Jew and Gentile
Restored to Israel
Slaves to Sin
Slaves to God
Slaves Serving God
Life by Faith
Service by Faith
Modified from Irving
L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's
Survey of the NT"
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FOR THE WRATH
OF GOD IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN: Apokaluptetai (3SPPI) gar orge theou ap
of God") (See the other uses of the phrase wrath of God
- Jn 3:36; Re 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1)
Notice from the chart above that from Romans 1:18 to
Romans 3:20 Paul like a prosecuting attorney presents God's indictment
of the world, clearly demonstrating why men need the righteousness of
God which is then mercifully presented in Romans 3:21 through Romans
Expositor's Bible Commentary
introduces Romans 1:18-3:20 noting that...
Instead of plunging at once into an
exposition of the gospel, Paul launches into a lengthy exposure of the
sinfulness of man. This is sound procedure, for until men are persuaded
of their lost condition they are not likely to be concerned about
deliverance. So Paul undertakes to demonstrate in the human situation a
grievous lack of the righteousness God requires. "Within the action of
the divine righteousness there is a place for deliverance and for
condemnation, a place for salvation and for punishment" (David Hill,
Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1967], p. 90). (
Expositor's Bible Commentary: Old and New
C G Handley Moule eloquently
explains that Paul...
...is intent and eager to bring his
reader into sight and possession of the fulness of the eternal mercy,
revealed and secured in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Sacrifice and Life.
But for this very purpose he labours first to expose man to himself; to
awaken him to the fact that he is before everything else a sinner; to
reverse the Tempter’s spell, and to let him see the fact of his guilt
with open eyes. “The Gospel,” someone has said, “can never be proved
except to a bad conscience.” If “bad” means “awakened,” the saying is
profoundly true. With a conscience sound asleep we may discuss
Christianity, whether to condemn it, or to applaud. We may see in it an
elevating programme for the race. We may affirm, a thousand times, that
from the creed that God became flesh there result boundless
possibilities for Humanity. But the Gospel. “the power of God unto
salvation,” will hardly be seen in its own prevailing self-evidence, as
it is presented in this wonderful Epistle, till the student is first and
with all else a penitent. The man must know for himself something of sin
as condemnable guilt, and something of self as a thing in helpless yet
responsible bondage, before he can so see Christ given for us, and risen
for us, and seated at the right hand of God for us, as to say, “There is
now no condemnation; Who shall separate us from the love of God? I know
whom I have believed.” (Moule, C. G. Handley: The Epistle of St Paul to
the Romans) Moule concludes with the following quote...
To the full sight of Christ
there needs a true sight of self, that is to say, of sin.
For (gar) normally
introduces an explanation.
A T Robertson explains it this
Note in Romans Paul's use of gar,
now argumentative, now explanatory, now both as here. There is a
parallel and antecedent revelation (see Romans 1:17) of God's wrath
corresponding to the revelation of God's righteousness, this an
unwritten revelation, but plainly made known. Orgē is from
orgaō, to teem, to swell. It is the temper of God towards sin, not
rage, but the wrath of reason and law (Shedd). The revelation of God's
righteousness in the gospel was necessary because of the failure of men
to attain it without it, for God's wrath justly rested upon all both
Gentiles (Ro 1:18-32) and Jews (Romans 2:1-3:20).
Vincent's comment on "for"...
All men require this mode of
justification, for all men are sinners, and therefore exposed to God's
Hodge writes that...
The apostle’s object is to prove the
doctrine of the preceding verse, viz., that righteousness is by faith.
To do this it was necessary to show that men in themselves are exposed
to condemnation, or are destitute of any righteousness which can satisfy
the demands of God. His argument is, God is just; he is determined to
punish sin, and as all men are sinners, all are exposed to punishment.
Hence this verse is connected by gar to the preceding one. Men
must be justified by faith, for the wrath of God is revealed, etc.
(Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans)
John Piper explains
for by asking...
