Please take up your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 1. We’re going to read verses 18 to 32. And we’re going to read some disturbing words from the word of our Lord this morning. I find them disturbing at least, not because of what I see around about me. I want you to know as your pastor that when I read these words, I don’t read them from my own little ivory tower and say to myself: Yeah, that’s exactly the way the world is. I read them and I say to myself: what the Lord is saying here is true, because that’s exactly the way you are. And I allow myself to be influenced by the world just like everybody else. Don’t we allow ourselves to be influenced by the world with all kinds of things? I came up with a little anecdote last night and I thought: Why do the Amish in America not suffer from Covid? Maybe it’s because they don’t have television. But we allow ourselves to be influenced by all kinds of things, don’t we? The world tells us to be well, we’re well; the world tells us to be sick, we’re sick; the world tells us to be afraid, we’re afraid; the world tells us to do this we do that. The world tells us to jump, we ask them how high? And it’s because of how we are. Before we read the Lord’s Word, I want you to know God knows the way we are; He knows why we are that way and He tells us and then He tells us something else – He tells us how He feels about how we are. And how He feels about why we are the way we are, because let me tell you the way we are as fallen human beings, is serious. But the reason – the cause of why we are the way we are – is far more serious! We are terrible for a terrible reason as human beings. And yes, we dress it up. We have those soap operas on TV and we have all this little comedy shows and we have the sports – don’t forget the sports – kick the ball, tackle the guy! So we all forget how broken we are. I’m not saying we mustn’t have fun. People who know me, know that I like a good little laughter and I love music. I love Vivaldi – he always makes you happy. How many of you know Vivaldi? Does Vivaldi make you happy? Amen, he does – so does Mozart by the way, unless you listen to this Requiem. I like the happiness too, but what I don’t like is how we use that to conceal to ourselves what God is seeking to reveal to us, so that we can be happy and joyful and blessed for better reasons, because it’s a fact of life that it’s better to feel bad for a valid and good reason than it is to feel good for an invalid and a bad reason. Amen?! Why do we feel so bad so often and why do we dress it up with these things that we dress it up with? It’s because of the reality and the revelation of the wrath of God – something that people don’t like to talk about. We like to talk about the love of God. We like to talk about the grace of God – and we should. We love to talk about God’s mercy and I love this Old King James version word: His loving-kindness. Isn’t that a beautiful word: loving-kindness? We talk about that and we should, but there is also the wrath of God and Paul speaks about it in this passage from Romans chapter 1 verses 18 to 32. So let’s read together about the reality and the revelation of the wrath of God.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For 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. 21For although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and 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. 28And 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.
29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32Though 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. (ESV)
It is a dark picture, especially in light of the fact that I’ve been to many maternity wards to visit mothers who have just given birth to new babies and so on. In these days it’s difficult to do, because you’ve got to ‘zoom’ or something, because there’s a virus out there. And that little baby is born and already above the cradle hangs the little things that make them see it’s nice to be here. They dangle around; there’s little music playing and the sweet voice of mother and father who comes in and pecks him on the head. And the staff, they’re all nice to the baby and they’re giving to him this assurance that ‘you’re in a good place, welcome – it’s going to be wonderful. We love you’. They don’t think in those moments that that little baby will grow up and find himself in such a world as God has just described to us, because what we find In this passage is the Reality of the Wrath of God, the Revelation of the Wrath of God, the Reasons for the Wrath of God and the Results of the Wrath of God. So what we see – and that’s my outline.
The reality of the wrath of God – it’s a real thing – it’s a thing! The revelation of it – He doesn’t just hold it to Himself and keep it to Himself – He reveals it – He lets us feel it – He lets us see it – He lets us hear it – He lets us smell it – He lets us cry it and weep it and laugh it. He reveals it. He makes sure that we know that it’s there – the revelation of it. And then the reasons for it – and are they not horrible? We’re going to look at that and then the results of it: what it does to us.
