Summary: Our text passage this morning is part of the most terrifying collection of words ever put to paper.

Our text passage this morning is part of the most terrifying collection of words ever put to paper. Romans 1:18 - 3:20 is the most stinging indictment in existence of the realities regarding the condition of men and women as they stand before Almighty God. If your picture of God is that of a benevolent Grandaddy-God who bestows blessings like so many Tootsie Rolls to anyone who asks; if your understanding of God has as its source the teachings of Eastern mystics, or New Age philosophers, or Scientologists; if you have always limited your vision of God as a warm, fuzzy Giver of Love and Happiness; you will not enjoy the picture of God presented in these verses by the apostle Paul. If you are among those who think that the "harsh" God preached by the Puritans or the "picky" God worshipped by the Baptists or the "unmerciful" God claimed by the so-called "Religious Right" could in no way represent the God of Love and Mercy you prefer, you may find yourself surprised this morning. If you think that all mankind is, with a few "truly bad" exceptions, pretty decent and capable of becoming even better through the exercise of love, compassion and open-mindedness, you will learn today that this is not what the Bible says about mankind. If your vision of the future is one where justice -- rooted in and administered fairly by an enlightenend, sensitive world culture which is coming into focus even now -- will somehow prevail; you will be sorely disappointed by these verses.

We are in the midst of an extended look at the two essential "extremes" in the Bible: r __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ and w __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. One is the exlusive property of God; the other is the persistent nature of mankind. They are contrasted sharply for us in the first three chapters of Romans. Let us read today's text verses, Romans 1:18-32, but let us also include v.16-17, from last week's message.

A. The Righteousness of God (v.16-17)

1. Paul declares in v.17 that the righteousness of God -- "from f __ __ __ __ to f __ __ __ __" -- is revealed in the g __ __ __ __ __ of C __ __ __ __ __.

a. There is a two-fold "sense" of this righteousness in Scripture.

(1) First, the gospel declares "Who is righteous." It does so by showing the "personal" righteousness of God. This may be seen in the biblical accounts of:

(a) C __ __ __ __ __ __ __

- declared by God to be "g __ __ __"

- j __ __ __ __ __ __ by God when spoiled by sin

(b) the F __ __ __ __

(c) the Nation of I __ __ __ __ __

- God's choosing A __ __ __ __ as patriarch

- exaltation of J __ __ __ __ __ in Egypt

- the controntation between M __ __ __ __ and Pharoah, resulting finally in the E __ __ __ __ __

- the giving of the L __ __ at Sinai

- the conquest of the land of C __ __ __ __ __

- Israel's glory under D __ __ __ __

- Israel's destruction, dispersal and enslavement

(d) Jesus Christ

- His miraculous b __ __ __ __

- His sinless l __ __ __

- His atoning d __ __ __ __

- His glorious r __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

- His a __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

(e) the H __ __ __ S __ __ __ __ __

- His comforting p __ __ __ __ __ __ __ in the lives of believers

- His quickening power, manifested in believers' w __ __ __ __ __ __, Spiritual g __ __ __ __ , and m __ __ __ __ __ __ __

- His provision of Spiritual "s __ __ __ __" which enables believers to understand the Word of God

(f) the C __ __ __ __ __

(2) Secondly, the gospel of Christ reveals how a person may become righteous before God.

(3) Both of these senses of righteousness are present in the death and resurrection of Christ.

- At the cross, God revealed His righteousness by p __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ sin;

- At the resurrection, God revealed His righteousness by making salvation available to the believing sinner.

"The problem 'How can a holy God ever forgive sinners and still be holy? is answered in the Gospel. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, God is seen to be 'both just and justifier' (Romans 3:26)." - Warren Wiersbe: Be Right

b. To the Hebrew mind, "righteousness" is more a legal status than a moral quality. The Hebrew word translated in the Old Testament as "righteousness" means literally "in the right." The Hebrew word translated as "wickedness" means literally "in the wrong." Both of these words appear in Pharoah's confession to Moses, recorded in Exodus 9:27: I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people and I are wicked.

Our dilemma: Jehovah is always "in the right;" sinful mankind is always "in the wrong." Having established the Scriptural case for God's righteousness, we next see what the Bible has to say about mankind's wickedness and God's response to it.


1. V.18-32 can be divided into three sections, each of which can be sub-divided by the curious phrase, "therefore, God gave them up....". This phrase is the picture painted by Paul in this of the w __ __ __ __ of God, and it is more awful than any special-effects vision we could conjure up of hell-fire and brimstone. We will elaborate on this point at a later point.

Paul declares here that God is a __ __ __ __! When in v.18 he says that "...the wrath of God is revealed..." , the tense he uses in the original Greek indicates a continual, on-going process. Even as we speak, the wrath of Almighty God is begin revealed openly. Before you go off in a mad dash for a current newspaper or almanac, let us consider why God is revealing His wrath.

