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The Manifestation of God's Wrath

Tom Pennington • Romans 1:24-32

  • 2015-01-11 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Well, I invite you turn with me to Romans 1. We're going to continue our journey through this magnificent letter of the apostle Paul. We started a number of months ago now, in the spring, and we are coming up on the last part of Romans 1. It's been a great journey already. There is so much here, packed tightly, in this amazing letter of the apostle Paul.

As I was thinking about the passage we come to this morning, this week I was reminded of Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer of the nineteenth century. In his own time he won the highest awards in literature, but his life was a tragedy in the truest sense of that expression. He was completely lost in the pursuit of his sin. Here's how Wilde himself described his life in his book De Profundis, listen to what he writes:

The gods had given me almost everything, but I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease. Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character and that therefore, what one has done in the secret chamber, one has someday to cry aloud from the housetop. I ceased to be Lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me and I ended in horrible disgrace.

Wilde wrote those words while he was in prison for his sins and crimes, in a moment of clarity when he realized what the sin he had pursued had done to him, and tragically, as soon as he left prison, he returned to the very same sins, because he was truly, as he describes it, dominated by sin. He was in slavery to sin, or in the words of the text that we come to this morning in Romans 1, "God gave him over to his sin."

Now in Romans 1 we've noted that Paul, after some introductory comments, introduces the theme of this letter in verses 16 and 17, it is the gospel of God. Having introduced that theme, Paul sets out in the first three chapters of this letter to prove the universal guilt of all mankind and therefore man's universal need of the gospel. Now, his first indictment comes in chapter 1 and it's against all unbelieving pagans. Three times in this section in chapter 1 he refers to those who are engaged in the sin of idolatry. Notice verse 23, they "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." Verse 25, "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." And then in verse 28, "they did not see fit to acknowledge the true God any longer."

So understand then, this section in chapter 1 indicts all of those who have rejected and refused to worship the true God of the Bible, regardless of what their stated religion might be. It doesn't matter whether they are thoroughly steeped in some form of idolatry or whether they are thoroughly materialistic and secular, or even atheistic. All men who have not worshipped the true God of the Bible, who don't claim to worship the true God of the Bible, are indicted in this passage. In fact, it's even an indictment of those who are in the Christian cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons because they don't worship, in reality, the God of the Bible as they claim. They instead worship gods of their own making. So, there is a huge number of mankind included in this indictment in chapter 1. Paul says of all unbelieving pagans that, notice verse 21, "they knew God." They know about the true God from the revelation He has made of Himself in creation, but, verse 21 goes on to say, they refused, in spite of that knowledge, to glorify Him, but turn instead to idolatry.

That raises the question, why do people turn from the true God to idolatry and that's a complex question and a complex answer. There are a variety of reasons. We could talk about human pride. All false religion appeals to human pride because it allows us to contribute to our acceptance with God. We could talk about the reality of the love of sin. False religion allows us to continue in sin to some extent. It excuses certain sins and even encourages and promotes others.

But there is another component I haven't mentioned yet and I just need to mention, and that is in addition to humanity's own choice to leave the true God, there is the working of Satan himself who, according to 2 Corinthians 4, "blinds the minds of those who believe not," and one way he does that is with false religion. So it is a complex of factors that are involved in turning from the true God to idolatry. Notice that because of this paganism, because of this refusal to acknowledge the true God, verse 18 says, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven."

Now, I've noted to you the section we're studying breaks down, really, in dealing with that wrath. First of all, Paul answers the question of why in verses 18 to 23 and then the question of how in verses 24 to 32. So, just to remind you of the flow of this passage, we noted first of all, why is God's wrath revealed against unbelieving pagans? The answer comes in verses 18 to 23. It is because of his willful rebellion against God's law, verse 18 says he is ungodly and unrighteous, and secondly, his willful ignorance of God's person. God has revealed Himself in creation. Man denies that reality and refuses to honor the true God that has revealed Himself in this way. So, for those two reasons God's wrath is revealed.

Now, today we begin the next paragraph and the paragraph that we come to answers the question of how, how is God's wrath being revealed against ungodly pagans? Let's read the paragraph together that answers this question of how. It begins in verse 24 and runs down through the end of the chapter. You follow along as I read.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of 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 over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those to practice them.

