The last time we met we talked about obedience – We learned that obedience does not come naturally to us, but rather is learned. Willful Obedience
We learned that there is something in our human nature that wants to rebel against obedience, and against authority.
If someone tells me not to do something, my first inclination will be to do it!
This is what the Bible calls the sinful nature
It’s in our nature to rebel – We can’t help it – It’s who we are – It’s a part of our DNA
But even though by nature we are disobedient, God still calls us to obedience
How do we do this if our bodies won’t let us?
The Bible says we do it by faith – Verse 5 says, “We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith” Romans 1:5
So, obedience comes through faith
Last time we met we talked about how God wants our obedience, not because we have to, but because we want to
We will talk more about this in the weeks ahead
But for now (since we’re starting the book of Romans) I would like to talk a little about how a letter is usually structured
If I was to structure a letter, how would I do it?
Well, usually the way a letter is structured is, the author tells us what he wants to tell us, then he tells it, then he tells it again
Thesis (main point), Body (talking about main point), Conclusion (summary of the main point)
In other words, Paul would say, “I’m going to tell you what I want to tell you (thesis), then I’ll tell it (body), then I will tell it again (conclusion)”
And this is exactly what Paul does in his letter to the Romans
And what he wants to tell them and us is (his thesis) found in chapter 1:16
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17
So, Paul is telling us that this is what he wants to discuss in this letter – The fact that God’s righteousness is not found in doing good things, but rather is found in faith through the person of Jesus Christ
In other words, “We don’t become right in the eyes of God by doing good things, but by believing in His Son Jesus Christ”
In a nutshell this is the message of Romans
Paul is saying that justification is by faith alone
So, from here Paul shifts gears and begins to write about human nature and why we will never be able to be justified in God’s sight by being good people
He begins with the depravity of man
Just so you know, the depravity of man simply means that we have been corrupted – It means that we are broken and can’t fix ourselves
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23
What I want us to consider tonight is this:
Is the wrath of God unjust?
This is a hard passage to read because it paints God as an angry God,a violent God, unmerciful, and unjust
Why would a good God send his creatures to hell?
This is a question that has been asked from the beginning of time no doubt
So what Paul wants to do is settle this question and help his readers understand who they are and what they have done to the Almighty God – Their Creator
He begins by saying, that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” Romans 1:18
The key words here are “suppress the truth”
The point that Paul is making is that all of creation, all of humanity knows that God exists and that they owe their allegiance to Him, but they do not do it – This is what the Bible calls sin and what Paul refers to as “suppressing the truth”
They know the truth that God created all things, they know the truth that they should live their lives in humble submission to Him but they don’t – They rebel against this truth – They suppress it
Think about this – What do we do when we “suppress” something?
When I think of this, I think of something that wants to come out of something but I don’t let it
It’s like when I look up into the night sky and I see all the stars shining it causes something in me to come out – It causes me to want to say, “God you’re amazing, look at what you’ve done!”
But if I “suppress” that inclination, that truth, and instead say, “No, there is no God, this is all just a cosmic accident” – What I’m doing is “suppressing the truth” – I am rejecting that which is plain to me
Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day it pours out speech, and night to night it reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” Psalm 19:1-4
In other words, the creation speaks for itself – The creation screams of God’s glory
And when we “suppress” God’s glory, when we “suppress” that which is plain to us, that which speaks for itself, what we’re doing is rejecting God
We’re rejecting the One who created us, the One who created all that we see – We reject the One who gives us life, a sound mind, a functional body, air to breathe, food to eat, and a mind to think
This is why this is so important and the reason why Paul begins his letter with it – Because when we “suppress the truth” what we’re doing is rejecting God
It’s kind of like this…
Suppose you are in a fine restaurant and you order a dish – You’re food arrives, you eat it, you enjoy all the flavors that it brings, it satisfies your hunger, it causes you to be glad, you’re content, you’re satisfied – It was the best meal you had ever had!
