The 2 minute video below illustrates the current thinking about God from the man on the street. When I asked people on The Strand in Hermosa Beach if God is a God of wrath, people overwhelmingly said no. Surprised? I used this as an illustration from a sermon I preached over the weekend called “The Wrath of God,” based on Romans 1:18-32. When I read it to my wife before the church service, she cried, because it reflects the current dismal culture in which we live (I ended up revising it and wrote a hopeful ending). Nineteen people made some type of profession of faith during the weekend.
If you’d like to listen to the sermon, click here then scroll down to February 5, 2010. You can read it below, too. If you’d like to preach it and want the PowerPoint presentation, all you have to do is leave a comment.
Sermon: THE WRATH OF GOD (Romans 1:18-32)
A subject that’s rarely talked about in Christianity these days is the idea of a wrathful God; it goes against the wishful thinking of unbelievers (who certainly don’t want an angry God to exist), and most Christians would prefer not to think about him in this way at all.
We’d rather focus on the love and grace of God, the joy and blessings that accompany salvation, and the peace that is offered when we put our faith in Jesus Christ.
And with good reason: the best thing about being a believer is that the benefits are out of this world.
While all of those benefits can be true for those who have a personal relationship with the Lord, it only tells the partial truth about God and his plan of salvation.
To fully understand how great God’s love is, and the work he accomplished for us in his Son on the cross, we need to better appreciate the reality of God’s wrath.
God is indeed a God of love. God is also a God of hate. His attributes are perfectly balanced. If God did not have wrath and did not have hate, he would not be God. God is perfect in love, he is perfect in hate. Just as God totally loves, so totally does he hate.
When we understand that God hates sin so profoundly then we will find it absolutely amazing that he can love sinners like you and me.
The problem we have with God’s wrath is that we think his anger is like ours: arbitrary and fickle.
We can just as easily get angry when someone cuts us off in traffic as when there’s a bug in our soup. We fume and burn at politicians, yell at our kids and grouse over a tuna casserole.
We can also be angry at legalized abortion, rampant immorality and injustice. We’re so inconsistent. No wonder we have a hard time with God’s anger; we think he is just like us.
But ohhh nooo!
God’s anger is perfect, just as his love is perfect. God’s wrath is no capricious emotion but the necessary response of a perfect and holy God to violations of his will.
The word for God’s wrath, orge (orgee) refers to a settled, determined indignation.
A.W. Pink(1886 – 1952) has noted that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to his love and tenderness.
He writes, “Because God is holy, he hates all sin; and because he hates all sin, his anger burns against the sinner. The wrath of God is his eternal detest[ing] of all unrighteousness. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against his authority, a wrong done to his inviolable sovereignty.” –A. W. Pink (The Attributes of God, Ch. 16: The Wrath of God)
Psalm 7:11: God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.
Psalm 5:4-6: You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
Psalm 11:5: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.
When was the last time you clung to those verses in your Bible Promise Book? Can you remember ever singing a hymn extolling the praises of God’s wrath?
You may be saying, “Yeah, but that’s Old Testament. God is always angry there.” But wait a minute. Think about how many times Jesus talked of Hell and judgment and condemnation.
We all know John 3:16 but conveniently forget what Jesus said in John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
Remember, in the O.T. people had no real understanding of the concept of everlasting punishment, only that when they died they would go to the grave.
We forget that Jesus is the one who gave us the fullest picture of God’s wrath, through his descriptions of Hell.
Most people on the street have no concept of a wrathful God, so there is no fear of the judgment to come, no reason for them to repent and trust the Savior. In this permissive culture, they make God out to be permissive, too: an all-loving deity who winks at sin and lets things slide, a tooth-less God.
The apostle Paul wrote the definitive New Testament passage on the wrath of God in the first chapter of his book to the Romans. It is a good reminder as we read this, to examine ourselves, so we don’t take the love of God for granted.
Let’s read Romans 1:18-32
In those 14 verses Paul explains the revealing of God’s wrath, the reason for God’s wrath, and the results of God’s wrath.
Let’s first look at The Revealing of God’s Wrath in v.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,
The wrath of God is being revealed—everyday! How?
1. Everyone who dies reveals the wrath of God. 150,000 a day die. Death was God’s judgment on the ungodliness and unrighteousness of the human race that started with Adam.
