by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2 July 13, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(063)Thesis:God's imposition of wrath is the consequence of man's determined distortion of the Truth.
Introduction:Last week we noted that the text of Romans 1:18-32 is a detailed presentation of the need man has for salvation. It consists in the fact that, without salvation, man is subject to the on-going imposition of the Justice of God, which is called His "wrath". The reason for considering it "wrath" rather than "justice" is that the connotation of wrath is suggestive of disaster, whereas the connotation of justice is not necessarily so. God's reaction to man in his lost condition as a "child of wrath" and a "son of disobedience" is an implacable commitment to retribution. Man's only hope is for "salvation". Without that, his life in this world and the next is one of the active opposition of God in kind. Wrath is retributive...it is "pay-back". It is giving in return what has been earned by active behavior. This evening we are going to pick up on the reason for God's retribution upon man as it is outlined in Paul's statement of Romans 1:18.
I. The "Bottom Line" Reason for the Revelation of God's Wrath.
A. Paul says that men "hold/hinder" the Truth "in" unrighteousness.
1. The word translated "hold" or "hinder" or "suppress" or "repress" is a word that has the meaning of "exercising power over" a person or thing.
a. It can signify a good result from such power.
b. It can signify a terrible result from such power.
c. This latitude is the basis for the variation in translation.
d. In this context, the "result" is detestable to God and His is actively responding in wrath.
2. The "in" probably should be read as a "by" since Paul seems to be arguing that men are doing what they are doing by some means.
B. Paul's focus upon "unrighteousness" is emphatic since he has already referred to it as one of the two matters toward which the wrath of God is aimed.
1. There are two major areas where evil runs rampant in this world.
a. The first, and most problematical, is that which Paul calls "ungodliness".
1) Ungodliness is, at its roots, a breakdown in a person's theology...the way he actually conceives of God as the Exerciser of Power [Consider Romans 8:7].
2) The problem with theological distortions is that man is an actual reflection, in his behavior, of the concept of God that dominates his heart ("as a man thinks in his heart, so is he").
a) If the "god" in a person's fundamental concept is an impersonal force, the person will inevitably denigrate "persons" in favor of "force"...the "survival of the fittest".
b) If the "god" in a person's fundamental concept is a person without mercy, the person will inevitably be "merciless" in the treatment of others...always looking for a way to "blame" the individual to whom some evil comes rather than looking for a way to mitigate the pain (which, biblically, can only be done by the Gospel). The "blaming" is a way to escape having to "love" because this "god" isn't "loving".
c) The theology of man is a fundamental root of his depravity and began when he began to challenge the "goodness" thesis surrounding God's character and works.
b. The second, and most damaging, is that which Paul calls "unrighteousness".
1) Unrighteousness, at its roots, is a breakdown in a person's "anthropology"...the way he thinks of man as the object of the exercise of power.
2) The problem with anthropological distortion is that man invariably makes a fundamental distinction between himself and all others when it comes time to "act" (exercise power).
a) As an "exerciser of power", man is a "god" in the sense of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34.
i. He, in the situation that calls for his actions, is the "god" of the situation.
ii. His actions, or lack thereof, in those situations are irremediable as seeds sown into a fundamental cause/effect universe.
b) As the "god" in the situation, man's concept of other men is absolutely crucial because he will act in conformity with the way he conceives of the one(s) who will be subject to his actions.
i. If he sees the "others" as less than the "gods" they are, he will treat them as "unworthy" of his best actions.
ii. Jesus, in addressing this reality, said that one should never do anything to another that he did not want done to himself...in other words, the "gods" are all equal in value and the needs are all to be evaluated in terms of the reality of a biblical anthropology...man in the image of God.
3) The reason unrighteousness is the most damaging is that unrighteousness is the most visible arena and, thus, carries the most impact upon a visually programmed race.
2. The emphasis upon unrighteousness is that it is the area of "methodology" in the impact man makes upon how the Truth runs through the lives of others.
a. In Romans 2:24 Paul claims that the concept men have about God is determined by their experiences of the actions of those who are reputed to be related to Him.
b. This is how the Truth is damaged "by" unrighteousness and this is how men are damaged by the consequential damage that has occurred.
II. The Overt Fact: God Has Determined to Respond "In Kind" to the Destroyers of Mankind.
A. God's anger is white hot against the unjust imposition of destruction against others.
B. The heat of His anger shows up in the revelation of His wrath as He imposes upon men the justice due them in their active pursuit of superiority over their fellow men...when a "god" discounts the others as "gods", God takes up their case.