The Revelation of God and His Wrath

(Rom. 1:18-23)

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)

III. God's Faithfulness To Israel in Spite of Her Temporary and Partial Rejection of Godís Righteousness in Jesus Christ (9:1-11:36)]

IV. Practical Applications of Godís Righteousness in Life (12:1-15:13)

    Complete Surrender to God (12:1-2)
    Proper Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12:3-8)
    Love for Those in the Church (12:9-13)
    Love for Persecutors (12:14-21)
    Christian Citizenship (13:1-7)
    Primacy of Love (13:8-10)
    The Nearness of the Day of the Lord Motivates Us to Live Righteously (13:11-14)
    Care for the Weaker Christian (14:1-15:13)
          (1) Grace Towards Those Who are Different From Us (14:1-12)
          (2) Love Requires Self-Limitation (14:13-23)
          (3) The Witness to the Universal Lordship of Christ at Stake (15:1-13)

General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteousness (1:18a)

It s stunning that in the earlier lessons I claimed that the gospel was only good news, not bad nor neutral news, and then, right out of the shoot, comes bad news. We must remember though that the gospel didn't create this bad news. Whether people know it or not, they are in dire straits. They may be having a great time, partying it up, but like the millionaires on the Titanic, they are headed for complete disaster if something doesn't change. The gospel didn't create this bad news, just like the news anchor didn't create the major accident he is reporting on. If something doesn't change, then this world is headed for disaster according to Paul.

Well, something has changed! The good news is that even though our situation is dire, God in Christ has done something marvelous. But first we need to come to grips with how dire our situation actually is. We need to know we need to be saved before we can be saved. This is the purpose of Rom. 1:18-3:20.

ďFor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.Ē

According to Paul in Rom. 1:18 man needs to be made right with God for what reason?

C. H. Dodd, one of the greatest British NT scholars of the 20th century, claimed that God did not personally pour out His wrath upon rebellious mankind. He could not conceive that the God of love would pour out wrath. Instead he claimed that God made the universe in such a way that if you broke one of Godís laws, then punishment automatically fell upon you, a type of Christian karma. Wrath was just built into the system and therefore was not an activity of God Himself. What is your response to such a notion?

According to Paul is Godís wrath a past experience, a present experience, or a future experience? (The verb tense is the significant indicator.)

Which of the following would be a good definition of Godís wrath? (Circle the one you think is right).

    a. Godís anger at any and everything we do.
    b. Godís uncontrollable anger at us because we displease others.
    c. Godís measured response against any and everything which harms His creation.

Many times we think that God directs His wrath against people. According to Paul in this verse, God does not direct His wrath against people but against what?

By ungodliness Paul means behavior which God Himself would not engage in. By unrighteousness Paul means a life, even a moral life, which is not the life of God. Although Godís life is moral, not all moral life, especially if it is just purely exterior, is Godís life; otherwise, the Pharisees would have been saved. Remember that works must spring from faith. What does Jesus actually call these Pharisees and scribes who are moral only in an exterior sense (Matt. 23:13)?

How does Jesus characterize the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23:27?

At the end of verse 18 Paul says that people suppress the truth about God (or keep it from being known). First, what truth are they suppressing?

Second, according to Paul how do people suppress the truth?

In other words, the best way for people to know that there is a God and that He is righteous is by Godís people allowing God to live His life through them, not just a moral life, but His life. The only explanation for a person living that kind of life is the living God living His life through them. This kind of life which only God can produce is compelling, incontrovertible evidence that God lives (see 1 John 4:12 in which John claims that love among Christians is compelling evidence God lives). When Christians suppress that kind of life in themselves, then they help keep others from seeing the truth that God is alive.

The Gentile is Responsible for Both His Sin and the Punishment Which Befalls Him (1:19-20)

ďBecause 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.Ē

Paul divides his discussion of manís need for Godís righteousness into 2 groupsóthe Gentile need for righteousness and the Jewish need for righteousness. Although Paul does not come right out and identify the 2 groups this way, the sins of the 2 groups help us to identify the 2 groups to which Paul is referring.

According to Paul what do the Gentiles know about God?

It only makes sense that creation reveals God to us. Whenever a person paints a picture, he inevitably puts something of himself into that picture, or rather that picture reflects something about the painter. The same happens between God and creation. How do the Gentiles know these things about God?

What two things about God in particular can be known about God through creation? (Circle the correct two)

His eternal power His predetermined will
His justice His love
His wrath His divine nature

    Creation being a way God reveals Himself to us is found in other places in the Bible. What do the following passages tell us about God revealing Himself through creation?

    Psalm 19:1

    Matt. 5:43-45

    Matt. 6:26-30

    Acts 14:17

Since man can know God because of what God has revealed about Himself through nature, what does Paul say that man is without (Rom. 1:20)?

    In other words, whenever man stands before God on Judgment Day, he will absolutely have no excuse that he did not know that God existed and that God was a God of unconditional love. Not everybody will be held accountable because they did not trust Jesus. Why? Because some people have never even heard that Jesus exists. God holds us accountable only for what we could have known. Since everybody is exposed to creation (and therefore to God's revelation of Himself through creation), every person is responsible for what God has revealed about Himself through creation.

