We have been observing the marks of a great preacher in the opening of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The apostle Paul was a great preacher—not in good looks or eloquent speech—for he possessed neither—but in character, ministry, and message.
Great preachers are not like the boy who went to the employment office of Western Union. He asked for a job delivering telegrams and the manager told him he could start at once. “But,” says the boy, “there is one thing I should warn you about. I am psychologically so constituted that I cannot stand any scene of unhappiness. I will deliver all the telegrams that tell of fortunes being made, of congratulations for success, of acceptance for marriage, -in short, all of the telegrams that are of joy and bliss. But all the telegrams concerning sickness and death and loss are alien to my nature, and I will not deliver them.” It didn’t take the manager long to say that there was no place for such a messenger at Western Union.
The duty of the messenger is to take all messages to the person to whom they are addressed, by the shortest route and in the quickest time. In no small sense, it is the function of preachers and teachers of the Word of God. The whole counsel of God is to be preached and taught. God’s message is comprised of BAD NEWS and GOOD NEWS and the apostle Paul does not shy away from the BAD NEWS.
It is a mistake to neglect the severer side of Christ’s teaching. Significantly enough, He spoke more about HELL than He did about HEAVEN. Jesus referred to the destiny of the damned nearly twice as often as He did to that of the blessed. In the Gospel of Matthew, where we have the most complete record of Christ’s public utterances, for every verse in which He referred to heaven there are three in which He referred to Hell.
In Paul’s presentation of the Gospel, the BAD NEWS of HUMAN SIN and GOD’S WRATH comes before the GOOD NEWS of SALVATION.
It is impossible to appreciate the grace of God, except against the background of man’s sin and God’s wrath. Therefore, A Great Preacher tells THE PLAIN TRUTH! Romans 1:18—
[For] the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
FOR THE WRATH OF GOD IS BEING REVEALED. How is God’s wrath revealed? In two ways:
First, God’s wrath comes indirectly through the natural consequences of violating His universal moral law; and second, directly through His personal intervention. God has various kinds of wrath:
1. ETERNAL WRATH, which is HELL
2. ESCHATOLOGICAL WRATH, which is the Day of the LORD at the end of this present age, when God will pour out the bowls of wrath
3. CATACLYSMIC WRATH, like the Genesis Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Ten Plagues upon Egypt
4. CIRCUMSTANTIAL WRATH, like the idolatrous Israelites being oppressed by their enemies
5. CONSEQUENTIAL WRATH, which is the principle of sowing and reaping
6. ABANDONMENT WRATH, which is removing restraints and letting people go to their sins
7. SALVATION WRATH, which was manifested on the Cross
In each case, the Scripture shows that these manifestations of wrath have their origin in HEAVEN. It is God, dwelling heaven, who vents His wrath upon the perpetrators of GODLESSNESS and WICKEDNESS.
The most graphic revelation of God’s holy wrath and hatred against sin and the sinner was when the Father poured out divine judgment on His Son on the Cross.
Some people are disturbed about the idea of a God of love possessing wrath. If God does not possess wrath, He is a monstrosity, a crippled God. God’s attributes are balanced by His perfection. God is perfect in His love, but He is also perfect in His holiness, which demands justice.
One of the tragedies of modern Christianity is that there has been a preaching of the love of God to the exclusion of the preaching of the hatred of God. There cannot be too much preaching of the love of God, providing it is balanced with a preaching of God’s hatred of sin and wrath toward those that know Him not and who obey not the Gospel of His Son. The Bible reveals that “our God is a consuming fire.”
Our text literally says that the wrath of is CONSTANTLY BEING REVEALED. Before the time of Christ, God occasionally burst forth at some high offense upon the part of man, leaving sign posts of His wrath at the cross roads of human history to show man the direction in which he was moving, and in which God would most surely follow him. But for the most part the behavior of God during the centuries before the time of Christ is best described by Paul on Mars’ Hill in Acts 17:30—
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world. That is as much a part of the Gospel as is the promise of Heaven for the believer. The Cross has revealed God’s Wrath, and the judgments that will come upon the world flow from the death of the Savior.
THE WRATH OF GOD is a phrase that should chill the blood of an individual who does not know that it has been stilled forever for all in Christ and that He is a the only way to avoid it.
THE WRATH OF GOD is not an impulsive outburst of anger. It is a slow burning anger that builds up like water behind a dam until it must overflow. inherent in God’s wrath is patience as well as indignation and anger exhibited in punishment.
THE WRATH OF GOD is the displeasure of His righteousness, which is expressed by the punishments inflicted on the ungodly, those who retain not God in their knowledge; and the unrighteous, those whose lives are reprobate.
As, in the Gospel, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD is revealed for the salvation of the ungodly, so is THE WRATH OF GOD revealed against the workers of iniquity. Those who refuse to be saved in the way revealed by His mercy must be consumed in the way revealed by His justice.