2. God is revealing His wrath, Paul writes, against:

a. all u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

b. all u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

3. While well-meaning Christians rail against specific sinful behaviours of the world around us, we are sometimes missing the opportunity to clearly communicate to the world the awful source of unrighteousness: ungodliness. Yes, there is a list of specific sins presented in v.29-30, but let us today focus on the root of mankind's problem; not its fruit.

a. God's wrath is being revealed because of man's wrong ideas about God. These wrong ideas are not born of innocence, because, Paul says, God has seen to it that everyone in the world has been given sufficient and sufficiently-understandable evidence of His existence. This evidence has nothing to do with intelligence or knowledge or religious training. There is one area in which all people -- no matter when or where or how they lived -- have been equipped by God with w __ __ __ __ __: the essential existence of the Sovereign Lord God of the Universe. Psalm 111:10 says The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The starting point for every human who has ever lived has been wisdom sufficient to reveal to him or her that God exists. The knowledge of the true God was accessible, but men and women closed their minds to it. Paul writes in v.18 that mankind has suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. This is obvious, he reasons, since:

(1) "...what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." (v.19)

(2) "His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made..." (v.20) These "invisible attributes" of God which are made known to us include:

- His existence

- His p __ __ __ __ (v.20)

- His "G __ __ __ __ __ __" (v.20, KJV)

This is part of what theologians call the "G __ __ __ __ __ __ Revelation" of God. Our worship service reading of Psalm 19 is an example of a response to God's "General Revelation" to mankind which pleases Him. Such a proper response, Paul writes in v.21, should include:

(1) g __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ God

(2) t __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Man, however has not seen fit to do this. His failure to do so is not a matter of reason, but one of his will, so he is "without excuse" before God. God's response is revealed in v.24:

"Therefore, God gave them up...."


1. The arrogant sin of mankind is described by Paul as exchanging "the truth of God for a lie." Instead of offering praise and thanks to his Creator, man chose to give to created things the glory which belongs to God alone. Instead of pursuing biblical morality, man chose to live by his own moral code, which changes from culture to culture and from generation to generation. Instead of loving God with all his heart, mind and strength, man chose to love himself with all his heart, mind and strength. Instead of living under the lordship of God through Christ Jesus, man has chosen slavery to sin, a condition which he calls "freedom." In every case, God has "given man up" to his choices, and he is hopelessly lost in the midst of them, doomed by God, C.S. Lewis wrote, "to enjoy forever the horrible freedom [he] has demanded." See also Galatians 6:6-7

2. It is interesting to note that God didn't "give men and women up" until they refused to believe His divine evidence. Their refusal to acknowledge Him as God led first to glorifying the created in the place of the Creator (v.22-23). According to The Book of Wisdom:

For the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them was the corruption of life. (14:12)

a. their t __ __ __ __ __ __ __ became futile (v.20)

b. their foolish h __ __ __ __ __ became darkened (v.20)

c. Professing to be w __ __ __, they became f __ __ __ __ (v.22)

3. As has been stated, Paul three times declares that God has given mankind up.

a. In v.24, we read that God gave them up "to u __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __, in the l __ __ __ of their hearts, to d __ __ __ __ __ __ __ their bodies..."

(1) We are again reminded that this was the result of exchanging the truth of God for a lie (v.25).

(2) These verses may well be a reference to acts of mutilation which certain false religions required of their worshippers.

b. In v.26, we read that God gave them up "to v __ __ __ passions...." Here Paul touches on the subject of homosexuality, a practice well-known to most of his Gentile audience, and one always condemned by Judaism.

(1) V.26 is the only reference in Scripture to lesbianism.

(2) Paul's choice of the terms "natural" and "unnatural" in these verses, writes James Edwards, is "instructive."

"Homosexualtiy is a forsaking of a natural relationship instituted according to the purpose of the Creator, i.e., heterosexuality, for an unnatural relationship which reverses the Creator's purpose. Homosexuality changes something originally oriented to the opposite sex as a complement and inverts it to itself, thus perverting the created order. Like all sin, it is a disorientation which leads to confusion. Thus, the dishonoring of God results in the disordering of human life.

Paul's attitude towards homosexuality was unambiguous; these verses cannot be construed to argue that Paul regarded homosexulality as an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God. It is common to hear that Paul's pronouncements on this subject were historically and culturally conditioned and are therefore no longer morally valid. However, Paul condemns homosexuality not primarily on moral but on theological grounds. [For Paul], homosexuality illustrates the theological error he has been expounding since v.18, namely the exchanging of something authentic for something counterfeit. Paul cites homosexuality not because it is a worse sin but because it exemplifies better than other sins the very nature of sin, which is the perversion of an original good. and hence idolatry. - James R. Edwards: Romans

c. In v.28, we read that "...God gave them over to a debased m __ __ __, to do those things which are not fitting..."

a. Curiously, the word translated here as "debased" is understood to mean in the original Greek as "counterfeit."

