The Wrath of God (Rom 1:18-23)

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Pastor Mark Mikels – November 15, 2009
“THE WRATH OF GOD”
(Romans 1:18-23)

Intro … Today as we return to our verse by verse study of the Book of Romans we are forced to turn our attention to one of the most neglected or perhaps avoided Truths in God’s Word …

Today’s Key Focus:
“The TRUTH of God’s WRATH”

Here’s our passage of the day … listen as I read and then tell me if you can see any way that we can get around this most sobering truth.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wicked- ness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom. 1:18-23)

Talk about shifting gears! Introduction time is over – testimony time is done … Paul has jumped with both feet into some pretty serious stuff.

And it’s stuff that most believers today seldom talk about … certainly it’s stuff that is seldom preached about, especially not by those who would want to remain popular with the masses. But it’s the stuff to which we give our attention this morning and it lays the groundwork for all the stuff that is yet to come and it even establishes the context for the stuff that we have already considered.

Could say it’s some pretty essential “stuff”. It’s stuff concerning
God’s Wrath and the actions of men that stimulate it.

We could call this passage …
“The Wrath of God And The Mess-Ups Of Man.”

This morning I would share three key understandings that arise directly from this passage and then a fourth that I had to borrow from somewhere else.

The first thing that I (and Paul) would have us understand is:

1. THE CHARACTER OF GOD’S WRATH – What is God’s ANGER like?
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven …” verse 18

* It’s DIVINE not HUMAN

God’s wrath or anger is not like man’s anger – it is not subjective or emotionally based; it is not biased or prejudicial; it is not uniformed or misdirected; it’s the wrath of an all-knowing, all-comprehending Being.

God’s Wrath is “A righteous response of a Holy God” … it is just as “Godly” for God to be angry as it is for him to be loving!

* It’s PATIENT not IMPULSIVE

The term that Paul used that is translated “wrath” is the Greek word “orge” … suggests a slow but steady swelling – like yeast rising or like a balloon growing toward capacity. It’s actually more of an attitude than an action … a growing, ever-intensifying abhorrence of something.

Actually used of Jesus on one occasion … Mark 3:1-6

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Those Pharisees felt his anger – they knew he was disgusted with them.
They decided it would be best for them to get rid of him!

I’m sure it took a lot for Jesus to “hold it in” that day but that’s part of the character of God’s Wrath … It’s patient. Some of those very Pharisees later on repented and become His Followers.

But here’s the next thing we need to understand about the Character of God’s Wrath …

* It’s EXPRESSED not HELD FOREVER

It “is” … has been … and will yet be … revealed from heaven …
There comes a time when the dough has fully risen; when the balloon has reached its maximum capacity; when this God-Felt Abhorrence reaches its limit and God’s Wrath bursts forth in judgment.

It happened in the Flood in Noah’s Day;
It happened at Sodom and Gomorrah;
It happened when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem;
It happened on Calvary.

The Book of Revelation speaks of a time when “Bowls of Wrath”
will be poured out upon the earth in the last days.

Between Christ’s first and second coming, the outward expression of God’s Wrath has been and is being “held-back” …

We live in a marvelous period of grace … a time of salvation … a time for declaring the “Good News” of God’s Glorious Gospel – the news of how we can avoid His Wrath forever – a time when the affects of Christ taking the wrath of God upon himself are being played out.

But make no mistake …

Our God is a God Who is Capable of Great Wrath.

Now that leads us to the second understanding that arises from this passage.

2. THE CAUSE OF GOD’S WRATH – What MAKES God so ANGRY?

“Man’s SUPPRESSION of His TRUTH” (vs. 18)

Listen to the passage again …

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wicked- ness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom. 1:18-23)

* Man KNOWS the Truth (vs. 19, 21)
“… since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God
has made it plain to them … For although they knew God …”

* Man Is ACCOUNTABLE to the Truth (vs. 20)
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power
and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
so that men are without excuse.”

