Romans 1:18 — Wrath of God (Bible study notes)

You can find the video teaching for these notes by clicking this link Romans Bible study – week 2 – wrath of God

  • We’re going to lump Romans 1:18 – 3:20 all together in one study rather than go verse by verse and chapter by chapter.  
    • We’ll cover this portion this week and next week
  • Tonight we’ll just lay a foundation about the nature of God and His heartbeat for ALL mankind
  • So last week we ended our study with verses 16-17…. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
  • Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ
    • ashamed is not about not being embarrassed to stand up for Christ
    • it is “epaischunomai” in Greek meaning to not be disgraced because you’ve misplaced your confidence or wrongly identified or aligned with something
    • Paul was confident not in his own ability to share the gospel or in his skillful use of words (see 1 Cor 2:1-4)
    • he was confident in the Gospel’s power to release God’s faith in someone to awaken them to the truth that they have been reconciled to the Father through Jesus and experience this abundant life in Him
  • The righteousness of God is the good news (the Gospel) saving all men – making them whole
    • The power of the gospel is the revelation that God’s faith is the only valid basis for our belief (Hab. 2:4)
    • His faith awakens faith in us and our lives then become an expression of His faith… as Paul said in Galatians 2 this life I now live, I live by the faith OF the Son of God.  
      • Not faith in Him but His faith in me expressed through me

 

  • We read this translation last week:  I am not ashamed to announce the Good News: for it reveals the abundant power of God who preserved, causes to do well and keeps whole, everyone; of them who put their faith in what was provided before the foundation of the world; they will experience their wholeness.

 

  • After ending on such good news last week, it’s difficult to pick up this week with Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,”

 

  • I’ll admit the “wrath” of God is not my favorite subject to teach on.  
    • I much prefer teaching on the goodness of God.  
  • it’s good to stay focused on His goodness
    • Paul tells us in Romans 16:19 to be wise in what is good.
    • Philemon 1:6 tells us that our faith becomes effective (full of energy; accomplishing and completing inner desires) as you fully acknowledge every good thing that is ours in Christ.

 

  • But there has been a lot of bad teaching about the “wrath” of God ltely… teaching that needs to be corrected.
  • Your view of these verses in Rom 1:18-3:20 sets the tone for how you see God as well as how you describe Him to others as you minister to them.
    • I believe it also determines your understanding of the rest of Romans… and without a proper understanding of Romans we will have difficulty understanding grace
    • Because Romans is Paul’s masterpiece on the subject of grace
  • Where we get in to trouble in understanding these verses is by believing that wrath is part of God’s nature and balances out His grace
    • But wrath is not part of God’s nature
  • at the end of tonight’s study I’m going to give you a definition on wrath that I found that I believe will change Ohow you see wrath when you read it in the Word.

 

  • Heb 1:3a tells us that Jesus revealed to us the nature of the Father
    • Amp: He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the [a]out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature
    • Message:  This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature.
    • Mirror:  Jesus is the radiant and flawless expression of the person of God. He makes the glorious intent of God visible and mirrors the character and every attribute of God in human form.
    • He is the sole expression, the perfect imprint, the very image, the flawless expression of God’s nature and He perfectly mirrors EVERY attribute of God
  • So we can trust that Jesus revealed to us exactly what God is like
    • He didn’t show us only a part and leave out other parts.  
    • He revealed Him in His entirety….. shedding light on some of our misunderstandings of who He was in the Old Testament.
    • He was the ONLY one qualified to do so… not Abraham, not Moses, not the prophets, not the Law — they all saw in part
  • John 1:18 – says only Jesus knew God and what He was like
    • Message:  Jesus has made Him plain as day.
    • Amp:  He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known.
    • Mirror: Until this moment God remained invisible; now the authentic, incarnate begotten Son, the blueprint of our design who represents the innermost being of God, the Son who is in the bosom of the Father, brings him into full view! He is the official authority qualified to announce God! He is our guide who accurately declares and interprets the invisible God within us.
  • John 14:9: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one, If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father, I only do what I see the Father do”.
  • John 14:7: Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

 

  • And so wrath was not included in His nature — that was not something Jesus revealed
    • Qand He FULLY revealed Him so we can conclude that it’s not something Jesus just preferred to keep hidden but rather it is not part of who He is or what He does.
    • So determine to get out of your thinking, that wrath (or as it’s sometimes translated anger) is part of God’s character or nature
    • Study it out for yourselves…. but ONLY study it through what Jesus revealed because ONLY He was qualified to know what He is like and to show us.

