Summary: This message is part of my expository series through Romans.
“Our Politically-Incorrect God”
September 21, 2008
Sometimes, it’s not a good thing to be politically-incorrect!
• More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!
• Wrapped and ready, Santa’s bringing you Chesterfields!
• Gee, Dad, you always get the best of everything…even Marlboro!
• DelMonte: You mean a woman can open it?
• Cooking? That’s what wives are for! I’m giving my wife a Kenwood Chef!
• Fat: the enemy that is shortening your life, BANISHED! How? With sanitized tapeworms! Easy to swallow!
Sometimes, it’s not a good thing to be politically-incorrect; at other times, though, it’s a good thing to buck the trend of political correctness. We serve a God Who isn’t particularly concerned that He pass some politically-correct litmus test, and yet there are people who sometimes seem to want to fit Him into their box; His character and nature aren’t up for vote. Yet here’s the son of one prominent evangelical leader: “Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about…stuff like God's sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc., remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell…I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.” Thanks for weighing in, son; I’m sure God’s taking careful notes to be sure He conforms to your image of what He ought to be…and today we look at the truth of Who God is—whether that’s Who we want or not.
Paul has just soared to the heights in his description of the gospel of Christ, the powerful gospel that accomplishes eternal salvation. It is a gospel, as we saw last week, that does not demand that we try to clean up our lives first, but that is accessible on the basis of faith to any/every person in the world. This sounds great! This sounds great! It’s so…positive! Uplifting! Encouraging! Thrilling! What’s next?
“For the wrath of God…” Oh…OK. And we read the second half of the chapter and we see a very ugly picture painted, full of sin and nastiness and stuff we don’t talk about in polite company! This is a theme that you’ll never hear in a decent percentage of American pulpits. The wrath of God? Let’s talk about becoming a better you! Let’s talk about 7 surefire tips to fix my marriage! Let’s talk about getting a handle on stress or finances or children or whatever…anything but the wrath of God! How antiquated! How outdated! How hellfire-and-brimstone, pound the pulpit, fundamentalist can you get?
Further, we don’t just get a mention of the wrath of God, and of man’s sinfulness, for a paragraph or two; it goes on this way for the next two chapters, before we get back to the subject of God’s saving of men and women from damnation. What’s up with this? Why does Paul go from the incredible “positive” message, if you will, of God’s powerful gospel of grace, to a discussion of God’s fierce wrath? Here’s the answer: we can’t get to the good news of the gospel until we see the bad news of our sin, and the just/righteous wrath of a holy God directed against that sin!
I. The Fact of God’s Wrath - :18
“It is necessary for God to reveal His righteousness in the gospel because God has also found it necessary to reveal His wrath against sin” (Moo). This is the connection between verses 17 and 18. And the word “wrath” is the correct word; some translations use the word “anger”, but we tend to think of anger in terms of an emotion, which can be capricious. So what do we mean when we speak of God’s wrath?
We get messed up at this point, if we’re not careful, by likening God’s wrath to our anger. We fly off the handle; God never does. We get angry at the wrong things; God never does. We fail to get angry at things we ought; God never makes that mistake. Our anger comes and goes, intensifies and then subsides; God’s wrath is consistent at all times. Some people liken the wrath of God to the capricious anger of Roman deities, who were seen to fly into a rage at the slightest provocation sometimes. No…it is His consistent opposition to sin: period. Wrath is the necessary reaction of a holy God to the sin of man. If God did not react with wrath, He would not be holy; He would not be God.
“Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”, the Scripture says; God perfectly hates the sin (while loving the sinner, by the way!). As I said earlier, the wrath of God doesn’t find much of a place in today’s American pulpits. Consequently, researcher Christian Smith writes, in his book entitled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, that America’s professing Christian young people have developed an image of God that is far from Biblical.