* Man has PERVERTED the Truth (vs. 23)
“… they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for
images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

* Man has REJECTED the Truth (vs. 21, 18)
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God
nor gave thanks to him, … men who suppress the truth.”

They not only reject God’s Truth for themselves – they actually seek to hide it from others … they deny it- they prohibit it – they make it illegal to declare it or build an educational system upon it.

Man’s actions with regard to His Truth really makes God angry!
Two big conclusions so far …

“Our God is a God who is Capable of Great Wrath”
and
“Man’s Attempts To Suppress God’s Truth Really Make God Angry.”

One more key understanding arises from this passage …
It’s important that we understand …

3. THE COURSE OF GOD’S WRATH – Toward what is it DIRECTED?

“Every Single SIN Ever COMMITTED” (vs. 18)

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

The truth is … every willful sin is the result of a conscious decision to “suppress” (to hold down/to ignore/to countermand) God’s Truth – the most basic being that of Loving our neighbor as ourselves.

And so the result is that the Wrath of God is directed against every single sin that has ever been committed by man …

Every little sin – every big sin;
Every secret sin – every public sin;
Every sinful action – every sinful thought – every sinful attitude …
Every Single One!

There are no freebies – there are no do-overs … every single sin is caught in the spotlight of God’s Wrath and every single one is Abhorrent to Him!

The expression of his wrath is certain and it is comprehensive and it bears devastating consequences.

And so Paul launches the main body of his letter with this devastating teaching regarding the WRATH OF GOD …
It was critical that these saints of God to whom he was writing clearly understood that …

“Their God is a God who is Capable of Great Wrath”
and that
“Man’s attempts to suppress God’s Truth is what really Stirs His Wrath”
and that
“His Wrath is directed toward every single sin ever committed.”

Those truths (The Bad News about the Wrath of God) lay the necessary foundation for the Good News of the Gospel.

Based upon this passage I would say …

“Woe to those who would seek to suppress the Bad News
even as they profess to present the “Good News”.

That’s a real temptation today – to fill auditoriums by preaching only the marvelous benefits of a God whose only relevant characteristic (the only one that needs to be mentioned) is LOVE.

It was not such a temptation in years gone by … in fact, one of the most powerful sermons ever preached in America – the sermon that God used to spark the Great Awakening in the early days of this country – was a sermon titled …

“Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.”

It was preached by a non-emotional, highly intellectual, future President of Yale University named Jonathan Edwards. He read it from a printed manuscript and yet the Spirit of God that day so powerfully moved upon the congregation that there were people holding on to the pillars of the building lest the floor open up and they plunge into the eternal fires of Hell – the very place where God’s Wrath will be ultimately and eternally expressed.

You see, until people know that they are truly lost – that they stand under the damming judgment of a Holy and Angry God – they will not cry out to be saved. But once they do – many will.

And that brings us to the fourth thing that I would have us understand this morning – the thing that doesn’t arise from today’s passage though it is suggested in the passage we looked at two weeks ago.

We have so far come to an understanding of the Character of God’s Wrath and the Cause of God’s Wrath and the Course of God’s Wrath.

Now as we close I would want us to be sure that we understand …

4. THE CURE FOR GOD’S WRATH … How can it be AVOIDED?

How can a sinful human being avoid being caught up in the River of God’s Wrath toward sin once it is released …

How can such a person (like the characters in one of my daughter’s favorite movies: Dante’s Peak) avoid the flow of burning lava that has been spewed out by the volcanic eruption that has torn the mountain apart?

How can a sinner escape – How can anyone avoid experiencing the Wrath
of God?
“COMMIT yourself to JESUS”
(2 Corinthians 5:21; John 3:36)

“God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us so that
in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

Here’s the Gospel … Here’s the Good News … Though God has never and will never stop hating sin, God has always and will always love the sinner and He has provided a way for that sinner to avoid Judgment.

Commit yourself to Jesus – Trust in Him for your Salvation.
He’s the only one who can protect you from Wrath to come.

Final Thot … Not until we understand God’s righteous WRATH toward sin are we able to fully appreciate God’s LOVE toward sinners!

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