Why does Paul introduce v18 with the word "for" or
"because"? He does this in order to show that everything he is going to
say about sin is meant to support the GOSPEL of Ro 1:17. He does not
mention the gospel for the sake of sin. He deals with sin for the sake
of the GOSPEL. UNDERSTANDING SIN is the FOUNDATION that upholds the
preciousness of the GOSPEL, not vice versa. His main aim is not to lead
us from gospel to sin, but from sin to gospel. If you have been caught
in a crime and are facing trial, and I say to you, "I have a letter here
from the Hennepin County Court that they have dropped the charges
against you, because you were guilty and liable to severe punishment,"
what's the point? The point of saying that you were guilty is to help
you understand and cherish the good news that the charges are dropped.
That's the point of "for" at the beginning of v18. (The
Wrath of God Against Holding Down the Truth)
The wrath of God - Vincent
makes an interesting statement that this is "Not punishment, but the
from orgaô = to teem, to swell)
conveys the picture of a swelling which eventually bursts, and thus
anger that proceeds from one’s settled nature. Orge does not refer
to uncontrollable anger to which men are so prone but to God's settled
indignation and controlled passionate hostile feeling toward sin in all
its various manifestations. Settled indignation means
that God’s holiness cannot and will not coexist with sin in any form
whatsoever. Orge is not the momentary, emotional, and often uncontrolled
anger (thumos -
2372) to which human beings are prone. Orge is used primarily of God's holy,
righteous wrath but occasionally refers to the wrath of men (see
Orge refers to to an inner, deep
resentment that seethes and smolders. Orge as used of God refers to His
constant and controlled indignation toward sin, while thumos
(which originally referred to violent movements of air, water, etc., and
consequently came to mean “well up” or “boil up”) refers more to a
passionate outburst of rage. Thumos type anger represents
an agitated, vehement anger that rushes along relentlessly. The root
meaning has to do with moving rapidly and was used of a man’s breathing
violently while pursuing an enemy in great rage!
God’s settled opposition to
and displeasure with sin
God’s wrath is his holy hatred of all
that is unholy. It is His righteous indignation at everything that is
unrighteous. It is the temper of God towards sin. It is not God's
uncontrollable rage, vindictive bitterness or a losing of His temper,
but the wrath of righteous reason and holy law.
Orge is used 36x in the NT in
the NASB (Mt;
6x) (Mt 3:7; Mark 3:5;
Lk 3:7; 21:23; Jn 3:36; Ro 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19;
13:4, 5; Ep 2:3; 4:31; 5:6; Col 3:6, 8; 1Th 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; 1Ti 2:8;
Heb 3:11; 4:3; James 1:19, 20; Re 6:16, 17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15).
Orge is used over 200 times in the
Orge is translated:
anger, 6; wrath, 30 (KJV translates it also indignation and
vengeance). (Click discussion of God's Attribute of
here for ISBE
article on "Retribution" - scroll down to Topic "Instances
of the Use of Orge and thumos"; see also article on
In the present context note that the
quality of this wrath is divine ("of God"). As MacArthur says
is therefore unlike anything we know
of in the present world. God’s wrath is not like human anger,
which is always tainted by sin. God’s wrath is always and completely
righteous. He never loses His temper. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson
said, “Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. …
No wonder, therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to Him, nay,
so contrary to Him; it strikes at His holiness." Unable to reconcile
the idea of God’s wrath with his own ideas of goodness and
righteousness, one liberal theologian made this claim: “We cannot think
with full consistency of God in terms of the highest human ideals of
personality and yet attribute to Him the rational passion of anger.”
But it is foolish, not to mention unbiblical, to measure God by human
standards and to discount the idea of His wrath simply because human
anger is always flawed by sin. God’s anger is not capricious, irrational
rage but is the only response that a holy God could have toward evil.
