As we discussed earlier this month in Not Ashamed Of The Gospel, it’s becoming more accepted to ridicule people of faith. There are true churches and true men of God who teach God’s Word, but there are many false teachers who don’t. Dogma is thrown around by the masses to belittle our Lord’s Word, and is a form of persecution. As discussed previous to that post, “…For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Hab 1:1-4)
Paul is not ashamed of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ because it reveals a righteousness from God. It is received only by faith, and isn’t something we can earn. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Good works and ritual obedience do nothing to make us right with God. If we aren’t declared righteous in God’s eyes (justified), we are separated from Him forever because of our sinfulness. Christ died to pay the penalty of death and separation from God for our sins on the cross. When we trust in Christ, God sees us through Christ and declares us to be “righteous” or “justified” based solely on our faith in Jesus’s work on the cross and His resurrection.
While the gospel reveals God’s mercy, grace and righteousness to those who come to the Father by faith in the Son, those who choose to suppress or ignore His truth will see His wrath. The apostle explains what causes God’s wrath against sinful humanity. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For 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 people are without excuse.” (Rom 1:18-20)
The tragic aspect of life is caused by the attitudes men have and the subsequent actions that follow. Notice the order of this — godlessness and then wickedness. Godlessness is acting as though the Lord doesn’t exist, not necessarily denying that there is a God; but a godless person doesn’t take Him into account; they don’t seek Him or His viewpoint. Instead they treat Him irreverently, not as the One True God, and He won’t sit idly by and allow His creation to do what they want, without choosing to glorify Him. No matter what preacher or teacher has taught you that God is only love, you won’t be found innocent or righteous if you ignore Him and His Word. There is only one way to eternal life with the Father (John 14:6).
The godless person is not a person who has no god, for everyone has gods, including the atheist. A god is simply that which a person elevates to the position of greatest importance and significance. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). According to ISBE, wickedness is defined as “the state of being wicked; a mental disregard for justice, righteousness, truth, honor, virtue; evil in thought and life; depravity; sinfulness; criminality”. It is the godless attitude that produces the wicked actions, and that is why the wrath of God is being revealed constantly from heaven against man.
Jesus said that wickedness comes from within: in our thoughts that fill our hearts and defile us. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23)
Those who are not righteous before God do not want to know the truth about Him, so they suppress it, holding it back from themselves and others. Be wary of anyone who teaches that there is any other way than faith in Jesus that will keep you from eternity in the lake of fire because false teachers abound. Leaders of the true church of Jesus, “hold fast [to] the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). The problem is not that truth is unavailable; the problem is that truth is being suppressed in order to disobey God, our Creator, who loved us so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save and justify us (John 3:16). God has made Himself plain to those who deny Him, or who disobey Him.
Disobedience to God’s Word isn’t a result of ignorance; it’s caused by rebellion. God doesn’t accept any excuses (Rom 1:19-20), especially in context that IF you seek Him, you will find Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8)
But if we don’t choose to seek Him, His wrath is a consequence, which can lead to eternal damnation if we don’t repent. “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. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being 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. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Rom 1:21-25)
What does it mean that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (v 24), “God gave them over to shameful lusts” (v 26), and “God gave them over to a depraved mind” (v28)? The Greek word translated “gave over” means “surrendered or yielded up”, meaning God completely abandoning the unrighteous. As the wicked deserted God, God in turn deserted them, no longer giving them divine direction or restraint, but allowing them to corrupt themselves as they wished. Because they would not honor Him, He let them do what they pleased to dishonor themselves. Being given over or yielded up to one’s sinful desires is a judgment from God.
God gives over the unrighteous who choose to reject the knowledge of God in creation; to refuse to draw obvious conclusions from the evidence all around them of God’s existence and attributes; to decline to give God thanks; and to exchange “the glory of the immortal God” for idolatry, pride and rebellion which God abhors. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is 5:20) Make no mistake that the Lord will only contend with anyone who chooses rebellion for a time. Eventually He will give over those who choose rebellion over Him. What’s the result of God’s giving over the unrighteous?
“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, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although 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.” (Rom 1:29-32)