The Revelation of Wrath pt 2
THE REVELATION OF WRATH (PT 2)
We’re looking at the last part of Rom 1 this morning, at a description of humankinds greatest problem, our greatest threat….indwelling sin and the wrath of God that it incites against it.
The bad news, the worst possible news we could be confronted with is that the most powerful person in the universe is now, as we speak, making holy war against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. And God’s fight against sin will continue and escalate until we either repent of our sins, or die and face the eternal torment that our sin deserves and no longer have any opportunity to repent.
So let’s read the passage and we’ll pick up where we left off last week.
Read Rom 1:18-32
We saw last week from the comment that is made immediately after this passage, Rom 2:1 “You therefore have no excuse every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you are condemning yourself because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” That the point of this passage is not to point fingers at the wicked world out there, but to look at our own hearts and motives and actions, to examine ourselves and see the depth and breadth of our own sin – and therefore to appreciate how much we need the gospel – which is God’s righteousness for sinners.
As we saw last week, there is in this passage a description of the key elements or features of sin. When we continually turn away from God to our sin, eventually God hands us over to our sin, He gives us what we want and it becomes harder and harder for us to turn away from our sin to God. There is something of a progression in this passage toward greater expression of sin, greater enslavement to sin, great manifestations of sin. From our thinking, to our worship, to our desires, to our actions, to our relationships.
In order to make it more personally practical, I said we could think about this passage as describing the key milestones along the journey from temptation to sin – how does sin begin laying hold of us and leading us away from God.
1. It starts with corrupt thinking, with us suppressing the truth. Vs 18, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The existence of God and His power and glory is evident to all in the beauty and order of creation. But men refuse to acknowledge what plainly confronts all their senses all the time, and instead they push the truth aside, they corrupt it and ignore it and distort it and try to hide from it. Vs 21 says we become futile, in our thinking, foolish and self-deceived. Beware of the deceptiveness of sin! Eventually you can’t think straight because you are so convinced of your own lies. When someone speaks the truth to you in love, it sounds like they are making up lies to do you harm.
2. Then it moves on to our worship and we turn from worshipping and serving and valuing and honouring God above all things to worshipping and serving and valuing creation above the creator. Vs 23 they exchange the infinite value of God for the worthless things of creation. Idolatry is the great value exchange – God is exchanged for lesser things.
3. Then sin moves to the level of desires and emotions, our passions. Vs 24 therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their heart to impurity. The strong desires and cravings of our heart get turned toward all that is contrary to God. Otherwise good desires, when controlled and directed by God and His word, become all consuming, unrelenting and unsatiable desires to satisfy the cravings of our flesh. Who has not felt the controlling sway of anger or lust or fear or anxiety, or self-pity as it begins to lay hold of our hearts and lead us in a direction we don’t want to go?
So these are the features we covered last week: corrupt thinking, corrupt worship or values, corrupt emotions or passions. This week we want to look at the remaining two: degraded bodies and broken relationships.
Degraded bodies (26-27)
Read 26-27. So both men and women abandon natural desires and pursue what is contrary to nature…
That is God’s view of homosexuality by the way – it is contrary to nature, contrary to how God designed us to operate. You don’t need to read your Bible to understand that, even our bodies make it obvious to anyone with a sound mind, how this equipment is meant to function in relation to the opposite gender. But as we have just seen, sin corrupts our thinking so that we begin to deny what is plain for everyone to see, to value what is worthless, to desire what is undesirable. The deceitfulness of sin leads us to say things like – I was born this way, it’s natural to me, I can’t help myself, you don’t know what it’s like, how can I deny who I am. And professing Christians have even found ways to make this text say what it so obviously and plainly does not say….such is the deceitfulness of sin.
Illustration: Joshua Harris
Joshua Harris who wrote the book, “I kissed dating goodbye,” who only kissed his wife for the first time after they got married and who pastored a conservative evangelical church for over 15 years – in 2019 renounced his faith, left the church, divorced his wife and began supporting the LGBT community on various public platforms.
And the point is not for us to point fingers at them and judge him or them, but to take heed and be warned – this is where our sin will take us if we don’t lay hold of the gospel with both hands.
· 24 talks about God giving them over to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves
· 27 speaks about them committing shameless acts and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
· 28 speaks about them having a debased, degraded mind and “doing what ought not to be done.”
· This is where thinking and desires and internal emotions start finding expression in actions – actions which specifically degrade our bodies, degrade the dignity and honour of humankind as the only creatures created in God’s image.
· There is a satisfaction that Satan gets in defacing the image of God….and that’s ultimately where our sin leads us.
Internal sin becomes external actions which ultimately result in me damaging myself and my own body. Degrading myself and sometimes even causing my own death.
· Gluttony can result in obesity and all kinds of related health issues.
· Drunkeness causes people to degrade themselves and damages their body and leads to liver failure and a host of other health issues.
· Sexual immorality leads to perversions too shameful to mention and a host of sexually transmitted diseases and other health issues.
· Anxiety can lead to a host of bizarre and degrading behaviours and ulcers and blood pressure problems and a host of other health related issues.
