About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Godís Wrath Against Mankind (ch. 1:18-32)

 

We ended the last section with verse 17, which is one great and historic verse.  "The gospel of righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith.Ē  According to Paulís thinking, we are not only saved by faith, but we live by faith as well.  This means that we donít get saved by good works, and we donít stay saved by doing good works.  We stay saved by our faith, and nothing else, and remember, faith is trusting your life with Jesus every day.        

 

I emphasize trusting your life with Jesus and not just your salvation, or, your entrance in heaven with Jesus.  This second aspect is very much the predominant way of thinking among Evangelicals these days.  I say trust your life with Jesus because when we come to Him in salvation, we come to the Lord of all there is.  I grew up being taught that you first receive Jesus as Christ or Saviour then you receive Him as Lord at some future date.  That is not Biblical.  From the very beginning you hand your life over to Him because He is Lord who has become your Saviour.  Thus, we trust Jesus with our whole lives and not just our salvation.  

 

Paul now makes a very abrupt change in what he says.  From talking about the revelation of righteousness by faith, he now introduces the revelation of the wrath of God on those who suppress the truth of God.     

 

Romans 1:18 states that "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth Ö"  In Greek grammar, the words "is being revealed" are a present passive indicative verb.  There are a couple of things I'd like to point out about the verb tense here.  First of all, the NIV as well as the Greek state that the wrath of God "is being revealed", as in the present tense. It's not the past tense or the future tense.   To me, this suggests that as Paul was writing these words God's wrath was being revealed upon the pagans in the Roman Empire of his day.  Not all translations say that the wrath of God "is being" revealed.  Many say that the wrath of God "is revealed".  In my thinking this makes all the difference.  Without the word "being" in the phrase we understand that God's wrath is revealed at any time when men suppress the truth, no matter the era.  When the word "being" is inserted, that suggests that God's wrath was being revealed as Paul wrote these words.  If that were to be true, then we should be able to see how God's wrath was demonstrated in history at that precise moment.  I just don't know what that looked liked in Paul's day.

 

The fact that the phrase "is being revealed", or, "is revealed' is a present indicative verb means that the revealing of God's wrath is in the present tense and is a certainty.  That suggests to me that when men suppress the truth of God, God's wrath will be revealed in some way as they are suppressing the truth.    We should note here that God's wrath is only on those who suppress the truth.  It's not revealed to those who don't suppress the truth.                       

 

The word "revealed" is translated from the Greek word "apokalypto" which means to "make known or to uncover".   It's the same Greek word we see in the book of Revelation.  God's wrath is made known to those who suppress His existence. What God's wrath looks like in any given era may vary from era to era.  During Noah's day, God's wrath was quite severe.       

 

Bible students are divided whether Paul had his day in mind when he spoke of the wrath of God or if he had all generations of mankind in mind.  I'm not sure we can read into Paul's mind, other than to say, Paul does speak of creation and therefore, it's quite possible that he had all generations of mankind in mind, or, maybe he had both in mind.  Whatever the case, I believe what Paul is saying in this part of Romans applies to all ages, both past, present, and future.

 

Theologians have termed this present age in which we live as the "age of God's grace".  Although God's grace is available for us upon repentance and trust in Him, He has not laid aside His standards of justice.  That's why we still must repent of our sin.  In Romans 1:18 and following, Paul says that men suppresses the truth that God is the Creator of all things.  Such suppression of truth leads men to do as they please because they think they have no greater authority than themselves.  For this reason, even in the age of grace, God's wrath can be directed towards those He considers as wicked. 

 

In Biblical terms there is a difference between wrath and anger.  You might say that anger is a softer form of wrath.  Wrath is an uncontrollable explosion of anger.  It is as if God's anger can no longer be restrained and it explodes into wrath.  The wrath of God is seen in its full intensity in the book of Revelation at the end of this age, but, Paul says here in verse 18 that it can also be seen at this present time. 

 

I believe that the fall of nations and empires is an expression of the wrath of God.  I believe the fall of men is an expression of the wrath of God.  I believe disasters, whether on a national level or a personal level is an expression of the wrath of God.  That being said, I believe these actions of wrath don't come close to the wrath of God that is seen in the book of Revelation that appears in history at the end of this age.  Therefore, it might be possible that God's wrath as seen in the fall of nations might actually be a demonstration of His anger and not His wrath.  It's hard to know for sure since we really can't see into the mind of God in some of these matters.   