God could not be holy and not be angry at evil. Holiness cannot tolerate
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
MacArthur adds that
Orge does not refer to an
explosive outburst of temper but to an inner, deep resentment that
seethes and smolders, often unnoticed by others. It is therefore an
anger that only the Lord and the believer know about. Therefore, it is a
special danger, (for the believer because the anger of man does not
accomplish the righteousness of God) in that it can be privately
J. James. Moody or
John MacArthur writes that
signifies the strongest kind of
anger, that which reaches fever pitch, when God’s mercy and grace are
fully exhausted. It will mark the end of God’s patience and tolerance
with unregenerate, unrepentant mankind in the swelling of His final,
furious anger which He will vent on those whose works evidence their
persistent and unswerving rebellion against Him." (MacArthur,
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
William Barclay writes that...
The Greeks defined thumos
as the kind of anger which is like the flame which comes from straw; it
quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides. On the other hand, they
described ogre as anger which has become habitual...Orge
is anger which has become inveterate; it is long-lasting, slow-burning
anger, which refuses to be pacified and nurses its wrath to keep it
warm...To the Christian the burst of temper and the long-lived anger are
both alike forbidden." (Barclay,
W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press
Larry Richards in describing
God's anger writes that...
The OT clearly specifies what human
actions provoke God to anger. The NT treats wrath as a basic relational
state, showing that the unsaved are under God's wrath. But God never
acts capriciously in his anger. He always acts in full harmony with his
character as a loving, forgiving, compassionate, and just person." (Richards,
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
Arthur Pink defined God’s
His eternal detestation of all
unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity
against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against
sin” (Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, p83).
Bishop Trench defines orge =
a wrath of God who would not love good unless He hated evil, the two
being inseparable, that He must do both or neither.” Trench adds that
orge is an anger “which righteous men not
merely may, but as they are righteous, must feel; nor can there be a
surer and sadder token of an utterly prostrate moral condition than the
not being able to be angry with sin—and sinners”
Orge is used of our Lord when, after healing the man with the withered
hand, He observed the hardness of heart of the Pharisees, and looked
upon them with anger (Mark 3:5).
as God’s personal emotion with regard to sin. It represents God’s
abhorrence and hatred of sin and His constant, invariable reaction to
C H Spurgeon writes that...
The wrath of God does
not end with death. This is a truth which the preacher cannot mention
without trembling, nor without wondering that he does not tremble more.
The eternity of punishment is a thought which crushes the heart. You
have buried the man, but you have not buried his sins. His sins live
and are immortal. They have gone before
him to judgment, or they will follow after him to bear their witness as
to the evil of his heart and the rebellion of his life. The Lord God is
slow to anger, but when He is once aroused to it, as He will be against
those who finally reject his Son, he will put forth all his omnipotence
to crush his enemies." He adds that "I am certain that to preach the
wrath of God with a hard heart, a cold lip, a tearless eye, and an
unfeeling spirit is to harden men, not benefit them...The conscience of
man, when he is really quickened and awakened by the Holy Spirit,
speaks the truth. It rings the great alarm bell. And if he turns over in
his bed, that great alarm bell rings out again and again, "The wrath
to come! The wrath to come! The wrath to come!...There is
no trouble like genuine conviction of sin. Racks, scorpions,
death—these are troubles to be laughed at, as compared with the weight
of guilt pressing on the conscience, the sight of an angry God, and the
fear of the wrath to come.
The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said,
Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is…No wonder,
therefore, that God hates sin, being so unlike to him, nay, so contrary
to him; it strikes at his holiness.
J. I. Packer:
fact is that the subject of divine
wrath has become taboo in modern society, and
Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned
themselves never to raise the matter"
(Knowing God, p. 149).
Vine has an interesting insight
subject of the wrath
recurs throughout the first part of the
Epistle (Ro 2:5, 8;
3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22). In this Epistle, which treats
especially of the gospel, the differing attributes of God are set forth
in a manner which reveals His character as a whole. While the gospel
reveals Him as infinitely merciful, His mercy is not characterized by
leniency toward sin. The Scriptures never reveal one attribute of God at
the expense of another. The revelation of His wrath is essential to a
right understanding of His ways in grace." (Vine,
W. Collected writings of W. E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook
has the following note on "God's Wrath":
"In Scripture, God’s strong and
vigorous opposition to everything evil. There is a Greek verb that can
be used both of anger and of the swelling of buds as the sap rises. It
points to the kind of anger that results from a settled and consistent
disposition, and not to a losing of one’s temper. God’s wrath is like
that, rather than like human anger on a grand scale. With us, wrath
always has elements of passion, lack of self-control, and irrationality.
