Romans 1:18-32 – God’s Wrath on Those Who Suppress Truth

Romans 1:18-32 – God’s Wrath on Those Who Suppress Truth

  • For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
    • who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
    • For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived,
      • ever since the creation of the world,
      • in the things that have been made.
  • So they are without excuse.
  • For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,
    • but they became futile in their thinking, and
    • their foolish hearts were darkened.
    • Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
      • and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
  • Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,
    • to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
    • because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie
    • and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,
      • who is blessed forever! Amen.
  • For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.
    • For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
    • and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,
      • men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
  • And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
    • They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.
    • They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.
    • They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
  • Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

THE WRATH OF GOD IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN

The text before us is foundational to our understanding of God’s revelation of the gospel. Notice the abrupt change in the tone of the epistle . . . Paul has just introduced us to the revelation of the righteousness of God, but no sooner does he mention it than he introduces another revelation – the wrath of God. [RC Sproul, Romans, p37-38].

Modern American Christianity proclaims “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” But the Bible tells us we are enemies of God (Rom 5:10); we are under His wrath (Rom 5:16); we are dead in our sins (Rom 5:12); and we are too weak to help ourselves (Rom 5:6). We will examine this closer when we look at chapter five.

In this passage, Paul tells us we are doomed – God’s wrath is upon us. When we read this passage in the first chapter of Romans, we tend to see those to whom this passage belongs – not perceiving this might apply to us. Standard form, this passage is used to “prove” the abomination of homosexuality and, while this is not an improper use of the text, we tend to gloss over every sin belonging to ourselves and we miss the main point.

The main point of this passage is not the sin of homosexuality. It is the sin of suppressing the truth (v18) and giving approval to sinful lifestyles (v32). This passage begins and ends with these two points; thus, these are the two bookends to this passage and they characterize mans’ open rebellion to God.

  • suppressing the truth
  • giving approval to sinful lifestyles

How is the wrath of God revealed? To answer this, we are going to skip to the middle of this passage.

God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. [v24-25 ESV].

So, here we see it: God’s wrath is displayed by giving man over to his sin. And why?: “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. . .” that is, they suppressed the truth and gave approval to those engaging in sinful lifestyles or clinging to their sins.

We see people caught up in sinful lives and the modern gospel message is God loves them. They feel satisfied as we pat them on their backs on their way to Hell. Everyone is happy and Christians don’t come across as judgmental and they keep a good name.

Modern Christian churches are loaded with recovery groups. Mind you, I see no problem with Biblical counseling and Biblical training to bring people out of their sins. But recovery groups tend to reinforce a person’s victimhood and causes them to identify with their sin. To help people identify with their sin is no different that giving approval to sinful lifestyles.

Some recovery groups take the mentoring approach – placing the recovering victim under the accountability of a mentor. The focus is obtaining or passing the approval of the mentor. After this relationship has been feeding the ego of the mentor and developing a dependency in the victim, at what point will you set the sinner free? The Apostle Paul wrote if we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2Co 5:17). Jesus said if we are saved it is because we have been born again (Joh 3:3). These recovery groups seem to go on forever and there is little evidence of a changed life – oh they may improve their morality a bit, but there is little evidence of picking up your cross and following Christ. To promote these recovery programs is to suppress the truth.

When listing the works of sin God has given these people over to, Paul started with the big ones: homosexuality and sexual perversions.

. . . God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. [v26-27 ESV].

Some people claim one sin is as bad as another. In one context true – it only takes one sin to place us under God’s judgment. However, there are several Scriptures which demonstrate there are hierarchies of sin in God’s sight.

. . . Paul believed both (1) that some sin is worse than others (idolatry and sexual immorality were major concerns, for example; and within the category of sexual immorality, he had particular revulsion for homosexual practice, then (adult) incest, then adultery and sex with prostitutes; (Rom 1:24-27; 1Co 5; 6:9, 15-17; 1Th 4:6); and (2) that “all have sinned and fall short of in God’s glory” and can only be made right by God’s grace through Christ’s redeeming work (Rom 3:23-25). The two points are not in opposition or even in tension. The fact that all sin is equal in one respect – any one sin can disqualify one from the kingdom of God if one doesn’t receive Christ – does not infer that all sin is equal in all respects – some sins provoke God to bring judgment upon his people more than others. [Robert Gagnon, www.robgagnon.net/articles/is_homosexual_practice_no_worse.htm].

