“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
In Romans 1:16 the apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation.” The power of God. What an awesome power that is. By the spoken power of God, the universe sprang into existence. By the power of God’s word, nations are subdued, or engage in warfare. By the power of God, the fury of nature is unleashed, or restrained. By the power of God, spiritual life is imparted to a soul, and it lives.
Spiritual life is needed because the Bible reveals the ravaging effects of sin upon the soul. One dark day sin entered into the new creation. One dark day Satan took the form of a serpent to beguile Eve. One dark day spiritual death descended over the soul of man. Only God can cause new life, spiritual life to be breathed once more into the soul.
But what does it take for spiritual life to be imparted?’ You get to the heart of what a person believes with this question. The answer to this question is the cutting edge of light and darkness, life and death.
A believer can only answer “Lord. Thou knowest” for it is a great mystery (Ezekiel 37:3). This much is revealed. Spiritual life is imparted through the preaching of Christ.
The preaching that God blesses is not a formula, but rather a message that declares His Son.
What did the prophet Ezekiel say to a Valley of Dry Bones? What does the modern-day prophet say to an audience except this? “Hear ye, the word of the Lord. Hear Christ as the Substitute, the Atonement, the Propitiation, the Advocate, the Light, the Shepherd, the Mercy Seat, the All and in All.” When the Gospel is proclaimed, God Himself causes breath to enter a person. Dry bones live. Dead men walk. (Marvin Starlnaker)!
It is a wonderful miracle when spiritual life is imparted to the soul. But there is a harsh side to this matter, for the gospel is often rejected. Not everyone will believe in Christ. Not everyone will embrace the Christian message. On such people the Bible declares that the wrath of God keeps on abiding upon the soul.
John 3:17 declares that anyone who believes in Christ “is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19).
The concept of a God condemning hostile sinners in His holiness is not well received. Many would rather think of God as docile, distant, and disinterested in daily living. In desperation, and in many ways, men have tried to remove the idea of an all-powerful God holding His creation to a high level of accountability.
One way this has been done is by suppressing the truth. In a post-modern era, the announcement has gone forth, “There is no ultimate truth”.
There is only “a” truth, or, “your” truth. But Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
The Christian message insists that it is possible to know what Francis Schaffer called “true truth”.
However, when confronted with the truth of God’s existence, which is clearly seen according to Romans 1:20, fallen humanity seeks to block and deny His existence and influence.
It is this suppression of the truth in unrighteousness that produces the wrath of God. The Creator is being ignored by His creation, and that rejection is unacceptable.
Consider briefly some of the philosophical concepts that have been advocated in unrighteousness to suppress the truth.
Atheism. Atheism says that there is no God. An atheist named Robert Ingersoll said, “If there is a God, may he prove himself by striking me dead right now.” Nothing happened. “You see, there is no God.” Another responded, “You’ve only proved that He is a gracious God.”
As Vice President, George Bush represented the United States at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Vice President Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed.
Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest.
There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong.
She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
Agnosticism. Most people would not just come out and say there is no God, though not a few would admit to being an agnostic. Such a person is willing to share his skepticism, and leave the door open for discussion lest he be accused of being closed minded. In reality, the practicing agnostic who lives life without God, is no better than the professing atheist who says there is no God.
Evolution. If there is no God, if there is no Creator, if there is no Supreme Being, how then did the universe come into existence? The modern scientific answer is that man evolved from a common ancestor with the animals! But even that answer does not solve the problem, for the universe is still complex. Is life all a cosmic chance? Does it not take enormous faith to believe that the great mystery of life just happened?
“Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree
Discussing the things that are said to be—
Said one to another: “Now listen you two
There’s a certain rumor, but it can’t be true’
That man descended from our noble race-
Why, the very idea; it’s a disgrace.
No monkey ever deserted his wife,
Starved her babies and ruined her life.
Nor did ever a mother-monkey
Leave her babies with others to bunk,
Or pass them on from one to another
‘Till they scarcely knew who was their mother.
And another thing you’ll never see
A monkey building a nest around a coconut tree,
And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monkeys to have a taste.
Why, if I build a fence around a coconut tree,
Starvation would cause me to distribute to you.
Here’s another thing that a monkey won’t do:
Go out at night and get on a stew;
Or use a gun, a club, or a knife
To take another monkey’s life.
Yes, Man descended the ornery cuss!
But Brother, he didn’t descend from us.”
No wonder God is angry at such foolish reasoning. He has endowed men with more sense than that. Why would men suppress the truth? Do men hate the Lord that much? And if so, Why? What has God done that deserves so much hostility?
Self-esteem. In more recent years, men have gone from arrogantly dismissing God, to entertaining the notion that man is God. Catchy slogans are coined. “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” Or, “What the mind of man can conceive, the ability of man can achieve.” This arrogance comes in part because of creative successes.
Does man dream of flying with the birds? It is done! Does man wish to build a superstructure that towers hundreds of feet above the earth? It is done! Does man conceive of going to the moon? His ability can achieve it! Does man wish to dam up the mighty rivers of the world and control them as easily as turning on the faucet in the home? It is done!
What modern man forgets is that all of these things, and more, are the gifts of God who long ago gave man permission to subdue the Creation. But man has never been given permission to think that he is the Creator! That thinking is going too far, and it is suppressing the truth.
