Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Romans 1:18-32

August 7th, 2011 by Vic

Romans 1:18-32

“The Wrath of God is Being Revealed”

August 7, 2011


Adam was the first person to fail to be thankful for what he had.  The next step was to believe a lie, and then he become foolish.  Paul describes the spiral of man’s sin in the Scripture today.  3 times Paul says humanity distorted reality (23, 25, 26) and 3 times God handed them over (24, 26, 28) to receive the fruit of their distortion, the wrath of God.


Most people can see the wrath of God being revealed in perversion and sin, but they may not see that the righteousness of God is simultaneously being revealed.  Sin has distorted mans thinking, but Jesus came to forgive sin and restore our vision of Truth and reality.  We hear the bad news in the Scripture today.  The good news is coming in the rest of the letter.


The unthankful man who forgets who he is and who God is, becomes subject to degenerative processes.  When he chooses to not do what he knows he should do he suffers.

Ignoring the obvious truth of God 18-23

18. ‘for the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven’ at the same time the righteousness of God is being revealed (17).  Paul now says the alternative to righteousness unto faith through obedience (17) is wrath unto death through disobedience (18).  Just as the righteousness of God is being revealed in the lives of those who trust God, so God’s wrath can be recognized in what is already actually taking place in the lives of the disobedient.


Throughout the OT when Israel disobeyed God’s laws they received God’s wrath.  When other nations treated Israel unjustly those nations received God’s wrath.


Wrath is clearly visible in self-destructive human behavior.  God made us with the freedom to self-destruct.  God’s wrath is revealed in the consequences of sin.  Wrath is a just response to the unjust, a pure rejection of the impure.  When man disobeys God’s laws he suffers consequences.  Jesus came to forgive us and save us from the wrath of God.  It seems like an anomaly but God’s wrath is rightness.  He loves us so much He sent Jesus to provide forgiveness and save us from wrath.


‘all impiety and unrighteousness of men’ is a general phrase for immoral behavior and unlawful conduct in the Greek culture.  Unrighteousness is the failure to meet the obligations toward God and man which arise out of our relationships with God and man.  All disregards for God and the rights of our fellow man have consequences, the wrath of God.


‘who suppress the truth in unrighteousness’   If you don’t keep your promises you suppress the truth.  Truth is all reality as seen from God’s eyes.  Failure to acknowledge God as Creator inevitably results in a sequence of false relations toward God, man, and creation itself.  Truth is accessible, but mankind ignores it or suppresses it by living the lie.


Man can know the Truth, but can ignore it and deliberately try to stifle it.  Truth is like a lion.  You don’t have to defend it.  And it is dangerous to ignore it.   Some may argue that it is too hard to understand the Truth.  We pay scholars to think for us.  We are like Pilate who asked, “What is truth?” and the answer was standing right in front of him.  The problem is not that man cannot know but that he chooses not to see and know.


We can be so interested and skilled about technology yet so apathetic about the mysteries of our Creator.  We can try to suppress truth by our unrighteousness.


19. ‘because what can be known about God is evident to them’  God has made Himself known.  God is knowable.  The Lion of Truth is really there.  Truth is standing right in front of you.


Copernicus, the Polish astronomer, came to the conclusion that the earth was not the center of the universe.  He was reluctant to publish his findings.  He knew church leaders believed the earth was the center of the universe.  Those who thought differently were punished.  Man has always liked to think that he is the center and everything revolves around him.


‘God has shown them.’  In our hearts we know there is a God.  This word to show or reveal identifies Christianity as a religion of revelation.  Creation does not provide the key to its own existence, but the knowledge of God has been made available to man by God through the inner recesses of his being.  We don’t discover God, we acknowledge that He is really here.


20. ‘for his invisible characteristics from the creation of the world are perceived intellectually in the things which have been made, both his eternal power and deity.’  This phrase is similar to some Stoic writings.  The Stoic believed the invisible could not be perceived with our senses, but can be known through the eye of reason.  They realized the invisible is real but their senses distort it.  Hebrews 11:3 says the visible was created from the invisible.


‘so that they are without excuse’  There is enough evidence available to man through the revelation of creation and man’s God-given abilities to observe, understand, and know that God is and also know who He is.  You can always know something about the artist by closely observing his handiwork.  Man can never claim he had no knowledge of God.  (The Sammy Morris story confirms this.)


