Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Unbelief is a difficult subject because it is difficult to define the word itself. A person might believe in many things related to God and yet persist in unbelief toward salvation. It is possible for a person to believe that God exists — that is called deism — without believing that God cares about us. The writer of Hebrews says we “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6. It is possible to believe that Jesus existed on earth and yet reject him as God. That is unbelief! Everyone who rejects the authority of God is bound in unbelief. Paul, who was a strict Pharisee, said that he acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13). What are the consequences? We will look at some of them.
First, we must remember that…
God has wrath. Let’s look at Colossians 3:5-6. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
There are many people who claim the name “Christian” who want to reject the concept of the wrath of God. It may be a surprise to all of us, and certainly to some of us, how many times the Bible talks about the wrath of God! God loves all that is right and good and everything that conforms to his moral character. His wrath is directed against sin. God intensely hates all sin!
Jesus spoke of “the wrath of God” in John 3:36. Don’t be fooled by those confused teachers who claim that “wrath” with regards to God is only an Old Testament concept. They are deceived and they will work to deceive many others. The Old Testament does not only teach God’s wrath but also demonstrates it. In order to demonstrate his goodness, God must show us he will not tolerate sin. For those who do not want God to express wrath, I would strongly suggest that you do not read the book of Romans. We have to live our lives by what the book says not by what we “feel” should be true. To say that God has wrath is not to say that he has lost his temper. The word that is used here for wrath is translated from a Greek word which signifies a settled, abiding condition. Therefore it is effectively controlled by God.
Many teachers seek to get rid of the concept by saying that God is commonly presented as a God of love. That is absolutely true! God is a God of love and as such he will not allow those he loves to continue where they began.
Mankind is born separated from God. When our ancestors, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God they took us down with them! We cannot escape the fact that we are sons and daughters of the original rebels. As such, we inherit everything they earned and accumulated in the garden. God does not cause us to be lost in trespasses and sins! Instead, we are born in that condition. God does offer an escape from that condition! This is an escape that involves his grace being released in our lives because of our faith in him. When we consider the fact that God’s aspect towards all people is wrath we must remember that God also provided propitiation through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Jesus, had no sin of his own so he could pay the sin debt for us. Jesus’ substitutionary death turned aside God’s wrath and turned his view of us into favor. You see…
Wrath is parallel to righteousness. Let’s turn to Galatians 5:18-24. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
When we look at Romans 1:17-18 we see that verse 17 contains the phrase “a righteousness from God is revealed” and the opening of verse 18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed.” We see that God’s wrath is the flipside of the righteousness of God. God’s wrath is directed against godlessness. And all of us were born into the godless human race.
In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, found in the Gospel of John chapter 3, Jesus said that he did not come into the world to condemn the world because the world was already condemned! Jesus came into the world so that the world might be saved through him. Belief in Jesus makes a person free from condemnation and therefore no longer subject to the wrath of God. When I say belief I do not mean believe that he existed. “Belief” is more than that. “Belief” is to be subject to Jesus in every respect. We must confess that “Jesus is Lord”! In order to be received into his kingdom. When we do this we should reflect a life of obedience to God’s commands.
In Galatians chapter 5 we see clearly the works of the flesh — sin — in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit. The wrath of God should, justly, be released against the works of the flesh. The list that we have here is a part of the human nature being manifest in the world today. When a person is born again the spirit comes to live in him, or her, applying Christ’s work on the cross as a propitiation against God’s wrath. “Propitiation” refers to a sacrifice that bears the wrath of God against sin and turns God’s wrath into favor. The reason God put forward Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin is to show God’s righteousness as opposed to our unrighteousness. Once we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the Spirit enables us to avoid the curse of the law since we are no longer subject to unbelief.