I think you get the point, don’t you. ..
Fight sin at the root
But again, to make this practical, we must realize that we can’t fight temptation and sin at the behaviour level only. Once our sinful desires and wrong thoughts and unchecked emotions are finding expression in our actions, we have already travelled along way down this road of sin. We have to trace them back and say, what are the wrong thoughts, the wrong desires, the wrong emotions that I have been cultivating long before I started doing this or stopped doing that. We must take aim at sin in our hearts long before it comes out in our actions.
Deal with sin at its root and you won’t have a problem with its fruit.
4: Broken relationships (28-32)
The text goes on to summarize all the various ways that we see sin taking root and finding expression in relation to other people. This is how sin begins to function relationally, socially, corporately and break the fabric of our societies at every level.
29: They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness. Full of every kind of evil. And you can see how the text begins to pile up terms in short succession. We are not supposed to analyze and distinguish each term individually here, as much as to feel the weight of the description as a whole. We are supposed to feel the pervasiveness and extend of the sin described here. This is very much like God’s commentary in Gen 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
Doing others harm
· 29 Evil, covetousness or greed, malice – looking for ways to do others harm.
· Envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. These 4 terms summarize the atrocities that have been committed by people against people. If you have been deeply hurt and irreparably damaged – that pain has probably been deliberately inflicted by another person in pursuit of their sin. Sin not only hurts us, it hurts others, breaks friendships, rips families apart, destroys marriages, splits churches, ruins socieities, dismantles countries and destroys our world.
· Illustrations: Think the German concentration camps, think apartheid, think the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 – 800k people slaughtered in 100 days….This is what people do to people because of sin.
· We must never fool ourselves into thinking that sin is a private affair, that it only effects me…
Sin against God
· Gossips, slanderers, haters of God. In the middle of this description of the social evils that we commit on a horizontal level, Paul reminds us that these social ills are not just crimes against humanity. All sin has a vertical dimension, all sin is flowing from rebellion against God.
· David could say in Psalm 51:4 “Against you, you only, have I sinned
· and done what is evil in your sight,” He had committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband murdered and committed a host of other crimes against people – and yet he understood that sin is always and ultimately a statement about our relationship to God. If you hurt or degrade or defame my wife or one of my children, then you are offending me and messing with me and inviting my retaliation.
· All sin is ultimately an expression of rebellion against and hatred toward God.
· The next three terms focus on the pride and arrogance of humankind. If you wanted to try distinguish them: insolent=proud actions, haughty=proud attitudes, boastful=proud words. In the twisted thinking of the world, pride is relabeled self-confidence, or ambition and is prized as a virtue. But in reality, pride exalts self rather than God, so God comes out in battle array against the proud as 1 Pet 5:5 and James 4:6 tells us. When we set ourselves up on a pedestal at the center of the universe – we are inviting God to take us down….
· We would expect then, that God’s way of saving men would humble us and exalt God – which is exactly what the gospel does. Rom 3:10 none is righteous, no not one…..Rom 3:21 but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law….3:27 then where is our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law……
· The gospel forces us to acknowledge that God is good and we are not, God is able and we are not, God deserves glory and we do not…..and for those who don’t want to be humbled, the gospel is anathema.
Summary mind, values, emotions, ations
· He concludes with these 4 summaries
o Foolish = corrupt thinking
o Faithless = one who has abandoned the true worship of the true God. Corrupt worship.
o Heartless = refers literally to a person without proper affections. Corrupt desires and emotions.
o Ruthless means, without mercy – one who mistreats others corrupt actions and interactions.
This fourfold degradation is summarized in this last climactic statement. These are the four aspects of human sin, the 4 areas sin effects our human nature: our thinking, our values, our emotions and our actions and interactions.
Without Excuse – sin problem
Then he comes back to the point he made right at the start of this description, they are without excuse vs 20 and they rightly deserve God’s judgment, God is rightly pouring His wrath out on such people because they not only willfully do them, but they propagate and promote evil among themselves. They celebrate it and reward it.
Every person’s main problem is indwelling sin. Sin which they cannot overcome and which separates them from God and warrants God’s just and eternal judgement. Sin is so self-deceiving that people are unable to see and unwilling to acknowledge what their problem really is. And the gospel is God’s only solution, His all-sufficient solution for this sin problem. Without it, they have no hope – do you believe that! Do you believe this text?
· Behind every persons intellectual objections to the gospel, or their apathy, or their pursuit of other religions and other priorities – is one root cause – they love sin more than God, they love sin instead of God.
· God is not asking you to be a professor of apologetics, or a master at debate and rhetoric. He’s just asking you to open your mouth and speak the simple message of the gospel to a world of people who are totally lost without it….Jesus died, Jesus rose, repent for the forgiveness of your sins…..
As Spurgeon put it,
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
And at this point we are so ready to point the finger at the world around us and say – this is exactly what they are doing, this is exactly what they are like, they so desperately need the gospel….
Look at yourself!
