And what’s worse, God ceases to be God. God’s justice is part of Who He is. We must worship all of God! When you pick and choose which attributes of God to cherish, you begin to cherish a false god. But although the bad news is true, we can be certain that the good news is true; God is faithful. The bad news can obviously be proven in this life; everyone knows they are imperfect. We are imperfect, and God requires perfection. That’s bad news! It’s suppressing the truth when we fail to acknowledge how bad our sin is. It’s suppressing the truth when we fail to acknowledge God’s Holiness.

The problem for the suppressors of the truth of God is not an intellectual problem, as many would claim. The problem is a moral problem. Why not murder? Because men know it’s wrong. Why not steal? Because men know it’s wrong. Morality exists, because men know the truth. Moral questions exist, because men suppress the truth. It is wickedness that causes men to suppress the truth. It is the sin nature inherited from Adam that causes people to deny the whole of truth. Some may acknowledge and even respect some aspects of the truth, but the totality of truth, the magnitude and fullness of God Himself in His glory, men deny. And the reason is a moral one—not an intellectual one.

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