 

  • I used to read verse 18 with the understanding that God was angry with the “ungodly” or “unrighteous” because that’s what I was taught
    • and that because of their “sinful” lives… their ungodly and unrighteous lives, that they would incur God’s wrath – and hopefully that would produce godly righteous lives as they repented of their sin and turned to God
    • Truth is it’s the goodness of God that causes man to repent – Romans 2:4
    • So glad God changed my thinking!!
  • Truth is God isn’t angry with anyone.
  • In fact we see in Jesus a God who has no interest in judging or taking vengeance on anyone

 

  • Go to Luke 4 –  understanding these verses in Luke 4 changed the way I understood radical grace and the finished work of the Cross.
    • In these verses, Jesus reveals the heart of God towards ALL mankind
  • Jesus went into the synagogue in His hometown and stood up to read from Isaiah 61:1-2 which reads: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God
    • However, He read it differently than it is written in Isaiah.  He changed it.
    • Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (19) To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
  • verse 20: And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
    • In the synagogue they would stand to read the Scriptures and sit to preach or teach
    • By sitting down the people would know the reading of scripture was finished and the words spoken from that point originated with the speaker, not from the prophets and writers of old.   
  • So, after reading the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2 Jesus sat and began to preach to them
    • They knew this passage in Isaiah well… it was their hope of salvation and deliverance
    • That the Messiah would come and it would be a time of Jubilee
    • The time of their salvation and deliverance from their oppressors because God’s vengeance would be released upon their enemies.  
    • But Jesus left off the second half of v. 2 and simply said “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
    • Then He closed the book…. there would be no vengeance from God towards their enemies
  • He said it was the time of God’s favor
    • favor in Greek is dekton and means what is received favorably (acceptable), describing what is pleasantly welcomed.
    • It was the age of being received favorably by God.. accepted and welcomed into the Beloved
    • A declaration of God being pleased with us!
  • Then in v. 23-27 He shared the heart of God with them towards ALL mankind – Jews and Gentiles (those outside of the covenant) – against their enemies
    • and the result was they were filled with wrath and were planning to throw him off of the hill!
  • What was it that Jesus said that filled them with such anger?
    • They were angry that He had taken a passage of vengeance and judgment upon the Gentiles and turned it into a passage of mercy and blessing
    • Such an exclusion from this reading of Scripture was unthinkable for most Jews.
    • They were angry that His gracious words…. or words of Grace were towards the Gentiles.
  • But God’s heart has always been for ALL people, every nation… Jews AND Gentiles..… believers and unbelievers.
  • In verse 25, He tells them that there were many widows in Israel but God sent Elijah to Zaraphath in the land of Sidon to help a widow there
    • Zaraphath in Sidon was a place that was full of idolatry and rebellion
    • and yet it was just the place where God was going to pour out His grace and extend His love to this Gentile woman.
    • Choosing her was God’s idea not Elijah’s or her own!
  • The next example He gives them is that there were many lepers in Israel BUT none were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
    • This example that He gave was unthinkable to their natural reasonings!  
  • The widow represented Gentile sinners which was bad enough….. BUT Naaman represents much more than that… he was the captain of the Syrian army… the Syrians who oppressed Israel.  
    • They were enemies of Israel.  Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus.  
    • Naaman was one of the most hated men in Israel.
  • BUT God in His mercy pursued Naaman…. there were MANY lepers in Israel but none of them were healed except Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:27)  
  • The people Jesus was talking to undoubtedly knew this story
    • Namaan had kidnapped a little girl from Israel after attacking Israel (2 Kings 5:2)
    • But instead of being angry and bitter this little girl is such a beautiful picture of a co-laborer with God… a minister of His reconciliation.
    • She tells Namaan’s wife if he will go find Elisha, he will be healed.
    • Namaan does find Elisha and does get healed but the story doesn’t end there
    • God was after Naaman’s heart not just in healing his physical body… He was pursuing Namaan in love!   
  • Jump ahead to v. 14 in 2 Kings 5….
    • So, after being encouraged by his servant to do what was asked of him, he steps out in faith and humbles himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan 7 times.  
    • Naaman experienced the overwhelming power, presence, and mercy of Israel’s God and his whole attitude changed.  
    • Naaman had a whole-hearted transformation: “Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’”  
    • When Naaman goes back to Elisha’s house – he’s a changed man!
    • There is no mention of horses and chariots (of Namaan’s own self importance) this time as he returns to Elisha.  
    • And he doesn’t just declare the goodness of God towards him but that God is the only God in the entire world.
  • Ironically… Jesus reveals that it is the time of God’s favor and acceptance toward ALL people (Jew and Gentile) and it fills the people with wrath  
    • the same people who were expecting and desiring the wrath of God against those not like them – against their enemies… outsiders of the covenant.
  • Last week we looked at how mankind always has a way of dividing people into 2 categories… those who are insiders and those who are outsiders
    • The Jews saw themselves as insiders/accepted and Gentiles as outsiders/enemies of God
    • The Greeks saw themselves as superior and Barbarians as inferior
    • We in the Church see ourselves as insiders of the Covenant and accepted by God and everyone not in the church as outsiders of the Covenant and not accepted by God.
  • But God has no outsiders of His Covenant

