Monday, April 5, 2010

The wrath of God revealed - Romans 1:18

v18 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

First, the wrath of God, what is that?  The wrath of God is the unbridled fury of a righteous God against all things that oppose Him.  John MacArthur says that “His wrath is not an impulsive outburst of anger aimed at people God doesn’t like, rather it is the settled, determined response of a righteous God against sin.”

John 3:36 - “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Jesus said He who believes!  That is the group of people who will receive mercy… but those who do not, those who reject Him and continue living for the world… to them the wrath of God abides on them.  In Greek it carries with it the idea of something hovering above your head.  His wrath is fixed over all of those who do not receive Him by faith.

We know that God’s righteousness was what made Paul bold to preach the Gospel unashamedly.  But why was it so urgent?  He was unashamed, he was compelled, but why the urgency?  The urgency Paul felt came from the knowledge that God’s wrath is certain and sure against ALL unrighteousness.

He does not bid them come to Christ so that life will be better and they’ll have a prosperous life… He doesn’t speak in terms of their happiness or any state of mind…  He appeals to then with this staggering thing… the wrath of God.  His message throughout is God-centered, rather than man-centered.  Paul knew that at the end of the day what mattered was not whether we feel good or have our felt needs met or even that life be full of meaningful experiences.  What matters is whether or not we heed the warning of the Gospel to flee God’s wrath by answering the call to place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Second, where is God’s wrath revealed from?  Heaven.  Heaven.  The place where God abides.  Heaven is where Jesus Christ ascended.  The place where the Just Judge of the universe resides.  He is not an earthly King or Judge that He should have to sit on a man made thrown.  No, God is exalted, high and lifted up. 

Psalm 47:8 - God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.

In Isaiah 6, God’s Word says that God is v1…sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”     4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

Thirdly, what is God’s wrath revealed against?  ALL ungodliness and ALL unrighteousness.  All of it.  There will not be one trace of evil that God will not visit with His wrath.  You need to understand that God’s definition of unrighteousness and ungodliness is likely far different that the view most of us hold.  Even the things that we consider small evils.  Little white lies.  Gossip… hatred.  All of these things are grievous to God. 

Psalm 5:4-6 - For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.  5 The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.  6 You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.

Fourth, how is God’s wrath revealed against all these things?  Well, to be as accurate as possible we should really say that God’s wrath is being constantly revealed.  His wrath, just like His righteousness is not a one time revealing event but an ongoing process. 

I wrote down three ways that God reveals His wrath, and we will explore some of these in depth in a couple of weeks…

1.) God reveals His wrath with the actual punishment of al sin.  This will be the final judgment of all when those who have trusted in Christ, their soul will be united with their earthly body, only now the earthly body will be made perfect and whole.  Their faith becoming sight.  However, those who have died apart from Christ.  Those living who are not found in Christ.  They will receive their final judgment.  Their souls are already in hell but now their eternally tortured soul will be reunited with their earthly body and they will receive their final sentencing.

Revelation 20:11-15 -  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

2.) God reveals His wrath through the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce despair.  We see this in every day life.  From small things like weeds and thorns in your yard to larger things like the pain women bear in child birth; this counts things like wars and violence and sexually transmitted diseases running rampant. 

3.) God reveals His wrath through the voice of the conscience.  The target group Paul is talking about here is suppressing the truth of God that their conscience bears witness to. 

Keeping in context the audience Paul is writing to, that being new Christians in Rome, you need to keep in your mind the questions they might have as new believers.  They were likely wondering how to deal with the arguments against their faith that were being put forth by those in the Greco-Roman society.  A society that counts themselves to be the wisest people to have ever lived up to that point in history. 

God’s wrath is constantly revealed in multiple ways… The problem we run into is that most people think in human terms rather than in terms of Scripture.  When we think in human terms we will always see God as a cosmic bully… smiting people and stepping on whomever He chooses.

But God’s wrath is not the same as man’s anger.  If we don’t see that God’s wrath is warranted we’ll become uneasy with the very idea of a wrathful God.  But all the writers of the Bible spoke of God’s abiding wrath on sin.  How amazed we ought to be that God can demonstrate both His righteousness and wrath simultaneously together in a completely justified way.  Free from selfish motives and concerned only with love and justice.

J.I. Packer wrote that “One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.”

Folks, how can it be today in so-called Christian churches all over the world can so easily abandon warning people of God’s wrath.  Speaking on the mercy and kindness of God to reveal Himself to us, to convict us, and to have made a way by which we are set free from sin. 

“It is because God’s wrath is real that His mercy is relevant.  Without a real wrath, a real anger towards sin, the Biblical concepts of the mercy and long-suffering of God are robbed of their meaning.” - Alistair Begg

Did you know that there are more than 20 words used to describe God’s wrath in the Old Testament alone.

So it is important that we understand it.  There is urgency in Paul to warn as many as God will allow Him to warn.  He must bid men and women to come to Christ to receive forgiveness… to receive righteousness… because the wrath of God is abiding and awaiting them.

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