21. ‘though they knew God they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks’  Our response should be to worship, obey, trust, and give thanks.  Thanksgiving is a lifestyle that recognizes what God is doing and stands in awe.  Failure to give God his due and to receive life as God’s gift is the basis sin.  Failure to glorify God and give Him thanks is the 1st step away from reality.


The most primitive man and the most belligerent child can see enough of God to glorify Him and give thanks.  The problem is not inadequate knowledge, but inadequate response.


‘they became futile in their thinking (thought, opinion, reasoning)’  Where life is not lived in thanksgiving as a gift from God it has lost touch with reality and condemns itself to futility.


‘their foolish hearts were darkened’ no longer able to see, understand, respond, and function as rational beings.  Unthankfulness shut off the light of the mind and caused a decreasing ability to function as a human being.


22. ‘claiming to be wise they became fools’  The word for fool is moranthy.  We get our word moron from it.  They worship self in place of God.  Men who claim to be wise are blind and don’t know it.  Their futility is the measure of their wisdom.  Like an old person getting a face lift or an ill-fitting wig.  Like the conservative Christian who believes in his beliefs rather than God.


Like many today Adam thought he was getting smarter by doubting and disobeying God.  The Romans thought they were being wise to include all gods.  They thought it was a sign of high intelligence to declare their independence from one God and be tolerant of all gods.  Paul is saying that an ungodly man is unable to hear the illogic of his logic.


The world by wisdom cannot know God.  The wise Greek thought the world was flat.  Aristotle said there were only 4 elements that made up the universe: earth, wind, fire, and water.


23. ‘they changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of the image of corruptible man, and of birds, and of beasts and of reptiles.’  They settle for a copy of a copy, like Plato’s allegory of the cave.  Like the Jewish nation, they turned their back on God.


Consequences of ignoring God  24-27

24. ‘So God handed them over in the desires of their hearts.’  God gave them freedom and the responsibility for their actions.  Our desire for control is our desire to be like God, the first sin.  He who wants to be his own god is granted his wish.  It is like the father who watched his son go away into a far country.  The father loves the son.  He gives him everything he wants.  He hopes the son will see the error of his ways.  The son remembers and returns.  The gospel is the power of good news about God’s love unto salvation.


Stoics defined desires as a reaching after pleasure which defies all reason.  Clement of Alexandria called it an unreasonable aiming at and reaching for that which will gratify itself.  Natural desires used in the wrong way at the wrong time makes me less than human.


‘to uncleanness that their bodies might be dishonored among themselves.’  Idolatry is linked to sexual license.  Man apart from God regresses to a lower level of animality.


God usually does not send fire and brimstone on the self-centered people.  He gives them the right to choose and the freedom to live with the consequences of that choice.


25. ‘ who changed the truth of God for the lie.’  God is trustworthy and faithful.  The idol is a lie, a falsification of reality.  The more a man sins, the easier it is to sin.  Sin gives us power to sin.  Faith and obedience give us the power to quit sinning.


‘they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.’  Worship and serve are contrasted to give glory and thanks (21).  Man is bound by his nature to worship something.  1 Samuel 5:2-7 illustrates the stupidity of sinful man.


26. ‘for this reason God regretfully handed them over to disgraceful passions.’  Moral perversion is the consequence of man’s freedom and releases God’s wrath.  Failing to give God His honor begins our spiral to self destruction.  Self respect is rooted in the recognition of God’s authority.


‘for their females changed the natural function into what is contrary to nature.’


Virgil wrote, “right and wrong are confounded, so many forms of wrong; no worthy honor is left to the plow.”  Seneca said, “we ask not what a thing truly is but what it costs.”  Crime became the only antidote to boredom.  Women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.  14 of the last 15 Roman emperors were homosexuals.  There is nothing that Paul says about immorality and false pleasure that the philosophers were not also saying.  It was an age of unparalleled luxury.  It was an age weary of the ordinary and seeking new sensations.  It was an age of unparalleled immorality.  And it was in this Rome that Paul was eager to preach the gospel.  For it is the power unto salvation and righteousness.


People did not see that the righteousness of God and the wrath of God were simultaneously being revealed in everyday experiences.  They did not know that Jesus had forgiven their sins and they could follow in rightness.  That is the gospel Paul wanted to preach.


27. ‘likewise also the males gave up the natural function of the female; they were inflamed with their desire for one another, males with males committing what is indecent, receiving in themselves the penalty which was fitting for their error.’  They received a fitting wage for their perversion.  God handed them over, to be their own god.  Emptiness, loneliness, and lack of satisfaction can be the wrath of God.  Ignoring the owner’s manual has consequences.