The wrath of God does not." (The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter
A. Elwell, Ed, Harold Shaw Pub, Wheaton , IL; 1984)
The respected expositor Albert
Barnes writes that ...
It is clear that when we think of
the word “wrath” as applicable to God, it must be divested of
everything that is like human passion, and especially the passion of
revenge. It is one of the most obvious rules of interpretation that we
are not to apply to God passions and feelings which, among us, have
their origin in evil. [God’s wrath] is the opposition of the divine
character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to
express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from
the favors which He bestows on the righteous. We admire the character of
a father who is opposed to disorder, vice, and disobedience in his
family, and who expresses his opposition in a proper way. We admire the
character of a ruler who is opposed to all crime in the community, and
who expresses those feelings in the law. Why shall we not be equally
pleased with God, who is opposed to all crime in all parts of the
universe, and who determines to express His opposition in the proper way
for the sake of preserving order and promoting peace? (Barnes Notes on
A W Tozer said that...
The holiness of God, the wrath
of God and the health of the creation are inseparably united. Not
only is it right for God to display anger against sin, but I find it
impossible to understand how He could do otherwise
Kenneth Wuest writes that...
three words speaking of anger, thumos, indicating a sudden
outburst of anger that cools off quickly, orge, defining an
abiding and settled habit of mind, not operative at all times, but
exhibiting itself in the same way when the occasion demands it, and
parorgismos which speaks of anger in the sense of exasperation. The
latter is forbidden in Scripture, “Let not the sun go down upon your
wrath” (see Ep 4:26-note);
the second, orge is permitted, but the qualification is that no sinful
element be included in it."
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
One of the great tragedies of
modern Christianity, which sadly has crept into much of evangelicalism, is the failure to
preach and teach the wrath of God and the condemnation it brings upon
all with unforgiven sin. Instead how often does one hear a truncated, sentimental gospel that is
frequently presented today falls far short of the gospel that Jesus and
Paul proclaimed. Examine any 19th century Psalter
he will note that many of the psalms in those hymnals emphasize the wrath
of God, just as much of the book of Psalms itself emphasizes His wrath.
It is tragic that few hymns or other Christian songs today reflect that
important biblical focus. Both the Old and New Testament consistently emphasize
God’s righteous wrath.
Ray Pritchard has the
following note on the forgotten doctrine of God's wrath declaring
It is truly a forgotten doctrine, even in the evangelical church. I’ll
dare say that many of you have never heard a sermon on God’s
is, not a full sermon devoted to this one topic. The reasons for this
apparent neglect are not hard to find. Most of us would rather hear
about love and grace. I know I would rather preach about God’s grace.
After all, to speak of the
wrath of God
makes us appear narrow-minded, judgmental, and God help us,
is difficult to comprehend, so in some ways, this is a doctrine that is
easy to overlook. The thought that nice people we know might someday go
to eternal hell is so overwhelming—and so disheartening—that we’d much
rather not think about it at all. (Forgotten
Doctrine: The Wrath of God)
The revelation of God's
righteousness in the gospel was necessary because of the failure of men
to attain it without that revelation. Paul will explain how God's Wrath
is revealed in the verses that follow: most certainly it is by God
giving mankind over to their own lusts, degrading passions and depraved
minds! God let men have what they wanted is at least in part His wrath
revealed! And so Paul pronounces God’s judgment on the whole human race
in response to man’s rejection because the truth is men have a
problem—not God. First all men rebel (because they are born rebels at
heart ~ the depravity of all men) and then God responds with His
Ray Pritchard in his sermon
About Those Who Never Hear The Gospel?" writes this about the wrath
It’s the word "wrath"
that grabs our attention. We’re accustomed to hearing about the love of
God. We know about the grace of God. We sing about the mercy of God. We
extol the glory of God. We ponder the holiness of God. But the wrath of
God? We hardly ever mention it. There aren’t many hymns about God’s
wrath. We’d much rather sing "Jesus loves me, this I know." But you
can’t read Romans 1 without coming face to face with the
wrath of God."
