18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Verse 18 introduces the first major section (of Romans 1:18-32). This passage reviews why God’s judgment fell on human beings and why they are under judgment. God never judges without evenhanded process. Verse 18 presents a summary statement of the following argument.
In verse 17 Paul explained how God’s righteousness was revealed; he went on in verse 18 to explain how God wrath is revealed.
the wrath of God
This wrath of God is a universal indictment, as we shall see in future verses. God does not view sin passively. God’s love does not preclude His wrath. The opposite of love is hate, not wrath.
God’s wrath is not loss of self-control for selfish reasons. He never loses his temper. God’s wrath is His opposition to anything contrary to His nature. His wrath, therefore, has a personal dimension. That is why forgiveness is not cheap from God’s viewpoint; the cost of forgiveness was the cross.
People who see the love of God without a proper emphasis on the wrath of God are out of balance biblically. We should never leave the impression that sin does not matter to God. God is not benign about sin. He does not tolerate it.
is revealed from heaven
God’s wrath is currently being revealed from heaven. Wrath is a matter of revelation. This wrath comes from the presence of God—“from heaven.”
God’s wrath is against all sin; it is universal with no exceptions.
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
God directs His wrath against two areas: (1) ungodliness and (2) unrighteousness. He points this wrath not against men per se but against their sin. God hates the sin but loves the sinner.
“Ungodliness” (impiety) is lack of reverence towards God. This is sin against God. This sin disregards God. Ungodliness results in unrighteousness.
“Wickedness” is literally unrighteousness. The effect of sin against God results in acts that are not right with God.
Note God’s wrath is against “all” sin, no exceptions. God does not overlook any violation of His character.
who suppress the truth
The word “suppress” comes from two words: to hold and down. The truth comes to people but they hold it down from affecting their lives. They do not want anything to do with God’s revelation; they have negative volition towards truth.
The “truth” here is general truth in creation. It is not the saving knowledge of Christ and His work. However, God revealed enough of Himself to lay blame against those who have negative volition towards the truth that they know.
This verse uses “unrighteousness” twice, placing more emphasis on the key words in Romans—“right,” “just,” “righteousness,” “to justify,” and “unrighteousness.” “Unrighteousness” here is set in antithesis to “righteousness of God” in verse 17. People are not right with God. Their motivation for rejecting revelation is that they do not want to be right with God. They prefer their own way, not God’s way.
God’s wrath is against those who reject revelation.
The fundamental reason God’s wrath comes against man is that he rejects revelation. The underlying principle is that God wants man to know Him. To reject God’s desire to be known causes His wrath.
God’s wrath does not contradict His goodness but it is a corollary of it. If God were not angry at sin, He would not be righteous. It would be impossible for God to love us apart from the work of Jesus on the cross (paying for our sin). This is how God keeps His righteousness intact. God never offers us love without justice. His justice was fulfilled at the cross. The gospel is about more than love.
This verse also answers the question “Why are those that never heard the gospel lost?” Every person who has ever existed has received God’s revelation, even if it is only basic truth about God in creation. If people go positive volitionally towards God in the truth that they know, then it is God’s responsibility to take the specific gospel message to them.
Just a personal thought: This idea of negative and positive volition helps me see how, even as a believer, I have the same challenge as any unbeliever. That is, God is looking at my heart attitude every moment in every situation. Do I submit to or reject His revelation to me? Of course, I have security for eternity as a believer in the position He gives me in Christ, and guidance in the Spirit through His Word, but still my every attitude is either positive or negative towards God. This helps me understand my relationhsip to the rest of humanity as well as letting me see my responsibility to live with care and humility. What a holy and “other” God I serve, and how gracious of Him to reveal Himself to me!
Deb, from now on I am going to do the exposition and principle but I will leave the application to you! 🙂 Excellent application from the principle.
You stated that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. it seems to me that statement is in contrest this will
KJV Proverbs 10:29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity. (Pro 10:29 KJV)
ESV Isaiah 31:2 And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. (Isa 31:2 ESV)
ESV Job 34:22 There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. (Job 34:22 ESV)
In the Bible it is known that God hates the (workers) of iniquity. did i understand the context of your phase?
thanks I love your work.
Mark, I did not see anywhere in those passages to which you refer where God hates sinners per se. He does hate their evil ways. He will judge sinners, not because He hates sinners, but because He has to be consistent with His own absolute righteousness.
Greetings Dr. Grant C. Richison,
I am so much delighted reading your expositions of the Holy Book of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Awesome. Plain, simple, Biblically referenced, and remarkably reasearched.
I am an expat (Project Engineer) working in Saudi Arabia for ten years now, with regular vacations in betweens to the Philippines.
I have been going on reading the Bible for many years now, and I am tied to it. More often I have lots of questions. But answers do not come easily. Then I consult the Book and seek references, in accord and consistent with the Bible.
I get the words "fools." "Foolish." Now I understand it.
When answers cannot come, most of the time I keep coming back to Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."
In addition, ISAIAH 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
"What has been revealed," as Paul said, is getting clearer to the fundamental truth I have been seeking. And I get at your site unexpectedly.
Dr. Grant, Romans Chapter 1:19 exposition is missing in your verse by verse commentary, i.e. "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them." What does it mean?
More power, Doctor, and God bless.
Please include me in your subscription list. Thank you.
Manuel, thanks for calling attention to the fact that 1:19 was a repetition of 1:18. 1:19 is now up. If you see anything like this again, please let me know. I am blessed by your comments.
Manuel, to subscribe just go to the right column. The reason we request people to do this on their own is that they have to put in the password, email, etc.
Like the spirit of the comments. Studying this passage for our Bible Study. Blessings
Awesome commentary. I have been blessed to find your site. Am I understanding correctly, then, that all people who exist have the choice to think for themselves that there is a Divine hand in the creation of the the world and the wonders of nature and the universe. And those who acknowledge the Divine hand are showing positive volition toward God, and God will move to bring the Gospel to them so they can be saved?
Mary, you understand it correctly.
Greetings, Dr. Grant.
Am a student of a Theological seminary in Nigeria, I have been studying this scripture – Romans 1:18 – for some weeks.
when I later discover your exposition through God’s help, I found it useful as it enhances my exegesis of that scripture.
More Grace upon you, I prayed.
Thank you Joseph