SERIES: Renewal Through Romans: The Gospel Defined, Explained & Applied
SETTING: North Kelso Baptist Church
SERVICE: Sunday AM (May 3, 2015)
SECTION: The Perversion of Righteousness (Romans 1:1-18-3:20)
SUBTITLE: The Revelation of God’s Wrath (Part 1)
SUBJECT: The wrath of God
SUMMARY: God wants you to know he is angry with mankind
SCHEME: That each member of NKBC feels relief knowing that Jesus Christ has born God’s wrath in their place
Our theme is: The anger of God
Proposition: God wants you to know he is angry with mankind
Interrogatory Sentence: Why is God so angry at mankind?
Transitional Sentence: Our text reveals three reasons why God is so angry at mankind.
· …because mankind has suppressed the truth of God
· …because mankind has subverted the truth of God
· …because mankind has spurned the truth of God
The Perversion of Righteousness
Title: The Revelation of God’s Wrath (Part 1)
Text: Romans 1:18-23
Theme: The Wrath of God
Thrust: You should know God is angry at sinners who pervert righteousness
Transition: Our text tells us that God has revealed his wrath against…
1. Albert Barnes wrote:
“It is clear that when we think of the word "wrath" as applicable to God, it must be divested of everything that is like human passion, and especially the passion of revenge. It is one of the most obvious rules of interpretation that we are not to apply to God passions and feelings which, among us, have their origin in evil.
[God's wrath] is the opposition of the divine character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from the favors which He bestows on the righteous.
2. Analysis of this section
Verse 18 marks the beginning of a very important portion of Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to the Romans and in the argument that he has begun to make in verses 16 and 17. Paul’s aim is for the Roman believers to accept what he has just taught them.
Paul wants the Romans to fully understand that the only righteousness acceptable to God and the only righteousness that sinners need is the righteousness that God supplies. Any type or kind of righteousness that sinners can claim or display is unacceptable to God.
Once Paul has made his case that sin is so domineering and damming that the only way a sinner can be saved is by God providing the righteousness that he demands, the Romans can then understand the only way to receive that righteousness is by faith.
Paul’s argument is built on the fact that only those who acknowledge that they are unworthy and are in need of this righteousness are the recipients of this righteousness.
In this section, 1:18 to 3:20, Paul addresses three groups or types of people:
· He will address the Sinful Gentiles, whom I am going to call Sinful Heathens,
· He will address the Sinful Jews, whom I am going to call Sinful Hebrews
· He will address both groups combined, whom I am going to call Sinful Humanity.
Paul’s argument is this – Gentiles, Jews, or all people are so under the absolute power of sin that only God’s power, which Paul has already stated is found in the gospel can rescue or save them from their sin.
Keep in mind as we study this section, 1:18-3:20, Paul will bring a charge against all of mankind, but his main target are the Jewish people. It is not that big of a stretch to say that the Gentiles needed God’s righteousness.
Other than a few “God-fearers” very few Gentiles would ever pretend to have any type or kind of relationship to the God of the bible.
No so with the Jews! They were God’s people. God had already promised them righteousness through the terms of the Old Covenant. So, for Paul to place the Jews in the same category as the Gentiles and say that they needed a righteousness they did not have nor could achieve was beyond the thinking of the average Jew.
So Paul argues that the Jews are as much in bondage to sin as the Gentiles. He will demonstrate that the law is incapable of rescuing the Jews from the bondage of sin.
As a matter of fact J. C. Becker wrote:
“What is argued is the equal status of Jew and Gentile under sin; what is presupposed is the self-evident character of the Gentile under sin.”
IOW, the Jew is the same as the Gentile Paul says, but the Gentiles sin is typically outward, visible, or self-evident. Whereas the Jew tends to be the hypocrite, sin is more inward, tries to be invisible and isn’t always so evident. But the same conclusion holds true both are in bondage to sin and both need a righteousness that only comes from God.
Let’s stop here for a second and throw something into the mix. We have to believe that Paul has had some Intel on this church. He is probably aware of the tension between the Jewish portion and the Gentile portion in the fellowship. So he will deal with this tension.
Also from 3:8 Paul is aware of some of his teaching had been perverted and had circulated around the community.