What about those who never hear the gospel? Romans 1:18, 19, 20 touches the
key issue we must face. It tells us how God views the people of the
world—including those who never hear the gospel.
Deffinbaugh has this interesting
comment on "the
wrath of God":
God’s present wrath is really a gracious gesture on God’s
part. It is not permanent, and it is not irreversible. When God gives
men over to sin, He is not giving up on men. Giving men over to sin is
God’s way of encouraging men to forsake their sin and to be saved. While
God’s future wrath, once in force, cannot be reversed or escaped,
God’s present wrath can be reversed, and men can escape. The
reason for this is that God has already poured out His “future wrath”
on Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the gospel. God’s anger toward
sin has been satisfied in Christ because His wrath was poured out on
Him, at Calvary. Have you accepted God’s forgiveness in Christ? Those
who have trusted in Christ have already been punished, in Him. No man
needs to suffer God’s eternal wrath, for Christ has suffered it for us.
But only those who trust in Him may share in God’s salvation through
Him. God’s future wrath falls only on those who reject the
suffering of Jesus Christ, bearing God’s wrath, in their place. How
Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile heaven.
And Can It Be That I Should Gain?
from apó = from, any separation
of one thing from another + kalúpto = cover) means
literally to uncover and then to cause something
previously secret or unknown to become fully known or disclosed. The
indicates that God's
is continually being (passive
This verse is more accurately rendered "is constantly being revealed"
Apokalupto is used 26
times in the NT in the NASB (Mt
(Mt 10:26; 11:25, 27; 16:17; Lk 2:35; 10:21, 22; 12:2; 17:30; Jn 12:38;
Ro 1:17, 18; 8:18; 1Co 2:10; 3:13; 14:30; Ga 1:16; 3:23; Ep 3:5; Phil
3:15; 2Th 2:3, 6, 8; 1Pe 1:5, 12; 5:1)
Note that the righteousness of
God (see Romans 1:17-note) and the wrath of
God are being revealed "side by side".
The problem doesn’t
start with God but with man. Man rejects truth and God responds to this
rejection. God is not unjust and is
not in heaven waiting for us to "slip up" so He can send us to Hell. Such
a view of God is a monstrosity, but sadly is a view far too many have
concocted in their vain imaginations. On the other hand, Paul is saying
will not overlook sin. He won’t wink at it, laugh at it, or pretend it
never happened, for all sin is an affront to His holiness.
Geoffrey B. Wilson
God is no idle spectator of world
events; He is dynamically active in human affairs. The conviction of sin
is constantly punctuated by Divine judgment (Romans: A Digest of
Reformed Comment. London: Banner of Truth)
God’s wrath is therefore always being revealed from heaven against
those who mock His name and reject His truth. This revelation of His
wrath began in the Garden of Eden when He passed the "sentence of death"
upon Adam and Eve as well as all their descendants. The wrath of God was
later revealed in the world wide flood that drowned all mankind except
for eight souls. It was revealed in the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah and the drowning of Pharaoh's army. The greatest revelation of
God's wrath however was when it was poured out in full force on the
sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ, on the Cross.
The revelation of God's wrath will culminate in two great expressions,
the first at the end of this present age, during the time referred to as
Daniel's Seventieth Week
(see the 6 uses of orge in
which culminates with the second coming of Christ at which time
from His mouth comes a sharp
sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them
with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath
(orge) of God, the Almighty. (see note
At this time Christ will defeat
the Antichrist, demolish all His enemies and establish His earthly 1000 year
(the Millennial kingdom). Following the 1000 years there will be the final revelation
of God's wrath which Peter describes as a day that...
will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar
and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and
its works will be burned up." (see note
2 Peter 3:10)
Oh sinner take heed to the
revelation of the good news for it is a terrifying thing to fall into the
hand of the living God, Who is a consuming fire. Receive the good news
and repent while today is still called today.