That paragraph provides us with such amazing insight into the world in which we live. It answers the question of how is God's wrath being revealed today against paganism. Now, the structure of this paragraph is fairly easy to follow. Three times in these verses Paul says, "God gave them over." In other words, Paul identifies three specific ways, which really is one way, that God's wrath is being revealed against the unbelieving pagan. First of all, in verses 24 to 25, God's wrath is being revealed by giving him over to sexual impurity. In verses 26 and 27, God's wrath is being revealed by giving him over to "degrading passions" and in verses 28 to 32, God's wrath is being revealed by giving him over to a "depraved mind." A depraved mind, by the way, is defined here not simply as someone who sins, but someone who approves of sin, who says sin is not evil, it's good.

Now, before we wade into the text itself, I want to lay a foundation for us today by making sure that we understand the large theological issue that stands at the heart of this passage, and that issue, of course, is the wrath of God. Now let me just admit to you that as a preacher and teacher, there are things I love to teach to you. I have to be honest with you, this would not be one of them. This is a hard message for me to preach, it's hard for you to hear, but what you have to understand is that this is our God. This is how He has revealed Himself and therefore it's crucial for us to know and to understand, and I can add, to praise Him for. So really, the statement that falls over this entire chapter, the second half of the chapter, comes in verse 18, "For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven," and beginning in verse 24 Paul tells us how.

Now, before we look at how, specifically, I want to backup today and I want to make sure we understand, in the large sense, what is God's wrath. What are we talking about? So let me break it down for you several ways. First of all, I want to review with you what I touched on several months ago now, the primary causes of God's wrath. What makes God to be angry? What provokes His wrath? Well, in Romans 1 and 2, Paul teaches us that there are three responses from us that excite God's anger, that provoke His wrath. Three responses. Number one, refusing to properly honor His person. Verse 18 says, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven," and the reason, verse 21, is that "although they knew God," what God had revealed about Himself in creation, "they refused to honor Him as God or give thanks." God the creator ought to be adored and worshiped and served by every creature who has been made by Him, and who depends on Him for life. It is the ultimate affront to God to know about Him, to enjoy His benefits, and to refuse to honor His person. He takes that very personally. It rightly angers Him.

Secondly, another response that makes God angry is disobeying His will and commands, and encouraging others to do so. Notice verse 18, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness," that's our response specifically to God, "and unrighteousness," that's our response to others, in large part, and so this is our refusal to obey God's law, but not only, verse 32, do we refuse to obey and practice sins, but we give approval, we encourage others to practice them, and this makes God angry.

Thirdly, it makes God angry when we despise His love in the gospel. Despising His love in the gospel, look at chapter 2 verse 5, Paul says, "because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart," you're refusing, he's talking to unbelievers here, you refuse to respond to the truth of the gospel, "you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." There are a number of other texts we could go to where it's clear that God has extended this amazing offer of reconciliation with Himself, He has made the gospel known around the world, and when people hear the gospel, they know the gospel, and they keep refusing to respond to the gospel, it angers God, because it is the ultimate affront to His graciousness. So those are the primary causes of God's wrath.

Secondly, I want you to note the dangers to avoid. As we continue to try to understand God's wrath, there are two dangers to avoid when we talk about God's wrath. The first is thinking that God's wrath is impersonal. Liberals don't like the idea of God's wrath and so they just sort of avoid the topic, and when they deal with it they'll say something like this, well it's not that God is doing anything or responding in any way, it just sort of this impersonal system of cause and effect, that's what wrath is. Understand folks, as you will see unfolded this morning, God's wrath is not an impersonal process of cause and effect built into His moral universe. Instead, Scripture portrays it as a very personal response of God to evil. If you want to, just at some point, read the second half of Isaiah 30. I won't take time to turn there this morning, but it unfolds that very personal nature.

