{1}          Is God Wrathful? (Ro 1:18)

Romans 1:18
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth.

Problem:

         Can God be wrathful like man?

         Can God have unconditional love as revealed ďin that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for usĒ (Ro 5:8) and is at the same time a God of wrath who punishes us according to our sinful deeds?

Context:

         Godís wrath is revealed in the fact that the rejection of Godís truth (1:18-20), that is, the truth about Godís nature and will, leads to futile thinking (1:21-22), idolatry (1:23), perversion of God-intended sexuality (1:24-27), and relational-moral brokenness (1:28-32).

Explanation:

         We perceive wrath as one negative attribute, similar to hate, anger, a vindictive spirit.

         The bible uses anthropomorphism, that is, analogies from human experience to describe God. It is necessary as we do not completely understand the nature of God. We can only approximate what God is like by comparing Him to us. However, Godís wrath is not the same as human wrath.

         Paul speaks of the wrath of God in two ways. Mostly, the expression refers to the Judgment Day when Godís judgment is executed on the worldís sinfulness (Ro 2:5,8; 5:9; Eph 5:6; 1Th 1:10; 5:9). In this contexts, Godís wrath (or Godís judgment) is clearly an activity of God, his decided action against sin. Even so, Godís wrath is never capricious, vindictive or malicious.

         For the second meaning of Godís wrath, as in Ro 1:18, Paul does not say that Godís wrath will be revealed on the Judgment Day but rather, ďGodís wrath is being revealed from heaven now.Ē Godís wrath is already a present reality. But the present manifestation of Godís wrath is indirect rather than direct; it is an expression of Godís permissive will, not Godís active will. Godís wrath is built into the very structure of created reality. In rejecting Godís structure and establishing our own, in violating Godís intention for the creation and substituting our own intentions, we cause our own disintegration.

         The human condition, which Paul describes in 1:18-32, is not something caused by God. The phrase ďrevealed from heavenĒ does not depict some kind of divine intervention, but rather the inevitability of human debasement which results when Godís will, built into the created order, is violated.

         The phrase ďGod gave them overĒ means that the sinful perversion of man, though resulting from human decisions, is to be understood ultimately as Godís punishment that we, in freedom, bring upon ourselves.

         Based on this passage, the common notion that God punishes or blesses in direct proportion to our sinful or good deeds, cannot be maintained. Godís relationship with us is not on a reciprocal basis. Godís radical, unconditional love has been demonstrated in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us. God loves us with an everlasting love. But the rejection of that love separates us from its life‑giving power. The result is disintegration and death. Against such a perverted creation, Godís wrath is revealed.

Application:

         Why is God angry at sinful people? Because they have substituted the truth about Him with a fantasy of their own imagination (1:25). They have stifled the truth God naturally reveals to all people in order to believe anything that supports their own self‑centred life‑styles. God cannot tolerate sin because His nature is morally perfect. He cannot ignore or condone such wilful rebellion. God wants to remove the sin and restore the sinner ó and he is able to, as long as the sinner does not stubbornly distort or reject the truth. But His anger erupts against those who persist in sinning. Make sure you are not pursuing fantasy rather than the true God. Donít suppress the truth about Him merely to protect your own life-style.