So, based upon this passage in Paul’s epistle, we cannot deny homosexuality and other sexual perversions are a big sin. These sins speak to the blatant rebellion of man against God. It is impossible for one to be truly saved and practice these sins. Those who do are not born again nor are they a new creation and, according to this passage, God, in His wrath, has given them over to these sins. Therefore, the more evil the sin, the more God’s wrath abides upon the person.

Do we say this to condemn sinners? No. Our practice should always be to warn the sinner of their eternal destiny in Hell. We should plead with them to receive the free gift of Christ’s sacrifice which satisfies the wrath of God.

Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. [Heb 2:17 ESV].

For our sake [God the Father] made [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. [2Co 5:21 ESV].

Now, the story does not end here: There are some who suppress the truth and approve those who live sinful lifestyles whom God has not abandoned to homosexuality and sexual perversions. Some, He has given over to more common sins – but He has done so in His wrath, nonetheless. Here is a list of sins from verses 29 to 31:

  • They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.
  • They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.
  • They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The Apostle Paul wrote they were given over because they did not see fit to acknowledge God (v28). Acknowledging God is the opposite of suppressing the truth and approving sinful lifestyles. These people were guilty, so God abandoned them to what we tend to think of as common sins but Paul described this as “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” [v28 ESV]. We see from this, a sin being common does not decrease its seriousness in the eyes of God.

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. [Jam 2:10 ESV].

There are only two minds:

  1. the mind set on the flesh or the debased mind
  2. the mind set on the Spirit

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [Rom 8:5-8 ESV].

As long as we live in these bodies of flesh, we are hampered by our sinful nature. If we follow Christ, we no longer live to please the flesh, but we are not sinless either – and we will look at this as we study chapter seven.

The Apostle John has assured us if we confess our sin, God is willing to forgive us (1Jo 1:9). If we are truly saved, we will live to please God and will desire our sin no longer. If we profess to be Christian but our life is marked by lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life, it would be good to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2Co 13:5).

My friend, if you persist in your sin, you are suppressing the truth – even if you profess to follow Christ. Those who suppress the truth fail to acknowledge God and they tend to approve those who live sinful lifestyles in defiance to God. Do not harden your hearts. Repent of your sin, take up your cross and follow Christ.

WHAT CAN BE KNOWN ABOUT GOD IS PLAIN TO THEM

The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” [Psa 14:1; 53:1 ESV].

The Apostle Paul wrote they suppress the truth (v18). There is no one who truly believes there is no God. So many professing atheists spend so much time trying to disprove His existence. If there is no God, why waste the time and effort?

  1. For what can be known about God is plain to them,
  2. because God has shown it to them.
  3. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
  4. So they are without excuse. [v19-20 ESV].

Their argument against God is not that He does not exist but that He does and they despise Him for it. God has revealed Himself to every man.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [v21 ESV].

On speaking to the wisdom of this world, many will use the examples of false religions. To deny the only God, man has devised an overabundance of gods. But the world’s wisdom is not limited to this. There is a broad spectrum of distractions from God and we do not have time and space to discuss them in depth here. However, I want to touch on three areas where I see professing Christians promoting the world’s wisdom – or giving approval to those who do (v32). The three areas we are going to look at are:

  1. Evolution;
  2. Environmentalism; and
  3. Positive Mental Attitude or positive motivation or psychology.

The whole purpose for the theory of evolution is not to explain life but to explain away God. It is in open rebellion to Him that man proclaims this theory. This theory that has been disproven over-and-over and has had to be modified over-and-over. Contrast this to the creation story, which is proven more-and-more true, by science, as the years go by – and it has never had to be modified.

The first chapter of the Book of Genesis demonstrates the power and simplicity of God’s creative act. And there is a reason every day was described as “the evening and the morning.” The earth is not old and God spoke it into being (Psa 33:8-9). God’s creation is obvious and mankind has created outrageous schemes and stories to deny what is clearly seen.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [v22-23 ESV].

The world says our planet is dying. Christians who evangelize to save the planet are being swept away by worldly wisdom. Rather than give God His due, they worship what He created. If they were in the Word, they would find the Bible tells us man cannot destroy the planet.

. . . the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” [1Ch 16:30 ESV].

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him! For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. [Psa 33:8-9 ESV].

The LORD reigns. . . Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old. . . Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! [Psa 93:1-4 ESV].

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for He comes, for He comes to judge the earth. [Psa 96:10-13 ESV].

The earth belongs to God and it will not be moved. So, once again, the whole idea for evangelizing environmental issues is to elevate man – as if he has the power to destroy the planet or to save it – and deny God who is in control of all things.

. . . He upholds the universe by the word of His power. [Heb 1:3 ESV].

