By Steven Newell
This section of Romans is a carry on of Romans 1:16-17. Romans 1:16-17 is the Gospel while Romans
1:18-23 is the Law. Normally, we start
with the Law and end with the Gospel.
This would be a correct flow for non-Christians. But for Christian in
Paul begins with a strong statement as God’s wrath is currently being revealed against all godlessness and wickedness. God’s wrath is part of God’s holy judgment against all sin. God’s wrath is always targeted at rebellion against God. God’s wrath targets all sin. We hear much about a loving God and our salvation, while we hear very little about the God’s wrath. If there is no judgment for our sins, then we can sin without consequence. Likewise, if there is no consequence for our sin, then Christ died in vein.
Sometimes, we experience God’s temporal punishment for our sins. However, many of our sins may not result temporal punishment from God. However, everyone will be subject for God’s eternal judgment for our sins. The God’s wrath is targeted at all godlessness and wickedness.
Any sin is godlessness and wickedness. We tend to think of gross sins such as murder, stealing, and sexual immorality as what godless people do. We say that “it’s what other people do since I am a good person”. However, Jesus tells us if we have hateful thought against another, it is the same as if we had plunged a knife into that person’s heart (Matthew 5:21-22). If we have lustful thoughts about another person, it is the same as if we had sex with that person (Matthew 5:27-28). We are subject to God’s wrath since we are all sinners, godless and wicked.
The second part of Paul’s description of the reason of God’s wrath is who the object of His wrath is. Paul states that those who suppress the truth with their own wickedness is the object of God’s wrath. There is a difference between being subject to God’s wrath and being the object of His wrath. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul states that who are believe and have faith will live and are not the objects of God’s wrath. In the second part of our confession of sin, we ask for mercy:
But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.
Our sins are still subject to God’s wrath, but it Christ who bore God’s wrath on our behalf when he was on the cross.
The wicked man will not repent of their sin and ask for
mercy since they suppress the truth of our sinfulness and our need for God’s
mercy. In our natural state, we reject
the truth of God and we suppress God’s truth by our sinfulness. It is only after God has saved us do we have
the ability to accept God’s truth. Paul,
who was an expert of God’s law and tried to follow the Law, was godless and
wicked prior to his conversion. Paul
used his attempt of obedience to the Law as his way of suppressing the truth of
God. When Jesus appeared to Saul on the
In verse 20, Paul uses the concept of “natural law” to show that in creation we see the evidence of God’s existence and that God has incredible power to create our world as well as the entire universe. While nature does not show us the Gospel, it does testify the God exists. The term “general revelation” is used to describe this way we see a universal aspect of God. “Specific revelation” is God’s specific showing himself through Christ and His Word. We see many reject that God exists, through general revelation then they try to use nature as a way to provide that God does not exist.
Paul writes, in verses 21 to 23, how the sinful mind rejects God and confuses the worship of the creator with the created. We may acknowledge that there is a “god”, we neither give God the glory that he deserves and we refuse to give God properly thanks and praise for what God has given us. In the 1700’s, many people were Deist such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin. They viewed “god” as the creator but “god” had no part of the human events. When there are a continual lack of glorification and thanks given to God, the result is our hearts being darkened and our thinking becomes futile. The result of this darkened heart is that we confuse God and nature. Today, we worship man as the center (“humanism”) or nature (“environmentalism”) to name just a few. This confusing creator and creation is as old as man. Throughout the Old Testament, we see worship of animals and birds being condemned by God. The early church had to confront the worship of Caser and they responded by refusing to worship Caser and many dies horrendous deaths at the hands of the Roman government. Another confuse that we see today is that many have exchange the word “creation” for the word “nature”. The word nature does not point to a creator.
Another confusion of man is that his view of his own wisdom is misplaced. We confuse knowledge with wisdom. We know more about our world than any other time in history, but are we any wiser? In 1 Corinthians 1:18 to 2:5, Paul compares the wisdom of man to the wisdom of God. The wisdom of God is considered foolish to the “educated” mind and is a stumbling block to the Gospel. The twentieth century has the greatest leap forward in human knowledge as the same time the greatest number of deaths due to war in human history.