Read Romans 1:18-32
Bad News: God Is Angry
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness
and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
Going Deeper: We are not too comfortable with an angry God, are we? In our day, people prefer a tame God to a dangerous one. As Dorothy Sayers aptly put it, “We have declawed the lion of Judah and made him a housecat for pale priests and pious old ladies.”
But if we are to be faithful to the authority of the Scripture, then we will have to acknowledge that God hates sin, and his righteous wrath will not only be poured out on sinful humanity some day in the future, but is already “being revealed” against those who have gone their own way.
Now you might ask, how is God’s wrath being revealed? Well, from time to time we have seen how God has broken into human history to reveal his wrath by inflicting punishment upon both evil nations (the plagues visited upon Egypt being the most well known example—Exodus 7-14) and disobedient individuals (for instance, the sudden death of Ananias and Saphira—Acts 5:1-11). We also understand that when people die in their sinful state, there is a literal hell that awaits them, a physical place where they will suffer the eternal wrath of God. And likewise, we know that one day, at the end of the age, the Great White Throne judgment of God (Revelation 20:11-15, Romans 2:5-6) will mark the final end of sin, when Satan, evil systems, and all the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire forever.
But the question remains: Is God’s wrath currently being revealed against sin, as Paul declares here in verse 18? The answer to that is a clear “yes!” And though all these other forms of punishment are tragic, this type of judgment is particularly sad, since it involves the removal of the Divine restraints that have protected man from his own worst self. There comes a point where in judgment, God says to rebellious man, “if you insist, then go ahead, do your own thing.” Paul describes it this way:
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” (Romans 1:24)
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” (Romans 1:26)
“He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28)
And not only throughout this passage, but throughout humankind’s sad history of suffering and violence, we see the awful results of man’s rebellion against God: foolishness, darkened thinking, sexual perversion, degradation, idolatry, depravity, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31)
No wonder God is angry: He offered us his righteousness; we chose the worst kind of evil. And what makes this even worse is the depravity of the human race was, and continues to be, quite deliberate. Let’s be clear, man’s rebellion against God is not from ignorance, it is intentional, since “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1:20) God’s truth has been made clear to every human being through the inner witness of the Creator’s implanted Spirit and through the Creator’s awe-inspiring creation itself, yet man has actually gone out of his way and has “suppressed the truth.” (Romans 1:19)
Obviously, that is a boatload of bad news! Yet amazingly, because of the immutable character of our gracious and merciful God, even within the bad news there is good news—Good News that should cause our hearts to explode in grateful praise. You see, there is yet another way that “God’s wrath is revealed from heaven”: At Calvary, God fully focused his judgment against sinful man on his sinless Son, Jesus, as he hung on the cross. In the greatest act of grace and mercy ever, Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sins of the world when he was crucified. (I Peter 2:24)
As a believer it can be so disheartening to watch the world get increasingly and more inventively evil as the days go by. And it can be quite discouraging as we take the hits from those who don’t want to hear about a God who actually punishes sin. Yet we can take heart that even in the midst of all this evil, as God’s wrath is being revealed against sin, there at the center of it stands the grace and mercy of a God so loving that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son for all the sins of the entire world.
And that includes you and me!
“People want a God without wrath who brings people without sin
Into a kingdom without judgment to a Christ without a Cross.”
~H. Richard Niebuhr