And then you leave, and you don’t even for a moment acknowledge the one who prepared the meal for you, the one who took the time to cut the vegetables, cut the meat, and add the spices
You see, the meal points to the one who made it, but all you do is enjoy what has been made for you and not even thank the one who created it
But in addition to not thanking him you don’t even think of him! – The thought of where the meal comes from didn’t even enter your mind – You simply enjoyed what the chef created for you, and then left
This is how it is when we breathe God’s air, eat His food, use the body that he gave us and not even thank Him for one of them, and not even think of Him in the process
This is what Paul is saying when he says that God’s wrath is being “revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness” of men, who “suppress the truth”
God’s wrath comes as a result of enjoying all that He has made, and not giving thanks to Him
Listen to what the text says,
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:18-21
Paul is stating here that all of humanity, every single human being that ever lived and is living today knows that there is a God
But what do they do?
They “suppress” it – They shove it down – They remove it from their mind
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
My question is, “What are we supposed to do?”
What did Jesus teach us to do?
Mark 12:30 says, 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
But do we do this? I think not
You see, when we continually “suppress the truth” what eventually happens is that we become fools and our hearts become dark – And our thinking becomes pointless, it becomes hollow and empty – And then we begin to do other things that are pointless, hollow, and empty
In the text, the pointless things the people did could be found in the next verse, Paul writes, “22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:22-23
What Paul is saying is that in rejecting God, the people became fools and began to worship wood and stone instead of God – The One who created the wood and the stone
“Their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” Romans 1:21-22
So what did God do?
Verse 24 says, “[He] gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”
This is a scary verse, because it tells us that if someone continually suppresses the truth, if they continually shove down what they know to be true, eventually God will give them up to what they want – And what they want is folly – What they want is to bow down to wood and to stone – What they want is contrary to nature – What they want is to be fools
So, eventually God gives them up to it
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:25
The judgment of God falls on those who continually “suppress the truth” and exchange the glory of God for idols
What does that mean?
An idol is anything that takes the place of God
An idol is anything that
becomes more important than God – An idol is something that we love more than God
Idols are not only ancient false gods that we read of in the Bible, idols are an everyday temptation for us as we live in the 21st century
Anything that I am devoted to above God is my idol
Whether that is my favorite sports team, my career, my business, my family, or even my child – Anything that I am devoted to above God has become my idol – It has become my god – It is what I worship
And what Paul is saying is that if we continually “suppress the truth,” continually reject God, eventually God will let us have what we want – And what we want is our idols – We want to worship sports, worship a career, worship a business – Eventually what we do is we begin to worship ourselves
And it only gets worse, verse 28 says, “28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Romans 1:28-31
And the list goes on, the point being that when you reject God – When you exchange the truth of God for a lie what you do is you start down a road that leads you to all the places you would not go otherwise
But you don’t see it, you’re blind to it because you’ve exchanged wisdom for folly, righteousness for unrighteousness, good for evil – To you folly is wisdom, unrighteousness is righteousness, evil is good!
This person’s mind has become “debased” – It has been corrupted
So, why does Paul begin his letter this way?
He begins it this way to communicate to his readers that all of humanity is guilty of this to one degree or another – All of humanity has chosen its own way – All of humanity has “suppressed the truth” to some degree – All of humanity has rejected God
What Paul is doing is building his case against the belief that we are okay if we do good things – We’re not okay! – What he is trying to do is communicate to his audience that all of humanity has chosen the wrong road – And the only way we can get on the right road is by Jesus Christ – By putting our faith in the One who took the right road from the beginning
Well, I asked a question earlier, I asked, “Is the wrath of God unjust?”
What do you think, is it?
Or you may be asking, “Why is it just?” “How could it be just?”
It’s just because, like a child willfully rebels against you, so we too willfully rebel against God – We willfully shake our fists at God and yell, commanding Him to leave us alone – And so when we do that long enough He gives us what we want – Sadly, it ends in our destruction
But this is why Christ came – He came to save us from all that we could not save ourselves from – We broke the law, He kept it – We shook our fists at God, He praised God – We chose our own road (the selfish road), He chose the selfless road – We step on others for our gain, He allowed Himself to be stepped on for our gain – We expect to be served, He served – We will do anything to save our life, He willingly gave up His life
You see, Jesus is the answer to all this – He is the answer to all your questions
He is what your longing for – He is the One who will give you purpose – He is the One who will give you life
You see, God poured out His wrath on Christ, so that you don’t have to face it
Question is, do you accept Him, – Will you let Him in – Will you open the door of your heart to Him – Will you acknowledge your need for Him – Will you accept what He offers you – Will you do what your heart is telling you to do right now?