Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 20
GOD’S WRATH – IMMORAL MAN – ROMANS 1:17-32
Continuing in Romans Chapter 1. We just completed laying out all the things that God did on our behalf the moment we believed as we saw in the word `Salvation’ and all that it implies. These things are appropriated only by faith – all the good things that God does on our behalf when we believe. Now, we see what I call the flip side of all these good things. In verse 18 we see the other side of the coin and that is that God is also a God of wrath.
I want you to understand that for the last 1900 + years God has not been pouring out wrath whatsoever. Oh, once in a while things may take place that I think are done specifically to still get man’s attention, such as maybe a catastrophe, earthquakes and disasters, but that’s not the wrath of God. No way! Because we’re living in the Age of Grace, and even to the ungodly world, and to those steeped in wickedness, God is still dealing in Grace, and not in judgment. Even the flood as awful as it was, that was not the wrath of God. That was God Who was broken-hearted that everything that He had begun with Adam had so totally fallen apart, but it still wasn’t His wrath. It was an act of mercy to unborn generations, because men were killing each other so fast. The flood was almost instantaneous destruction, and to God it was like starting over.
Today, we feel that we are getting close to where God is going to indeed pour out His wrath. He’s not going to have an instantaneous destruction as He did in the flood. In other words He’s going to cause mankind such suffering and such mental anguish that the Book of Revelation tells us they are going to cry out for the rocks and mountains to fall on them. They’re going to cry out for death, but death will flee from them. Because God will be bringing down His wrath on mankind which is rejecting Christ. He’s going to do it in absolute fairness and justness, because there are more people living on the planet right now, than probably lived all the way back to the time of Noah. There’s over 5 billion people on the planet tonight, but at the time of Christ at His first Advent, there were probably less than 500 million in the then-known world. That’s only a half billion. And that was about 2400 years after the flood. That half billion did not double to a billion until about 1860. Then it doubled again a little after 1900, and then it doubled again in the 1970’s. By the year 2020 it will double again to 8 billion. This why the prophets of doom are saying the planet can’t support 8 billion people, and I agree with that statement, but I’m not going to worry about a population explosion.
God’s wrath is going to be poured out especially during the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation because the vast majority of Christ- rejecting people will be living at that time. Now verse 18:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
Now the Greek actually makes it a little more distinct than that. The Greek implies they are holding down, in other words they are literally standing on it with their feet; they are trampling underfoot the truth in unrighteousness. I’ve said over the years, and I haven’t had to take it back, that usually in our New Testament whenever you see the word `Truth’ you can very easily substitute the Name of Jesus Christ. Because what did He tell us in John’s Gospel? “I AM THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.” And anywhere else you see the word `truth,‘ always try it and see if it won’t work by inserting the Name Jesus Christ in its place. So what have they done in verse 18? They have taken the Name of Jesus Christ and held it down in unrighteousness and ungodliness. They don’t want anything He had to say or anything that comes from this Book in their life.
“Because that which may be know of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it (the truth) unto them (now how did God show it?). For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen (not in a fog, but it’s out there as clear as a bell, the knowledge of the Creator God), being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they (mankind) are without excuse:”
Now I know that this is a hard verse to swallow. Most of you know that from the time of Abraham all the way up into the Book of Acts that God dealt primarily with the Nation of Israel. But what about those pagan Gentiles all around them? Well, the Apostle Paul tells us in the Book of Ephesians Chapter 2, they were without hope.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
They were lost, but God stills holds them responsible because they could have known. This is hard for us to comprehend. But God knows that every human being has within his breast the knowledge that there is a Creator God. If they even look at some starry midnight sky they can come to that conclusion. That’s what the Scripture teaches. “They are without excuse.” They have all the evidence. Turn to the Book of Acts, Chapter 17. Paul is at Athens in this passage, and they are steeped in idolatry and philosophy. But he confronts them there on Mars Hill, and he says in verse 23:
“For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions (their rituals of pagan worship), I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands (idols), as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all (not just believers, but to all) life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood(out of Adam) all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should (see that?) seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:”
God is speaking through the Apostle Paul that even these pagan Greeks with no exposure to Judaism, or any written Scripture, should have had a knowledge of the Creator God. The Scripture indicates that The Word of God was written in the stars once upon a time. I think Adam was able to comprehend it, and the pre-flood people understood that the very make-up of the constellations and the planets were to interpret the very Word of God. Satan took it and adulterated it, but in its original form the pre-flood patriarchs had a good understanding just by studying the stars. There’s another verse in the Book of Titus. Paul writes this letter toward the end of his ministry. He’s only about a year or two away from being martyred. But as he writes to Titus, he’s been under house arrest in Rome for the last several years. And here we have a stunning statement, and yet if we just casually read over it we can miss what Paul is saying. But in the light of Romans 1:18 I know what he’s saying.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath (already) appeared to all men.”