So if the believers in Roman were going to be united in the support of Paul and his mission to Spain they would have to be convinced of the truth and the logic of Paul’s gospel.
So throughout this entire letter Paul teaches the equality of the Jews and the Gentiles in both sin and righteousness. Keep in mind he does this without forgetting the Jewish privileges in salvation.
Our theme is: The Wrath of God
Proposition: You should know God is angry with those who pervert righteousness
Interrogatory Sentence: Who is it that has perverted righteousness?
Transitional Sentence: Our text tells us that God has revealed his wrath against…
1A The Sinful Heathen (18-32)
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (18a)
Before we begin there are two things that we need to take careful note of:
First of all, there is a sharp contrast between the revelation of God’s righteousness in verse 17 and the revelation of God’s wrath in verse 18. These are definitely two different things. Different as night is from day. So, it is something we should certainly take note of and be aware.
Now, the word “for” is used to connect verse 18 with verse 17. The word “for” is usually used by an author to introduce a reason or an explanation for a pervious statement made by the author’
So, we will take it this way. Paul used it to introduce the answer to the question that he implied in what he just wrote.
The questions that this leads us to ask are:
Why has God revealed or made known his righteousness?
Why can this righteousness only be appropriated by faith?
Second of all, the idea that God would inflict wrath on people has been rejected with a humanistic understanding of God. Especially since the time of the Greek philosophers, the idea that God would inflict wrath on people has been treated as an idea or a concept incompatible with a so called “enlightened” view of God or gods.
Marcion (a heretic) when he completed one of the first canons of Scripture left out the word God in verse 18 because he didn’t think wrath was compatible or a characteristic of God. [But]
The bible is clear on this characteristic of God. Wrath or anger is an aspect of God’s character or his nature.
As a matter of fact a man named A. Nygren wrote: “As long as God is God, He cannot behold with indifference that His creation is destroyed and His holy will trodden underfoot. Therefore He meets sin with His might and annihilating reaction.”
Douglas Moo wrote, “The OT regularly pictures God as responding to sin with wrath.”
So we should not be surprised or taken back when Paul begins this section with God’s wrath or anger revealed or made known against sin and sinful mankind.
These thoughts leads us to the second thing we should take note of:
The Greek word used for men is the Greek word that includes both men, women, even children. It is inclusive. Paul is not limiting those whom God has revealed his wrath against to just males. This is the word where we think of all peoples. This word is used for mankind. Particularly the portion of mankind that has perverted righteousness.
So, how does the heathen pervert righteousness? The sinful heathen perverts the righteousness of God when they…
1B Suppresses the Truth of God (18-22)
“…who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…” (18b)
How does the sinful heathen suppress the truth of God? Our text reveals that first of all, they suppresses the truth of God…
1C By their Impious Attitudes (18-21)
The heathen holds impious, or ungodly, or unrighteous thoughts about God’s word.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”
The heathen, the unsaved, unredeemed man in his natural state thinks he knows more or better than God. So he hinders, or restrains, or stands against the truth of God. He opposes it.
Because of the sinful nature of mankind, every human being apart from Christ has a natural built-in and compelling drive to resist God and to follow after sin.
Paul goes on to say:
“…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
IOW – What is known about God is evident inside them because God made it known or made it evident.
Regardless of whether people ever hear a “gospel message” or regardless of their opportunities to know or hear God’s word, they have a built-in, internal, God given evidence of God’s existence and of God’s character. But they are wired to resist God and to restrain, hinder, or stand against or to suppress God’s truth.
How do we know this to be true? How do we know that all men, whether in the darkest jungles of Africa, or to the most enlightened and educated place in the world, have the knowledge of God and His character? How do we know this?
Look at verse 19 – “…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
Every human being, all of mankind, all of the heathen no matter how far apart from Scripture, the gospel, the church, or other Christians have enough truth within them and outside of them to know God and to be reconciled to God.
The problem is that the heathen refuse to respond to this evidence and that is why they are under the condemnation of God and why he has revealed his wrath against them.
This is why God is angry with the wicked.
