God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ (Romans 1:18-32)

God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ (Romans 1:18-32)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, January 23 and Sunday, January 24, 2021

In Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Grace he gives real testimonies of:

Racists transformed by God’s grace

Addicts transformed by God’s grace

Murderers transformed by God’s grace

The Abused transformed by God’s grace

The Abusers transformed by God’s grace

I remember jogging listening to one of the “Case for…” books as Strobel writes about a man formerly on death row who had been transformed by Christ and is now a pastor.

How does this happen? How do people change? What is the big deal?

C.S. Lewis writes about our moral law and believes that this is evidence for a God. Without God, how can we know that there really is a right and a wrong?

Two weeks ago, we began a sermon series on Romans. We are still in Romans chapter 1. In Romans chapter 1 we see the Apostle Paul write about the depravity of humanity.

I want to get into a passage about this very thing and my theme comes from Romans 1:18 and is:

God’s Wrath on us Points to Our Need for Christ

That is my theme. As we look at this passage and the messages over the next few weeks, we will see that we all, and everyone, need Jesus. No one is good enough.


Trust in Jesus and point others towards Him as well.

I spent time on this passage a few months ago during my worldview series, so I just want to review and add a few things.

Read with me Romans 1:18:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 

  1. First, let’s look at the context of this passage.
    • From 1:18-3:32 the major point in Romans is that being Jewish does not give one salvation, nor does being gentile. No one escapes the consequence of their sins.
    • Remember, Romans is Paul’s great treatise on Salvation. This is called soteriology. This is very important for us to take seriously.
    • As we look at the following verses, we see a litany of sins.
    • As we jump ahead, we see chapter 2 which is directed at the Jews and begins with: Therefore you have no excuse…
    • As we get into chapter 3, Paul begins with Then what advantage has the Jew?
    • In 3:10-20 there is a quote from the Psalms regarding Jewish unrighteousness.
    • Then we come to 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    • But check out verse 24: and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
    • Do you see my point?
    • Prior to looking at these passages we may think, “How legalistic Paul is!” Prior to looking at these passages we may think, “I cannot believe Paul would mention these politically incorrect things!”
    • Realize that Paul is pointing people to Jesus.
  2. I do wish to briefly talk about this passage. First, let’s read it.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 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.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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.

28 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 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.

  1. I walked through this passage a few months ago, so let me just point out a few main things.
    • This list of sins is NOT complete. Paul is showing our potential in sin. Paul is showing that we need a Savior. Paul is also showing that the further we get from God, the more depraved we may be; however, remember that we all have a sin problem and we all need Jesus.
    • Notice:
    • In verse 18 we see two uses of the word unrighteousness — twice. Wrath is coming against our unrighteousness. And we are holding down or suppressing or hindering the truth in unrighteousness.
    • Piper shares, “Surely Paul, in writing those two words, unrighteousness, means for us to connect them with the word righteousness in verse 17. And he wants us to hear that the reason we need a righteousness from God is because we are unrighteous. That’s what he wants us to hear in these words. So, don’t miss that connection.”
    • Further Piper shares: “In other words, you can see right off the bat that the bad news of verse 18 is meant to highlight the good news of verse 17. And if you don’t get your condition as unrighteous, you won’t love the awesome reckoning of verse 17. So, don’t run from these things. Don’t run from the diagnosis.”[1]
    • Verses 19-20 are all about general revelation. God has made Himself known.
    • God gave us morals. God gave us morality.
    • Near the end of WWII, the first town with a concentration camp that the Allied forces liberated was Ohrdruf, Germany. Allied soldiers got there before the Nazis could get rid of any evidence of the camp, and the American soldiers walked into that camp to find hundreds upon hundreds of dead bodies.
    • It is difficult to exaggerate the horrors of these camps. When General Patton arrived in Ohrdruf, he promptly vomited upon witnessing the scene. It was—and is—too horrific for words.
    • Patton knew that the German people needed to know what had happened. He brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to see the camp. He then ordered every able body in the town to dig graves for the bodies, and they held a funeral for the deceased.
    • After the funeral, Patton found out that the mayor and his wife had hung themselves. Before their death, they left a note that read, “We didn’t know … but we knew.”[2]
    • One pastor writes: Suppression, you see, is not the same as ignorance. Suppression means the truth is in there, but you keep yourself from acknowledging it. Like a beach ball you are attempting to hold under the water, it keeps trying to come to the surface, and you keep pushing it down.[3]
    • Verses 22-23 share: Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
    • One pastor gives this illustration: It would be a great folly and a great tragedy if a man loved his wedding ring more than he loved his bride. But that is what this passage says has happened.[4]
    • Imagine that.
    • Three times this passage says that “God gave them over…”
    • Verse 24 says God gave them over…
    • Verse 26 says, God gave them over…
    • Verse 28: God gave them over…
    • Notice verses 28-32: God gave them over to a depraved mind.
    • We are depraved, we need Divine intervention. We cannot save ourselves.
    • This is how Paul begins Romans. He reminds us of our depravity.
    • I recently heard someone share the following: Realize the difference between Passive wrath versus active wrath.
    • Romans 1:18-3:21 are almost all about sin. I like what John Piper shares: And if you try to do an end run around this section and jump from Romans 1:17 to Romans 3:21, you won’t love the gospel. That’s being taught all over the world today in the name of Christianity. “Let’s just jump over this sin stuff. Let’s just jump over this wrath stuff. This is not encouraging; it is not going to make people want to come back to my church on Sunday morning.” I don’t believe that, by the way, visitors, whoever you are. Frankly, I think you’d like an interpretation of death and suffering and moral degeneracy in our society. I think the world is kind of interested in questions like “Where’d death come from? And is there any hope to overcome it?” So, I’m not worried about talking about sin and chasing anybody away. People leave for all kinds of reasons, and people come for the most strange reasons you can ever imagine. God brings you here this morning for this message. You’re here for this message, and I pray that you’ll be listening.[6]
    • We could go into a series and preach on each of the sins listed in this passage, and maybe we will some day, for now, remember that Jesus is Lord, we are depraved and we need salvation. We need a Savior.
    • The sins in this section are real and they are sinful. Also, the deeper you get into a sinful lifestyle, the further you get from God. Repent as soon as you are convicted and get help.
    • The hot topic from this passage is homosexuality. I realize that for some of you that is an emotional issue because you, or someone you know, is in the homosexual lifestyle.
    • The Bible makes clear from Genesis to Revelation that God has a better way. God’s plan is sexual relationships are to be male and female. I believe that human nature teaches that, biology teaches that.
    • But I must add, heterosexuality does not mean godliness. One can be married to the opposite sex and in sin. Purity is the goal and being heterosexual does not mean that one is pure.
    • If you are here and you are heterosexual, don’t be prideful, you must repent of any lust, or pornography, or temptations in any way.
    • We all must repent of our sins.
    • Listen, I am here to help.
  2. Let’s apply this:
    • Trust in Jesus and point others towards Him as well.
    • Who are you trusting in for Salvation?
    • Are you recognizing that you need Jesus?
    • Do you recognize that others need Jesus?
    • Point others to Jesus?
    • Do you know Jesus?
    • Are you dependent on Jesus?
    • Do you need Jesus?
    • Or, are you self-sufficient?
    • Are you confident in your own thinking? Realize that even our mind is depraved (verses 28-32).
    • In this passage we see human pride. Many think pride is the root of sin, which it may be the root of all sin.
    • Regarding verse 18, I recently heard the following “The lack of a thankful heart is when we start departing from the Lord” (Ray Ortlund Jr quoting Francis Schaeffer).