For by Him all things were created . . . and in Him all things hold together. {Col 1:16-17 ESV].

The earth belongs to God and He sustains it. Man can do nothing. Have you noticed every environmental disaster – no matter how many billions of dollars we throw at it – or don’t – seems to eventually come clean through natural forces. This is God’s hand. I remember during my high school years in the late 60s and early 70s, the textbooks and media told us Lake Eerie was the most polluted lake in the world and would take 400 years to clean. Nonetheless, once man stopped dumping pollution directly into the lake, it cleaned itself up in less than a decade and now it is touted as one of the cleanest lakes in the world. You cannot deny man can cause local harm to the environment but the extent and duration are limited because God is in control. God is mighty and He sustains the earth and the universe.

In the first three chapters of 1Corinthians, the Apostle Paul compared God’s wisdom to mans’ wisdom and the length man would go to deny God. God’s wisdom is foolishness to man but God has turned mans’ wisdom into folly.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. . . Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. [1Co 1:18, 20-21 ESV].

And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. [1Co 2:13-14 ESV].

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. [1Co 3:18-20 ESV].

The wisdom of this world is futile, yet there are professing Christians who cling to it and, rather than evangelize for God, they evangelize for Positive Motivation Attitude or some fad psychology – and it may be sales, marketing, business or success related. All these things have a positive and good appearance and many think they are compatible with Scripture. They seem close enough to have truth but they are false and, like evolution, their whole purpose is to eliminate mans’ need for God – we can help ourself. Oh, but you say, “they even speak of God.” To this, my friend, I would challenge you, they do not speak of the God of the Bible, they speak of the god of your own creation.

. . . In Him we live and move and have our being. . . Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. [Act 17:28-29 ESV].

Jesus said,

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! [Mat 6:22-23 ESV].

What do you see? Where do you get your wisdom? If you find your wisdom in the world, “your whole body will be full of darkness” and “how great is that darkness.” You cannot mix the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom or Scripture. Jesus said, in the very next verse, you cannot serve two masters (Mat 6:24).

My friend, if you are promoting self help and positive motivation, if you look for wisdom anywhere but the Bible, yet you claim to be Christian – claim to follow Christ: you are in dangerous territory. You will soon leave one to follow the other and you will find it is financially expedient to follow the world’s positive ideas because the world will promote those who promote the world. But you cannot serve God and money (Mat 6:24). Jesus asked the question:

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? [Mar 8:36 ESV].

Paul wrote,

. . . they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened [v21 ESV].

Those who chase after the world’s wisdom believe they are wise but their hearts become darkened – and Jesus said, “how great is that darkness.”

Those who hold to the wisdom of this world, follow their father, the devil. Whether they profess to be Christian or not, they are not saved.

. . . the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [2Co 4:4 ESV].

Beware lest you tip your hat to it or try to syncretize it with Scripture – you cannot serve two masters. You cannot worship the Creator and the created. You cannot cling to darkness and follow the light.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [Joh 3:19 ESV].

Christ has come into the world. He is the light shining in the darkness (Joh 1:1-14). God has made Himself known through creation so what can be known about God is plain, because God has shown it (v19).

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. . . [v20 ESV].

God has made Himself known. The mantra at most modern American churches is God wants to have a relationship with you. I have news for these people: He already does. God has a relationship with you and you have a relationship with God. You are either a child of God or you are His enemy.

IN CLOSING

God’s wrath abides on those who suppress the truth and approve of others who do. To those who do not follow Christ: God does not love you and have a wonderful plan for your life – so don’t be deceived by modern American Christianity.

There are only two minds:

  1. the mind set on the flesh or the debased mind
  2. the mind set on the Spirit

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [Rom 8:5-8 ESV].

God has made Himself known and He has made it plain. You can choose to follow Christ or you can choose to defy His decrees and give approval to those who do. If you follow Christ, you will live with Him forever; if you deny Him, you will suffer in torment forever – and you will have no excuse – because you did not honor Him as God (v21) and you did not acknowledge Him (v28) but you exchanged the truth for a lie (v25), you suppressed the truth (v18) and gave approval to those who did (v32).

Repent: Don’t cling to your sin – and I am speaking to all those professing Christians hiding behind their recovery groups, too – find your life in Christ. Don’t be swayed by the world’s wisdom that you have any power to help yourself – find your life in Christ. Refuse to believe the world’s lies that there is no God and that man has power to destroy the earth – find your life in Christ. Refuse to evangelize for the world, for self-help and positive motivation, for evolution, for saving the planet. Evangelize for Christ – find your life in Christ.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. [Joh 3:36 ESV].

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