The Nature of God's Wrath Upon the Gentile

(Rom. 1:24-32)

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)

Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity that their bodies might be dishonored among them, for they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped 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 the men also abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desires towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, malice, 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.

Read Rom. 1:24, 26, and 28. What clause does Paul repeat in all 3 verses?

What we are seeing in these 3 verses is the principle that God is visiting wrath upon those who have rejected Him as God (see verse 21). Before you read verses 24-32, ask yourself the question: ďWhen you normally think of Godís wrath, what do you normally think of?ď

    Normally when we think of Godís wrath, we think only in terms of fire and brimstone. While there is a real element of truth in this (see Rev. 19:20, 21 and 20:10-15), the truth is that Godís wrath encompasses more than that. Many times whenever we discipline our children or sit in judgment upon others, we base our decision upon insufficient evidence and deliver a sentence which may or may not be commensurate with the crime. Godís judgment though is always just. He has all the evidence, and He knows what the just verdict is in each instance. When God judges, the punishment is always commensurate with the crime.

Paul is now going to list the specific forms of God's wrath in 1:24-32. Again, we have to deal with C.H. Dodd's claim that in God's case wrath is not God personally intervening; rather it is the cause-and-effect system God has set up which leaves Him personally out of visiting wrath upon people. Dodd just simply feels uncomfortable with God being a Judge who dispenses punishment.

First, if God didn't dispense justice upon the unrighteous, just what kind of judge would He be? If a judge doesn't convict a known child molester but rather lets him off scot-free, we will scream to the high heavens that this judge needs to be removed from his office. (In case you don't believe that, look at what happened to a Montana judge who sentenced a rapist to just 31 days in jail and 14 years probation: Board urges discipline for Montana judge who gave short rape sentence). If that is true of the way we feel towards human judges, then why don't we feel the same way about the judge of the universe?

Second, many of us have a too-limited view of God as judge. C.S. Lewis (in Reflections on the Psalms) claims that another OT precedent for a different view of God as judge exists, a view which will come into play starting in Rom. 3:21-8:39. In the Book of Judges we also see the judge as not only one who sits in judgment to condemn the unjust Philistines, the enemies of God, he also serves as the champion of his people, the people of God, who many times are under severe threat. We, as the people of God, can rest secure in the fact that Christ as our judge never comes to condemn us (Rom. 8:32) but rather to champion us as the people of God. Becoming perfect in this life is most likely not going to happen to the vast majority of us; however, we can always be God's people, a people whom God champions.

Now read verses 24-32 which describe the wrath of God and then describe the wrath He pours out upon mankind.

  1. Rom. 1:24-25

  2. Rom. 1:26-27

  3. Rom. 1:28-32

Earlier we claimed that God's wrath is always commensurate with the crime. How is the judgment in verses 24-32 commensurate with the crime?

The crime is mankindís desire to commit sin; God, therefore, punishes mankind by taking off the restraints in his life and allowing him to experience sin fully. You see, most of us want to experience sin in small doses. We donít want to be flagrant sinners; we just want to get away with the ďsmallĒ sins. That just wonít work with God. According to St. Augustine, the worst sin he ever committed was not indulging his fleshly desires. Rather it was the time he stole an apple from an orchard. He didn't desire the apple; he just wanted to steal it because it was wrong. Whenever we reject Him and choose to go our own ways, God takes off the restraints so that we can experience sin to the fullest.

Why does God do this? Read 1 Cor. 5:5. In this passage why does Paul turn the offender over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh?

Until the final day of judgment Godís wrath is nearly always redemptive, not punitive. In other words, God disciplines us in order that we will wake up and repent of our sin. In the same way God allows us many times to experience the full depravity of sin so that we might get disgusted, repent, and turn to Christ for forgiveness and a new life.

