Introduction: Do you see my title today? The Wrath of God. Talk about how to win friends and influence people. This is not one of your run of the mill topics that get people to click on your blog and read! We’re in Romans 1.18. The flow of the message is really from v15-20, but we’ll focus our attention on v 18.
Meagan Basham has an article in World Magazine about the Marvel Comic movies that have been coming out over the last 10 years. I like the 1st Captain America movie and that’s been about it. I don’t know why… call me old school. Anyway, after 10 years, Marvel is still pumping out movies. Ms. Basham has a theory as to why these movies have really caught on: Our rejection of God has led to a longing for supernatural stories.
Hummmm… Our world has rejected our savior. Flat out: they’ve rejected God.
I believe they have rejected God because they don’t like the moral absolutes he has outlined for the world.
- For the most part the world is against killing, unless it is an unborn child in the womb.
- Leave the covet thing alone! It’s about ambition and the American Dream.
- As for immorality, well, you probably know what I’m going to say.
I think Ms. Basham is on to something with her theory. The world has rejected God and is looking for something flashy that won’t ask them to change their ways. And so they look elsewhere for their supernatural fix.
According to our text today, the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Some might say: well, that’s unfair! What about those who don’t know about God? The text goes on to say that they are without excuse, because God has made himself known to everyone. Let’s look at that text: 1:18: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
We find our context for this verse in V 15-17; rd v 15-17; So the context is the Gospel being proclaimed because it is the power of God, revealing the righteousness of God and the wrath of God.
Here is Paul’s point: he loves the good news of Jesus Christ because it leads to salvation. For in this good news the righteousness of God is revealed. You can’t be righteous on your own. God has to make you that way! And it comes through faith.
So, get this: God is righteous and he is the one who makes us righteous; Then, Paul goes into explanation mode: he tells us just why the Gospel is needed. He answers a question here: Why is the Gospel needed?
Contextually, Romans 1.18-32 would be Paul’s answer to why the Gospel is needed. I wish to only look at verse 18-20 this morning. I fully intend to finish out chapter 1 next week.
I really do!
V 18 begins with: The Wrath of God. Pretty ominous words, no? No wonder people start looking to comic book saviors. Those heroes pour out their wrath on the enemy villain without calling for change on the part of the people. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into that same trap.
t.s.: What Paul does in this verse is give us 3 aspects of God’s wrath to help us understand how and why God’s wrath is just. The 1st is…
I. The Righteousness of God’s Wrath (18a)
exp.: rd v 18a; for the wrath of God; we get our first aspect from the possessive word of; specifically, of God; θεοῦ; in the Gk, the English word of is found in the word God; It is His wrath; So, from this we can surmise that this wrath is…
1st, this wrath is divine: it isn’t to be confused with the wrath of man. They are as different as black and white, water and air, boys and girls, You cannot and must not attribute what you know of human wrath as being from God.
ill.: J. MacArthur: God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger and wrath, He would not be God, just as surely as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly hates just as He perfectly loves, perfectly loving righteousness and perfectly hating evil (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9).
app.: He is perfect in his love and perfect in his hate. I know, it sounds odd doesn’t it. But we read in Scripture that there are ‘things’ that God hates. He hates divorce. God said: I hate, I despise your feasts. He hates 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
God is divinely righteous and that makes his wrath against unrighteousness divinely perfect. That is His nature. This wrath comes from Him and rightly so;
2nd, it is deliberate: God is not passive in his aggression toward sin; what I mean by that is God isn’t just going to sit down and pout. This statement is flowing quite naturally through these previous verses; in the way v 16 – for the power of God; v 17 – for the righteousness of God; v 18 for “the wrath of God” (18a); what Paul is saying is that God is doing something about it. The Gospel is God taking action against sin.
Side note: what Paul doesn’t do here is tell us why God is taking this action. Two quick reasons: 1. Because we can’t. 2. Because only he can!
t.s.: The 2nd aspect of God’s wrath as seen in v 18b is…
II. The Revelation of God’s Wrath
exp.: rd v 18b; is revealed; Ἀποκαλύπτεται; (present passive indicative, verb 2nd singular) ”is constantly being revealed”: it isn’t like God revealed it one time and if you missed it… oh, well! It is constantly being revealed. Just what is being revealed? There are three phases to answering this question:
- His Righteousness: we see this in v 17; The righteousness of God (which we discussed last week: i.e.; he is righteous and he imputes his righteousness to us through our faith in Him); this is truly amazing! We see from the law that we are unrighteous and helpless to remove the guilt. We are impotent when it comes to removing the sin and the stain. But not him! He is active in the process of redemption.