- The Reality of the Wrath of God
As I said earlier people don’t like us to talk about that. I even had somebody say to me one day: ‘I can’t serve a god like that.’ My response was: ‘I know that.’ The chap left College because it was while I was lecturing there. I shared the little anecdote with the prayer meeting yesterday: He wrote a paper for me and I couldn’t read his handwriting. It looked like badly shape hieroglyphics and I could barely read his name. I had actually to find out who wrote this and I asked the other lecturers. I said to Dr. Piff: ‘Can you read this?’ ‘Nah, I’m not into that.’ I went to the principal and I said: ‘Sir, can you read this?’ I can’t read that.’ So I just failed him and I said the paper is unmarkable, because it’s illegible. He came to me and wanted to know what illegible meant and he said: ‘You failed me. Why did you fail me?’ I said: ‘I couldn’t read what you wrote. You must practice your handwriting’, which he went and did and he wrote the next paper and wow, did he practice his handwriting! I could read it. And so I failed him. So he came to me and said: ‘Last time you failed me because you couldn’t read what I wrote. Why did you fail me this time?’ I said: ’Because I could read what you wrote!’ When a chap like that tells you I can’t serve a god like that, it doesn’t surprise me. You see, the wrath of God is real. What is it? We find in this verse it begins a longer section in Paul’s letter and it describes God’s- two things- God’s attitude and God’s actions. Listen to me carefully. It describes God’s attitude – the way God is set towards us and His actions: what He does about how He feels towards human sinfulness. That’s what it does and we can consider these verses to be an answer to a very, very important question. And what is the question? Why is the Gospel a big deal? – that’s the question. Have you ever wondered why the Gospel is such a big deal? Why are Evangelicals making such a big deal out of the Gospel? You talk to an Evangelical and you hear: Gospel, Gospel, Gospel! Why are they making such a big deal out of it? Why is the Gospel such a big deal? Why do human beings need to be declared righteous by God? Why is that a big deal? What is this we need to be saved from? Well, we remember from last week that the previous verse showed, or from the week before, that God declares righteous those who come to Him by faith and later on we’ll see Paul will show that faith by which God will declare you righteous must not just be some kind of positive thinking. It has to be faith in Christ; in His death for our sins on the cross. Your faith has to be in that and now Paul shows God’s attitude to those who don’t come to Him by faith in Christ. He says that’s how you need to be saved. But here is how God feels and acts towards those who don’t come to Him by faith in Christ. Instead of His righteousness, He gives us His wrath. His righteous anger and His judgment, that is revealed against all sin and sinfulness. God’s wrath comes from Heaven. It comes from His essential nature and His very being and from His existence. It’s not some created thing that He keeps in some place – it’s part of who He is. He is angry against human ungodliness and unrighteousness. And human beings apart from God use their lack of righteousness. They use their sinfulness to suppress or hold back the truth about who God is. Unrighteous people – which include all of us – don’t want to know what is true about God. They can’t handle it and they don’t want others to know or believe that either, and so it’s important that we understand what God is saying to us. We need to understand why some people seem to be just more resistant to believe. Butterfly around from church to church until they find some preacher who tickles their ears. The minute they feel uncomfortable or the children say: ‘I don’t like what the pastor say.’ They find some place where they give them spiritual bubble gum. We need to know who this God is how He feels about this thing called sin and what He does about it. We need to know!! If there’s one thing in this world that you need to know it’s how God feels about sin and what He does about it. If you don’t know that you are in serious trouble and you will be if you remain in that ignorance, you will be staying in that trouble for all eternity. That’s a long time! You don’t want to be there for a second. If you don’t hear what He says you’ll be there forever. Am I trying to scare you? Yes, I am. Why am I trying to scare you? Because I love you and I don’t want one of you to go there – not on my watch. All of us are caught in this – that’s the reality of God’s wrath. You get a little glimpse of it when you find out how easily – have you noticed how upset you get about the little things? Come on it’s not just some of you; that’s all of you. You get upset about little things and you let the whole world knows it don’t you? That’s your wrath. That gives you a little hint of how God feels about sin. Multiply it by infinity and you’ll get an idea. That’s the reality of God’s Wrath.
