Summary: Unrighteous Gentiles
1:18-30 opens up a new section in Romans. After introducing the righteousness which comes from God (1:17), a theme he develops at length (3:21-5:21), Paul presents the overwhelming evidence of man’s sinfulness, underscoring how desperately he needs this righteousness that only God can provide. He presents God’s case against the irreligious, immoral pagan (1:18-32; The Gentiles) the religious, outwardly moral person (2:1-3:8; the Jews); and concludes by showing that all men alike deserve God’s judgment (3:9-20).
Romans 1:18-19, “18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
Wrath of God is not an impulsive outburst of anger aimed capriciously at people whom God does not like. It is the settled determined response of a righteous God against sin (Psalm 2:5, 12; 45:7; 75:8; 67:6; 67:49-51; 90:7-9; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15-16; John 3:36; Romans 9:22; Eph 5:6; Col 3:5-6).
Is revealed: This is better translated “is constantly revealed.” This word essentially means to uncover, make visible or make known. God reveals His wrath in two ways: 1) indirectly, through natural consequences of violating His universal moral law, and 2) directly through His personal intervention (the Old Testament record-from the sentence passed upon Adam and Eve to the worldwide flood, from the fire and brimstone that leveled Sodom to the Babylonian captivity-clearly displays this kind of intervention_. The most graphic revelation of God’s holy wrath and hatred against sin was poured out in divine judgment on His Son on the Cross.
God has various kinds of wrath as well: 1) eternal wrath, which is hell; 2) eschatological wrath, which is the final Day of the Lord; 3) cataclysmic wrath like the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; ) consequential wrath, which is the principle of sowing and reaping; and 5) the wrath of abandonment, which is removing restraint and letting people go to their sins (for examples of this wrath read Psalm 81:11-12; Proverbs 1:23-31; Hosea 4:17). Here it is in the fifth form, God’s abandoning the wicked continually throughout history to pursue their sin and its consequences (vv.24-32).
Ungodliness refers to a lack of reverence for devotion to, and worship of the true God- a defective relationship with Him (Jude 14-15). Unrighteousness refers to the result of ungodliness: a lack of conformality in thought, word and deed to the character and law of God.
Suppress the truth refers to the evidence from conscience (1:19,2:14), creation (1:20), and God’s Word is irrefutable, men choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to their sin (Psalm 14:1; John 3:19-20). Manifest in them shows that God has soveringly planted evidence of His existence in the very nature of man by reason and moral law (1:20-21; 28,32; 2:15).
Romans 1:20-23, “20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
Invisible attributes refers to two specifically mentioned in this verse, His eternal power and Godhead. This just goes to the lengths to show us that God’s sovernity is active in the affairs of man. If God’s love is not active in the affairs of humanity guiding the hand of the Holy Spirit in the affairs of trials, then we have a problem. Some would wish to state that God’s activity is limited in some sense, but this can never be the case. God is and always will be active because His sovernity is still active through the governance of the Holy Sprit in the affairs of man. It is invisible in the sense that it works to govern and regulate man’s sin, but also His love is best revealed through our present circumstances as we submit to His ways, for they are higher than any other way that we can concoct.
By things that are made: This refers clearly to the fact that creation declievers a clear, unmistakeable message about God’s person (Pss 19:1-8; 94:9; Acts 14:15-17; 17:23-28). His eternal power refers to the Creator who made all that we see around us and constantly sustains it, must be a being of awesome power. Godhead: That is, His divine nature particularly His faithfulness (Gen 8:21-22), kindness and graciousness (Acts 14:17).
They are without excuse: Yeshua holds all men responsible for their refusal to acknowledge what He has shown them of Himself in creation. Even those who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel have received a clear witness about the existence and character of God- and have suppressed it. If a person will respond to the revelation he has, even if it is solely natural revelation, God will provide some means for that person to hear the gospel (Acts 8:26-39; 10:1-48; 17:27).