Paul is describing an escalating spiral of self-destruction in which the penalty matches the deed.  Sex treated as an end in itself becomes a dead end.  Sexual perversion has its own penalty.


More consequences of self-centeredness 28-32

28. ‘as they did not think to keep God in mind’ (18, 21, 23, 25)  It is not because man was distracted by something else and losing sight of God, but they gave God consideration and concluded that they did not need Him in their living.  They did not want God shaping their lives.  Human pride and self-sufficiency decided God was not important.


‘God handed them over to a disqualified mind.’  The act of making God the subject of your test and deciding to leave Him out of your consideration changes you.  There is a link between man’s rejection of God and foolishness.  Man’s claiming the ability to evaluate God proved his unfitness to think rationally.  So God handed them over to the wisdom and maturity they claimed to have—the maturity which only the immature would be bold enough to claim to have.  Man’s choice to not honor God is at the root of all evil.  Righteousness through faithful dependence on the Creator leads to salvation and abundant life; self-deceitful pride and self-indulgent desire leads to self-destructive wrath.


‘to do what is not fitting’  was a phrase the Stoics used to describe what is contrary to duty and is not in harmony with nature.  This varies in every culture.  A thoughtful person can recognize what is unnatural and improper.


29-31. ‘filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greediness, badness—full of jealousy, murder, rivalry, deceit, spite—rumor-mongers,’  Paul is not just listing sins but noting conventional morality.  The head of the list is unrighteousness.


unrighteous’ is not giving to God and men their due.  It means not respecting the rights of others and not keeping your commitments to others and to God.

‘wickedness’ villainy, badness, the desire to do harm.  It is the deliberate will to inflict injury.

‘greedy’ is the lust to get, the love of having.  It means grasping for more with disregard for the rights of others.  It is unbridled lust.

‘badness’ is the common word for viciousness that can include all other sins.

‘envy’ resents the admirable in another.

‘murder’ includes the deed and the attitude of hatred.

‘rivalry’ or strife is desire for prestige.

‘deceit’ is watering down wine, debasing precious metals, having ulterior motives, crafty.

‘spite’ is literally evil-naturedness.  Aristotle said it is the spirit which always assumes the worst about other people.  When people maliciously put a wrong interpretation on an innocent action.

‘slanderers’ tell malicious stories.

‘God-haters’ because God is a barrier to them.

‘insolent’ describes a man who is so proud that he defies God.  He is confident in his own wealth and power.

‘arrogant’ is a contempt for everyone except oneself.

‘braggarts’ is defined as the man who does not have what he pretends he has.  He is pretentious and a snob.

contrivers of evil’ seek out new ways to sin because he is bored.

‘disobedient to parents’ was dangerous, because the father had authority to kill the child.  But when the family disintegrated, the danger was past.

‘senseless’ was guilty of incredible folly.

‘faithless’ in regards to agreements and contracts.

‘loveless’ without natural affections.  There was never a night when there were not 30-40 abandoned children left in the Roman forum.  Natural human affection had been destroyed.

‘merciless’ or pitiless.  There was never a time when human life was so cheap.


All sin is the direct consequence of man’s basic failure to acknowledge and honor God as God and give thanks for who we are.


32. ‘Although they have known the just decree of God, that those who practice such things deserve death, they not only do the same but approve of those who practice them.’  They are entertained by watching others sin.  They have watched sin so much they are become inoculated to its horror.  They have created all kinds of entertainment with sexual suggestions.  I I read that the average number of sexual innuendoes in a half hour TV sitcom is over 10.


The book of Revelation describes a church that is lukewarm, poor, blind, and naked and they did not know it.  Laodicea was very wealthy.  They were enjoying the good life.  The city was a resort town known for their hot springs, baths, and an eye salve made from the mineral-rich mud.  They were prosperous and thought they had it all, but they were spiritually blind and naked.  They had become apathetic toward God.


If we are blind and naked, how would we know it?  We cannot see ourselves correctly until we see ourselves from God’s point of view.  It is very important to honor God and give Him thanks.


Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock.”  Are you ignoring the knock?  Are you listening?


Jesus never preached against movies, stadium games, TV, videos, smart phones, abortion, or homosexuality.  But He did say, “I forgive you.  Go and sin no more.”  The gospel is the power of God that can change and restore your life unto salvation, freedom, wholeness, the real you.


The gospel is good news.  It is the story of Jesus as God’s gift of love to the world.  If you want to be what you were created to be, start by honoring God and giving thanks.


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