Paul continues to develop the theme of righteousness from God; “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last”. Paul sets the stage by showing first that all have sinned and therefore all need the righteousness that only God can provide. Paul will do this by addressing the sin of the Gentiles, the sin of the Jews and then sin of everyone. In each section Paul notes how God will reveal something about himself, men reject His revelation and God gives them over to their sin.
Paul begins with God’s wrath, an attribute of God that is often misunderstood. God’s wrath is his righteous anger and punishment provoked by sin; it is not an irrational burst of anger as exhibited by flawed human beings but a holy, just, revulsion against what is contrary to and opposes His holy nature and will.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”. Note that God’s wrath “is being revealed”, God wrath is not limited to end-times judgment of the wicked. Paul makes sure we understand that God’s wrath is the abandonment of the wicked to their sins.
Also note of the order of Paul’s words, first godlessness, then wickedness; godlessness produces wicked actions. This godlessness we discuss is not just a denial that God exists; although that is quite common today. This godlessness is also a reflection of those who choose to disregard God; when we live our lives without any consideration to God’s holy requirements and His will.
Paul clearly states that the truth about God can be plainly seen; because God has made himself known through His creation therefore men are without excuse. Paul doesn’t explain exactly how God reveals himself in nature but Psalm 19 gives us some clues, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals His greatness. There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon.”
I find it interesting that scientific search for understanding seems to be revealing the ever increasing complex nature of God’s creation. Just when we think we can solve the mystery of creation and prove that God does not exist, a new discovery expands the search, presents cracks in old theories and opens new areas of science even more complex. For more about this idea check out this short video on Prager University website, Are You There God?
Paul explains what happens to us when we reject God; we choose not to glorify him and refuse to give Him thanks. We become futile in our thinking and our foolish hearts grow darker and darker. Claiming to be wise we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images and ideas of our own creation. Therefore God allows us to reap the consequences of our choices; the slide into wickedness is quick, to shameful acts, dishonorable passions, depraved mind, filled with every kind of wickedness and will result in the due penalty for our errors.
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator…although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continued to do these very things but also approved of those who practice them”. Instead of grieving over the sins of others and our world’s steady decline into immorality, do we secretly envy sinners, their wild reckless lifestyle and their apparent lack of conscience? Are we so afraid of being seen as stuffy and boring, that we give approval to wild and sinful behavior even if we don’t personally participate?
God’s judgment is not just future, His judgment has a present as well as a future manifestation. Not only does God’s wrath respond to man’s sin, but it corresponds to his sin. There is a kind of poetic justice or irony to God’s judgment. When men pervert God’s revelation, God turns them over to various perversions. When men reject the revelation of God in nature, He turns them over to that which is not natural. When men do not honor God, He turns them over to sin which dishonors them.
The good news is that God has provided a way for us to be rescued from our sins and to be restored into right relationship with Him through his son, Jesus Christ.