Gave it all away
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32 NASB)
That is the remaining verses in chapter 1, but let’s focus on the fundamentals that will play out through the next chapter into chapter 3.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:18 NASB)
We learned last week that the wrath of God is real and it still exists today. Now this week we investigate who that wrath is intended for and how we can minimize any opportunity of it coming against us.
First off, let’s clarify the two “un” words.
ungodliness – lack of reverence for, devotion to, and worship of the true God. Can be summarized as a defective relationship with him.
unrighteousness – a lack of conformity in thought, word and deed to the character and law of God. It is the result of ungodliness
The key to this verse is that the target of his wrath is to those that suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Now we begin the discovery process of what is this truth that we should be wary of and how do we know if we are suppressing it.
How do you know if something is the truth?
The definition that I found was:
1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
4. the state or character of being true.
5. actuality or actual existence.
An interesting factor is that we are not born into truth or knowing truth. We are born being self-centered. We cannot even understand truth when we are first born. All of our actions and motives are self-centered. We are hungry, we cry. We wet our britches, we cry. All of our focus is on our world. The only truth we really know is what we experience. (I’m hungry, my pants are wet, facts.)
What I have learned is that the only way I know the truth about something is whether I experience it for myself or believe what others tell me. The personal experience is something that cannot be discredited, but the input from others takes faith and testing. We have all lived through times when someone told us something and we had to believe it or we were disappointed with learning that they did not tell us the truth. Especially as children we are much more susceptible to being deceived purely because we have not experienced that much.
The other risk we face in discerning what others say as either facts or just their learnings over time. An example of this is when neither you or the other person have experienced something, but you use deductive reasoning to come to a conclusion. Knowing that none of us have fallen off a tall office building, but we can conclude from other experiences and information that it will not be good for us.
What is the truth being referred to here in this scripture? This topic is not an intellectual point, but a focus on our heart and how we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
The first clue in this section is verses 18 and 19
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. – Romans 1:18-19
We suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to us.
What are some of the things you know about God?
Paul goes on in verse 20, with some of his details about God.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
The objective truth that Paul is referring to is the truth of God’s eternal power and deity. But there is an additional thought that is brought to light: mainly the response we are supposed to have to this truth about God.
What is the truth? ” we should glorify and thank God”
So here is the truth that we suppress apart from God’s grace in our lives.
1. There is a God.
2. He is the Creator of all things and so not a god but the God.
3. He is powerful – more powerful than all else, because he made all else.
4. He is eternal because there was nothing outside him that could bring him into being.
So here is the truth that we suppress apart from God’s grace in our lives. There is a God. He is the Creator of all things and so not a god but the God. He is powerful – more powerful than all else, because he made all else. He is eternal because there was nothing outside him that could bring him into being. Therefore we must exist to display his glory and not to compete with him for glory. And we must exist in absolute dependence on him. We do not supply him, he supplies us. And therefore we are to live in constant gratitude.
We must exist to display his glory and not to compete with him for glory.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we are suppressing the truth about God. Many times it is like the evening. It begins with some shadows, dimmer and dimmer and then the next thing we know we are sitting in the dark. Have you ever caught yourself sitting in a room in the dark and wondering why there was not a light on?
Have you found a season in your life when you became distant from God? Maybe even in a season of exile? Not by his actions but yours? I know I have, more than once.
It was a few years back when I went through what I thought was a good stage in my life. I retired from a company I worked for most of my life. They gave me a nice severance package and I took a little time off. I was really supposed to be looking for a job, but with cash in the bank initiative to start right away was not my highest priority. I got some of the tools I had always wanted in the garage, went on some vacations and life seemed real good. ….Then I realized I was sitting in the dark.
Check out verses 25 for some further insight
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:25 NASB)
Which is the same as saying, “they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him, but instead glorified the creature and took credit for what was owed only to God.”.
Who do you think the “creature” is? (Don’t look outwardly, but look inward)
We choose to resist and oppose God’s truth by holding fast to our sin.
When I was distant from God after I changed jobs, was I some mad heathen? No, I was still attending church. I was still going to church events, but it was evident that I was becoming… self-righteous. I was seeing the faults of others more clearly. I justified not associating with them. I really began to run and isolate. I was not giving credit to God. I was showing him how good I was at managing my life and how bad others were. I suppressed the truth that God is infinitely glorious and that I am totally dependent on him. I was the creature.
Do you ever stop and realize how dependent you are on God? Most of us guys tend to declare, if not to others, at least to ourselves, that we can make it. That we have made it through worse situations and this is not going to stop us.
So let’s sum up what the truth is that we suppress. The truth is that God exists. He is eternal and infinitely powerful. He supplies us with all we have. Therefore he is gloriously self-sufficient with no needs that we can meet. The truth is that our reason for being is to be thankful for all he has given us and to display his glory by the way we think and feel and act.
Check out Psalm 50:22-23 of the Message
“Time’s up for playing fast and loose with me. I’m ready to pass sentence, and there’s no help in sight! It’s the praising life that honors me. As soon as you set your foot on the Way, I’ll show you my salvation.”
Have you ever caught yourself in a bad situation. Maybe something like verse 21?
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21 NASB)
1. we need to glorify God
2. we need to give thanks to God
Where is the root of the problem?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18
The scary thing is that Paul associates the wrath against unrighteousness, not ungodliness. Do you know why?
Remember that unrighteousness is the result of ungodliness.
Let’s turn to 2 Thessalonians 2
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Why did they reject the truth and suppress the truth and not love the truth? Because they “took pleasure in unrighteousness.” When we love sin, we cannot love the truth. The truth is too threatening to us. It threatens to take away your illicit pleasures. It is probably reasonable to say that virtually all falsehood comes from this belief: a stronger affection for the pleasures of sin. That is what unrighteousness is. Loving sin more than loving God and his truth.
We need to understand 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, more classes or more information, but a new heart. And a new set of passions and desires and pleasures. That is why I have to always remind myself that abstinence is not repentance.
Check out how Jesus describes this situation in John chapter 3
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. – John 3:19-21
Why won’t we come to the Light, the Truth? Because of unrighteousness. We hate the Light. We evade it if we can. And if we can’t, then we twist it and distort it and give it a self-justifying spin. And in all of this we suppress it.
Are you not paying attention to your life. Are you allowing the light to become dim? One of the best things to assist in monitoring this is don’t isolate. Work together.
Morally, not mentally deficient…
The great lesson to be learned: the reason the mind evades, twists, distorts, manipulates and suppresses the truth of God is not mainly that we are mentally deficient, but because we are morally deficient. We suppress the Light of God’s glory and power because we love the darkness of our own independence. We love our sins, our self-determination, and therefore we suppress the Truth that God is God and that we are to depend on him and live for his glory.
And this, Paul says in Romans 1:18, is why the wrath of God is being poured out. This suppression of the truth of his glory and his power and his deity and his goodness, because of our love affair with unrighteousness, makes him furious. And we should tremble.
Don’t lose hope
We can get in a rut in this situation and get dejected, but let us not forget the gem in verses 16 and 17
“The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”
In other words, because we are unrighteous, and in our unrighteousness suppress the truth, our only hope is that the righteousness God demands from us would be freely given to us, namely, God’s own righteousness, to be received by faith. That we may have today because of the death and resurrection of Jesus who paid the debt so that everyone who believes in him might be saved.