The other danger, though, to be avoided when we think about His wrath, is thinking that His wrath is capricious. That is, that it's that out-of-control response that characterizes human anger. This is what we tend to think of when we hear wrath, God's wrath. We almost picture Him responding like that out-of-control person that we know. That's not God. You see, Scripture is clear that God is not driven by human passions and emotions in the same way we are. Now, why is that? We'll think about it for moment. Our emotions are responses. They are reactions to either our own thoughts, or to the words and actions of others, or to our circumstances. Something happens, we think something, someone says something, someone does something, we're in a certain circumstance, and we react, we respond, with an emotion, but God never reacts in that way to anything. Why not? Because He knows what's going to happen and He doesn't just know what going to happen, He has planned what's going to happen. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

However, listen carefully, in spite of those potential dangers I've just listed for you, when the writers of Scripture, and, of course, ultimately the Holy Spirit, want to explain God's disposition towards something, they still use the language of human emotion. Theologians call it anthropopathy. It's the attributing of human emotions to God in order to help us understand something that's true about Him. It's not that God experiences that emotion in the same way we do, and certainly not in a sinful way, ever, but using the language of human emotion is the best way to explain God's response to something. In chapter 1 verse 18 Paul borrows from the language of human emotions to explain God's response to man's sin, God's response to man's sinful rebellion against His general revelation in creation, and he describes that response as God's wrath, or His anger.

Now, that brings us to the all-important issue of a definition. In the New Testament there are two primary Greek words for anger. The first word is thumos. This word comes from a Greek word that means to burn. It describes a rage, or an outburst of anger, an emotional explosion, an eruption. The second Greek word for anger is orge. Orge is the word Paul uses in Romans 1:18. This word does not refer to this sort of intemperate explosion and outburst of anger. This word describes a settled hostility, a slow burn, a steady festering of displeasure. The best Greek lexicon defines orge in two ways, as a state of strong displeasure with the focus on the emotional aspect, the way we would use the word anger, and also as strong indignation directed at wrongdoing with the focus on retribution, or the way we would typically use the word wrath. So God experiences both of those. The best way to explain God's response to human sin is the emotional response of anger, the displeasure that comes with anger, and the retribution, the need to deal with it. The lexicon goes on to say, "Orge is the divine reaction toward evil. It is thought of not so much as an emotion, as the outcome of an indignant frame of mind, a legitimate feeling on the part of the judge." W. C. Robinson, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, defines wrath as, "the settled opposition of God's holiness to evil. Because God is so perfectly holy, He has to respond this way to evil."

Several months ago, when we began this part of Romans 1, I gave you what I think is the best definition of wrath. It comes from Alan Cairns's Dictionary of Theological Terms. Let me remind you of it. Cairns writes this, this is wrath, in reference to God, "The settled opposition of God's nature against evil, His holy displeasure against sinners and the punishment He justly metes out to them on account of their sins." Now, did you notice, that definition, and it's an excellent definition, includes three components. I want to break down and examine each of those three elements of God's wrath so you understand what we're talking about.

First of all, God is always firmly opposed to evil in all of its kinds and in all degrees. God is just, by His nature, in opposition to all kinds, every kind, of evil and evil at whatever degree of evil we may think it is. There are a number of texts we could go to, 1 John 1:5 says, "God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all." The Greek is very strong, with a double negative, "there is simply not any darkness in God." There's no way He can approve, in any way, of evil. Habakkuk puts it exactly that way. In Habakkuk 1:13, Habakkuk writes of God, "Your eyes, God, are too pure to approve of evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor."

Now, let's admit that we tend to get this confused when it comes to God, because this isn't how we are. Let me give an illustration from everyday life. We all have to make difficult entertainment choices, about what TV programs, what movies, we're going to watch and I hope you make wise informed decisions based on what would please God, but if you watch any entertainment whatsoever, in any form, then you have to make a decision about what you will allow and won't allow, and we have this sort of sliding scale. We say to ourselves, okay, if it has this and this, okay, I don't like that, I'll hold my nose, I'll plug my ears, whatever, but I'm going to watch it. On the other hand, if it crosses over that line and it's this, then I'm just not going to watch it, I'm not going to see it, I'm not going to hear it. We have to make those kinds of decisions. The problem is, if we're not careful, that can lull us into a sort of sliding scale of evil in which we can actually be tempted to laugh at things and enjoy things that are actually evil, even though they're "a little evil." That's not how God is.

