Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, on October 8, 2017
Let us begin this morning by reciting our memory verse for the month of September and October, Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Today we are going to look at what makes the coming of Jesus Christ such good news, for today we are going to talk about something very uncomfortable, the wrath of God. Why are we talking about the wrath of God? Simple…because God talks about the wrath of God...a lot. And it happens to be the next section in Romans. My charge from God, my responsibility before Him, is not to make you feel warm and cozy, my obligation as a Pastor is to teach the Bible. 2 Timothy 4:1-4, says:
I worry that this text may apply to this time, and it may apply to some of you. Some of you may not be able to endure the teaching of the Bible with all of its hard truths. You would rather have your ears tickled by the feather of Satan’s wing. God willing, this shall not occur as long as God has me behind this pulpit. For my charge is the preach the word. So let us look at the Word this morning. Romans 1:18-25.
As we can see from the first word of our text this morning, the word “for”, Paul is continuing a thought. The thought he is continuing is salvation through the gospel. This is what we looked at the last two weeks, the gospel and it being the power of salvation.
Our text this morning is the beginning of Paul unpacking what and why we need saving. Paul will spend the next two chapters breaking down the universal problem of humanity.
And in our text this morning, verse 18 in particular, we can see what our ultimate problem is, the wrath of God. This is what the gospel saves us from, the wrath of God. This is why Jesus, the revelation of God's righteousness, alluded to in verse 17, had to come to earth, to save people from the wrath of his Father.
This topic, the wrath of God, is extremely unpopular in this day an age. People don't want to think about the wrath of God. They don't want to see their God as an angry God. Instead they want to see God as this gentle old grandpa with a white beard sitting on a fluffy cloud. But that is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is absolutely terrifying.
The God of the Bible sent a flood and killed millions of people during the days of Noah. The God of the Bible brought fire from heaven and destroyed Sodom and Gomorah. The God of the Bible brought plague after plague upon Egypt, including the killing of their first born. The God of the Bible commanded Israel to slaughter all of their enemies. The God of the Bible nearly decimated Israel during the days of the exile to Babylon. The God of the Bible totally destroyed the City of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The God of the Bible created a place called Hell that is real, and he will send people who are not saved by Christ. This is the God we see in the Bible.
But people don't want to hear about this God. It is just too uncomfortable, so instead they skip over sections that talk about the wrath of God. And by doing that, by removing the power of God's wrath, these people simultaneously remove the need and the power of the Gospel. For the gospel is unnecessary without the wrath of God. And this is why Paul spends two more chapters unpacking our sin and God's wrath. Paul understands that it is crucial for people to understand how serious the problem is.
And this is the problem of this world, they are blind to how serious the situation is. They are oblivious that the train of God's wrath is bearing down upon their soul and could run them over at any second. The world is too busy having fun; eating, drinking, being merry, and then, like a thief in the night, it will all be taken away and they will open their eyes to eternal torment.
In fact, Jesus speaks of this reality in Luke 16 with the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man dies and is sent to Hades and in verse 27 says, “‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house-- 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” No one had told this rich man about the wrath of God, but for him it was too late, but for us, and for all those who have not yet died, it is not too late. We can tell them and we should tell them. That is, if we love them enough to tell them the truth.
So this morning we are going to begin by looking at the foundation of God's wrath. We are going to look at who deserves God's wrath and how does God reveal his wrath.
Who Deserves God's Wrath
So let us begin with who. If you go through our text today, you will see that one of the most repeated words are “them” and “they.” This is the group that Paul is saying will receive the wrath of God. But who is the “them” and the “they”?
In verse 18 we are told that they are those who are ungodly, unrighteous, and suppress the truth. Then in verse 23 and 25 we are told they are glory exchangers who worship creation. So let us begin with ungodly, what does ungodly mean?
Ungodly simply means without God. Those who deserve God's wrath are those who want to live their life without God. They don't want God's help. They want to do things their way, not God's way. This ungodliness does not just mean atheist, it means everyone who lives their life independent of God's will. So who does that include? Everyone.
In just a few chapters, Paul will say in Romans 3:11 that, “no one seeks God.” This is what it means to be ungodly, the lack of seeking God in every moment of your life. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus that this use to be them, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
Now why would people not seek God? Look at verse 22, “claiming to be wise, they became fools.” The reason we don't seek God is because we think we know what we are doing. We think we know what is best for our lives. Another word for this is pride. We believe that we don't need God's help. We don't need to read the Bible. We don't need to pray about things. We can handle life, our marriage, our children, our job, our church on our own. But what does it say, we are fools. When we live independent of God, God calls us fools, and he is right. When you are not reading the Bible and praying, your are living every day foolishly.
If you don't believe me, just look at your life. When you examine the decisions of your life, what do you see? You see unrighteousness, which is the second thing Paul mentions. Our lives are full of unrighteousness. Unrighteousness is the manifestation of ungodliness. Ungodliness produces the fruit of unrighteousness. And unrighteousness simple means, not doing what is right. And of course the right thing is always God's will, and we do “not right things” all the time. And when we live life independent of God, we make an utter mess out of our lives, our families, our communities, and the world. Everything is broken. One of the most common conversations in our life is how messed up the world is. Why is the word messed up? Unrighteousness.