It is like the time my mom prayed for my granddad. He was a pretty heavy drinker. She got so tired of it that she prayed God would make him so sick the next time he drank, he would never drink again. Sure enough the next time he drank, he got so sick that he gave it up completely. That's what God wants to happen to us when we sin. We wants us to get so sick of our sin that we will give it up. Any time you see somebody going down the spiral of sin, pray for that person because God is probably desiring that they experience the horrible nature of sin in order that they may come to their senses and repent. What does Paul desire for the sinner in 2 Tim. 2:26?

The tragedy of all this is that many times people do not wake up and repent. At that point they will bring upon themselves the full extent of Godís wrath. Until that day comes though, there is hope for everybody.

Sexual Immorality (1:24-25)

In the first announcement of Godís judgment, Paul writes that God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to ______________________.

What happens to a personís body whenever he gives himself over to this?

Notice that Paul links sexual impurity with idolatry. People today claim that they are exercising their sexual freedom. Paul though informs us that this is not sexual freedom. Because they have rejected God as Lord in their lives and have tried to place themselves on the throne, they become slaves to the very things God placed them over, animals, etc. and even slaves to their own flesh, that is lust. This is the essence of Godís wrath in these 2 verses. Does God want them to experience this? No, but He has removed the restraints off their lives so that now they are enslaved to their sexual perversions. Even though they loudly proclaim their sexual freedom, they are actually enslaved to their own lusts. [This illustrates Paulís claim that whenever a person rejects God and substitutes himself for God, man ends up lowering himself and becomes less than animal (Rom. 1:23, 25). People will engage in sexual behavior that even animals don't engage in.]

Reading Playboy and Penthouse is not the only way to experience sexual impurity. First, ask yourself the question how you treat women other than your wife. If you tell a sexually-charged joke around them, you are engaged in sexual impurity. If you make subtle, sensual remarks to women other than your wife, you are engaged in sexual impurity. Second, look at the programs you watch on TV. If you and I can flip the channels the instant a commercial comes on the air, how much quicker should we flip them when a sexually-charged moment hits the screen. [ďOh, but that seems a little extreme, ďyou may say, or ďOh, but that is ridiculous.Ē Keeping yourself pure is not ridiculous because it honors Godís will for your life (1 Thess. 4:3, 7), and if God is on the throne of your life, then you should honor His will for your life.]

Homosexuality (1:26-27)

In verses 26 and 27 Paul is using euphemisms to describe homosexual behavior (that is, he is using polite language to describe something very impolite.) In verse 26 what do some women do as a result of Godís wrath?

In verse 27 what do some men do as a result of Godís wrath?

Homosexuality was primarily a sin of the Greek culture. According to some, ďPlatonic loveĒ was more than just the love of the mind; it was the sexual activity of males with each other. By the time of the first century BC and first century AD homosexuality had become the rage of the Roman empire. Numerous Caesars engaged in homosexual activity. Of Julius Caesar it was said that he was every woman's man and every man's woman. In the Greek household it was common for the man to have a male lover in addition to having a wife and children. This mindset disgusted the pious Jew who read Godís injunctions against this behavior in the Mosaic Law.

According to Paul what do homosexuals receive in their own persons?

Paul claims that they receive the due penalty of their error in their own persons. By this he means that homosexuals experience wrath in themselves and a wrath ("penalty") which they deserve (that is, it is "due" them). I had a friend who worked in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas at a major hotel. He said that the gay lifestyle was unbelievable. He described them as being creatures of the night, being steeped in alcohol and drugs. The picture of the happy homosexual according to him was pure tripe.

There is a discussion going on today about the inevitability of some people to engage in homosexuality. They justify their behavior because they claim they were born homosexual. What would be your response to this? Suppose some people are born with a bent to being homosexuals. What would your response?

When it is all said and done, it does not matter whether a person was born homosexual or not. That cannot be proved or disproved. The truth is that we are all born with a bent towards some kind of sin: lying, greed, lust, thievery, etc. Simply because somebody is born with a bent to thievery, do we say it is OK for them to steal? No. We expect them to be responsible and deal with the way they are. In the same way, even if a person is born homosexual (which has yet to be proved), this does not relieve him/her of his moral responsiblity to deal with it. If God's Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, then He is quite capable of giving a person victory over homosexuality.