    The fact that people do encounter God and part of His nature through creation also explains why there were some good men and women living in the world before the time of Christ. Next week when we study specific characteristics of the Gentile world, we have to issue the footnote that not all the Gentiles followed the lifestyle depicted in Rom. 1:24-32. There were good Gentiles living on the fact of the earth at the time Jesus came, for example the magi. Why were they good? Because they had responded positively to what God had shown them through creation. As a result many of these Gentiles quickly and eagerly accepted the Gospel (an expansion on God's revelation through creation). Although the Jews had received fuller revelation about Jesus through the OT, they rejected Christ while those with only God's revelation through nature accepted Christ.

    Now this rattles many Christians who correctly believe that salvation is only in Christ Jesus (Acts 4:12). Well, they shouldn't be rattled. The truth is that God used Jesus to "paint" the universe, as it were (John 1:3); therefore, this knowledge of God is nothing less than knowledge of Christ Himself. All truth from the Father comes through Jesus (John 14:6). Our positive response to what we have seen of God in nature is nothing less than a positive response to Jesus. That knowledge is not by any means as full as what we see of Jesus in the New Testament; nevertheless, it is still knowledge of Jesus.

IMPORTANT FACTOID #1: In Rom. 1-3 Paul presents to us the ways God reveals Himself to us. Here Paul informs us that God reveals Himself to you and me through nature!

    Note that while this revelation is perfect, it is not complete. For example, what do tornadoes which destroy homes, hurricanes which destroy whole villages, and earthquakes which destroy whole cities say about God? It takes the other forms of Godís revelation (conscience, the Bible, and Jesus Christ) to complete this revelation of God.

    Note that if people do not know God, it is not His fault. Rejection of God is never an intellectual issue. It is always a moral issue. (See also John 3:16-21 where John likewise claims that the problem is a moral one, not an intellectual one: ďAnd this is the verdict, that light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil.Ē They knew Jesus was truly God the Son; they just did not want to give up first control over their own lives and second their own lifestyle.)

Pagan Response to GodĎs Revelation through Creation (1:21-23)

ďFor 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.Ē

According to verse 21, did the Gentiles know God? Yes or No.

How would a person show God honor? How would a person not honor God?

Giving thanks to God is the only appropriate way to respond to God, especially if you believe He is a good and loving God. If God is in control and is loving, then when I complain, I am basically claiming that God is not doing a good job. All our feelings are legitimate; however, there comes a point in time when our negativity becomes a sin. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest states that at some point our fears become wicked (because they are nothing less than an attack on the way God is working in our lives). Whereas it is true that God does not CAUSE everything which happens in our lives, He nevertheless filters everything which enters into our lives through His wisdom, His love, and His power. That is the reason we should always thank God.

The opposite of giving thanks is grumbling. God takes grumbling very seriously. Even after God had performed mighty deeds on behalf of the Israelites, they nevertheless grumbled. After 10 major instances of the Israelites grumbling, God had finally had enough: He let all those 20 years of age and older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) die in the wilderness.

Rejecting true knowledge of God results in other areas of knowledge getting all messed up. Paul says that when the Gentiles rejected knowledge of God they became __________________ in their speculations and their _______________ heart was darkened. Everything they did seemed to be logical, even wise; however, whenever they rejected the basis for all true knowledge, the rest of their knowledge became skewed.

    The classic example of this is evolution. Many scientists claim that evolution basically teaches that God had nothing to do with the creation of the universe. According to evolution, development, that is, evolution, is what brought all things into being. Sounds logical; however, evolution fails to explain the creation of the universe out of nothing. Stephen Hawkings claims with absolute certainty that although the universe was created out of absolutely nothing, God wasn't necessary for its creation. It just happened. It is, according to Hawking, a singular, unrepeatable event. (See Big Bang Didn't Need God, Stephen Hawking Says.) And they say that atheism doesn't require faith.

    Another example of this foolish according to Paul is that of a friend I had from India. He scoffed at the idea of the resurrection because it was so illogical (at least in his opinion). After scoffing at the resurrection, with his next breath he talked to me about the monkey god he and his family worshipped. Now that could only be logical to one who has rejected the logic of God and Christ.

The Gentiles professed to be what?

Instead of becoming wise, the Gentiles became what?

What did the Gentiles do which showed that they were not wise?

    There is a divinely-created hierarchy within creation:

    1. God
    2. Man
    3. Creation

    God never placed man over Himself; however, He did place man over all creation (Ps. 8:4-6). Man was not satisfied with this though. He wanted the following order:

    1. Man
    2. God
    3. Creation

    What order did he actually end up with though whenever he tried to dethrone God? (Just a little hint: God never takes second or third place.)

    The fact that people worshipped idols resembling birds, four-footed animals, etc., shows that they placed themselves beneath creation. You worship things greater, not lower than yourself. Today while we don't worship physical idols, people do worship materialism, status, other people's approval, power, lust, and, in the example of extreme environmentalists, nature. As a result, people are controlled by these things. They claim that they are masters of their lives; however, because they have rejected God as Master over their lives, they are now controlled by these other items. The house is their master in that it causes them to worry about the house. Status masters them because they really fret when people of high society do not accept them. Instead of being lords over all creation as God intended for us (Heb. 2:7-8), we now are lorded over by nature: we panic over every tree that is cut down; we try to destroy the people who threaten our status; we fret over every tick of the stock market. Only a proper acknowledgement of God puts the universe back into the right order of the scheme of things.