18 January, 2022

Jan. 2 | Righteous Wrath

by | 27 December, 2021 | 0 comments

Romans has been responsible for more church revivals than any other New Testament book. It is proper to spend three months studying it under three separate themes. The first theme has to do with being righteous. Students will learn that God is righteous, and therefore judgment should be left in his hands. Students will learn that Abraham was a good example of being righteous, as was the remnant of Israel. Finally, students will learn what righteous living looks like in daily life.

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Unit: Romans (Part 1)
Lesson Text: Romans 1:18-32
Supplemental Text: Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23; 1 John 3:4; Revelation 6:16-17
Aim: Recognize the rightness of God’s wrath, and rejoice that he is a God of grace.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Jan2_2022.

Send an email to cs@christianstandardmedia.com to receive PDFs of the lesson material each month.

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By Mark Scott

Much wrath is unjustified. After David’s son Amnon raped his sister Tamar, he hated her with an unjustified hatred more than the selfish love he had had for her (2 Samuel 13:15). However, God’s wrath (yes, he does have wrath—not the type that just blows up but the kind that is settled and measured) is always justified. God cannot be prejudiced.

Paul began the journey to good news (Romans 3:21–5:21) by first giving the bad news (Romans 1:18–3:20). Jews and Gentiles (at great tension in the Epistle of Romans) stand guilty before God due to offending his righteousness. The theme of Romans is in 1:16-17. The gospel is powerful for everyone because God’s rightness is made known in it. The journey toward God’s rightness begins on the dark side.

Wrath Revealed
Romans 1:18-20

The love of God can only be appreciated by setting it against the wrath of God (sort of like setting a diamond on a black cloth). God’s wrath will one day be revealed in full fury (Revelation 19:15). But for now he has hard-wired it into the universe. When people (primarily Gentiles here, it seems) suppress (hold down or squash) God’s truth, his wrath is released—in a variety of ways—against all the godlessness (impiety or lack of reverence) and wickedness (things that are unjust or out of harmony).

People cannot blame God for revealing his wrath. After all, they have known better than to push back against it. God not only built his wrath into the universe, but he also built his nature into it. Those who have eyes to see cannot help but observe God’s invisible qualities. They will see his power and divine nature (“Godness”). Since creation, and in creation, God has been made known (poem is the derived English word here; it occurs only here and in Ephesians 2:10). Therefore no one can claim that God is unjust in revealing his wrath.

Glory Exchanged
Romans 1:21-23

Paul furthered his argument about God’s righteous wrath with a compositional pattern known as “substantiation” (from Walter Liefeld’s book, New Testament Exposition). Consider how many of the verses or sentences in this text begin with some form of the word for. Paul gave reasons for (substantiated) why God’s righteous wrath is proper.

God’s wrath is proper because people who knew God did not act like it. They did not give him his proper “glory” (i.e., properly ascribe him his praise and place) nor gave thanks (a phrase that transliterates the English word eucharist). The lack of giving thanks actually is a mark of a reprobate. When people do not glorify God or give thanks to God, they will continue on a downward spiral in mind and heart. They ultimately will become idolatrous (later described as “served created things rather than the Creator,” v. 25). In short, God gets exchanged for idols. But in worshipping birds and animals and reptiles, these people are just worshipping themselves (cf. Isaiah 44:9-20). Glory is an interesting word to trace through Romans. Glory can be exchanged and missed (1:23; 3:23); it can be sought (2:7); it can be experienced (6:4); it can be offered (11:36; 16:27); and it will be revealed (8:18).

Bodies Degraded
Romans 1:24-32

When people take their focus off of God, there is only one logical place for it to go—to themselves. People look inward instead of looking up to God. This creates all kinds of problems (cf. James 1:14-15). God ultimately gives them over to the things that will destroy them. God does not give up on them, but he loves them too much to force them into a heaven they do not desire. God hands them over to do “their own thing,” which of course is total chaos. It is hell, which Tom Ewald of Lincoln Christian University said “is truth known too late.”

Desires (lusts) are unrestrained and give way to sexual impurity (lewdness) and degrading of (to treat with dishonor) their bodies. This is one of the six biblical passages on the practice of homosexuality. Some dismiss it by allowing the historical background to become the exegetical foreground. Any perversion can locate itself in some historical circumstance (see Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars). But if the text is read on its own terms, we find that any sexual intimacy outside that between a man and woman in the covenant of marriage will experience the due penalty for its error. Paul went on to cite 21 vices that stem from this depraved mind (vv. 29-30). To push back against God’s righteous decree will result in death (and to affirm those who practice such is even worse), but nothing in this convicting text is beyond God’s grace.

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