Where does the wrath come from?
(ouranos) is the residence of God where "the throne of God" (Matthew
is located. Isaiah describes heaven as a "high and holy place" (Isaiah
57:15), and as God's "holy and glorious habitation" (Isaiah 63:15). From
this holy place comes God's holy wrath against unholy men.
John MacArthur has an
interesting note explaining that...
Heaven reveals God’s wrath
in two ways, through His moral order and through His personal
intervention. When God made the world, He built in certain moral as well
as physical laws that have since governed its operation. Just as a
person falls to the ground when he jumps from a high building, so does
he fall into God’s judgment when he deviates from God’s moral law That
is built-in wrath. When a person sins, there is a built-in consequence
that inexorably works. In this sense God is not specifically
intervening, but is letting the law of moral cause and effect work.
The second way in which God reveals
His wrath is through His direct and personal intervention. He is
not an impersonal cosmic force that set the universe in motion to run
its own course. God’s wrath is executed exactly according to His divine
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
ALL UNGODLINESS & UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN: epi pasan asebeian
kai adikian anthropon: (Ro 6:13)
(epi) is literally upon, which gives a picture of God's fury coming down
upon the heads of the ungodly. Do any of the ungodly escape? No, for
Paul says God's wrath is upon "all" (3956)
(pas) which mean all without exception.
John MacArthur adds that
"all" indicates that...
God’s wrath is universal, being
discharged against all who deserve it. No amount of goodwill, giving to
the poor, helpfulness to others, or even service to God can exclude a
person from the all Paul mentions here...Obviously, some people are
morally better than others, but even the most moral and upright person
falls far short of God’s standard of perfect righteousness. No one
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
from a = without + sébomai =
worship, venerate) (Click study of
asebeia) means want or lack of
reverence or piety toward God (which speaks of one's heart attitude). Asebeia
stresses a faulty personal relationship to God. And so asebeia
suggests a disregard of the existence of God, a refusal to retain Him in
knowledge and a habit of mind that leads to open rebellion. It is a
general reference to all that is "anti-God".
Ungodliness describes the man or woman who is living without
regard for God and in a way that denies His existence and right as
Supreme Ruler and Authority.
Asebeia is used 7 times in the
NT -- Ro 1:18; 11:26; 2Ti 2:16; Titus 2:12; Jude 1:15, 18.
Asebeia refers to a lack of reverence toward God
which leads to living as if He did not exist. What
(and Who) we believe determines how we live.
As Paul will expound in the verses
that follow, once a man or woman purposes to turn their back on God's
truth as clearly revealed in Creation, the natural result is a river of
wickedness flowing out of a life devoid of any interest in God or the
things of God. The only thing damming that river is the constraint of
one's own conscience or the constraint of circumstances. Left to himself
man always turns to wickedness. There are no exceptions. That's why we
must all read and understand the message Paul is conveying in Romans 1,
especially this section that someone has aptly dubbed the dark night of
The good news is even in our
while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the
ungodly." (see note
from a = without + díke = what is right)
describes that which is not right and so is unjust; wicked or
treacherous. Unrighteousness in the present context describes those
attitudes and actions which fall short of the perfect standard
of right as required by the perfectly righteous God.
Here are the 25 uses of adikia
in the NT - Lk 13:27; 16:8, 9; 18:6; Jn. 7:18; Acts 1:18; 8:23; Ro 1:18,
29; 2:8; 3:5; 6:13; 9:14; 1Co 13:6; 2Co 12:13; 2Th 2:10, 12; 2Ti 2:19;
Heb 8:12; James. 3:6; 2Pe 2:13, 15; 1Jn 1:9; 5:17
John MacArthur explains the
relationship of ungodliness to unrighteousness writing that...
the idea of ungodliness but focuses on its result. Sin first
attacks God’s majesty and then His law. Men do not act righteously
because they are not rightly related to God, who is the only measure and
source of righteousness. Ungodliness unavoidably leads to
unrighteousness. Because men’s relation to God is wrong, their
relation to their fellow men is wrong. Men treat other men the way they
do because they treat God the way they do. Man’s enmity with his fellow
man originates with his being at enmity with God. Sin is the only thing
God hates. (MacArthur,
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press
John Piper writes that unrighteousness is...
