Romans 1:18-20 The Righteousness of God: His Wrath
Last updated: 14 Jul 2020 15:29
Romans 1:18–20 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The Wrath of God
When we read this passage starting at verse 18, we cannot mentally skip this section because we think it never applies to us. Let me caution you always to read it in light of the grace of God. Read this section slowly and don’t think, “This only applies to sinners.” Let this moment in the Bible examine your life and test your heart to see if you live in the right fear of the Lord, which both Psalms and Proverbs right declare the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10).
I am not here to downplay the wrath of God or soften it in any way. I cannot lead you astray. My biggest fear is that so many nominal Christians think that they are Christians because of everything they are doing and nothing by what the Bible commands us to do. That frightens me. Then because of the times we live in, teachers and pastors think that we must coddle the individual, saved or unsaved, not fear God but to love God in your way and then live a life that is in contrast to His holiness. I call this fake grace. We all inhabit given out false grace, and that is only damning millions to hell.
We love John 3:16. We know it by heart. Most people who grew up in church could quote it back to you pretty well. But not even John ends his gospel on that verse.
John 3:16 (ESV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
But I encourage you to keep reading that chapter and see how the chapter ends:
John 3:36 (ESV) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
I am not here to undo thousands of years of orthodox doctrine. Don’t hear me say anything else other than we are saved by believing in Christ who obeyed the law of God perfectly, died by absorbing the just wrath of God for all of his people perfectly, and conquered sin, Satan, demons, death, and hell by raising out of the tomb by the Spirit of God alone. All of that is true. But Christian, what makes you think that you can disobey God in one way and another, be unrepentant and believe that this does not displease God in some way. I pray that if you have sin lurking in your heart right now, God will grant you the gift of repentance and confession right now.
We are called holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). And that declaration by God might blow your mind because you and I know that neither of us is perfect. But because God is perfect and declared his people to be holy, it is true. We know that it is true because of what His Son has done by the power of His Spirit. And we know this because He promises that his people will be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
All that to say: we have all, in some way or another, suppress the truth of God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. So, as broad as I can make this without bogging down into details, here are two ways to suppress the truth of God’s righteousness and His just wrath on deserving sinners.
First, create another way to escape the wrath of God other than under the alien and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Historically speaking, it is usually the most legalistic and the most religious who cannot deal with God’s wrath, especially his just wrath on the good and moral upstanding individuals are not doing anything wrong per se but don’t believe in God. But the very words of God calls all to believe and repent. Now the irreligious and nominal will no doubt make up their ways of escaping His wrath. That is unavoidable. But why the religious and the legalistic? Because they are not trying to increase in God’s righteousness but in their self-righteousness. We might think of the Catholic or the Mormons when it comes to this. But where we see this most prevalent is in the health, wealth, prosperity gospel. How is that possible? Think about it: “Look at what I have done for God? Now God owes me this.”
Because the self-righteous is under their condemnation, they start suffering under their weight and coming up with their standards of what is good and right before God and not really according to the word of God. That becomes a line: good people over here and bad people over here. And of course, the individual will make sure that the line between heaven and hell falls in such a way that they get to go to heaven because “I might not be perfect, but I am certainly not as bad as this guy over here.”
All of that is self-righteousness, and that is an abomination to God.
Second, deny absolute truth, which in our day is to deny the truth of the Bible. This is in the form of deconstruction were because the church or the pastor did something wrong, we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater in that we are done with that church and our faith in God because we cannot believe in a God that would allow such evil to continue. But what we can’t come to grips is that we continue to do evil things in the sight of God that deserves his wrath, but then we start to believe the lies of the Accuser just as our original parents did and think, “Did God say that this was wrong?” We think things like:
- “I don’t see the word ‘homosexual’ in the Bible.”
- “I don’t think God would want me in such a loveless marriage.”
- “I have a crippling porn habit, but that is not hurting anybody, I know.”
- “I don’t hate Black people, but they get what they deserve.”
The truth is that not repenting of what God says is wrong is deserving of God’s wrath upon your life. More so, either way, falls not under the grace of God and life eternal with God himself but rather under the wrath of God.
This is righteousness: Christ is the standard. The ESV uses a contractor’s term in calling God the plumb line. To his left, the goats, the unbelievers, the workers of lawlessness. To his right, sinners saved by His grace, obedient only because the Father gave them his heart and His Spirit and trusted and believed his word, sanctified by the power of the Spirit and glorified in the end.
He is the only one to determine who wrath is stored up for and ones that He has paid the ultimate price.
How do you know what side you are on? Ask yourself this question, “Do I fear God?” Do you know that God alone determines your destiny? Do you know that you cannot hold God at will with anything that you do or didn’t do? When you think about God, do you run away from him, fearing what he might do or towards Him because He alone is the only one who can save you.
Flee to Him! Run to His arms and let Him shield you and keep you at peace.