It Is Not Just His Wrath We Are Seeing
We’ll come to our own day in a moment. But first, the world of Paul’s day and how there were things that many knew but failed to understand.
One had to do with how people were living. All could see, for example, that in the realm of sexual behaviour, promiscuity in general and homosexuality in particular were rife. No one doubted that. Nor that things like envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, heartlessness and ruthlessness were alarmingly prevalent. But Paul saw more. The Spirit of God had opened his eyes to see in all this evil nothing less than the wrath of God revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18). As a judgment upon them for their inexcusable rebellion people were being given over by God to every species of depravity.
A second had to do with what people were hearing. And that was Paul’s gospel. People everywhere were hearing from his and others’ lips about Jesus the Son of God and salvation by faith in him. What did they make of it? For the most part they thought it nothing but foolishness. But that was only because they were blind. With Spirit-opened eyes Paul could see that his gospel was nothing less than another revelation from God. Here are his well-known words:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:16-17).
God was responding to human sin in Paul’s day not just with a revelation of his wrath but also with a revelation of his righteousness. A righteousness that saved. That put people right with God. For the very sin and penalty to which they were justly being given up God had provided a gracious and powerful remedy. Let any man or woman believe in Christ and the blessings of justification and eternal life would instantly be theirs.
Turning now to our own day there is a parallel too obvious to need any elaborate proof – at least to Christians whose eyes have been opened. We too, as a society, are evidently being given over by God to the same terrible wickedness described in Romans 1. And in that abandoning of us to our sin, the wrath of God is again being revealed from heaven.
But it is not the whole picture. For the same God whose displeasure we have so gravely provoked continues to have a remedy for us in Christ. There is a righteousness from God that saves sinners as well as a wrath that punishes them. And that is why the darkness of our day is not as intense as we sometimes feel it to be. Nor the situation as hopeless. There is a light still shining in the darkness. Through the Saviour whom we preach the very worst of sinners can still be clothed in a righteousness that fits them for heaven. It is still put on by simple faith in Christ. And it’s still available to all.
God, then, is still revealing two things – just as in Paul’s day. The wrath and the remedy are side-by-side realities still. The very same God who judges is the God who still has good news for sinners. Granted people may be as blind to it as they were in the first century. God can still open their eyes and make them see – just as he did back then.
David Campbell is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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