Main Idea: The gospel is for all because the wrath of God is for all.
Not including my brother, I remember being in two fights with other kids growing up, and in each of the fights, it was because I was standing up to a bully. I remember the first time, I was in like the third grade, and there was a bully on the playground who pushed me to the ground, and I jumped up and started swinging at him. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach, but it was probably pretty funny because the guy was like three times my size.
The second fight I remember being in was when I was riding my bike with a friend, and a couple other kids on bikes came up to us and started picking a fight. By this time, I had become a Christian, and I had determined that I would turn the other cheek. I wouldn’t fight back. So one of the boys hit me on the face to see what I would do, and I responded, “Was that supposed to hurt?” I wouldn’t recommend that approach either. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say, and it definitely wasn’t what Jesus meant when He said to turn the other cheek.
One criticism that I often hear about Christianity is that God is a bully because of how He displays His wrath. Unbelievers will sometimes say that God seems unreasonably harsh with the people He created. And I actually agree that if God didn’t have a good reason to show wrath, that He would be a bully. But the Bible actually teaches that not only does God have reasons for His wrath, but also that God Himself made a plan to rescue us from His wrath, even when we didn’t deserve it, so that we would experience His grace and goodness forever.
To see that, we’re going to continue reading the letter of Romans, so please turn there with me.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Father, thank You for creating all things, and for revealing Yourself to us through Your creation. Help us to see Your beauty through all things, so that we might ascribe to You the glory that You deserve. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Not long ago, I invited someone to church, and he responded that his church is the outdoors. Maybe you’ve heard people say similar things. And I can definitely see where he was coming from. Maybe you yourself often feel the same way because just by being outside, you feel closer to God. It’s interesting how that’s a very common experience. In fact, a lot of people feel more connected with God just by being in nature.
If you’ve never gone outside to read the Bible, I encourage you to do it sometime.
When I was a new Christian in my teens, I used to love going outside early in the morning to read the Bible and pray. It’s literally a breath of fresh air! I’ve enjoyed having devotions on the beach, and in the mountains, and on boats in the middle of the ocean, and each of these have helped me to see God’s word and world in fresh, new ways.
Imagine yourself being in one of these places, you can close your eyes if you want to, but you don’t have to, but imagine yourself on the beach, or on a mountain, or on a boat in the middle of a calm ocean, and imagine yourself there reading Psalm 95:4-5, which says:
In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4-5)
You can open your eyes. Do you see how you could experience God and His word in a totally different way? And you don’t have to be in a special place to experience this, either. Even just outside your home, it can really revitalize your devotion time to be outside in the morning when you read Lamentations 3:22-23, which says:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
And it can give you a deeper understanding of God to be outside when you read Psalm 90:14, which says:
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)
Or even Isaiah 40:8, which says:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
If you’re out in nature as you read these kinds of things, it really can help you to understand them more because nature itself cries out to worship God.
But you don’t even need to be reading certain passages of Scripture to grow deeper in your relationship with God outside. You see, certain things about God are just obvious from His creation. When you take an honest look at nature, it’s clear that there’s a God who created all things. Everything in our universe, ecosystem, and in our very bodies are balanced so perfectly that it’s impossible that all of this just happened by chance. And it’s clear from God’s creation that God is powerful, that He’s eternal, and that He’s God over all. Nothing is outside of His sovereignty. And these things are abundantly clear just by observing what He’s made.
And yet, I’ve talked with people who have said, “Well maybe that’s clear to you, but it’s not clear to me.” And I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re purposefully lying. Instead, I think I’d say that they’re blinded to the truth.
I need a volunteer to wear a blindfold for a second. I’m going to hold something up right in front of you, and you need to tell me what it is.
[they try, but guess wrong]
No, take a look! Now, why’d you get it wrong? Because you had a blindfold on! If you didn’t have the blindfold on, you would have told me right away. God says the same thing happens to people because of their sin.
The language that Paul uses in verse 18 is that they’ve suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. In other words, because people cling so fiercely to their sin, casting off the God who demands their obedience, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they miss what’s right in front of them.
Now, I want us to be very clear who this is talking about. At the end of verse 20, when Paul writes that “they are without excuse,” who is the “they” that Paul is talking about?
Well, look at verse 18 again. It says, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” And which people on the earth have engaged in ungodliness and unrighteousness? Is it just talking about the people who we disagree with? Is it just talking about the people who engage in sins that offend us the most? No, it’s talking about all of us. We’re all sinners. Romans 3:23.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
So when Paul writes they are without excuse, he’s talking about us. He’s talking about all of us. We are all without excuse, and we are all in danger of the wrath of God.