 

Back to Romans 1:18:  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,”

 

  • In Romans 5 Paul tells us in v. 6 that Jesus died for the ungodlythose opposed to God
    • then verses 8-9 tells us that while we were sinners, Christ died for us and that we were justified by His blood and saved from God’s wrath.
    • we were saved from His wrath!
    • Then in v. 10 he tells us that while we were enemies (ungodly and unrighteous) God reconciled us to Himself — obviously talking about all of mankind not just Believers
    • and that He was not counting their sins against them — talking about the WORLD that He was reconciling
      • world is kosmos in Greek meaning the inhabitants of the world
      • this verse isn’t talking about Believers after they are saved BUT the world.
    • And then later in v. 19 he said that through Adam’s disobedience ALL became sinners and through Jesus’ obedience ALL became righteous. (again talking about ALL mankind)
  • of course to experience the benefits this gift of righteousness provided, we have to believe in… put our trust in and rest in the finished work of Jesus.  
    • But our believing it only allows us to experience the benefits it doesn’t make it true… it is true whether we believe it or not.
  • So if we (the world – enemies of God) were reconciled to Him  and He is no longer holding our sins against us, how can His “wrath” be released against anyone?
  • Likewise, if we were saved from His “wrath” how can wrath be released against anyone?

 

Let’s look at a few more Scriptures about judgments…..

 

  • John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
  • John 12:47 Jesus said for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world
    • saved is sozo – it covers forgiveness, healing, and deliverance; It means to be “made whole” in every aspect of life.
    • In Psalms 103:3 and 1 Peter 2:24, the benefits of salvation are described as the forgiveness of sins and physical healing — you cannot separate one from the other.
  • John 12:31-32 Jesus said: Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
  • 2 Cor 3:9 calls the law a ministry of condemnation
    • It was the law that condemned mankind not God
  • Romans 4:15: because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression
    • It was the law that brought about God’s wrath or more specifically failure to obey the law that brought God’s wrath.  
    • The first man to die under the law was a man who gathered sticks to build a fire for his family on the Sabbath.  He broke the law – working on the Sabbath
    • prior to the law sin was not imputed… there was no wrath upon anyone.
  • Jesus did away with the power of sin, sickness, disease and death.
    • He nailed the Law to the cross with all of it’s judgements and condemnation towards us
    • And as a result God’s not counting anyone’s sin against them
  • But what about Holy Spirit convicting the world of sin?
    • John 16:8:  And when he 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.
      • He will reprove or convict — to convince with solid evidence
      • He will convict or convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgment
      • What sin?  verse 9 the sin of unbelief – not talking about sins or distorted behaviors
      • What righteousness?  the gift of righteousness that Jesus gave to ALL mankind in Romans 5:19
      • what judgement?  the judgement against the prince of this world — not against men
  • we like to balance grace with justice – because we don’t trust grace alone to transform people and turn them from sin – but Titus 2:11-12 says grace is fully capable of doing just that
  • But what about justice?
    • Let’s look at what God says about His justice
    • Romans 3:25: Whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation (talking about Jesus), through faith in his blood, to the shewing of his justice, for the remission of former sins,
    • so His justice isn’t revealed by His “wrath” being released upon anyone we consider “ungodly” and “unrighteous” – upon sinners
    • His justice was revealed through the finished work of the Cross
  • Jesus is the unveiling of the Father’s heart towards us
  • He judged us righteous on the Cross — that is what His justice looks like

 

  • Many people teach this part of Romans, as God’s current dealing with man — it is not.
    • We know the wrath of God was exacted on humanity, in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ
    • 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
  • Ok… I promised you a definition of wrath that would forever change how you think when you read the word wrath in the Bible  
    • wrath is orge in Greek meaning passion
  • But it’s the root of this word that I really like… it is “orego” which means stretching oneself out in order to touch or grasp something.  
  • Jesus stretched Himself out (on the Cross) in order to grasp us
  • It also means to yearn after, to desire, to stretch toward (to pull towards)
  • The Father in His love for us, desired us and stretched toward us (through Jesus), pulling us to Himself.
  • That’s the wrath of God in the New Covenant
  • God did not forget His righteous judgments….. He simply judged all humanity in Jesus;
  • God’s judgments were all satisfied in the passion in the “wrath” of Jesus Christ as He stretched Himself out on the Cross drawing ALL men to Himself

 

Next week we’ll look at Romans 1:18-32, chapter 2, and 3:1-20 in context and in light of the foundation we laid tonight.

 

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