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.