It's crucial that you understand that God has no sliding scale. He doesn't grade on a curve. God does not, He can not, tolerate even the smallest sin. It's true, there are degrees of sin and guilt, I'm not lessening that reality. Some sins are worse than other sins, the Bible's clear about that, but understand this, God finds even the smallest sin we commit disgusting. The things that we don't think too badly of, God finds repulsive and personally offensive because it is a sin against His character. Ultimately, all sin is against Him, right? You remember David, I mean David sinned against Bathsheba, he sinned against Uriah her husband, he sinned against the nation, he sinned against his family. Frankly, he sinned against everybody in his life. But what does he say in Psalm 51? "Against You and You only have I sinned." Why? Because ultimately sin, all sin, every sin, is an affront to the character of God. So, understand then that God is always firmly opposed to evil in all its kinds and all its degrees

The second component of God's wrath is, God is always personally displeased with sinners. You know, there is a lot of, sort of bad theology that seeps into Christian-ese, Christian language. You know, one of those expressions is, God hates sin, but loves the sinner. Well, that's true, I would argue that biblically it's more complicated than that. God hates sin, God hates the sinner, and God loves the sinner at the same time, and we're adding here, God is angry with the sinner, He is displeased with sinners.

Turn back to Psalms 7. Psalm 7. David here is talking about an evil person who is attacking him. He's named in the heading of the Psalm as "Cush, a Benjamite." We don't know anything else about this man. We don't know the circumstances, but notice in response to this evil man, verse 6, David says, "Arise, O Lord, in Your anger; lift up Yourself against the rage of my adversaries, and arouse Yourself for me; You have appointed judgment."

Now, as he thinks about God judging, God dealing with this wicked man in his life, notice what he says down in verse 11, "God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation," who has wrath, who has anger against sinners, "every day."

You understand, this is not foreign to God's person. This is something God experiences every day. Every day He is displeased, He is angered against sinners. In Psalm 78, if you look there, Psalm 78:21, here God is talking about the response of Israel in the wilderness and, of course, you know that most of Israel, according to Hebrews 4, in the wilderness they weren't true believers in the true God. They were idolaters. They didn't enter His rest, as is described there, the rest of salvation, as well as the rest of the Promised Land. And here in Psalm 78:21, it says the Lord heard their response to Him,

and was full of wrath; and a fire was kindled against Jacob and anger also mounted against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust in His salvation.

God was angered with each one of them and their response to Him. He was displeased. Ezra puts it this way in Ezra 8:22, "'The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.'" John the apostle puts it this way in John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God," literally, "is remaining, is abiding on him." God is always personally displeased with sinners. This is His daily response to those who are opposed to Him.

Thirdly, God's wrath means that God is always compelled to punish sinners on account of their sins. Here that emotional response, that emotional reaction, if we can describe it that way, breaks out in an actual response, He has to punish. You know I love, we all love, that self-revelation of God in Exodus 34, you remember, where He shields Moses in the rock and He proclaims His name before Him. We love it when God says,

"The Lord, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin."

We love that. You know what the next phrase says? It says, "He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished." That is as much a part of God's character as those things that we relish in and love. By the way, that's the riddle of the Old Testament. Do you see them put together? He "forgives iniquity, transgression and sin, but He by no means leaves the guilty unpunished." How can both of those be true? The answer comes in the New Testament and the death of Christ. That's the answer to the riddle, but understand, God has to deal with sin.

Now, when God deals with sin, when He punishes, when He exhibits this third component of His wrath, He does so in several specific ways. So this brings us to another aspect of our study of understanding God's wrath. Let's look at the manifestations of God's wrath. When God displays this anger, when He acts, when He punishes, He does so in several different ways.

First of all, we could call it consequential wrath, the law of consequences. God created a system in His moral universe, an inviolable system of consequences for sinful choices and when you and I sin, and we experience the natural consequences of sin, that is a reminder to us of God's wrath against sin, against all human sin. Proverbs 1, wisdom, God's way, is personified as a woman crying out and saying, walk in my way, hear me, eat at my banquet, but the people refuse, and wisdom says this at the end of Proverbs 1:30,

"They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices."

In other words, they are going to get what's coming to them. They're going to get the consequences of their choices. Paul puts it even more profoundly in Galatians 6:7-8 when he writes, "Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked; for whatever a man sows, this shall he also reap."