Loving sin more than loving God and His truth. So you see that the issue
of truth is an issue of the heart before it is an issue of the head.
When the heart is in love with self-exaltation and independence and the
pleasures of sin, the mind will inevitably distort the truth or suppress
the truth in order to protect the idols of the heart. What is needed is
not just new ideas or more information, but a new heart. And a new set
of passions and desires and pleasures. (The
Wrath of God Against Holding Down the Truth)
WHO SUPPRESS THE TRUTH: ton ten aletheian
en adikia katechonton (PAPMPG):
1:19,28,32; 2:3,15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23; Lk 12:46,47; Jn
3:19, 20, 21; Acts 24:24,25; 2Th 2:10; 1Ti 4:1,2)
Spurgeon writes that...
Those last words may be read, "Who
hold down the truth in unrighteousness." They will not let the truth
work upon their hearts; they will not allow it to operate in their
minds; but they try to make it an excuse for their sin. Is there anybody
here who is holding down the truth to prevent its entering his heart? I
fear that there are some such persons, who have come here for years, and
the truth has pricked them, troubled them, made them lie awake at night;
but they are holding it down, like one who grasps a wild animal by the
ears, and holds it down for fear it should bite him. Oh, sirs, when you
are afraid of the truth, you may well be afraid of hell! When you and
the truth quarrel, you had better end your fighting soon, for you will
have the worst of it if you do not yield: "For the wrath of God is
revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold down the truth in unrighteousness."
from katá = down + écho = hold) literally
means to hold down or to quash.
Vincent comments that
katecho means to...
hold down; i.e., hinder or repress.
Compare 2Th 2:6, 7; Lk 4:42.
Katecho is in the
present tense which indicates
that ungodly men and women are continually, actively, willfully (active
restraining, hindering and withholding the truth
about God. Note also the
which indicates this is a volitional choice, a choice of their will!
Who does this apply to? Every
person for we were all born with the sin nature of Adam and possess a
built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress and oppose God’s truth.
Katecho conveys the picture
of putting all one's
weight upon something in an effort to restrict it’s free movement, in
this case to restrict the free movement of
sets men free.
Paul is saying that men prevent
truth from achieving its purpose (of setting men free). The fact
is that everyone suppresses the truth about God to some extent and
therefore everyone is without excuse. Unrighteousness is so much a part
of man’s nature (Ro 5:12) that every person has a built-in, natural, compelling desire to suppress
and oppose God’s
truth here is not the
gospel, for all men do not possess a knowledge of it.
W E Vine writes that katecho
“to hold fast,” whether by avoiding the relinquishing
of something (1Th 5:21-note), or by suppressing it so that it may not reach
others. Here the latter is in view, and the idea is that of purposive
suppression of the truth (2Th 2:6).
Paul is describing the "disease"
of every man, a "disease" that must be recognized before seeking a cure.
The bad news precedes the good news. The biblical order in
any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the
way of escape. God’s righteous judgment
against sin is proclaimed before His gracious forgiveness of sin is
offered. A person has no reason to seek salvation from sin if he does
not know he is condemned by it. He has no reason to want spiritual life
unless he realizes he is spiritually dead.
Read the following illustration of "suppression of
For decades the news media
behind the Iron Curtain served a very different purpose than in the Free
World. While airline accidents in the west got headline coverage, they
almost always went unreported in the Soviet bloc, as were crime, and crop
failures, and nuclear accidents, and anything else that might raise a
question about the efficacy of Communism. The
truth was suppressed
so the populace would not grow aware of their need for a "cure".
As Paul declares in the following verse, “That which is known about God
is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Ro 1:19). His
point is that all people, regardless of their relative opportunities to
know God’s Word and hear His gospel, have internal, God-given evidence
of His existence and nature, but are universally inclined to resist and
assault that evidence. No matter how little spiritual light he may have,
God guarantees that any person who sincerely seeks Him will find Him.