THE WRATH OF GOD is revealed because of HUMAN UNGODLINESS. The whole question of ungodliness and the fact that ungodliness is inexcusable becomes Paul’s first major topic in Romans.
Next, God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against HUMAN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. While ungodliness is chiefly sin against God, unrighteousness is wrongdoing against man. It is the condition of not being straight with either God or man.
Man’s first sin in the Garden of Eden separated man from God; his second sin (Cain’s murder of Abel) separated man from man. God is as indignant at man’s wrong treatment of his neighbor as He is at man’s wrong treatment of his Creator.
Finally, God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against HUMAN UNBELIEF—those who SUPPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS. God holds all men accountable for certain basic truths and the deliberate rejection of these truths in unbelief will be judged.
UNGODLINESS (asebeian, from a, negative, and sebw or sebomai) denotes worship expressed in atheism, polytheism, and idolatry of every kind. Ungodliness indicates a lack of reverence for devotion to, and worship of the true God.
UNRIGHTEOUSNESS (adikian from a, negative, and dikh) is everything contrary to strict morality; all sinfulness and perverseness of conduct. It is a lack of conformity in thought, word, and deed to the character and law of God.
WHO HOLD THE TRUTH IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS and SUPPRESS THE TRUTH.
Men of learning, close their eyes to the most obvious facts, deny or ignore God’s revelation of Himself in creation, the Scriptures, and Christ.
TV commercials advertise intoxicating liquors as though they brought nothing but pleasure and satisfaction, but they never mention the results of drunkenness. They boast the finest products but throw a veil over the finished product. They never shows pictures of the intoxicated men and women making fools of themselves, or mention how alcoholics often deprive their families of food and clothing, become involved in crime and ruin their own bodies. That TRUTH is SUPPRESSED!
TV programs promote all kinds of sin and immorality in the name of pleasure and fun, but fail to mention the results of their “fun”—broken homes, broken hearts and wrecked lives. Thus, they suppress the truth in in unrighteousness!
But while men suppress the truth, they cannot escape the consequences of their folly, for God reveals His wrath against sin every day as the fruits of wicked conduct continue to take its toll.
TO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH is TO HINDER and RESTRAIN it while HOLDING FAST to INACCURACY, INCORRECTNESS, DECEPTION, DISHONESTY, UNTRUTH, and UNTRUTHFULNESS.
Here Paul is referring to the SUPPRESSION of the evidence that comes through conscience, creation and God’s Word.
The touchstone of all judgment will be the attitude of men toward the truth concerning God. Anyone who denies the existence of God or rejects Him will be defenseless on Judgment Day according to verse 19—
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
It is significant that the Bible does not attempt to prove that there is a God. It begins with the grand statement, “In the beginning, God created . . . .” The fact of God’s existence is self-evident and taken for granted. The person who says differently is bluntly called a fool in Psalm 14:1 and 53:1—
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”
The root cause of atheism is traced in both these psalms to moral rather than to intellectual sources. It is not that a man CANNOT believe so much as that he WILL NOT. God’s wrath is kindled against those who deny Him, ignore Him, or resist Him.
The FOOL is constantly trying to convince himself that “there is no God.” When he is confronted with the voice of God addressing him by means of special revelation—the Bible—he still refuses to capitulate.
Herod Antipas was a fool. Mark’s Gospel tell us Herod feared John the Baptist and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. Herod refused to repent. Instead, the king made a foolish oath at his birthday banquet and ordered an executioner to behead John and bring his head to the dinner.
Herod Antipas rejected THE PLAIN TRUTH about God because he wanted to continue to live in sin. The more conscience warns, the more the sinner hardens himself.
The fact that God exists is THE PLAIN TRUTH and He has made it plain to man! Our Scripture Reading this morning, Psalm 19, displays THE PLAIN TRUTH that the heavens declare the glory of God, the Law of the LORD revives the soul, and the LORD, and the Rock, is the Redeemer. In other words, creation, Scripture and Christ make plain God to man.
Here Paul is not primarily concerned with God’s mighty deeds in history. Certainly, God has proved His existence in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and Babylon, in predicting future events through the prophets, and manifesting Himself in flesh.
What may be known about God has been made known—it is not hidden or unknown! It is PLAIN TRUTH. Through the sense of sight the Truth of God’s existence and being penetrates into our minds, hearts and consciences as Paul explains with verse 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.
FOR SINCE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD indicates that this is no new discovery of God’s eternal power and divine nature, but what men have had, and might, by the light of nature, have enjoyed ever since the world was created.
Man observes the wonders of nature every day and must be willfully blind if he does not conclude that all this has behind it a great Mastermind—a Designer—a Creator. This is particularly true in the day in which we live. Man, now aided by powerful telescopes in space, can look far out into outer space and see literally billions of great constellations, galaxies and universes that are billions of light years away. As far as man can tell, this vast creation is limitless, infinite. Likewise, aided by powerful microscopes, man can observe countless, infinitesimal objects on the space of a pinhead. All that has been observed reveals design and even what cannot be seen is known to exist because of design.