But God is calling us to look at ourselves in the mirror of His word and see who we are and what we are like apart from the gospel….Do Christians gossip and slander? Are we envious, do we deceive others and plot and plan to do them harm? Do we sometimes promote and advance ourselves and try get the praise of men? Are our churches full of strife? If you haven’t seen all these things in the church and in your home, then you are living in lalla land.
And then lets take it one level deeper….If you haven’t seen all these things in your own life, in your own heart and coming out in your own actions and reactions – then you are living in denial.
I’ve been guilty on multiple fronts here this week. Guilty as charged – without excuse.
One of the biggest problems I see in the church today, in Midrand Chapel, is that we still don’t want to confess our sin….We want to put on a nice front, pretend everything is ok, that we are not that bad, we want to justify our sin, appease our conscience with a few external legalistic rules so that we can promote ourselves based on meeting our performance milestones – when in reality we are all deeply broken by sin.
I tell my children all the time – there are no impressive people. There are no human hero’s – we are all fallen, sinful and weak. In the early days of my Christianity as few people impressed me, but now nobody impresses me – except Jesus Christ.
I am convinced that many of the problems in our live and families and churches would be resolved if we had a better grasp of the depth of our sin, if we owned our sin. When people come to be for counseling because they are stuck in their sin, half the battle is just helping them see that the problem is a sin problem and not some syndrome, or their spouses sin problem.
Look! Look at yourself this morning. Acknowledge that this is not a description of the sin out there, but the sin in here, in this building, in this church, in your family, in your heart. Will you own your sin!
The massiveness of the gospel’s Grace
The point of this description is not to make us feel bad about ourselves but to make us feel good about the gospel. While we still have some remnant of belief that we are not that bad, then we don’t fully lay hold of God’s undeserved favour in Christ, God’s gift of righteousness.
Keep this picture in your mind and then read with me Rom 5:6-10. We have to fill these terms “weak” “ungodly” “sinners” with all the content of Rom 1-3 so that we can appreciate what Paul is saying when he comes to present the good news in chapter 5. It is these people, these wretched lost sinners who were shaking their fists in rebellion against God and rightfully objects of His anger – it was these people that God reached out to in unconditional love….it is these people that God reconciled in Christ and brought to himself and established us in His righteousness. Look at Rom 5:20-21 In the gospel, God is revealing grace, undeserved, unmerited favour grace greater than our sin. The greater we apprehend and own our sin, the greater we appreciate grace and the more gracious we become in how we treat people. Christians should be the most grace-filled, grateful, gracious people in the world because we saved by grace, sustained by grace, motivated by grace of God.
So as we come to the end of chapter 1, let’s look back at what we have covered and how to apply it.
1. 1:1 Paul set apart for the gospel. He lives to proclaim the message about the massive grace of Jesus Christ
2. 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship
3. 1:7 to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints – Grace to you…
4. 1:11 For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual grace to you, to strengthen you.
5. 1:16 I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Because the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
6. Because God’s wrath is already being justly and rightly poured out on a world that has no excuse for their sin – and the only solution is the gospel.
Paul starts this letter explaining that he lives to preach the gospel, he ends this letter explaining that he lives to preach the gospel and everything in this letter is an explanation and application of the gospel. In fact, you could call the whole N.T a gospel tract. And the gospel is as much for believers, as much for you and I as for anyone out there…..
Our churches, our lives and our conversations should be saturated with the gospel.
The picture I have is of a room, a hall, a house, a church filled with self-righteous professing believers. They are so impressed with how many theology books they have read, and how much they read and study the bible and how diligently they have been working at apply it to every area of their life. They are impressed with themselves and their performance and their religious circles and the orderliness of their worship and their fine facilities.
Into the midst of this meeting there steps someone who has clearly never darkened the doorway of any church before. Her skirt is too short, her top is revealing, her body bears the marks of her trade. She’s a prostitute, a drug addict and a drunkard. She doesn’t have a friend in the world, her family has disowned her and her sin has ruined her health, her mind, her life and her relationships. She’s attempted suicide a few times, but can’t seem to get it right. The religious community have given up on her and avoid her like the plague. But tonight, as she steps into this room, tears stream down her eyes as they fixate on one person and one person only – Jesus Christ. And His eyes say, come to me all you are weary and burdened and broken by your sin….come to me that I might give you relief. And as she kneels down at his feet as the chief of sinners and the least deserving of His love, the one who had nothing to offer but her tears of repentance – there, before the saviour she receives grace upon grace. Streams of mercy flow from the heart of Jesus to wash away her sin and the smell of the gospel whifts through the room like sweet smelling perfume and not a person can escape the smell….
And it nauseates the self-righteous….but to those who see in her their own sin, their own lostness, their own brokenness – it says, you can come too because as Jesus says in Luke 7:47, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” But by contrast, he who understand how much he has been forgiven will love Jesus much and love others much.
Of course this picture happened in the bible to Mary Magdalene and her life was never the same…. and it happens everyday to those who see the depth of their sin clearly and can see in Jesus the offer of grace greater than their sin. Are you applying the healing balm of the gospel to your life today, and every day? Is the smell of your gospel perfume permeating every room, every conversation, every relationship, every moment?