123. What’s Wrong With The World? Rebellion Against God! Romans 1:17-18

“The world is in a mess!” Countless people around the world would agree with that statement. But why is it so? God has some answers. He used St Paul to express in Romans 1 some good news and some bad news. The good news was that God has revealed His character through the good news of the Gospel message. So in verses 16 to 17 Paul shares his appreciation for the gospel message which had led to his salvation, 16)  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.(17)  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” God in His mercy and love has made known to humans what He wants from them. The term “righteousness of God” in verse 17 in its simplest definition can mean “what God wants.” The righteous are those who by faith always seek to do “what God wants.” The unrighteous don’t trust Him! Neither do they seek to do what He wants! The good news God has revealed is that He accepts all those who trust in Him by believing in the gospel of His redeeming and forgiving love. In response to His love they desire to always do what He wants, by trusting in Him for every moment of their lives.

But there is another revelation to be found in the following verse. It also reveals something about the character of God. This time it is a revelation of His wrath. Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. How can God be characterised by love and also by wrath? It helps us to understand that “wrath” (orgē in the Greek New Testament) doesn’t mean anger out of control, as we often observe anger among humans. Rather it is His settled disposition against all that is evil. The tense of the verb confirms that. It is present continuous tense showing that this revelation of God’s wrath is an ongoing revelation. It is still being revealed. He knows how damaging sin is to the human race. That’s why He abhors it. That’s why it incurs His wrath.

Towards what is that wrath directed? Verse 18 tells us, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  Instead of being godly, humans were ungodly, living in ways that did not reflect the character of God. Instead of being righteous, they were characterised by unrighteousness. They didn’t do what God wanted. But what was so heinous about that? Paul tells us, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. If they had been godly and righteous as followers of God they would have shown forth the character of God in their human lives. But they didn’t. Instead of revealing what God was like in their character, and revealing what God wanted through the deeds, they “suppressed” the truth. This is a very strong word. It means here more than just being difficult towards people who want to live godly, righteous lives. Rather it means that God wanted to reveal Himself and His ways through human instruments but they suppressed the truth. They held it down, did not allow it to be revealed as they lived in ways opposed to God’s will and desire for humans. In the very descriptive words of AT Robertson, “Truth … is out in the open, but wicked men, so to speak, put it in a box and sit on the lid and “hold it down in unrighteousness.” Their evil deeds conceal the open truth of God from men.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament).

 There was a human who did in fact live the godly, righteous life that God wanted to be manifest in humans. His name was Jesus. His words and His life revealed the truth about God, Jn 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. He didn’t suppress the truth; He revealed it! Just as every human is meant to do as a creature made in the image of God!

If God’s wrath is being revealed against those who suppress the truth then who might those people be? That is what we will look at in later articles. It is important that we do so. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, rejection of God and of the truth of God has inevitable consequences, Heb 10:29  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? … 31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. God is never deceived. A life characterised by rebellion against God and the ongoing rejection of His will (what He wants) will not have a happy ending.

But praise God there are those who do repent of their rebellion against God and receive the truth in Jesus. These are seen as those who become righteous in the sight of God, 2Cor 5:21  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Good news for those who repent and believe in Jesus. Bad news for those who continue in their rebellion against God.

Blog No.123.  Jim Holbeck. Posted On Wednesday 19th June 2013

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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