So why do we do this? Why do we live ungodly and therefore unrighteous lives? Because we suppress the truth. What does this mean? What is the truth? Look at verse 19 and 20, “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.”
The truth is that there is a God, however, humanity's default is to push this truth down. To suppress it. But as Paul says, the reality of God overwhelmingly surrounds us. If you recall, I think it was Tom who preached on Psalm 19 not too long ago. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” How do we know there is a God? Open your eyes.
Here is an easy illustration. Look around, we are sitting inside a building. Did this building have a builder? Of course. But why do we say this? None of us where here and saw the builder build this building, how do we know there was a builder? We know because the building exists. A building doesn't just come into existence on its own. This is true for everything, including the Universe. The Universe did not come into existence on its own. The universe had a Creator. How do we know? Because it exists. This is the most basic logic in the world. And to say there is no God is foolish. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Yet we know there are people who say there are no God. Likewise, we just got done saying that everyone lives ungodly lives. How do we account for all humanity suppressing the most obvious truth in the Universe? Look at verse 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.” What does this mean? It means that all humanity knows there is a God, even the so called atheist. In their heart of hearts everyone is a theist. However their mind and their heart is broken. They cannot think rightly. Because of the darkness, they cannot see the overwhelming evidence that is before them. Why?
2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” Who is the God of this world? That is just a phrase for Satan. Satan has blinded the minds of the world. How did Satan blind humanities minds? Through the fall that took place in the Garden of Eden. In the moment that sin entered into the world through Satan's temptation and Adam's rebellion, all humanity was plunged into darkness...futile minds and darkened hearts.
And instead of seeing God and recognizing all that God has provided and being grateful and thankful to Him, they instead exchange the glory of God and instead worship God's creation: themselves, their spouse, their kids, their car, their job, food, etc.
And these people are the “them” and the “they” that God pours out his wrath upon. Which as I stated earlier, is everyone.
How Does God Reveal His Wrath
But how? How is the wrath of God revealed against the ungodly the unrighteous? In verse 18, you will notice that the phrase is not, “will be revealed” but it says, “is revealed.” This is present tense.
If this is true, which it is because it is the Bible, this means that the wrath of God that Paul is thinking about can be seen now. It is on display now. So let me ask, have you seen the wrath of God? Of course you have, you just don't recognize it because your term for the wrath of God is what you call life.
Let me ask you some questions to see if you have seen the wrath of God. Have you ever been to a funeral? What is a funeral? It is the display of God's wrath. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Death is God's wrath towards ungodliness. Let me ask you another question, how many of you have been scratched by a cat, stung by a bee, pricked by a thorn or thistle, or sun burnt? What is this all about? It is a display of God's wrath. Genesis 3:17-18 God says to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;” In Genesis 9:2, right after the worldwide flood God says, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.” Romans 8:20 says, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The scorching sun, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wild animals...all of this is a result of God's wrath against humanity for our godliness.
However, this is not what I think is on Paul's mind when he says the wrath of God is revealed. Look at verse 24, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”
What is the “therefore”, there for? The “therefore” flows out of Paul's description of man worshiping creation instead of worshiping God. In response to this we are told in verse 24 that the consequence of this is that God gives them up to their lusts. God's revealed wrath is handing people over to their sin.
How is this God's wrath, to hand people over to their sin? Notice, if you will, where does this handing over take place? It takes place “among themselves.” This lusting of the sinful desires, does not happen in a vacuum. When you cheat on your spouse, what occurs? Your family is torn apart. What happens when you get drunk or take illegal drugs? You destroy your own health and perhaps the health of others. What happens when you pursue riches? Your kids are spoiled and your wife stops loving you. What happens when you worship the God of your belly and seek comfort and satisfaction from food? You get fat and have heart disease. What happens when you worship a guy named Muhammad instead of Jesus Christ? You fly a plane into the side of the world trade tower. What happens when you are rich, sleep with prostitutes, spend a lifetime gambling and get angry at the world one night in Las Vegas? You kill 59 people from your hotel room. The list could go on and on.
When humanity pursues a life of ungodliness and unrighteousness, we are not peacemakers, we are warmongers. And the Sovereign God of the Universe allows us to destroy ourselves. The wrath of God that is revealed is the natural consequence of living a life absent of God's glory. This is why Paul says in Ephesians 2:3, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
This is what we call a Biblical world view. And this Biblical world view is crucial in helping people understand the brokenness of this world and the need for Jesus Christ. The answer to the devastation that we our surrounded by does not lie in gun control. The answer does not lie in psychiatric medicine. The answer does not lie in Washington DC or some self help book. The answer lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For it is only through Jesus Christ that every tear will be wiped and sin and death will be destroyed. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can go from ungodly to God centered. So if you want to change the world, preach the gospel.