 

It is important to understand that there is a difference between God pouring out his wrath on the wicked and God disciplining His people.  God's people experience discipline from a loving God.  The wicked experience wrath from and angry God.  God's people do not, or will not experience God's wrath.  See 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9.        

 

Paul points out how man has suppressed the truth that God is the Creator of all things.  Paul says in verse 18 that men knew God is Creator but now hides this fact.  In verse 21 he says that we "knew God" but now "we don't glorify Him as God".  In verse 25 he states, "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie Ö and serve created things rather than the Creator".  Finally, in verse 28 he says that men no longer "think it is worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God".  That should hit home with us who live in the western world today because that is exactly what we have done. 

 

Much of our society in the west has been built on the acknowledgment that the God of the Bible created all things and therefore we are ultimately subject to Him.  Thanks to Charles Darwin, and liberal theologians of the 1800's who removed all supernatural content from the Bible, the west has slowly removed the knowledge of God from life and society. We've exchanged the truth of Creation for the lie of evolution. 

 

Verses 19 and 20 simply state that the revelation of God, who He is, and, His existence should be clearly seen in creation.  Therefore man has no excuse but not to believe in the existence of God.  At this point Paul is not talking about the existence of Jesus.  He's talking about God and how creation reveals His existence. 

 

Bible teachers often point out that the revelation of God can be seen in three progressive aspects.  The first one is what we see here.  God is revealed in creation.  The second way God is revealed to man is through their conscience, that unless is totally destroyed, tells us what is right and what is wrong.  The third form of revelation is through the Holy Spirit. 

 

Verse 21 alludes to the second form of revelation.  Paul said that man knew God existed in his thinking, or, in his conscience, but, man chose in his foolish thinking to ignore what he knew.  The descendents of Adam and Eve knew that God existed.  Somewhere along the line they distorted the very nature of God and turned to polytheistic paganism.  I'm sure that the devil had influenced man in this direction, but from what Paul says here, it was man's choice, just as it was Adam and Eve's choice to disobey God.  Thus, the wrath of God was poured out on humanity which was seen in the flood in Noah's day. 

 

Note in verse 21 that man's thinking became
futile and his heart was darkened.  I think it is important that prior to a darken heart the mind has become a place of futile thinking.  This shows us the importance of thinking right, which in these days, both within Christian circles and without, is not a priority for us in the western world.

 

Verse 22 is simple.  Man claimed to be
wise when in fact they were fools.  Nothing has changed.  Man's wisdom is still foolishness in the eyes of God. This foolishness is seen in verse 23.  Though man knew who God was, he chose to make idols of animals, birds, and humans, to worship.  When you think of it for a while, you must conclude that these men really were fools.  Why would anyone create a wooden idol to worship as if the idol were God when he knew God existed in the heavenly realm? It is for this reason why God commanded Israel not to make any graven image (Exodus 20:4).  Such images were associated with pagan god worship.                     

 

Because men have not retained the knowledge of God as Creator as seen in verses 24, 26, and 28, God "gives men over" to the sinful lifestyle they have chosen for themselves.  Simply put, God steps back from us, and with hands raised in resignation, says, "If that's how you want to live, go ahead, just beware of the consequences". 

 

We should note the past tense in verse 24.  It states that God "gave" them over to their sinful desires.  Paul probably had pre-flood men in mind here.  Paul speaks of one particular sin that God handed men over to after they had rejected God to follow their own lusts.  Verses 24 to 27 state this sin to be homosexuality.  I know it's not socially correct to point this out, but that's what this passage states.  I merely repeat the Biblical stance on the issue.  At creation, God created male and female as seen in Genesis 1:27.  "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his (female) wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).  From creation, God's intent for a man and a woman is to be married to one another.  Anything beyond this is a perversion of God's will.  