“You will seek me and find Me” He promises, “when you search for Me with
all your heart” (Jer 29:13). Every person, no matter how isolated from
God’s written Word or the clear proclamation of His gospel, has enough
evident both within and around Him (Ps 19:1, 2) to enable him to know and be reconciled to God if his desire is genuine. It
is because men refuse to respond to that evidence that they are under
God’s wrath and condemnation.
(aletheia) refers to that which is out in the open, to the unveiled
reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance and so the
veritable essence of matter.
Unrighteous men continually "put the
in a box" and sit on the lid and "hold it down in unrighteousness." Their
evil deeds conceal the open
of God from men. Compare a similar use in 2Th 2:6, 7.
Divine truth generally, as apparent
in all God's self-revelations.
in this usage as
the knowledge of God as communicated to the human conscience.
Wuest adds that
here is not the gospel, for all men do not possess a knowledge of it.
here is found in the
context, the fact of a supreme
Being with divine attributes to Whom worship and obedience are due, this
truth being seen by all men through their observation of the created
universe, the latter demanding a Creator to answer for its existence.
The human race, possessing this truth, yet holds it down in the sense of
refusing to acknowledge its moral implications, and goes on in its sin."
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
Winston Churchill although
not a theologian certainly hit the mark with this thought:
occasionally stumble over the
truth, but most of them pick themselves up
and hurry off as if nothing had happened."
IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS: en adikia:
from "a" = without + dikê = justice)
"unrightness" and refers to acts that violate the standard of right
conduct. Adikia is the condition of not being right or
straight with God, as judged by the standard of His holiness. This condition follows naturally from
ungodliness or living like God did not exist something only a
fool (Webster = a person lacking in judgment or prudence) would do
(cp Ps 14:1, 53:1 - In these preceding passages observe carefully the
behavior that naturally follows when one says "There is no God"! What
you believe indeed works its way out in how you behave! Cp Ps 10:4, 5,
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13!!!)
For Paul, fear of eternal condemnation was the first motivation he
offered for coming to Christ, the first pressure he applied to evil men.
He was determined that they understand the reality of being under God’s
wrath before he offered them the way of escape from it. That approach
makes both logical and theological sense. A person cannot appreciate the
wonder of God’s grace until he knows about the perfect demands of God’s
law, and he cannot appreciate the fullness of God’s love for him until
he knows something about the fierceness of God’s anger against his
sinful failure to perfectly obey that law. He cannot appreciate God’s
forgiveness until he knows about the eternal consequences of the sins
that require a penalty and need forgiving.
Donald Grey Barnhouse gives the following illustration regarding
the timing of the revelation of God's wrath against all ungodliness...
Barnhouse recounts the story of a group of godly farmers in
a Midwest community being irritated one Sunday morning by a neighbor’s
plowing his field across from their church. Noise from his tractor
interrupted the worship service, and, as it turned out, the man had
purposely chosen to plow that particular field on Sunday morning in
order to make a point. He wrote a letter to the editor of the local
paper, asserting that, although he did not respect the Lord or honor the
Lord’s Day, he had the highest yield per acre of any farm in the county.
He asked the editor how Christians could explain that. With considerable
insight and wisdom, the editor printed the letter and followed it with
the simple comment, “God does not settle [all] His accounts in the month
W E Vine comments that...
"While the gospel declares
the message of salvation (v16-17), it is a salvation granted by one Who
is a Judge and Who, consistently with His own character, has proclaimed,
and must carry out, the doom of the ungodly. This is not an arbitrary
manifestation of wrath, but the necessary exercise of the infallible
judgment of the judge of men. The subject of the wrath of God recurs
throughout the first part of the Epistle (2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22).
In this Epistle, which treats especially of the gospel, the differing
attributes of God are set forth in a manner which reveals His character
as a whole. While the gospel reveals Him as infinitely merciful, His
mercy is not characterized by leniency toward sin. The Scriptures never
reveal one attribute of God at the expense of another. The revelation of
His wrath is essential to a right understanding of His ways in grace."