- The Revelation of the Wrath of God
He says next it’s revealed from Heaven. I just told you now that it comes from Heaven; that comes from the very being of God himself. What does it mean that He reveals it? It’s a very simple thing. He makes you hear it. He makes you see it. He makes you feel it. He makes you smell it. He makes you taste it He make sure you don’t miss it. And can you see the world now as much as they trying to ignore it – they can’t miss it?! How many of you have seen what’s going on in the streets of Paris? How many of you have seen what’s going on in the streets of Madrid? And what’s happening in Wales? I don’t want to talk about what’s happening in our own beloved land because I’ll probably get accused of getting involved in politics. It’s revealed. He’s making it patent; He’s making it clear and I see a whole lot of smart Alecks jumping up and wanting to contradict Him and tell us they have the solution. They don’t have the solution to it. You know that. No man can fix what God breaks and no man can break with God fixes and His wrath is revealed and it’s serious and you young children you listen to me. You’ll have friends in school telling how much fun you can have with this and how much fun you can have with that and those old people are just being religious and they just being quiet. They don’t like fun. But you need to learn from a young age those little bells you heard above your cradle in the maternity ward. (You won’t even remember them, unless Dad took an iPhone video with it to show you later on) That’s not the whole picture. It’s not even the big picture. You will find things imposing upon your soul and your spirit and your heart and your mind throughout your life and God describes it to you, because His wrath is still being revealed. That means He makes it known; He makes it seen; He makes it felt; He makes sure that you cannot miss it.
- The Reasons for the Wrath of God
There’s a two-fold reason for it. Let me give them to you and then open them up to you: The malady of the unrighteousness of men and the manifestations of the unrighteousness of men; those two things. It’s a malady. What is a malady? That’s an unwholesome and a desperate condition. It’s an impairment of normal function. It’s the thing that makes you not able to function properly and be what you should. It’s a malady, and we suffer from this malady of the unrighteousness of men and women. That’s the reason for God’s revelation of His wrath. It manifests in a certain way. There are the manifestations because the malady, that’s a state that we’re in; that’s a condition that we’re in; that’s the way we are. But because of the way we are, we act and live in a certain way. It manifests. It makes itself known. It’s like the wrath of God makes itself known. This malady of our unrighteousness makes itself known and the Lord describes to us what that looks like and there are three problems with how our unrighteousness manifests. God has three problems with them in the text. Notice first of all:
a.The Malady of the unrighteousness of man
He says against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. That’s the malady – it is ungodliness and unrighteousness. What is righteousness? Righteousness is to give to God and your fellow human beings what is due to them. It’s the great commandment. It is love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul all your mind and all your strength – and I often wish the Lord had added – and all your stuff! Love Him with everything and love your neighbour as yourself. Why? Because he feels the pain you feel; she cries the tears you cry. You need to love her, you need a love him. That’s righteousness: to give to God and your fellow human beings what is due to them.
What is unrighteousness? It’s what Aquinas called Malitia – Malice. The Lord uses the word later on in this passage. It’s to withhold from God what is due to Him and to withhold from your fellow human beings what is due to them, and to give to God what is not due to Him! Such a thing as blasphemy. I spoke to a brother from The Cape the other day. You know I love our coloured people in the Cape. I don’t know people in the world with a more marvellous sense of humour, but I had to help him right that blasphemy is a far more serious thing than what he thought. Somebody said to him: ‘blasphemy: what’s blasphemy? You know, what blasphemy is? Yeah, that’s what the traffic cop says when he holds that pipe out of to you: ‘blaas vir my’. It’s actually a much more serious thing than that. It’s to give to God what is not due to Him. Blasphemy and irreverence.