b. There follows a long list of specific sins in v.29-31. For similar lists, see:

(1) 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

(2) Galatians 5:19-21

(3) Colossians 3:5

4. And what are we Christians, who have escaped the wrath of God, to make of it?

a. First, let us not confuse the wrath of God with the natural order of things. It is true that, in giving up mankind up to his foolish choices, an element of God's wrath is the withholding of His mercy in letting sinners reap whatever it is that they sow. We are inclined to "limit" evidences of God's wrath to specific examples of bad consequences in the lives of sinners. When someone who drinks to excess is diagnosed with a fatal liver disorder, we might see that as the "wrath of God" coming upon that person. When a sexual libertine develops a terrible venereal disease, we might see that as the wrath of God made manifest in him. The frightening frequence of the terminal illness of AIDS in promiscuous homosexual men has caused many Christians to see that as evidence of God's wrath coming upon the entire homosexual community. But these are mere outcomes of the natural order; the natural results of behaviour for which God did not create our bodies. Even professing Christians who give in to the sinful activities described above are just as likely as unbelievers to fall victim to their terrible consequences. When we ascribe a single person's unfortunate plight to the wrath of God, it becomes easy for us to judge that person; to avoid that person; to loathe that person. WE MUST NOT!

b. As believers we are called upon by our Lord and Saviour to l __ __ __ the unlovely people in the world -- the lost, the least and the last. I must say that, in many cases at least, the response of Christians to these people over the years has ranged from ignoring them completely to despising them thoroughly. We do this, I think, because we have a hard time distinguishing between the sin we are called upon to hate and the sinner we are called upon to love. We might not be so quick to condemn or ignore needy sinners if we understood that these poor individuals are not the focus of God's wrath; the entire world is! The wrath of God is indeed being revealed in our world. It is being revealed in the very evidence and practice of homesexual relations, illicit heterosexual relations, idolatry, sectarian violence, radcial hatred, divorce, vulgarity, profanity, thievery, cheating, intolerance, the pursuit of pleasure above all else, etc., etc., etc. Instead of shaking our collective finger at the sinner and reminding him of the fact that he's getting what he deserves, we should be on our knees before the gracious God who has rescued us from the same fate. The wrath of God is being revealed and, make no mistake, everyone who has ever been born deserves to feel the full force of it. A few reminders:

(1) Psalm 14:2-3

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt;

There is none who does good. No, not one.

(2) Ecclesiastes 7:20

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.

(3) Romans 3:9-10

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one.'

5. The church of Christ must be fervent in our passion to fight for the truth. We must never allow ourselves to become nonchalant in our pursuit of the ministry to which we are called. We must never fail to rebuke sin from the Word of God, but we must also never fail to love the lost and needy sinners who live all around us, no matter how they live, no matter what colour they are, no matter how unlike us they may be. It is the hardest and highest ministry to which Christians are called. Those of us who by the grace of God live within His kingdom must go out and dwell among those who clearly live outside of it. There we are to minister the gospel in Word and deed without ever succumbing to the temptations which surround us. It is only the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which can give us the power to do it -- but we must do it.


1. If you are not a Christian, the Bible says you are already caught in the trap of the wrath of God; it is not something you will have to work toward.

John 3:18-19

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Your only hope, dear friend, is to pray the prayer of faith -- confessing your sin before God; acknowledging that because of it, you deserve to experience the wrath of God; repenting of it, declaring to God your desire to rid yourself of it; accepting God's gift of salvation by believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, casting all your sins upon Him and becoming His disciple; thanking God for His faithfulness and receiving in yourself the power of the Holy Spirit.

2. There are some believers in the world who are sinning deliberately in spite of what they know. Romans makes it clear that non-Christians cannot help themselves -- they have to sin. But, Beloved, do you think that your status as a believer in Christ will spare you the wages of your sin? If you are living in deliberate sin, you have invited into your life that manifestation of God's wrath. You are living outside the parameters of His mercy and have chosen to take your chances with the natural order.

COME BACK! Fall on your face before the God you are offending and confess those sins by name, repent of them, and experience the warmth of His forgiveness and fellowship for the first time in a long time. He needs your gift at work in the world right now. There is much for you to do, and much to be done.


1. Read Paul's list of "the sins of a debased mind" in Romans 1:28-31. Now divide the listed sins

into two categories: those widely-regarded as "serious" sins and those not regarded as so serious.

2. Are the 10 Commandment sins the most serious? Why, or why not?

3. Let's say an openly homosexual couple decided to visit our church, even to begin to attend there regularly. Explain briefly how each of the following should "deal with" this situation.




4. Read Hosea 8:7a and Galatians 6:7-9. Write in your own words what is taught by these verses.

5. Explain in what way (s) Christians have escaped the wrath of God and in what way (s) they might have to experience it.

6. What is the place of rebuke in a Christian's life? Provide Scriptural reference for your answer.