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Romans (Series 2)

Wrath Deserved

Romans 1:18 - 2:11

Lesson audio

Paul begins his lessons to the Romans by stating three things:

  • Why the wrath of God is deserved by man
  • What God is doing about it – even today (eerily, his words ring of today).
  • Ultimately, what God will do about it on the Day of Judgment.

Why God’s wrath?

Romans 1:18-23 NIV The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (19) since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (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. (21) 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. (22) Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Counterargument: the love of God

It may seem strange to start with the counterargument, but this idea is so embedded in our society that it must be dealt with first. Put simply, the counterargument goes likes this: “But God is a loving god – how could he do a thing like punish someone or send them to hell?” We answer that (as Aquinas would have said it):

  • How do you know that God is a loving God? Is it not because both nature and revelation (Scripture) show him as such? If so, how is that you accept this revelation about him, but not the revelation of the God of Justice? Are you indeed so superior to God?
  • Indeed, are you not picking and choosing among the things known about God to create a god of your own convenience and choosing? My wife likes to have me make love with her; she also likes to have me do the dishes. Somehow she does not see the logic in my picking what I want. Marriage, like the rest of life, is a package deal.
  • For those to whom written revelation has made it, do you really have the choice? Can you decide which parts of Scripture are true and which are false – based on your personal desires? It’s the word of God, not a candy store.
What is revealed about God?

So just what is it about God that has been revealed? The question takes much more time than we have to answer fully, but for our purposes we might point out the following:

  • First, his existence – as shown in his divine power in creating the universe.[1]
  • Second, his love as shown in his divine care for us, both in nature and at the Cross.
  • Third, his justice – as shown in Scripture, and in history. What goes around, comes around; the universe is a moral place – just as its Creator intended.
The accusation

Justice is applied to the guilty. What, then, does God say that we have done?

  • We failed to glorify him. We have Obama worshipers, and no one thinks anything of it. But we do not glorify him.
  • We have failed to give him thanks. The ultimate source of bread is not the bakery – but we act like it is.
  • Most important of all, we think ourselves wise while being fools. Think of the condescension the world has for “ignorant fundamentalists.” Throughout much of the church today the concept of sin is considered obsolete – and we shall see its consequences.

So what will God do about it?

It’s easy to think that God does nothing about this, and therefore doesn’t really care. If the “something” we want him to do is fire and brimstone, you’re right; he usually doesn’t do that. So what does God do about this?

Romans 1:24-32 NIV Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (25) They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. (26) Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. (27) In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (28) Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (29) They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, (30) slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; (31) they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (32) Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Sexual desires

It is interesting: the first thing God does about this is give mankind over to sexual desires. Does that ring an alarm bell today? Notice the sequence:

  • First comes lesbianism. Those old enough will recall a time when lesbianism was considered “bold, artistic, fulfilling,” while male homosexuality was still considered a bit shady. (See the history of feminism for this; a major part of this spiritual foolishness.)
  • Once that is well established, male homosexuality comes next. And coming up next, by the way: pedophilia. (We already have a state sponsored institution in California set up specifically to advocate this – an institution funded primarily by the pornography industry.)
  • Following that? The penalties thereof (think AIDS). What’s really funny is to hear the “reasons” for the AIDS epidemic – which chastity could wipe out in a generation.

Why do we have an AIDS epidemic in the United States? Well, it’s certainly not our sexual behavior (pure righteousness, that – except for Republicans, of course.) Here’s why:

  • Not enough money spent on health care, especially in the rural south. (More clinics would mean people would find out they’re infected sooner, and of course they’d use condoms after that.)
  • Not enough money spent on research – which is caused by right wing Christian fundamentalists.
  • And – my favorite – because of the guilt trip laid on innocent, sexually active AIDS victims by those same Christians.

So you can see, it’s really nothing of God’s doing. Right.

Gave them over to…

The next step is a long and familiar list of characteristics of our society. The reader is referred to the list given in our previous study on Romans.[2] (For the classroom use, this list was reproduced).

Key points to observe

It’s a long list – but each item rings true. But I would point out three key things for you to observe concerning this list:

  • First, we deny God’s decree. We contend that right and wrong aren’t; that all things are relative; all “cultures are equally valid.” In other words, God, you are mistaken.
  • We “continue to do” these things. It starts with the fact that we have no shame about them (and that is true in our local church.) I remember well the reaction our former pastor got when he stated that “sex outside of marriage is wrong.” The audience – and it was the older portion of the congregation – gasped. Ultimately, the conscience is seared. Once this is done, it’s easy to proclaim wrong to be right.
  • Finally, we end up by approving – indeed, applauding – those who do such things. Homosexuals are bold fighters against puritanical prudes, applauded by all.

No Favoritism

It is tempting – in the Biblical sense – for the Christian to say, “right on!” But Paul now brings out the problem with doing that.

Romans 2:1-11 NIV

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (2) Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. (3) So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? (4) Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? (5) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (6) God "will give to each person according to what he has done."[1] (7) To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (8) But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (9) There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; (10) but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (11) For God does not show favoritism.

You judge, you condemn yourself

The argument is pretty simple:

  • You possess the truth, Christian. It is a higher standard than the revelation of nature. Should you not therefore be held to that higher standard?
  • You pass judgment on others. That implies that you know the standard, and that you agree that it is right.
  • God is just. Is it not justice that he therefore will apply the standard that you know, the higher standard, the one you agree is right – to you?

Most inconvenient, that. So we bring up our excuses – agreeing generally, but in my particular case…

Our excuses

This may not seem familiar at first, but think on it a bit…

  • “My sins are respectable.” It’s not greed, it’s ambition. It’s not envy, it’s a desire for social justice. Everyone approves of these things; what’s the problem. (And if all the kids in your junior high class are wearing bones in their noses, running like lemmings over the cliff, then you…)
  • “God will forgive me – it’s his hobby.” (Heine). In saying this, do you not insult the mercy of God?
  • “Doesn’t my sin give God a chance to show his grace? Grace is a good thing, right?” So more sin is a good thing, right?
God’s wrath

The fact is unassailable: God will deal with mankind according to his righteous wrath. But we may observe three principles to this which may affect our search for a solution:

  • First, in his mercy, he allows for a time of repentance.[3] We should avail ourselves of that time.
  • Judgment will be based on what you have done – both positive and negative.
  • Hypocrites will be judged most severely.

Stopping at this point, things look bleak. But Paul is not finished yet. As we shall see, his writing will hit its high point in Christ – the solution to this problem.



[1] The reader is referred to the five philosophical proofs of the existence of God as given by Aquinas – the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, contingency and necessity, degrees of perfection and the argument from design – and the implications regarding his character thereof.

[2]  List is here.

[3] There is wickedness in this world. Therefore God is either not powerful, not righteous – or not finished with us yet.

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