Listen, with every thought you think, with every word you speak, with every act you commit, you are sowing, and by an inviolable law of God's moral universe you're going to reap the fruit of what you sow. It's going to happen. If you go out and in the field in back of your house or field near your house, you throw some corn, some seed that are related to corn, then you're going to go out in a few weeks and what are you going to find? Corn and not some other vegetable. God says the same thing is true morally. If you spend your life sowing a certain kind of thought and a certain kind of action, you're going to reap that. Paul says, "the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

The bottom line is, there are consequences built into God's moral universe. If you, for example, are sexually immoral, there may be a pregnancy or there may be a venereal disease. If you abuse alcohol, you may get cirrhosis of the liver. If you lie, you may get caught in your web of lies and face the destruction of your relationships. There are consequences built into the fabric of God's moral universe and when we endure those consequences it is a reminder that there is a God who has laid down a law and who is angered by our sin.

Secondly, God manifests His wrath in civil punishment. Turn to Romans 13. Paul says something fascinating in the middle of his discussion about human government, Romans 13:4, speaking of government, he says, and the rulers, "it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword," that's probably a reference to capital punishment, you don't wrap someone's knuckles with a sword, you kill them, "it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it," that is, government and its justice system, "is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Some commentators believe this is government's wrath, but in context we've just been told the government is a minister of God. It's more likely that government is a minister of God's wrath on the individual practicing evil. In other words, listen carefully, God displays His own anger towards sin and carries out His punishment of that sin by means even of the grossly imperfect justice systems carried out by flawed governments.

Number three, God manifests His wrath in what we could call cataclysmic judgment. The Old Testament is littered with examples of this, from the flood in Genesis 6 to 9, to Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of the cities of the plain in Genesis 18 and 19, to the destruction and captivity of the nation of Israel, and, of course, in the New Testament era Jesus prophesied the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. because the Jews did not receive their Messiah, they did not receive the time of their visitation, as He described it. So God has brought and may still bring, in the future, cataclysmic judgment.

Number four, God also demonstrates His wrath by eschatological judgment. That is, the judgment that will come in the last days. Let me show you a couple of examples. First of all, the judgment that unfolds during the tribulation period, during that seven-year period in which God pours out His wrath. Look at Revelation 6, Revelation 6:15, here the sixth seal, you remember, there was a scroll, the title deed to the earth, it was sealed with these seals and as Christ breaks each one more judgments are poured out on the earth. As the sixth seal is broken, verse 15,

the kings of the earth, the great men, the commanders, the rich, the strong, slave and freeman, [in other words, everybody, irregardless or regardless of socioeconomic background,] hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks and the mountains and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us, hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the [here it is] wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, who is able to stand?

Those seven years are characterized as the wrath of God, the anger of God, but it also comes with the second coming, when Christ returns. Turn to the Thessalonian epistles, and specifically, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1. Not only is there wrath during the tribulation, but there's wrath at the second coming, 2 Thessalonians 1:7,

when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [what will He do?] He will deal out retribution to those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

Wrath in the tribulation, wrath at the second coming, there's also wrath at what we call the great white throne judgment, when all unbelievers will be judged at the end of the millennial period. Turn back to Romans 2 because this is what Paul's describing here, the final judgment of wicked men, and I read it to you a moment ago, notice Romans 2:5,

because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself, [and when will you experience that,] in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds.

Listen, don't you misunderstand, when you, if you're not in Christ, when you stand before God, before Jesus Himself, at the great white throne of judgment, it will be a day that can only be described as a day of God's anger. There will be no grace, no mercy, anger. So there's eschatological judgment.

Number five, another manifestation of God's wrath is eternal hell. Again, we don't like to think about this. It's sobering, it's terrifying, but this is what Scripture describes. Turn to Revelation 14. In Revelation 14, John here describes the fate of a particular group of sinners, specifically those during the tribulation, who are idolaters, who receive the mark of the beast and worship him. Notice how he describes them. This is a description, not only of them, but of everyone who will face eternal hell, verse 10, Revelation 14:10,

he will drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger, and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.

This is God's wrath, He must punish evil. It's not an angry outburst. It is the settled opposition of His nature.

