We will start with Romans 1:18 – “For the wrath of God” – wait, we are going to look at a couple of other verses first…
First we find God’s righteousness in Romans 1:17:
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, But the righteous man shall live by faith.
Then let’s skip over this section on the wrath of God and sin and go to Romans 3:21 where we find God’s righteousness again:
But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.
On either side of this section on sin is the righteousness of God revealed through faith in Jesus Christ.
It bookends this section from Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20, in which Paul discusses the wrath of God, the seriousness of sin, and the universality of sin –whether we are pagan (Romans 1:18-32), moralists (Romans 2:1-16) or Jews (Romans 2:17-8) – we are all sinners (Romans 3:9-29).
It’s not a pretty section of Scripture and can be summed up in Romans 3:10 – There is none righteous, not even one.
In the middle of that section about our sin, Paul questions, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?
God is righteous, and only God is righteous.
In John 17, Jesus prays to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane: “O Righteous Father”
Moses says of God in Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all his ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright.”
Vine’s Dictionary describes God’s righteousness as the perfect agreement between His nature and His acts (which are the standard for all men).
One definition of righteousness is “the character and quality of being right or just.” Another definition is “right standing with God.”
Understanding God’s character as righteous and just is essential – actually mandatory – before you can understand God’s wrath.
You hear it all the time: why does God let bad things happen? Why would God allow so many people to be killed in the Old Testament? Is God fair? Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?
Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that justice is not an optional product of God’s will, but an unchangeable principle of His very nature. Meaning his demand for justice is not arbitrary, dependent on what man does, or changeable – just like His love. God is love, yet God is righteous and demands justice.
We look at the Wrath of God in our study and we have to know that God is righteous and He is just. His wrath is not unreasonable, unfair, or even unexpected. God would not expend His wrath unless it is the right and just thing to do.
In Revelation, during the Great Tribulation, when the seven bowls are poured onto the earth. Rev. 16:5, “I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
Sores on men, water turned to blood, heat, darkness, drought, pain.
Yet the angel of the waters says: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things.
God’s righteousness is connected to his judgment of evil and sin. God is holy and perfect and good and loving. Sin has no place in his kingdom. Sin cannot even be near God’s holiness. For God to remain holy and perfect and good and loving, sin has to be judged, has to be dealt with, cannot be around God. God must judge sin if He is to remain good. It is like oil and water – they cannot and will not ever mix.
Psalm 199:137 tells us Righteous are you O Lord, and upright are your judgments.
So, the Bible has many examples of God’s judgments – and His mercy.
Peter in his second letter mentions several of them: 2 Peter 2:4-10
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes; having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
God is right and just to punish ungodliness, yet God also shows eternal love and mercy. So with His judgment comes mercy.
Psalm 89:14 explains, Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, Mercy and truth go before Your face.
When Moses rewrote the 10 commandments on the tablets of stone (after throwing down the first set in anger because the children of Israel were worshipping a golden calf), the Lord passed by in front of Moses and described Himself like this in Exodus 34:6:
“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
We have a righteous God who will judge sin, yet only paired with truth and mercy.
So going back to Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Chuck Smith pointed out that the first four commandments deal with ungodliness:
You shall have no other gods before me; You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain; You shall not make a carved image of anything on earth and bow down to it; You shall keep the Sabbath holy.
The last six commandments deal with unrighteousness – don’t lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, covet , or dishonor your father and mother.
Only God can look into a person’s heart, so only God has the ability to judge rightly and then to extend mercy. The Creator God, who designed each individual in love, isn’t into judging. He desperately wants to be known by you; He wants a relationship with you; He designed the entire universe so those who are seeking a relationship with God will find it!
Romans 1:19 – for that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The precision of the earth – where it is located in the universe, the exact tilt of its rotation, the ratio of nitrogen to oxygen in our air – all are so precise that we could not survive on earth except for each one lining up perfectly.
Psalm 19 makes it clear: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
Creation all around us tells us of God’s glory and handiwork.
Chuck Smith says the moral downward spiral that we are observing in our society is concurrent with the teaching of evolution, the denial of the existence of God. Trying to understand our universe apart from God. And the result of man wanting to rule God out of his mind and out of the thinking processes is that God gives man over to a mind in which he can go ahead and sink into the filthiness of his own heart.
Romans 1:21-23: For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Do you see how important it is to honor Him as God and give thanks?! When we question God’s goodness or ways and when we complain instead of giving thanks, we might as well become fools too. Maybe we are not creating idols or worshipping false images, but we are showing that we really don’t know God and we become futile in our speculations.