Anthropologists say we are telic creatures –purposed people–who always find some greater cause to live for. We find something to attach ultimate value to; something we determine that without that thing life would not be worth living . It’s like Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist, who is

not a Christian, says it: “There are no true atheists, practically speaking. There are those who acknowledge the gods they are worshipping and those who don’t.”[7]

So, as I close this sermon I encourage you to seek the Lord and make sure that He truly is your Lord. Repent of anything that is an idol. Make sure that Jesus is your cause to live for.

Remember, Jesus forgives.

One pastor writes:

When I was a young Christian, it was very popular for youth groups to attend True Love Waits rallies every summer, where thousands of teenagers would commit to abstaining from sex until marriage.

My friend Matt Chandler tells the story of being at one of those rallies, where the speaker was trying to demonstrate the damage sexual sin causes. At the beginning of his talk, the speaker passed out a beautiful rose to someone in the audience and told them to pass it around and notice how good it smelled and soft the petals were.

When it got back to him at the end of his talk, the rose was wilted and drooping, with most of the petals fallen off. He held it up and said, “Who wants this rose?” The implied answer: No one.

I think I get where that speaker was coming from. In an increasingly fluid culture, we need to be clear about what the Bible says about sex. One of our culture’s favorite lies is that sex can be casual. But it never is. Sex inherently unites people, body and soul, so much so that “casual sex” does damage to everyone involved.

But there’s a difference between warning people about sexual sin and heaping shame on the sexual sinner.

Remember: There is a Savior who came and died for those sins. He overcame them through the grave so that he could restore those who have suffered because of their sin.

This is why, when Matt heard the speaker ask, “Who would want this rose?” he wanted to jump up and yell, “Jesus wants the rose!”[8]

Jesus wants to forgive and give second chances.


[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-grow-in-wisdom?utm_campaign=Ask+Pastor+John&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=82923175&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–SrVVZcZQQzC_qEc42DhqypkGrl4r23th2F6_S3DqGNeXKzGODaF1tfLwKCRTyPqZ7IWTPOhd8aO_A8tX75iWyCaIYIg&_hsmi=82923175

[2] https://jdgreear.com/blog/dont-know-know/?utm_source=JD+Greear+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8e436bed15-BLOG_DIGEST_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_009733a9e6-8e436bed15-87118783

[3] https://jdgreear.com/dont-know-know/

[4] Devotional excerpted from The Pleasures of God, pages 85–86


[5] https://realfaith.com/ask-pastor-mark/what-is-the-difference-between-passive-and-active-wrath/

[6] https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-do-i-grow-in-wisdom?utm_campaign=Ask+Pastor+John&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=82923175&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–SrVVZcZQQzC_qEc42DhqypkGrl4r23th2F6_S3DqGNeXKzGODaF1tfLwKCRTyPqZ7IWTPOhd8aO_A8tX75iWyCaIYIg&_hsmi=82923175

[7] https://www.summitrdu.com/wp-content/uploads/sermons/2019/01/4-Romans-1-24-32-Judgment.pdf

[8] https://jdgreear.com/jesus-wants-the-rose/

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