Summary: This sermon examines several aspects of the wrath of God.
Let’s read Romans 2:5:
"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5)
In Romans 2:5 we come for a second time to the idea of God’s wrath, and for the second time we need to defend wrath as a proper element of God’s character. It is strange that this should be so.
Several years ago newspapers reported the discovery of a “house of horrors” in north Philadelphia. A man named Gary Heidnik had been luring prostitutes and other rootless women to his home, imprisoning and torturing them, and finally killing some. When his crimes were uncovered, two women were found chained to the walls of the basement, and body parts of others were discovered in Heidnik’s refrigerator. Heidnik was criminally insane, of course.
But the interesting thing about this case is that much of the outrage it engendered was directed, not so much at Heidnik, who was obviously insane, but at the police, who had been alerted to the strange goings-on in the house earlier by the neighbors but had done nothing. The police maintained that until they were finally told about Heidnik by a woman who had been in his home but had escaped, they did not have “probable cause” to interfere.
The position of the police may have been technically and legally correct, of course. But the point I am making is that people naturally feel that evil demands both intervention and outrage, and they are deeply upset if this does not happen. If nothing is done or if the situation is allowed to continue unchallenged for a long time, the outrage is intensified!
Why then are we unwilling to grant the rightness of a similar outrage to God? One possible reason is that we consider our sins to be excusable—forgetting that in the sight of the holy God they are no different from those of Gary Heidnik. Our sins are measured not by our own relative and wavering standards of good and evil, but by God’s absolute and utterly upright criteria.
The first time we came to the idea of the wrath of God in Romans, we were at the beginning of the first great section of Paul’s letter. There Paul wrote in Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” This is a thematic verse and therefore very important, for it is saying that the wrath of God is not something merely saved up until some long-delayed but final day of judgment, but rather is something that God has been revealing to us even now. Romans 2:5 is going to say that there is also a day of wrath to come, but the first thing Paul says about God’s wrath (in Romans 1:18) is that it is already being revealed from heaven.
This means that the wrath of God is a very real thing. Moreover, we can know the certainty of a future day of wrath by noting the past and present revelation of that wrath.
How has the wrath of God been revealed? The great Bible commentator Robert Haldane says:
"It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge, and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven. . . . But, above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation, there are two revelations given from heaven, one of wrath, the other of grace."
I don’t know a statement regarding the nature of the revelation of God’s wrath that is more complete or accurate than this statement by Haldane.
And yet, in Romans 1, Paul’s point is that the wrath of God is being revealed to us chiefly in the debilitating downward drag of sin upon our lives. We think that when we sin we can sin “just a little bit.” But we cannot! Sin captures us and pulls us down relentlessly, until—if we are allowed to continue in sin long enough—we end up calling what is good, evil and what is evil, good. And we perish utterly!
That means that the moral turmoil and chaos of the world, including our own personal world is evidence that the wrath of God is no fiction. This is something to be gravely concerned about.