Summary: In Romans 1:19-23, Paul gives three reasons why every person born--with the exception of Jesus Christ--fully deserves the wrath of God.
Let us continue our study in Romans 1:18-23 about the wrath of God. Last week in Romans 1:18 we noted several features about the wrath of God. Today, in Romans 1:19-23, we are going to see several reasons for the wrath of God. Let’s read Romans 1:18-23, noting that our text for today is Romans 1:19-23:
"18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
"21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:19-23)
“We don’t need to evangelize the people of the world who have never heard the message of salvation. We only need to announce to them that they’re already saved.” So says the head of the department of evangelism for a major denomination in America.
That leader reflects the rising tide of universalism, the belief that, because God is too loving and gracious to send anyone to hell, everyone will ultimately get to heaven. If that were true, there obviously would be no place for warning sinners of the approaching day of wrath in the proclamation of the gospel.
The apostle Paul, however, is determined for us to know that before we can understand the good news of the gospel we must first understand the bad news of the gospel, that before we can understand the grace of God we must first understand the wrath of God, that before we can understand the meaning of the death of Christ we must first understand why our sin made that death necessary, that before we can understand how loving, merciful, and gracious God is we must first see how rebellious, sinful, and guilty we are.
Tragically, even many evangelicals have come to soft-pedal the theme of God’s wrath and judgment and hell. Even so much as a minimum mention of hell has been quietly removed from much of today’s preaching. And the wrath (or anger) of God, when mentioned at all, is frequently depersonalized, as if somehow it is worked out automatically by some deistic operation in which God himself or we ourselves are not directly involved!
Many people are inclined to wonder if we really deserve such a harsh fate. After all, no person asks to be born. Why then, say many, should a person who had nothing to do with his own birth spend eternity in hell for being sinful?
The question, “Why is everyone born under the wrath of God?” deserves attention. It is this question that the apostle Paul answers in Romans 1:19-23, where he explains why God is justified in his wrath against all people.
In Romans 1:19-23, Paul gives three reasons why the Romans, and every person born except the Lord Jesus Christ, fully deserve the wrath of God. These reasons may be identified as man’s rejection, man’s rationalization, and man’s religion.
I. Man’s Rejection (1:19-21)
The first reason why God is justified in his wrath against sinners is because of man’s rejection of God’s revelation of himself to all mankind. The Jews enjoyed a “special” revelation from God in that he had given them the Scriptures. But all people have rejected God’s “natural” revelation of himself in creation and providence.
A. The Fact of Revelation (1:19)
Paul’s point is that all people are rightly and deservedly under the wrath of God since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (1:19).
All people have evidence of God, and what their physical senses can perceive of him their inner senses can understand to some extent. All people know something of the reality and truth of God. We are all responsible for a proper response to that revelation of God. Any wrong response is “inexcusable.”
A disease left Helen Keller blind and deaf as a very young girl. Her family hired Anne Sullivan to take care of Helen. Through Anne’s tireless and selfless efforts, Helen finally learned to communicate through touch and even learned to talk. When Anne first told Helen about God, the girl’s response was that she already knew about him—she just did not know his name.