- His Wrath: Most people love to see God as totally righteous, but they do not ever want to talk about His Wrath. These two actually work hand in hand if you think about it. Because of His Righteousness, he alone has the right to display his wrath:
There are two words for anger or wrath in the New Testament:
- Thumos (Lk 4:28; Acts 19:28); this is the anger man exhibits; God doesn’t blow his top or lose his temper;
- orgē (Lk 3:7; 21:23); Leon Morris quotes CH Dodd and says: He sees ‘wrath’ as denoting ‘some process or effect in the realm of objective facts’ rather than ‘a certain feeling or attitude of God towards us,’ God doesn’t get mad, but instead the effect of our sin puts his wrath into motion and thus ends in disaster. This is not to describe the attitude of God toward us, but to describe an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe. I honestly don’t think these guys are just explaining away the wrath of God. What they’re trying do is explain to us that God’s wrath is different than ours. Our wrath is born out of emotion and feeling. If you think about it, that is why we mess up as parents. We often times punish our children out of anger and not the unrighteous rebellion act. God’s wrath is born out of his righteousness. Our wrath is directed at a person (or possibly an object; his engine, wrench, computer, etc.). God’s wrath is directed at ungodliness and unrighteousness. We just need to understand that God’s wrath isn’t the response we have when we get mad. His response is righteous and perfect.
t.s.: now before we leave the revelation of God’s wrath, I think there is another part that Paul presents to us. At first, this was point #3 for me, but as I worked through it, I saw this section as a subsection of point #2, namely,
- The Realm from which God’s Wrath flows
exp.: ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ; from heaven; ‘from’ is a preposition which describes the source from which God’s wrath comes; this is made evident in God displaying two attributes; rd v 19-20: rd v 19; is plain to them & God has shown it to them; rd v 20; namely, these two attributes:
- His eternal Power:
- His divine Nature:
It goes on to say that they are without excuse; these are two pieces of evidence that declare He is God! His eternal power and his divine nature. And, this evidence is so overwhelming that all are without excuse in standing before him. But people will still make excuses anyway.
ill.: Excuses are amazing, aren’t they. It isn’t just the non-believing world that makes excuses. Chuck Swindoll, in his book The Tale of the Tardy Ox Cart, writes: True sports fans have an amazing ability to remember details, statistics, and a little technicality of a rule…you know, the stuff nobody really cares to hear about except another sports fan. Another characteristic of a fan is an indomitable sense of commitment or determination. Against incredible odds, sound logic and even medical advice, sports fans will persevere to the dying end!
I’ve often wondered what would happen if people were as intense and committed and determined about church as they are about sports – or a number of other pastimes. This was reinforced some years back in a Moody Monthly piece which illustrated twelve excuses a fellow might use for ‘quitting sports.’ The Analogy isn’t hard to figure out:
- Every time I went, they asked me for money.
- The people with whom I had to sit didn’t seem very friendly.
- The seats were too hard and uncomfortable.
- The coach never came to see me.
- The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.
- I was sitting with some hypocrites – they only came to see what others were wearing.
- Some games went into overtime, and I was late getting home.
- The band played numbers I had never heard before.
- The games are scheduled when I want to do other things.
- My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
- Since I read a book on sports, I feel like I know more than the coaches anyhow.
- I don’t want to take my children, because I want them to choose for themselves what sports they like best.
app.: We are a people of excuses for everything. Well, as for God’s existence and his work, people are without excuse. It doesn’t mean they won’t try to find or use some excuse.