One of the first verses God gave me when the cancer returned is I Thess. 5:17 – rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all things for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.
Be different than the world in its futile speculation – be thankful always, honoring God by thanking Him in all things. I just read “A Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. Angry at God, she began writing down 1,000 things she was thankful for and it changed her entire perspective of God’s character and her relationship with God.
This begins a passage where Paul describes the sin and corruption of the pagan world with an amazing directness – so direct that 19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon thought this passage unfit for public reading. “This first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a dreadful portion of the Word of God. I should hardly like to read it all through aloud; it is not intended to be so used. Read it at home, and be startled at the awful vices of the Gentile world.” (Spurgeon)
Romans 1:24-27: Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the penalty of their error.
Lev 18:22 NKJV] ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It [is] an abomination.
Abomination – disgusting thing, an abhorrence
Before you go off on homosexuality being an abomination to God, ask yourself what else is an abomination to the Lord?
According to the Bible, baby sacrifice, bestiality, idols, coveting money, sacrificing an animal on the altar that has a defect, cross dressing, false gods, dishonesty, perverse person, a hypocrite bringing a sacrifice to God but not worshipping God
[Pro 6:16 NKJV] These six [things] the LORD hates, Yes, seven [are] an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness [who] speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
The main abomination you see God judging in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah is worship of abominable idols – turning away from God, leaving the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me.
Rejecting God is an abomination.
[Pro 28:9 NKJV] One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer [is] an abomination.
We may not be gay, but can any of us say we have never rejected God? Can any of us say we have never turned our ear away from hearing the law? Have we ever had a lying tongue, or sowed discord among brethren?
Sin is an abomination to God. The small sin of lying and the big sin of homosexuality weigh the same to the Lord – they are equal – both will keep you from a relationship with a holy God.
Do not judge gay people and believe that you are superior to them, you have your own sin, your own plank in your eye. Jesus said, Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. Next week in Romans 2, Paul tells us the same thing.
In the next few verses, we see that God gave them over to their sin, but please listen and tell me that we do not have this sin in us as well. Anyone gossip? Anyone disobedient to parents? Unloving, unmerciful?
Romans 1:28-32: And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with al unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
In Jeremiah 32, the attacking Babylonians are at the walls of Jerusalem, putting God’s city under siege, which would cause starvation, even cannibalism, and when the gates are finally breached, the Jews would go into 70 years of slavery in Babylon. But listen to God’s heart as he tells Jeremiah that he is about to give this city over to Nebuchadnezzar:
Indeed this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My wrath from the day that they built it…..
They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction.
God tried and tried, before His wrath was spent on Jerusalem.
Instead of listening to him, the Jews put foreign idols in the temple and sacrificed their sons and daughters to Molech, so God gave the city over to the Babylonians for famine and pestilence.
He tried to teach them, but they turned their back to their Creator.
We are doing the same thing today in America, Europe, across the world. We do detestable abominations and turn our back on God. We can be sure judgment is coming. The Day of Wrath for our world is nearing.
Yet, even before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC was complete, God promised to restore. As I read his promise, put your own name in the blank because you are a sinner, too, and didn’t God do this for you?
“Behold, I will bring to____________ health and healing, and I will heal _________; and I will reveal to __________ an abundance of peace and truth. I will restore the fortunes of _________ and the fortunes of ________ and will rebuild __________ as they were at first. I will cleanse __________ from their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me and I will pardon all their iniquities by which _________ have sinned against Me and transgressed against Me. __________ shall be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which shall hear of the good I shall do for __________, and they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for __________.
The wrath of God is always to used to restore those who will repent and turn back to the Lord. It was so in Jeremiah’s day, Paul’s day and it will be in the tribulation to come. God’s wrath is always wrapped in God’s mercy as we saw with Noah and Lot before.
Yet there is one day when God’s wrath was fully directed, fully spent on one man, and without mercy.
Jesus called to God from the cross, seeking mercy, with his hands nailed to the beams, dragging the weight of his body down so he could not breathe, unless he pushed up in excruciating pain on the feet nailed to the beam.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Isaiah 53 says, Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of all to fall on Him.
In that day of God’s wrath, when sin had to be punished, when God’s wrath had to be appeased in order for God to be justice, Jesus called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Father turned His back on His Son, because God is righteous and He is just and He is truth and He is mercy. Sin – the sin of each one of us – had to be paid for and the punishment is death.
Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
And this sacrifice on the cross, what does it do for the person who puts her faith in Jesus Christ?
2 Cor. 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The righteousness of God – in us!