A Natural Revelation of God (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
All men and women are without excuse.
(4) A Natural Revelation of God
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
For the wrath of God is revealed.
Here we have the answer to the question “Why do men need the gospel?” The answer is that they are lost without it, and that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the wickedness of men who suppress the truth in an unrighteous manner and by their unrighteous lives. God’s attitude toward the sin of mankind is not one of tolerance. He does not simply hold man accountable for what may be reasonably expected of him in view of man’s nature as a sinner. God hates man’s sin. His wrath is a holy hatred of all that is evil. But how is God’s wrath revealed? The answer is found in the following verses. God gives men over to uncleanness (1:24), to vile affections (1:26), and to a reprobate mind (1:28). But it is also true that God occasionally breaks through into human history to show His extreme displeasure at man’s sin—for example, the flood (Gen. 7); the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19); and the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram (Num. 16:32). The most graphic revelation of God’s holy wrath and hatred against sin was when He poured out divine judgment on His Son on the Cross. God has various kinds of wrath:
1. Eternal wrath, which is hell.
2. Eschatological (Doctrine of last things and end times) wrath, which is the final Day of the Lord (Second Coming).
3. Cataclysmic wrath like the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
4. Consequential wrath, which is the principle of sowing and reaping.
5. The wrath of abandonment, which is removing restraint and letting people go to their sins—listen to Proverbs 1:23-31:
23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke.
31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
Here in verse 18, it is the fifth form of wrath, God’s abandoning the wicked continually throughout history to peruse their sin and its consequences. This will be the subject of verses 24-32.
Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Ungodliness has to do with religion, our relation to a sovereign God. Unrighteousness has to do with morality, our relation to our fellowman. Ungodliness is sin against the being of God. Unrighteousness is sin against the will of God. Man is both a religious sinner (he is ungodly) and a moral sinner (he is unrighteous). The unrighteous man lives as if there were no will of God revealed. The ungodly man lives as if there were no God at all. God’s wrath is against both.
Who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
The word suppress carries the meaning of “to pull down,” “to crush,” “to quell,” “to check” or “to cancel.” Those who are unrighteous and ungodly restrain the truth of God’s righteousness. The meaning of this word is clearly seen in the way it is used in Luke 4:42, “And when it was day, he (Christ) departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.” Paul contends that the heathen have had the righteousness of God revealed to them, yet they suppress the truth of His righteousness for they are ungodly and unrighteous.
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
What may be known of God is manifest in them.
“Are the heathen who have never heard the gospel lost?” Paul shows that they are (or any man who willingly suppresses the knowledge of God), not because of knowledge they don’t have, but because of the light which they do have, yet refuse! Those things which may be known of God in creation have been revealed to them. God has not left them without a revelation of Himself. Man has a sufficient knowledge of God to make him responsible to God.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Ever since the creation of the world, two invisible characteristics of God have been on display for all to see: His eternal power and His divinity or Godhead.
The answer to the question “What about the heathen?” is this: they are without excuse. Creation demands a Creator. Design demands a Designer. By looking up at the sun, moon, and stars, anyone can know there is a God. God has revealed Himself to them in the beauty and order of His created world (see Ps. 19:1–6 on pg. 18) thereby removing any excuse for ignorance of Himself, but they have not responded to this revelation. So people are not condemned for rejecting a Savior they have never heard of, but for being unfaithful to what they could know about God. Although sin distorts, it does not remove the possibility of perceiving God in nature: “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Acts 14:15). The testimony of nature alone is sufficient to lead man to an understanding of the personal, righteous nature of God, so that they are without excuse.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them, He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
6 Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.