Listen, God doesn’t judge unfairly. He doesn’t pick on the ignorant. Rd v 20; really, this seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t? How can it be invisible if it is seen? How can it be hidden, if it is evidence? But that is his point: it is evident, it is seeable, but many refuse. And that is on them. Therefore, there is no excuse.
ill.: Last Sunday night on 60 minutes there was a report on the Hubble Telescope. One of the reports was about a spot near the Big Dipper where no light had ever been seen. When I heard the report, I remembered as a young man someone talking about this dark hole and making a comment that that hole was the passage to heaven. Basically, before the Hubble telescope, there was a deep dark hole where – what looks like forever – there are no stars. Hubble was positioned to peer into that dark spot in the universe and after several days, was able to see 1,000’s of Galaxies. 1,000’s! That is truly amazing. We as humans had no idea it was out there, but when we took the time to gaze upon that area – the lights began to shine through.
app.: what was invisible was revealed. It was there all along; we just weren’t looking hard enough. It had to take time for the protons to develop on the lenses for those Galaxies to be revealed. God’s unseen attributes are perceivable if we’ll just take the time to look… to gaze upon.
t.s.: Earlier I said: His response is righteous and perfect. All who are ungodly and unrighteous deserve the wrath of God. And a natural flow would have been to go right to the recipients, which is our 3rd aspect… Paul does that now…
III. The Recipients of God’s Wrath
exp.: God’s Wrath will be poured out on or upon… ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν (ungodliness) καὶ ἀδικίαν (unrighteous) ἀνθρώπων (of men);
Don’t miss this: this ain’t about the apple! God was not mad at Adam and Eve because they ate the fruit from His tree. I told you kids to stay out of my Garden! It wasn’t the apple (or whatever fruit it was) that God prized. It was the obedience he wanted. It was the rebellion that brought the punishment. God’s wrath isn’t poured out on bad men, but on all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
C Hodge takes these two terms to be impiety toward God and unjustness toward humanity; Leon Morris says that Paul places emphasis on two areas: idolatry and immorality; and that makes sense as you figure out the context below. Both take the view or the perspective of these two actions being the vertical and horizontal relationships. But here is the point: the ungodly and the unrighteous people of the world (toward God and/or toward men) are without excuse in their actions.
ill.: If you think about it deeply, you’ll notice that this is the sum of the law: to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And, the 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself. If you review the 10 commandments, you’ll see that the 1st part deals with your relationship with God and the 2nd part is your relationship with your neighbor. Horizontal, Vertical.
app.: The Righteousness of God’s Wrath; The Revelation of God’s Wrath; The Recipients of God’s Wrath
Conclusion: I mentioned earlier that Paul is answering an unasked question: Why is the Gospel needed?
This past week the magazine GQ published an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. He was asked in an interview a simple, straightforward, 4-word question about Gay Marriage. Basically, the Archbishop hem-hawed around and told the man how he felt, but he just could never give a straight answer. What makes this so bad is that the article begins with the following description:
In a time of deep spiritual turmoil – from seemingly ceaseless terrorist attacks to the tragically handled refugee crisis – the leader of the Church of England Archbishop Justin Welby has managed to keep the faith. Politically astute, compassionate and candid, he gives us the gospel truth on Brexit, gay marriage and how he feels about planning for the Queen’s Funeral.
The Gospel Truth? Really? The Archbishop of Canterbury, basically the pope for the Episcopal denomination, couldn’t give a straightforward, Biblical answer for what is sinful. He didn’t want to be judgmental and condemning.
Our text today clarifies for us that judging isn’t our job – it’s God’s job! He is the one who outlines for us what is righteous and unrighteous – what is godly and ungodly. The question posed to the Archbishop was the wrong question or the answer the Archbishop gave was the wrong answer. The Archbishop should have clarified and asked: do you want to know how I feel or what the Bible says? You see, those are two very different answers.
The Journalist’s question to the Archbishop is very much like the interview that took place in the garden. Picture the serpent with his iPhone recording the conversation: Eve, Eve, Eve! Yes, ma’am. Thank you for taking my question. Did God really say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” You see, the journalist is really asking the wrong question. Just like Satan did.
Application: here’s what I want you to take home with you today:
- Satan wants to make it about the fruit. God wants to make it about the heart. That’s why the Gospel is needed…
If you make it all about the fruit, you can then focus on legalism, rules and regulations. But God makes it all about the heart – and that’s why you and I need a savior. Otherwise, any comic book hero will do.