Now granted, when Paul wrote, the Roman Empire comprised ninety percent of the then-known world. But they had all heard. I think Paul is going all the way back to the flood. When Noah and his three sons and their wives came off the ark, they all had a knowledge of God. But what happened? Within a generation or two they began to do what Romans 1:18 says. They began to hold down the truth. They stood on it, and kept it underfoot. Remember all the revelation that God had given mankind, beginning with Adam. Deep in the heart of every human being, even in that Adamic nature, is the knowledge that there is a God. I’ve had people tell me they are atheists, but that’s just an excuse. They’re trying to convince themselves they are, but down deep within each atheist is the knowledge of God. So I maintain there is no such thing as an atheist. They all know there is that nagging desire to fill the vacuum that God placed in mankind when He created them. In history and archaeology you will never find a group or a tribe of people that did not have a worship of some sort. And always associated with a blood sacrifice. They’re going to have that need for a blood sacrifice, and it all goes back to the way God created mankind. So man has that knowledge that there is a Creator. Now verse 21: the reason they are without excuse is:
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations (Solomon said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” What was he talking about? Humanism! When they leave God out of their thinking, then it’s empty), and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Who did the darkening? God did! As soon as God began dealing with Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron, when they confronted him, and said, “Let our people go,” God was putting Pharaoh on the spot. He was giving him a choice to either let Israel go or not go. Pharaoh chose not to let them go. Then God sent the first plague, and it made Pharaoh think, but that’s as far as it went. The next time Moses and Aaron came in and asked him to let their people go, he said, “No, I’ll not let them go.” By now the first plague has passed and he hopes there won’t be anymore, but he also now was in a more hardened position than he was the first time. So it wasn’t as if God zoomed in on his heart like a laser beam, and fried it. The reason his heart got hardened was because he had made a choice. Now he’s going to do the same thing the next time, and decide wrong again, and in the process his heart is becoming more and more hard. And every time he refuses to let Israel go, he hardens his own heart, although the Scripture says that God did. So all God really does is put him on the spot.
Now it’s the same way with mankind as a whole, when we speak of man’s heart being hardened, it isn’t that God is responsible, but rather man does it to himself. But it’s under the Sovereign volition of God, and this is why when it says that they became vain and their foolish heart was darkened, it became a response of God to their own choosing of their will. And remember, that everything that mankind does under God is based on that free will. You can’t get away from it. We are all constantly facing choices. Let’s go back to Psalms, Chapter 14, verse 1. This is also going to be appropriate for verse 22, in our study of Romans.
“THE fool hath said in his heart (now remember the next two words are italicized, so consequently they have been added by the translator, and in this case it’s unfortunate. So read this verse with those two words left out), no, God…”
Do you see the difference? The foolish man is a man destitute of faith, and so he says, “No.” Not that there is no God, but he says “no” to what God has said. And all the way through Biblical history, it was the men who were destitute of faith that did just exactly that. What did Cain do? God said, “Bring me a blood sacrifice, and I’ll accept you.” What did Cain say? “No, God, I’m not going to bring a blood sacrifice, I’m going to bring what I have grown.” Ishmael had the same opportunity and the same Godly father that Isaac had, but what did Ishmael say? “No, God.” And the next one was Esau, who was probably a good young man, and yet when it came to things that God had said, what did Esau say? “No, God, I’m not interested.” And this is exactly where mankind is tonight. God has said it, but what does man say? “No way, I won’t believe it, I won’t do it, I don’t want any part of it, leave me alone, I’m comfortable.” So they choose to put God out of their thinking.