In the end man is proved to be another created entity just a little higher than the beasts of the field as he goes to the dust from which he came. He is not God. And the wrath of God will be revealed against that person who tries to be more than he is.
Now even though the message of the wrath of God may not be popular, it is the duty of the faithful minister to teach the whole truth. That is what Paul did. He said in his last address to the Church at Ephesus, “I have not shunned [avoided] to declare unto you all the council of God” (Acts 20:27).
Many passages of Scripture condemn certain types of behavior and beliefs. They are meant to, for the Bible reflects the mind of God.
A person said to me once, “You make me feel guilty when you preach.” Of course, that is not the job of the preacher. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The job of the minister is to preach the whole counsel of God including such passages which reveal the wrath of God. It is the Spirit’s work to convict of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come.
John 16:8-11 teaches that when the Spirit is come “he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
Now understand this.
It is a tender heart that can still feel guilt. Therefore, rejoice that the soul is sensitive to the Spirit’s work, for in Romans 1:18 mankind is being indicted for the hardness of heart. There is no sensitivity to sin, forcing the wrath of God to be revealed.
The wrath of God against evil must be revealed, for a God without wrath would be a crippled God. He would in fact be a monster, for He would never right any wrong. But the attributes of God are balanced. As He is perfect love, so He is also perfect justice.
The prophet Habakkuk said that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Habakkuk 1:13).
In Hebrews 1:9 we read, “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.”
God hates lawlessness! God hates every form of rebellion against divinely established authority. In His holy hatred, God is moved to wrath.
There are two different words in Greek for wrath.
One of them means a hot, vehement, surge of anger, while the other refers to a slowly rising indignation. One form of anger, “thumos” is a wrath that signifies a panting rage due to a sudden surge of anger. That is not the word used here.
The word “orga” is used. This word signifies an indignation that has risen gradually and became more settled.
Thayer, a Greek scholar defines this term as “that [disposition] in God which stands opposed to man’s disobedience, obduracy, especially in resisting the gospel, and sin, and manifests itself in punishing the same”.
The revelation of just how much God hates sin and is willing to punish it is displayed at the Cross. At Calvary the wrath of God is fully displayed.
Prior to Calvary, God occasionally burst forth to protest the offenses of sin. The people of God were subject to wars, famine and pestilence. But at Calvary the full fury of Divine anger was poured out upon Christ.
Prior to the Cross it could be said that there were times of ignorance which God winked at (Acts 17:30). But not any longer.
Prior to Calvary people thought that they could sin with impunity. Some dared to provoke God to judge them and were almost amazed when He did not destroy them.
Perhaps a simply illustration can tell why.
The story is told that the godly farmers in a western community were greatly shocked one summer Sunday morning, when they drove up to the little Church in the country to see that the man who owned the forty acres across from the Church was in the midst of plowing, and that he had evidently been turning the furrows since dawn. The people went on into the Church and could hear the rise and fall of the noise of the tractor as it approached and then went on to the other side of the field. The farmer who was doing this worked other fields all week and came back on the following Sunday to complete the job.
And so on through the spring, summer and fall, he plowed, disked, harrowed, dragged, fertilized, drilled and cultivated the field, and finally cut, stacked and husked the corn and carried it to the crib.
Then, he wrote a letter to the editor of the local weekly, pointing out that he had done all this on Sunday and yet had the highest yield per acre of any farm in the country; and he asked the editor how the Christians could explain this.
The editor, with great common sense, printed the letter, but followed it with the simple statement,
“God does not settle His accounts in the month of October.”
But God does settle His accounts, which is why the gospel warning comes in Acts 17:30-31 saying that God “now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.”
There is a need for a Day of Judgment, for man’s cruelty in attitude and action is legendary and causes countless to mourn. Every cruel act, every unjust accusation, must be accounted for.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 12:36-37. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
In the Day of Judgment, in the day of Divine wrath, righteousness will triumph. And the innocent will be vindicated.
This may be hard to believe, for it does not seem that justice will ever be vindicated. Only the revelation of the wrath of God at the Cross of Jesus Christ can tell us that the Lord will finish what He has started.
If He who spared not His own Son judged sin in Him, how shall the rest not be judged who neglect so great a salvation, or who tarnish the process of sanctification?
Now notice that the source of the revelation of God in this matter is said to be “from heaven”.
We have known of the wrath of man being revealed on Earth in the form of angry countenances, unkind words and the ability to hurt and to kill. The wrath of man is an awesome and terrible thing which is why the Christian is commanded in Colossians 3:8 to “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
The wrath of man is revealed on earth. But this coming Divine wrath will be revealed, “from heaven”.
We see a foretaste of it at Calvary. On that awful day when Christ was crucified the Earth shook and the sky turned black. Terror gripped the hearts of people. Some cried out in fear. The wrath of God was being revealed from heaven. Oh, how glad the Christian is that the wrath of God fell upon Christ lest if fall upon the soul. No wonder the Church sings a song of gratitude.
“Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Now ransomed from sin and a new work begun,
Sing praise to the Father and praise to the Son,
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
My sins are all pardoned, my guilt is all gone!
Glory, I’m saved! Glory, I’m saved!
I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One!”
I trust that is your testimony this day for Christ’s sake. Amen.