b. The Manifestation of the unrighteousness of man
That’s how it manifests. He says: ‘who by their unrighteousness.’ In other words, not wanting to give to God and your fellow human beings what is due to them. By that thing, by that inherent tendency, we do certain things and there are 3 things that we do. I put them in 3 categories and let me tell you why. You go back to the Garden of Eden. Let’s go where this started and understand this clearly. Did you see what the devil did? What’s the first thing he said to them? ‘Did God say?’ You all remember that? Did God say that if you eat of the tree, you will surely die? Yes, that’s what God said. What’s the second thing he did? He said: ‘You will not die’ then he did a third thing. What did he say? ‘You will be as gods’. So what did he do? I call it the repression, rejection, replacement of the Word of God. He repressed the Word of God. Then he rejected it. Then he replaced it with his own. That’s how sin works. It begins with you doubting God’s Word, then contradicting God’s Word and then replacing it with your own. And that takes all kinds of forms. You get everything from a false religion to just twisting the Scripture. I said to my students back then: ‘some of you twist the Scripture in such a way, it reminds me of a sign that I saw in front of an ironmonger shop. It says all kinds of fancy twistings and turnings done here.’ You question it, then you contradict it and then you replace it. Repression, rejection, replacing the Word of God and you’ll see that in these three categories. Let me open it up for you. There are three points: Their deliberate Ignorance, their deliberate Irreverence and their deliberate Idolatry – those three things. It’s deliberate ignorance, it’s deliberate irreverence and it’s deliberate idolatry. And guess who the main idol is? Do you think people who worship idols, worship the idols? They don’t – they worship themselves. They’re chasing the promise: you’ll be as gods.’ It’s called narcissism, if you want it in psychological terms. The other two things in the Dark Triad is Psychopathy and Machiavellianism. You want to know more about that you can come and have a chat. But the point here is the manifestations of the unrighteousness of men take a three-fold form: deliberate ignorance, deliberate irreverence and deliberate idolatry.
(i) Deliberate Ignorance
The repression, which is a synonym for suppression. They suppress the truth; deliberate ignorance for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them and for His invisible attributes namely: His eternal power, His divine nature have been clearly seen ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made so they are without excuse. You look at nature. You cannot miss the fact of God. Amen? But that’s despite the fact that they have no excuse for not knowing, they deliberately choose to not know – it’s deliberate ignorance. It’s called fooling yourself! And let me tell you every time you fool yourself; it’s for a stupid reason. That’s the first thing: deliberate ignorance. Don’t lapse into deliberate ignorance and not understand the fact of God and the magnificence of God by looking at nature which leaves you without excuse and by reading His Word which leaves you informed in a way that can lead to Salvation. So they knew God, but they chose not to – deliberate ignorance.
By the way that deliberate Ignorance – you can also look at verse 22 and verse 25 we’ll see it later on. In verse 22 He tells us “claiming to be wise they became fools.” He also tells us in verse 25 about this deliberate ignorance: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” You see that? Deliberate ignorance. They don’t want to know God.
(ii) Deliberate Irreverence
They did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him. That’s deliberate irreverence. Deliberately not be reverent towards God; not honouring Him; not worshiping Him; not give Him glory. “But they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.” You see if you don’t want to know God, it’s because you don’t want to worship God. Your ignorance will lead to irreverence and that will take you to the next step, exactly the repeat of what happened in the Garden of Eden:
(iii) Deliberate Idolatry
Verse 23: “… and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” There you’re into the idolatry which is self‑worship – idolatry is self-worship; you’re your own God. You got a little thing there standing on the mantelpiece or somewhere that reminds you that you’re god. You’ve got the little rituals that you go through every day to remind yourself that you’re god. You’re not just worshipping the thing, you’re worshipping you. That’s the problem. Do you see that: The reason for the wrath of God then? First of all, the malady of the unrighteousness of men, secondly the manifestation of the unrighteousness of men and it manifests in three ways deliberate ignorance, deliberate irreverence and deliberate idolatry. And it has results:
- The Results of the Wrath of God
The consequences are twofold: They were discarded by God and they became depraved – a twofold consequence: discarding and depravity.