I just want to be abundantly clear about that because when we read these kinds of verses, we always assume it’s talking about people worse than us. It’s so incredibly convenient for us to think of everyone else as deserving of God’s wrath, but the Bible is clear that we’ve all sinned and are equally guilty before God.
Paul goes on. Verse 21.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)
So God deserves all praise, and the very people that He’s created have turned from Him in order to serve themselves.
And once again, don’t just think this is talking about people who sin in ways that offend you. This is talking about us. We’ve all become futile in our thinking, with darkened hearts. We’ve chased after temporary things, rather than seeking the glory of God. We’ve claimed to be wise, yet become fools. And because of that, God’s allowed all of us to stray away from the path that He wants for us. And, talking about us, it says in verse 24 that God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.
Now, why would God do that? Well, I want you to think back for a minute. Think back to a time when you did something incredibly dumb. Maybe you went surfing on the top of your car, or jumped off your roof onto a trampoline into a pool. Whatever it was, think of a time when you did something that could end in disaster.
For me, it’s when I was in high school, and I used to fall down the stairs at school on purpose for attention. I wasn’t the brightest kid! Some of you may not have to think back that far. But think back to sometime you did something stupid.
In that situation, when you had your stubborn heart set on something massively stupid, is there anyone or anything that could have persuaded you to rethink what you wanted to do? Maybe, but not usually. Usually, in those kinds of circumstances, the only way you would learn your lesson was the hard way.
In a similar way, when it comes to sin, usually the only way that people will learn their lesson is the hard way. And remember, this isn’t talking about everyone else, but about us. God allows us to sin and go our own way, experiencing the consequences for our sin, so that we would see what our sin leads to. All this is important to remember, especially as we get into the next section.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were 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 1:26-31)
So, Paul is saying that since we’ve all turned from God, we’re all deserving of His wrath, and He’s allowed us all to experience the depths of our sinfulness. And that sinfulness shows itself in a variety of ways. Paul names more than 20 areas of ungodliness, and I’m sure we can all find ourselves in several of them.
And despite all of this, which is clearly directed toward all of us, it’s interesting how judgmental we can still be towards others for their sin, when this passage is clear that we’re all in the same boat. We’re all guilty before God.
So, just to be abundantly clear about what I’m talking about, it’s true that practicing homosexuality is sin. There’s no getting around that in Scripture. But it’s equally true that coveting, gossiping, boasting, and all of these other things named in this passage are also sins, and we’re all guilty of many, if not all, of these things.
So it’s simply not biblically justifiable to blame certain sinners for the state of our world, when we’re all at fault. The wrath of God isn’t reserved for certain sins that many people label as the worst, but for all sins. For all ungodliness and unrighteousness. And the overwhelming truth is that we’ve all sinned.
And yet, much of the time, instead of acknowledging our sin before God, we cling to it, and even try to act like it’s no big deal, just like it says in verse 32.
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
Knowing that we’re all in the same boat because of our sin, we’re then tempted to act like it’s no big deal. We laugh it off, or even try to justify why it’s okay. But Paul is clear that those who practice such things deserve to die.
The consequence for sin is death and hell. While I think that hell is often severely misunderstood in our world today, some even thinking it’s like a party, the Bible’s description of the fate of those who die without faith in Christ is no party. The Bible describes hell as fire that burns away the sins of the unrighteous, because God is a consuming fire.
And this passage is abundantly clear. Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden, we’ve all failed to live by faith.
But there’s good news. God was not content with us dying and being separate from Him for all eternity. In Ezekiel 18:23, we read that God says:
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23)
God doesn’t desire that you perish, but that you have eternal life. John 3:16 says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
That’s the gospel. And you see, the gospel is for all because the wrath of God is for all. We all desperately need to have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins because He alone is the Savior of the whole world because there’s no other name by which you must be saved.
But it’s not automatic. You need to believe. You need to rest in God’s grace to save you, not because of anything you’ve done, but because Jesus did it all. Because of our works, we all deserve God’s wrath, but because of Jesus’s works, we’re forgiven by grace through faith in Him.
You see, God isn’t a bully. He didn’t pick a fight with us. We picked a fight with Him. We sinned against Him even when He made us and deserved all our praise. And yet, even though we’re in the wrong, He still loves us and went to the cross for us, forgiving us as we place our faith in Jesus.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)