Now, look at that list I've just given you. None of those is what Paul means in Romans 1. There's one more kind of divine wrath. Let's call it divine abandonment. Now go back to Romans 1. This is what Paul has in mind in Romans 1. Notice verse 24, "God gave them over," verse 26, "God gave them over," verse 28, "God gave them over." This is divine abandonment, leaving the sinner to his sins. It's what's described in 2 Chronicles 15:2 when the prophet goes out to see wicked King Asa "and said to him, 'Listen to me, Asa, the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.'" Turn to Psalm 81. Psalm 81 describes this very reality, again using the rebellious Israel in the wilderness. Psalm 81:11, God says,

"But My people did not listen to My voice,
And Israel did not obey Me,
So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices.

God says, okay, they want be stubborn, they want their sin, they can have it. That's exactly what Paul's describing in Romans 1. It is the wrath of divine abandonment.

Now folks, most people don't like this topic, they want to deny it, but the wrath of God is real. This is what He's told us about Himself. If you are not in Christ, understand this, no matter what sort of sentimental feelings you have about God, God says He is angry with you, every day. He is fully opposed to every evil in your life, even the little ones. He is thoroughly displeased by every sinful attitude, by every evil thought, by every sinful word, by every sinful act. He is angered by your refusal to honor His person. He is angered by your rejection of His law. He is angered by your refusing to believe the gospel of His Son, and He's revealing His anger against you today. You see it sometimes in the consequences you experience for your sin, but another, often forgotten, way that God has shown His anger against you is that year after year He has slowly removed His restraining power and your sins are slowly growing worse. They're growing in frequency. They're growing in their power and control over you. There was a day when you were in control, but no more. They're growing in kind. There are things that you are content to do now that when your sinful patterns began you would never have considered doing. That is the wrath of divine abandonment.

Now here's the good news, the wrath of abandonment doesn't have to be permanent. It's not necessarily God is permanently giving you over to your sin. Turn to 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes,

do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [Now, I want you to notice the sins listed here that appear in Romans 1.] Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, [that's the feminine side of the homosexual relationship,] nor homosexuals, [that's the masculine side of the homosexual relationship,] nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you. [Listen, the Corinthians, they lived Romans 1. They were Romans 1, but God found them in His grace.] Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Listen, there's hope for you and there's hope, by the way, for even that person in your life that you think God's given over to their sin. Don't ever give up on them. As long as there is breath in their body, there's hope. It's important to understand that God's wrath is real and there is only one way to escape the reality of God's wrath and that is in Jesus Christ.

I want close our time by having you turn to Romans 5:9, Paul is talking to believers,

Much more then, having now been justified, [having been declared right with God] by the blood of Christ, [that is, by the sacrificial death of Christ we are made right with God by the death of Christ,] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Paul says, listen, if you're in Christ, you have nothing to worry about from the wrath of God.

How does Jesus provide an escape from God's wrath? Here's the amazing thing, He does it by absorbing God's wrath on behalf of every person who would ever believe on the cross. Romans 3:25 describes it this way, it says "God publicly displayed Jesus as a propitiation." The word propitiation means the satisfaction of His wrath. God displayed Jesus as the satisfaction of His wrath. Jesus absorbed all of the wrath of God against the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him. You can experience that today if you'll run from your sin to Christ.

What if you're in Christ, what if you're a believer? Very quickly, let me give you three responses you ought to have. Number one, take your sin seriously, God obviously does. Don't you dare make light of any sin in your life. Don't tolerate any sin. Number two, share the gospel with others. Folks, this wrath we've talked about, it's what the people around you who are not in Christ are experiencing now and will experience even more furiously in the future. Open your mouth and warn them, tell them the good news that God also loves them and has made a way for them to be reconciled to Him through His Son. And number three, thank God for the gospel, because apart from Christ, apart from the gospel, what we have talked about this morning is all you would have, and in all I would have, to look forward to in the future, but we will be rescued from His wrath through Jesus.

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for the time we've had together this morning. It's hard for us to think on this, it frightens us, it sobers us, but Father, help us to love You for who You are and to praise You for who You are, and to appreciate the fact that You are holy and You hate sin. Father, thank You that You have satisfied Your wrath on behalf of all those who will believe in Jesus, by having our Lord absorb it all in our place. Father, I pray this morning for those who are not in Christ, may this be the day of their salvation, may they run to Jesus Christ. And Father, for the rest of us, help us to hate our sin as you hate it. Help us to share the gospel with others, and Father, fill our hearts with praise and adoration and joy that Jesus rescues us from Your wrath to come. We pray in Jesus's name, amen.