Rom. 5:16: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation… that is, God’s wrath.
Funerals: Death always seems so unnatural. When we see someone dead, everything inside of us wants to cry out, No! This is not to be!
2. Universal frustration and misery reveal God’s wrath. God showed his wrath after Adam’s sin and the whole world has suffered since.
Romans 8:20: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it…”
Example: You plan for years to enjoy retirement, and on the year before you plan to enjoy it, the economy wipes out your savings.
Example: You work for years building a new home and the week before you move in an earthquake demolishes it.
Anyone here have tales of frustration and misery? Has anyone ever clenched their fists and said “Grrrrrrr!”? Anyone been on the wrong end of “Murphy’s Law”? It’s all a part of God’s wrath being revealed.
3. The continual downward spiral of human behavior reveal God’s wrath. It doesn’t take a Doctor of Sociology to see that we have become a debased society with no moral compass to guide us. During this study you will see how this downward spiral is a result of God’s wrath.
Paul says that this wrath is revealed because godless and wicked men suppress the truth by their wickedness. The phrase “suppress the truth” implies that godless and wicked people have access to the truth, yet they suppress it. How can that be? This brings us to the reason for God’s wrath.
The Reason for God’s Wrath (Vs. 19-20)
V.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,
Vs. 19-20: …since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Helen Keller as a very young girl contracted a disease that left her without sight, hearing, or speech. Anne Sullivan, Helen’s dedicated teacher, taught her to communicate through touch, and then taught her to talk. When Miss Sullivan tried to tell Helen about God, she replied that she already knew about him, she just didn’t know his name. (Cited in MacArthur’s commentary on Romans, Vol. 1, pg.77)
God has already revealed himself.
There are plenty of atheists, agnostics and pagans around who don’t believe in a God, yet God leaves them no excuse for their unbelief.
Paul plainly states that man can know about his Creator; all they have to do is look up and around.
Psalm 19:1-4: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
No one can go into the desert on a dark night, stare into the sky, see the billions of stars and say, “Wow! There is no God!”
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) wrote: This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”
There are an estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy and the average distance between those stars is 30 trillion miles. Just how far is 30 trillion miles?
If you could get in the Space Shuttle, which travels at 17,000 miles an hour, it would take you 201,450 years to go from one star to another. That’s just between two stars!
How many stars are in the universe? The number of stars in the universe is about equal to the number of sand grains on all the beaches of the earth. And it will take you about 200,000 years just to go from one grain to the other!
The amazing beauty and intricate design of created things in this world speaks of a Creator.
William Paley (1743-1727) in his watchmaker argument essentially wrote this: If you are walking in the woods and found a diamond-studded Rolex on the ground would you conclude that wind and rain caused it? Erosion? Some combination of natural forces?
Of course not. There’d be no question in your mind that some poor sap accidentally dropped it.
For anyone to say that there is no evidence for the existence of God is—ridiculous!
Want to cause an atheist to backslide? Ask him these four questions:
1. Does a building have a builder?
2. Does a painting have a painter?
3. Does a car have a maker?
4. Is it possible then, that creation has a Creator?
Psalm 14:1: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
Creation has left enough evidence to reasonably conclude that there might be a Designer. So people are without excuse for not believing; they cannot claim ignorance when God brings his wrath down upon them.
But creation can only give a general revelation of God. For a person to know specifically who he is and how he came to save sinners, we need to play a part in telling them.
Romans 1:21: For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Instead of acknowledging God, worshiping and thanking him, these unbelievers turn from God to themselves which causes their thinking to become perverted and their hearts darkened.
Which brings us to The Results of God’s Wrath.
In the remaining verses of Romans chapter 1, Paul describes the horrible downward spiral of those who reject the God who reveals himself in the natural world.
Because of this rejection, people make an “exchange” to which God responds by “giving people over” as evidence of his wrath.
In the first “exchange….giving people over” sequence, Paul focuses on the root of all sin: idolatry.
Romans 1:22-24: Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
Folks, who understands that mankind is not evolving upwards?
As people’s minds are darkened they start thinking up ridiculous ideas of what God is like. They turn from the light they’ve been given and start living in the shadows.
