The Subjects Of God’s Wrath

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 4d of 83

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and un-righteousness of men, who hold [i.e. hold down] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18).

The word rendered ‘ungodliness’ (ajsevbeia) refers to a “want of reverence or impiety towards God.” An ungodly person is one who does not respect God. All who do not fear God as a holy God live ungodly lives.

The word rendered ‘unrighteousness’ (ajdikiva), on the other hand, refers to immorality, lawlessness and injustice in heart and life. An unrighteous person does not care to obey God’s laws.

The apostle Paul tells us that God’s wrath is reveal against all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” That is, it is revealed against all impiety against God, and against all immorality, lawless and injustice in life.

b.  Now, we must not misunderstand what the apostle Paul is saying. There are some modern commentators (e.g. John Witmer of Dallas Theological Seminary; or even John Macarthur) who will insist that this verse shows that God’s wrath is against sin and not against man. They say God hates sins and will judge them, but he loves the sinners and desires their salvation.

But this is a false dichotomy! Nowhere in the Scripture are we told God loves the reprobate. “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” says the Lord. The apostle Paul will develop on this theme in chapter 9. But for now it is necessary for us to note that the doctrine that God loves all mankind and desires their salvation, though He hates their sin, is a false doctrine.

The Scripture teaches us that everyone in this world is either elect or reprobate. God loves the elect, but hates the reprobate. Yes, there is a sense in which God loves the elect and hate their sin. But when an elect person sins, God is angry with him, and not just with his sin.

When my children misbehave, I am angry with them, not just with their sin. I love them, but I am angry with them; and I chastise them.

So when Paul says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” we must not think that his wrath is directed against sin, but not against sinners.

What the apostle Paul is saying is that the sin of men, makes God angry with them. And God’s wrath is revealed against them for their sin.

c.  But note carefully, that Paul is not saying that God’s wrath is revealed against every single person in the world. Later in chapter 3, Paul would insist that we all fall short of the glory of God, and we all deserve God’s wrath. But here in chapter 1, Paul is specifically referring to a particular class of people. These are they, he says “who hold [or hold down] the truth in unrighteousness.” These are people who not only refuse to acknowledge the truth, but suppress or oppose the truth through their unrighteousness, immoral and lawless lives.

Paul would describe them in greater details in the rest of this chapter. But I thought it necessary to highlight this little detail here because it is easy for us to misinterpret the Word and to have an impious understanding of God. No, the wrath of God that is revealed not against the godly and righteous, but against the ungodly and unrighteous!

No, dearly beloved brethren, the wrath of God is not being revealed against you. You who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, you must not think that God is constantly frowning over you revealing his wrath against you because of your sin.

Yes, God does sometimes chastise us for our sins. But he chastises us for our good and out of love for us. His chastisement for us is always loving and gentle. We must never think of his as revealing his wrath against us.

Remember that the wrath of God that Paul speaks about is a firm hatred against sin that is building up unto the day of wrath. This wrath is reserve for the ungodly and unrighteousness who hate and reject the truth. Yes, we are all by nature, children of wrath, as Paul says in Ephesians 2. But with the blood of Christ covering us, we ought no more to think of God as a God of wrath, but as a God of love. We ought not to relate to God as a God of wrath but as our loving heavenly father.

I am saying these words to you, beloved brethren who walk in truth. I cannot say the same for you if you are here this morning listening to this message, but your heart is harden to the truth and you love not Christ nor seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

…to be continued next issue