There is a second thing that the heathen suppresses by their impious attitude, they suppress:
The Content of God’s Revelation
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Since the time that God has created the world, God states that He has made his invisible attributes or characteristics visible to mankind. As a matter of fact God has made at least two (2) specific attributes evident enough that mankind can perceive them through his natural senses that that is
God’s eternal power
God’s divine nature
God’s eternal power means his never-failing omnipotence which is reflected in his creation. It is that power that brought things into existence that did not exist out of nothing and then sustains or keeps them in existence.
God’s divine nature refers to the kindness and graciousness of God towards his creation and creatures.
Charles Hodge wrote: “God therefore has never left himself without a witness. His existence and perfections have ever been so manifested that his rational creatures are bound to acknowledge and worship him as the true and only God.”
Keep in mind, that God’s revelation of himself is not obscure or tricky
Nor is it only available to or known by a special, select portion of mankind.
This revelation of God can be clearly seen by every human being by what God has created.
But, the heathen suppresses the truth by his impious or ungodly attitudes toward or about God.
[There is a second way the heathen suppresses the truth.]
Our text reveals that, they suppresses the truth of God…
2C By their Impious Actions (21)
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
God is justified when he is angry at the heathen and he is justified when he judges them and condemns them because the heathen willfully rejects the knowledge that God has revealed and they reject God in place of idols.
In verse 21 Paul gives us three (3) ways that the heathen suppresses the truth of God by their impious or ungodly actions; they dishonor God, they are ungrateful towards God, the speculate incorrectly about God.
First of all – the heathen dishonors God: by refusing to value God as being God
Here is the root sin of pride. Pride is at the very core of man’s sinful nature, it is the root of his fallen condition.
The text says, “…they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…”
First of all, let me remind you they did not know God salvificaly. These are not believers by any stretch of the imagination. This means that they were aware of God and his character because God revealed his invisible attributes to all of mankind.
It means that when they knew God to be God they refused to acknowledge, treat, or respond to God in the way that God is worthy to be responded to. IOW, they refused to worship God. They refused to acknowledge God to be who he said he was.
They refused to acknowledge God as supremely worthy of praise, worship and adoration. The word honor comes from a root that referred to weight or to heavy. It was originally used of dignitaries, high ranking officials and such. It meant to give to them the weight of recognition that their rank or status deserved.
If God exists and if God is real and if God has clearly revealed himself to be all powerful and gracious then the only response is to treat God as God.
So the bible, particularly the Psalms are filled with commands, exhortations, and examples of praising God because God is worthy to be praised.
David said, “Ascribe to the Lord Glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.” (Psalm 29:1-2)
Paul told the Corinthians, “Whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Don’t forget that the Westminster Catechism tells us that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Mankind was created to glorify and worship God. Refusing to glorify and worship God as God is the greatest offense and sin man can do against God.
Adam and Eve’s great sin was that they desired to take upon themselves glory and honor that alone belonged to the Lord and so they sinned against God.
Secondly the heathen disrespects God: refusing to give thanks where thanks is due
“…nor were thankful…”
God is a gracious God. God is worthy to be thanked for his gracious provision. God is the source of every good thing than mankind ever has. God gives life, he gives rain, sunshine, food, and everything thing else you can think of.
But unredeemed man, the heathen, fails to admit that God is the source of everything that they have ever had, have now, or ever will have.
Ingratitude is a terrible sin against God.
Every time you fail to thank God for the day, or for safety, or for your food, you slapping God in the face, you are dishonoring God because you are failing to be grateful and to express gratitude for what you have. In reality you don’t deserve a single thing.
Thirdly, the heathen distorts God: by speculating incorrectly about God & everything else
“…but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Mankind has become futile in his speculations. When the heathen rejected God they rejected the only reality and the greatest realty in the universe. God is the one who gives true meaning to anything and everything, God gives true purpose and God gives true understanding.
So when mankind has rejected God then they are doomed to guide their minds by their own fallen and sinful speculations which leads to falsehood which leads to further unbelief and sinfulness.
When you reject God, you in essence exchange truth for the false, you trade meaning for hopelessness and you trade satisfaction for emptiness
Here lies the real and ultimate tragedy – the heart or the soul of man does not remain empty – it sucks in falsehood and darkness to fill the void left by rejecting God and his truth.
So the heart then, the foolish heart, becomes dark. It becomes enslaved to sin and wickedness.
The foolish heart, the foolish man does not know that spiritual darkness and moral wickedness go hand in hand. When mankind rejects God, he accepts sin, wickedness, and darkness.