Depraved Mind (1:28-32)

In verse 28 Paul engages in a play on words. According to Paul how did the Gentile respond to God?

How did God respond to this?

In the Greek, Paul is saying that because the Gentile world examined God as in a laboratory and found Him ďunfit,Ē God gave them over to an ďunfitĒ mind, a depraved reason which in their minds justified their godless behavior. It is as if the Gentiles said, "OK, He claims to be God; let's take Him into our lab, run some tests on Him, and see if He is fit to be God." After running their tests, the Gentiles decide that He is not "fit" to be God and therefore, throw Him out the window. God though informs us that He alone is the Judge and not the judgee. No one runs tests on Him. When they were in their lab, they thought that they were running tests on God, while all along they were running tests on themselves. They did not find God "unfit." When they ran the tests on God, they were actually running tests on themselves. When they found Him, they were actually finding out that they were unfit. They and not God were the ones rejected and thrown out the window.

Write down the list of sins Paul enumerates in verses 29-32.

Look carefully at the list of sins in verses 24-32. Does Paul categorize them in these verses? Does he say that the sin of verses 26-27 is worse than the sins in verses 28-32?

Why do we normally say that the sins of verses 26-27 are worse than those in 28-32?

The Roman Catholic Church has correctly claimed that some sins are intrinsically evil. By intrinsic evil, the Church is basically claiming that some sins are bad through and through, no matter how you slice them. For example, stealing though wrong is not an intrinsic evil. There are some times when we will excuse stealing, for example, in the case of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. On the other hand, the Church has clearly stated that five sins are intrinsically evil, evil no matter how you look at hem: cloning, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, abortion, and gay "marriage."

Now the reason we hammer homosexuality (which unlike gay "marriage" is NOT an intrinsic evil--we are talking a bent towards homosexuality, not homosexual acts) is that we tend to hammer the sins we're not guilty of. Yet take a closer look at the situation and you will see that homosexuality gets undue attention. The way some Christians act, you would think it was THE sin that is destroying our nation and our churches. When I asked somebody though what percentage of the population would probably go to hell on Judgment Day, he said, "70%" The most liberal estimates are that homosexuality makes up only 10% of the population (it is actually only about 3-5% at the most). In other words, 60% of those not going to heaven are not even gay. Moreover, look at the churches themselves. Is homosexuality the sin killing our churches? I don't think so. Power, greed, apathy, and selfishness have harmed churches more than homosexuality ever thought of harming them. We need to focus primarily on our own sins.

Moreover, we act as if it's OK to criticize people who divorce their spouse because we're not divorcing ours. Hammer the gluttons whenever you have a high metabolism rate. There is a really interesting scene at the end of the movie Driving Miss Daisy in which Miss Daisy attends a banquet with Martin Luther King, Jr. as the speaker. In it he says that the great sin of that generation was not the burning of crosses by people filled with hate or the murder of blacks by white supremists; the great sin was the apathy of the good people who did nothing and allowed this kind of behavior to continue. Simply because we did not murder blacks didn't mean that we were innocent. Our silence was the greatest sin. C. S. Lewis when asked to condemn especially homosexuality said that he did not think it right to hammer sins he was not guilty of. In other words, to quote Jesus, we need to take the beam out of our own eyes before we try to take the speck out of the eyes of another. (This does not mean that homosexuality is OK. It's just that we need to focus on the sins we're guilty of and not on somebody else's sins.)

If one sin stands out above all the others, it is the one listed in verse 32. According to Paul what is that one sin?

Why is this sin so bad? If any sin characterizes Satan, it is this sin. It's bad enough for him to experience condemnation and eternal damnation, but he is not content until he can take more down with him. That is the same sin people are committing in v. 32.