 

Darwin, liberal theologians, and others, began the slide away from retaining God as Creator in their thinking in the 19th century.  This process continued in all areas of life in the 20th century and now into the 21st century.  In government, law, education, finance, and the rest of life, we have progressively and systematically removed the knowledge of God as Creator from our communal consciousness.  Paul was right.  The rise of the homosexual life style follows the acceptance of the lie of evolution.  That seems quite evident to me. 

 

In verse 24 Paul says that homosexuality is degrading to the bodies that God created for us.  Christians should take this stand today.  In my thinking, homosexuality is one of the most divisive issues in western society today and that includes the western church.  Churches have been split over this very issue. 

 

In the context of sexual perversion, in verse 25, Paul speaks about the worship of the created instead of the Creator.  This is very true today.  As the saying goes, "sex sells".  Much of our present western culture revolves around sex.  The female body is getting to the place where it's almost being worshipped these days.  As the end of this age draws closer, I believe past pagan sexual practices will become common place.  It's beginning to happen now.  In centuries past, pagan religions incorporated sex into their worship.  In Paul's days the pagan temples were occupied by both men and women prostitutes because temple prostitution was just a part of their religious worship.

 

In verse 26 we note that it wasn't just men who had engaged in homosexual sex.  Women did as well.  The pre-flood generations were very sexually sinful.  Of course, Sodom and Gomorrah were just as sinful and they were judged for it.  Immorality is one reason why God judges a society. 

 

Verse 27 speaks of male homosexuality.  The controversial part of this verse is that Paul says that these men received in themselves the penalty due to their perversion.  As far as I'm concerned at the moment, it is questionable just what penalty Paul had in mind.  Some use this verse to say that AIDS is God's judgment on men who are homosexual.  I'm not convinced we can use Paul's words in defense of that point.      

 

From the rise of the homosexual lifestyle other sins have become part of the western experience.  Paul lists a few in verse 29.  The first two he mentions are greed and depravity.  Was it really the falling house prices that caused the great recession of 2008, or was it pure greed found in the depraved minds of those who sat in their luxurious financial office towers? 

 

Paul adds more sins to this list in verses 29 through 31.  They are; envy, murder, strife, deceitfulness, malice, gossip, slandering, God hating, insolent, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedient to parents, senselessness, (I find that one interesting) faithlessness, heartlessness, and ruthlessness.  I think I can safely say that I recognize those trends in the western world today.  

 

Paul ends Romans 1 in verse 32 with a very relevant statement.  He says, "They not only continue to do these things (above sins) but also approve of those who practice them".  If that's not relevant, I don't know what is.  People have always committed the sins Paul lists, but now, we not only commit these sins, we approve of them by passing laws that legalize and encourage these sins.  Of course, our society doesn't recognize such sins as homosexuality to be sin as it once did.  That's just the result when you don't retain God in your cultural thinking.   

 

So what comes next?  I simply quote the verse I started with.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven."  God has shut down nations and civilizations before.  I'm sure He's not afraid to do it again for those on the road to wrath.

 

In my thinking, in recent years we have failed to preach the wrath of God.  In this Biblically illiterate world how will people know that they are under Godís wrath if we donít tell them?  I know our failure to preach God being angry may be due to an over emphasis in times past, but we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. Besides, the more we understand the wrath of God, the more we will appreciate His love and mercy He has for us.  

 

One of the main points to this section of Romans is the fact that God hands a society, a nation, or, an empire, over to the sins of their choice.  It's my thinking that once this happens, the society actually becomes the sin of choice.  This is why I see our western nations becoming nations of homosexuals.  We're no longer nations that support and condone homosexuality; we are becoming nations of homosexuals.  We actually become what we lust after. 

 

We can't be certain just when God steps back from a society and hands that society over to their sins, but once He does, we do know that judgment comes next and that society will fall.  If God hasn't yet handed the western world over to our sin, we must be getting pretty close to the day when He does.  I would not be surprised if He hasn't already handed us over to our sin.  If that is so, we can expect judgment to come to the western nations in which we live.  When that day comes, we should know that all people in the fallen nation will suffer, including Christians.  You may struggle with that, but did God keep Christians wealthy during the 1930's depression.  No, Christians suffered along with the rest of the nation.  The only difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that the Christian had Jesus to help them through the depression.


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