I think this is why Paul warned the Colossians when he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Col 2:8)
An example or illustration of rejection, false speculation leading to darkness is seen when truth and light came into the world through the incarnation, and unbelieving men rejected the light. The deeds or works of the heathen were evil and the heathen who has a dark heart loves darkness rather than the light and so they are left to vain speculations which darkens the heart. This is the terrible judgment of God – letting man love hid darkness.
So, the heathen suppresses the truth by their impious or ungodly attitudes and they suppress the truth by their impious or ungodly actions.
There is a third and final way the heathen suppresses the truth of God. The sinful heathen suppresses the truth of God…
3C By their Impious Adoration (22-23)
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
When the heathen, or mankind rejected God’s clear revelation of himself through creation, and they failed to ascribe glory to God, and they failed to be thankful, and they became futile in their speculations, and they became foolish with darkened hearts, they concluded that they were “wise.”
With this darkened, sinful, and godless wisdom they actually became fools.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.
I wish I could spend some time here but let make a couple of observations and comments.
David said this, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1) He said it or recorded it twice.
Men who deny God are foolish and this foolishness deludes them into thinking that they are wise or smart or enlightened.
They can’t think righteously about anything! But the heathen cannot think anything righteously about spiritual things. The main reason is that this is where sin has done its most devastating work.
The human mind apart from the redeeming benefit of Christ’s work on the cross and the indwelling HS cannot think in a manner that is pleasing to God.
This leads then to the refusal to worship God and to the worship of idols. The unsaved are not righteous, but unsaved man is religious.
“…and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
According to a World Almanac survey, 2.6 billion people in the world claim an identifiable religion of some kind.
Did you know that the Hindu religion has 330 million gods? That is about 8 gods per person.
The Heathen are idolatrous. Listen to Isaiah – 44:9-17
Unsaved men worship anything and everything. Spiritually blind, depraved, darkened man worships creatures and creation rather than God who is the creator.
Look at what the heathen or sinful mankind chooses to worship:
First – they substitute the worship of God for the worship of themselves.
“…an image in the form of corruptible man…”
Instead of worshipping God, man tries to deify himself. Men love and worship themselves.
Second – they substitute the worship of God for birds, and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Many different types of birds have been idolized and worshipped by sinful men.
Eagle was worship in Rome (Jews refused to display them)
Stork and the hawk were worshipped in Egypt
American Indians worshipped birds including the Thunderbird
Many animals were worshipped by sinful mankind throughout history
Egyptians worshipped the bull-God Apis,
The cat-goddess Bubastis,
The wolf-god Ophois
Israelites worshipped the golden calf
Canaanites worshipped bulls
Various cultures worshipped mice, rats, elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and even the sun and the moon
Many crawling or creeping bugs and such were worshipped
Egyptians worshipped the scarab beetle
Assyrians worshipped snakes
Canaanites worship flies – Baal-zebub means “Lord of the flies”
Hindus refuse to kill most animals and insects – they might be a either god or a relative
Modern man worships things like astrology, the occult, horoscopes, and stars
Modern man worships idols like: Wealth, Health, Beauty, Pleasure, Prestige, Power, Sex, Sports, Education, Entertainment, and/or Success
So, how does the heathen pervert righteousness?
The heathen, the sinful, wicked, darkened, and unsaved man suppresses the truth of God by his ungodly attitudes, actions, and adorations.
[What do you say we wrap this up, shall we?]
J. H. Clinch wrote a very provocative and powerful poem:
And still from Him we turn away
And fill our hearts with worthless things;
The firs of greed melt the clay,
And forth the idol springs!
Ambition’s flame, and passions heat,
By wondrous alchemy transmute earth’s dross
To raise some gilded brute to fill Jehovah’s seat
When man rejects God’s revelation, whatever the form of that revelation might be, and when he suppress or hinders, holds back, rejects the truth, mankind sinks into the darkest of darkness through sinful attitudes, sinful actions, and sinful adorations.
So, I exhort you as genuine believers to: thank God for the fact that he redeemed you and saved you from this life of darkness.
Remember, Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5 … “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, NKJV)
“.” (, NKJV) Let’s pray! J
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Philippians 4:23, NKJV)