Walking by the Spirit enables us to no longer be subject to sin. Jesus provided shelter from the wrath of God through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Yet we recognize that…
God’s wrath has a specific target. Let’s look at Romans 2:8-11. But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
God is absolutely impartial in his judgment. The self-seeking ones who refuse to obey the truth are subject to his wrath. Believers will give an account of their lives before the throne of grace. Unbelievers will face a record of their lives before the judgment throne. In both cases, we are investing in an account that will one day pay its principal and interest. Either the wrath of God or the grace of God. God has a full record on both accounts. Attempting to reduce God’s wrath by claiming to descend from a fine Christian family — “My grandpa was such a godly man” — or — “I’m a church member” will not work. These excuses will never meet God’s standard. It doesn’t matter what level of society you come from it matters only whether you have full faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Those who know me well remember that I always add verse 10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I always include that verse to avoid the idea that we have no good works to do. Now let’s get back to the subject of belief vs unbelief…
Unbelief suppresses the truth. Let’s go to Psalm 19:1-3. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
The psalmist could clearly see not only that God exists but the universe around him proclaims God’s handiwork. We live today in a society that increasingly denies the existence of God and attempts to explain everything as “chance”. Beginning with the concept of the “Big Bang” and going on to the accidental rise of life on the earth after several billion years of development from a tiny speck to the massive universe we see around us.
Creation is one great truth that unbelievers try to end. When the Bible says that wicked men suppress the truth it uses a word that carries the idea of holding something down. Someone suggested that the word “suppression” is like the little boy who smuggled his dog into his room to spend the night. When he heard his parents coming, he put the dog in his toy-box and sat on the lid. As he tried to talk to his parents he ignored the repeated thumps of his poor puppy. In Romans, the idea of suppression is continual aggressive striving against the truth. All who are unbelievers are in a constant process of holding down the truth and therefore subject to God’s WRATH!
What are the chances that all of this happening around us was a cosmic accident?
Let me suggest a simple illustration of how ridiculous the idea that all the universe around us happened by chance.
Suppose I put 10 pennies in my pocket numbered from 1 to 10. Suppose I put my hand back in my pocket and pulled out the number 1 penny. The chance that would happen is 1 in 10. Suppose I dropped that penny back in my pocket and pulled out 1 and 2 in order. That chance would be 1 in 100. The chance of repeating the same procedure and coming out with pennies numbered 1, 2 and 3 is 1 in 1000. To do so with all of them — 1 through 10 — would be 1 chance in 10 billion! Just think what the chances are that this magnificent universe around us should happen accidentally. Satan is the author of unbelief and unbelief, throughout society, attempts to suppress belief in God through suppressing belief in his creation.
Unbelief, in trying to eliminate God from society shows us that…
The ultimate expression of unbelief is perversion. Let’s go to Ephesians 4:17-19. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
When we look at Romans chapter 1, verses 19 and 20, we see that everyone who denies God is without excuse. Having suppressed the truth the unbeliever moves on to perversion of the truth. We see that Paul told the Ephesians that unbelievers are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God. They became callous and gave themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity! Thinking back to Romans chapter 1 we see that God stated three times that he gave them up. Although they knew God they did not honor him as God. Claiming to be wise they became fools! God, observing this, gave them up to the lusts of their hearts. Then, since that did not have the desired effect of bringing them back to him. God gave them up to dishonorable passions. And when that failed to bring them around God gave them up to a debased mind!
Father God, please do not give me up to what I would be without you. Do not let me go — PLEASE!
If a person is not a Christian he, or she, is suppressing the truth about God. Nature all around us proclaims the existence of God! There’s no other explanation than that. Rejection of God is a personal choice. The Bible proclaims the fact that God — a loving and good God — expresses wrath toward those who reject the death of his Son. The unbeliever has his own god self-created and worshiped. If such a person dies without repentance and faith they will go to hell. Jesus said it this way, “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.” (John 3:36). I want my friends to go to heaven. But that’s not enough. I should want everyone who bears the image of God to go to heaven. I should pray and witness with that in mind. How about you? Will you join me?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.