In the ancient world, eagles were worshiped in Rome. In Egypt, storks and hawks were worshiped as well as the bull-god Apis, the cat-goddess Bubastis and the hippopotamus-goddess Opet.
In New Testament times the goddess Diana was a gross and ugly female beast with numerous nipples hanging beneath her so that, presumably, she could suckle the world.
Hindus have 330 million gods. Millions of Buddhists venerate a two-inch discolored tooth said to have belonged to Buddha. The tooth is set in a golden lotus blossom surrounded by rubies and kept in Sri Lanka in… the Temple of the Tooth.
Here are a few strange worship practices from those whose minds have been darkened:
- In India, in a religion known as Jainism, senior monks wear no clothes following the practice of Lord Mahavira. They do not consider themselves to be nude — they are simply wearing the environment.
- The Jewish religious ritual called Kapparot (kap⋅pa⋅rah) takes place around the time of the High Holidays. It’s performed by grasping a live chicken by the shoulder blades and moving around one’s head three times, symbolically transferring one’s sins to the chicken.
Let’s also not forget those in America who consult astrological forecasts, spirit guides, and worship at the Church of Oprah.
Ultimately, idolatry leads to sexual perversion.
Some statistics: (from Safe Families http://www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php:)
- The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide.
- More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month.
- Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction: 10%; 28% of those are women
- More than 20,000 images of child pornography posted online every week
- 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography
- 47% percent of families said pornography is a problem in their home
- The Internet was a significant factor in 2 out of 3 divorces
A sexualized culture is a culture that is under God’s wrath, because that is all people think about. Sex is their idol.
In the next “exchange…give people over” sequence, the same ground is covered only with more detail.
Vs. 25-27: They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
When people exchange the truth of God for a lie, they turn not only to perversion but to an inversion of the created order.
Perversion takes what is natural and God-given and twists it into something illicit and obscene. Inversion means to reverse in position, order or direction, which is what homosexuality does.
It is an expression of sexuality that is not God-given or natural.
One writer puts it this way: When man forsakes the Author of nature, he inevitably forsakes the order of nature.
Theologian Charles Hodge wrote, “Paul first refers to the degradation of females among the heathen, because they are always last to be affected in the decay of morals, and their corruption is therefore proof that all virtue is lost.”
Homosexuality is proof of God’s wrath in action on individuals and society.
According to an article by Douglas Jones and Douglas Wilson:
“Homosexuality is a judgment from God. Homosexuality is not a typical sin that cultures face like theft, lying or murder, but it is apparently a very symbolic sin through which God reveals his anger.
“The apostle Paul described homosexuality as what happens when God gives up on a nation’s normal idolatries. Widespread homosexuality is a sign that the society in question is not living under normal chastisements; it is the sign of God’s abandonment of us—Ichabod.”
They then write that “Homosexuality is primarily a judgment against the church.” (Owning the Curse: Rethinking Same-Sex Marriage)
We have failed in our responsibility to be leaders in our culture, to be salt and light, watchmen on the wall. Therefore we now have a society that embraces homosexuality as normal. We have churches that are proud to be pro-gay.
The evangelism team ventured to the West Hollywood Gay Pride Parade last summer and was most shocked at the churches participating.
The third time God gives people over is found in the last 5 verses.
Vs. 1:28-32: Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
When God is utterly forsaken he gives humans over to a depraved mind. People who label sin as good, natural, normal, even noble, do great damage to the morals of society.
Eventually it becomes an acceptable behavior and people are no longer conscious of their own personal sin, which will ultimately bring upon them the wrath of God for all eternity.
Does it seem like this is where we are at today in America? Has God totally given us over? Possibly. But we are not without hope.
Because God is indeed a God of love. How did God show his love?
Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God, in his love, sent his Son Jesus to take the full force of God’s wrath and punishment for us 2,000 years ago on a cross.
God, in his justice, demanded payment for sin by laying the crushing guilt of sinners on his Son, Jesus Christ.
God, in his wisdom, sent Jesus to be the “wrath-taker” for the sins of the people who did not yet know him.
2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
If we individually—and as a nation—will turn to Christ in belief and repentance, it is possible for God to bring about a revival in our churches, and a great awakening in this country.
2 Chronicles 7:14: “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”