Likewise, those things of God which are invisible, are seen—by the eye of the mind, heart and conscience. Being understood from the visible—They are seen by them, and them only, who use their understanding. Unless one is blind, one sees the Creator in the creation.
BEING UNDERSTOOD in an intellectual way—by proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition to understanding. Understanding is not insight from a sixth sense, but attains truth from logic and reason!
Some ask, “Are the heathen really lost?” People who ask that question often seem to feel that some those who do not have the message of God cannot be held responsible for it. But the answer to the question is found in Romans 1:19-20, which indicates that God has revealed Himself through nature so that everyone has enough knowledge to realize that God exists and that individual are personally responsible to Him.
God has revealed Himself to mankind by engraving the knowledge of Himself on each person’s conscience . That God has successfully done this is evidenced by the fact that every individual has the innate desire to worship something or someone. This is true even of those who have a strong anti-God spirit. They actually exalt self in the place of God, so they worship self. Even the atheist relies on something higher than himself when he is in desperate trouble.
Many missionaries point out that the heathen know more than we think. They know that there is a God. There are no atheists among heathen tribes. There has never been a tribe of people, however, small or depraved, which has not believed in some kind of god or had some system of worship. The heathen found is so-called primitive tribes know that they have sinned. When a Christian comes to them and talks about sin he often finds ready acknowledgement that this is true.
The heathen seem to know that their sins must be punished. They seem afraid of punishment, and afraid of death (as are most men everywhere). They know that sin must be atoned for, they seek ways of appeasing their angry deities or deity.
Missionaries sometimes ask the heathen, “Why don’t you worship God?” Even those who have not been taught about God usually state something like this: “Why should we worship God? He’s good; He’s not going to hurt us.” This simply emphasizes that they worship the Devil because they fear him. However, all are without excuse, since even those in the most remote areas of the world are conscious that God exists.
That the heathen are not without a witness to the true God is Paul’s first point. THE CREATION OF THE WORLD demands a Creator as revealed in Genesis 1.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Creation offers proof (to those willing to accept it) of a powerful “Someone” behind it all. The astronomical odds against this world happening merely by chance provide insurmountable evidence for a Creator. The intricate beauty and complex design of the creation—from sub-atomic particles and molecular building blocks of life to galaxies and the expanses of the universe—demonstrate that a DESIGNER planned and made it all.
We do not see God, and yet we acknowledge Him as God by His works. God expects men to learn from nature the truth of His eternal power and the truth of His invisible qualities. Nature points to the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator.
“There is a God!” says nature, pointing to seasons, stars, sun, and moon—“He is eternal in His power!”
SO THAT MEN ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE. Man brings condemnation on himself by neglect of God’s revelation. God does not reveal Himself that He may condemn man, although man may bring condemnation on himself by neglect of God’s revelation.
Since all nations come from one original family, it follows that all nations once had some knowledge of the truth originally given to mankind. Archaeology and history both demonstrate the universality of sacrifice in human religions from earliest times that sufficiently demonstrate a common origin in a God-given revelation to the human race just after the Fall.
The OSIRIS MYTH in Egypt shows how much light was possessed by heathen nations. According to this myth, Osiris, the bright Spirit of Good, offered himself up for the evildoing of the human race that had dethroned him. From him and the “Divine Mother,” of whom all nature is, sprang another spirit to protect the believing on earth as Osiris was their Justifier. so ran the Osiris myth. The truth was dim and distorted but it was there.
Man needs a personal Redeemer, and nature cannot satisfy that need, for nature knows nothing of forgiveness. Its rules are relentless and ruthless, visiting swift retribution on all infringement of its laws. It teaches no moral codes. Savage tribes have dwelt with nature for ages and produced cannibals! Nature has a voice but it has no heart, and it offers no solution to man’s greatest problem, that of sin. It makes no mention of a Savior. There can be no comparison between God’s witness to Himself in creation and His witness to Himself in redemption.
Creation will tell us somewhat of the work of His hands; Calvary alone unveils His heart.
Although nature does not reveal the plan of redemption, it does reveal mankind’s need of redemption and give man a consciousness that God exists and that He can provide redemption. This was illustrated by Cornelius in the Book of Acts. He was aware of his need of God even though he did not have specific information about God and the plan of salvation. The Bible describes him in Acts 10:2—
He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
Yet, Cornelius was not a believer in Jesus Christ, for it was not until after the Apostle Peter had proclaimed the message to him that he trusted Christ as his Savior. Cornelius lived up to the light he had. That in itself was not enough to save him, but God worked in such a way that he was given full information.
It is important, therefore, that believers go throughout the world proclaiming the Gospel. Romans 10:13-15 states—
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Do you have beautiful feet? Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Who are you telling?
Every child of God has the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel to a lost world.
THE WRATH OF GOD CONTINUES TO BE REVEALED FROM HEAVEN—how many of your friends and loved-ones will experience it?