Yesterday’s Bible passage finished with Paul sharing that the gospel of Christ bears within it the power of God to save us. There is an inherent power within the gospel which speaks to our souls and those who believe are saved. Today Paul explains what we are saved from and the consequences of ignoring God.
Verse 18 hits us straight off the bat! ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’. What we are saved from, when we believe in Jesus, is God’s wrath – God’s holy anger against that which violates his principles or doesn’t meet his standards. Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness” (Murray).
God’s anger is not like human anger, which stems from an emotional response and seeks to punish, but it flows from the righteousness of his character. All of us deserve to come under God’s wrath because we all fall short of his righteous perfection, but when we believe in Jesus as God’s son, and his atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sins, God credits us with righteousness. When he looks at us, he sees us through Jesus, who bore all our transgressions and failures on the cross. The selfless act of our sinless Saviour has washed us clean so we have been made right with God. Turning away from sin is both a one-off commitment, when we give our lives to Jesus, and an everyday (maybe even every minute!) decision to stay within God’s will.
In opposition to the refuge in which we find ourselves when we acknowledge Jesus, are the torments of those who don’t. Paul makes it very clear in verses 19-23 that there is no excuse for people not to know God, because He has revealed Himself throughout creation and in our hearts! It is very true that even non-Christians have a God-given conscience which highlights sin. I certainly remember this to be the case before I knew Jesus! When I did wrong, I knew I did wrong! The blessing of our adoption into God’s family is that now when we do wrong, we can ‘admit it and quit it’ – an option non-Christians don’t have!
Paul elaborates that the sin the human race is guilty of is not being ignorant of God, but knowing Him and refusing to honour and thank him. There is plentiful evidence for the existence of God – just look around at the wonders of creation – but there is a stubbornness of heart which prevents people from confessing him. In verses 24-25, we read ‘Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever!’ God’s wrath expresses itself by him stepping away from those who choose unholiness. God is a sinless God and cannot be party to sin, so he removes himself from it. By not acknowledging God, those who broach his boundaries and miss the mark with their behaviour create their own punishment of living lives that are far less than God’s best.
As both males and females engaged in homosexual relationships, which were as prevalent in Paul’s day as they are now, God removed himself from them and let them follow their lustful desires, ‘dishonouring their bodies among themselves’. I wonder if we forget sometimes how important our bodies are to God? After all, He did make us in His own image! Psalm 139:13-16 says ‘For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth’. And 1 Corinthians 6:18, ‘Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body’. God created us so lovingly and meticulously and His intention was for us to live in married couples as one man and one woman, completing one another in our differences. Anything outside of this falls short of God’s holy standard.
In addition to behavioural breaches of His precepts, God also removes himself from those with unholy attitudes and mind-sets, those who are ‘filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless’(Romans 1:29-31). These are the out-workings of ‘debased minds’ who have decided to rebel against God by not admitting his Kingship.
Paul pulls no punches as he outlines to the Romans the nature of sin and sexual immorality and we should be aware of it, too. However, we must remember that God is the righteous judge and that judgement is His responsibility alone. It is not up to us to help Him in this! Guide, if guidance is sought, yes! Pray for those who request it, absolutely! But point the finger and criticise, absolutely not. Eric Johnson of Bethel Church, talking recently about the changing profile of our churches, stressed how we must ensure we offer a place of refuge to all those who seek to know the Lord, irrespective of sexual orientation. Our job is to love, God’s job is to save.