a. Discarded by God
Notice the discarding which is the most terrible of at all. The rest is actually just the stench that comes from it. But the real problem is: ‘Therefore God gave them up.’ The worst thing that can happen to a human being is to be given up by God. You give Him up, He’ll give you up. Guess who loses? He can do without you. You cannot do without Him. God can do without every one of us; not one of us can do without God. Discarded by Him; He gave them up. I know parents who’ve done that to their teenagers: I’m giving up on you. I’m giving up on her. She’s gone and got pregnant again; I’m giving up on her. He’s gone back into the drugs again. I’m giving up on him.’ It’s a terrible thing to be given up on by God. And as I say the second consequence; the second result is actually just the stench of that:
b. Their Depravity
Here it is, notice depravity – it aims at two things: the heart and the mind. You find the heart in verse 24: “the lusts of their hearts”. Verse 28: a debased mind. That’s your entire being. It involves the heart and the mind which emanates in the behaviour. Look at the heart thing: “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.” God gave them up to that; to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, “because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever, Amen. For that reason, God gave them up to dishonourable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.” Don’t have any doubt what the Lord is talking about there and let’s call it by the name. It’s Lesbianism. That’s what it is. And you have to be very deliberate not to get it. You don’t have to agree with it if you’re an unbeliever, but you can’t miss it. Amen? Let’s continue. “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.” Brothers and sisters, that’s the Word in categorical terms from the mouth of God, condemning Homosexuality. Now if you’re an unbeliever or whatever you are, you can disagree that that is wrong, but you can’t deny that God says that it is. And if you’re disagreeing, you’re not disagreeing with me or my view, you’re disagreeing with God. Why are we all so quiet suddenly? Because I’m saying politically incorrect things from the pulpit? I don’t care; the world needs to hear it. It’s wrong. Now don’t go and get judgmental and pick on homosexuals and lesbians, because you’ve got sins of your own. If you’re going to tell them what they’re doing is wrong, make sure you talk to yourself too with that old pride and that old lust and that old anger. And don’t throw stones unless you don’t have sin. That’s not what I’m doing here this morning. I’m not picking on one kind of sin. I’m just highlighting it, because it’s so clear in the Scriptures and because it’s so controversial these days, but there it is. Can you all see it? It takes a third grader to see it. “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.” Now here it is – here’s why we can’t throw stones. Here it is: evil, covetousness: just wanting and wanting and wanting what you don’t really need. Malice which is ill-will. Envy. An Afrikaans student when I read this in class one day I said Envy (Afrikaans: ‘en wie?’). He said: ‘en almal’. Murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. You may say to yourself: Well, I’m not that bad. Then I’m going to ask: Are you a skinderbek (Afrikaans for gossiper)? Because the next one: they are gossips, right in there with all the others. Slanderers, haters of God, insolent – dissing people. That’s what it means: haughty. Oh, I’m the cat’s whiskers. Boastful. Oh, I’m the most beautiful cat’s whiskers. Inventors of evil – as though we don’t have enough. We have to go and invent some more! Disobedient to parents. Children, listen to me. The children in my congregation know how much I love them. Does anyone not know how much I love you? You know! Listen to me, little ones. Listen to your pastor. It’s a serious thing. It’s as serious as all the other things and listen to my advice. Listen to Dad. Listen to Mom. Just don’t be disobedient. It’s serious. It will take you bad places. Don’t do it. They love you; they’ll die for you. I know them. They’re not perfect and sometimes they’ll irritate the living daylights out of you. Some of them do that to me too. And I do it to them back. “Foolish and faithless and heartless and ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die. They don’t only do them, but give approval to those who practice them.” They find excuses for them. There we are: the Reality of the wrath of God, the Revelation of it, and the Reasons for it: the malady of the unrighteousness of men, the manifestations of the unrighteousness. Their deliberate ignorance, their deliberate irreverence, their deliberate idolatry, which causes us to be discarded by God and to lapse into depravity.
How shall we then live? I end where I started. The Just shall live by Faith in Christ alone. Our faith must be in Christ and His death for our sins on the cross. Can you see why the Gospel is a big deal now? It’s a big deal. It’s God’s Big Deal to the undeserving. I close with these words in short; in brief. God is in His majesty, humanity is in his mess and the only One who gets us out of it is the Lord Jesus Christ.