• The Wrath of God, Part 2

    Posted Sep 21st, 2018 By in Pastor Brian's Blog, Why We Believe What We Believe With | Comments Off on The Wrath of God, Part 2

    To be sure, Romans 1:18-32 is about God’s wrath. Paul leads out with that in 1:18, connecting it to what has already been highlighted about God’s righteousness being extended in the gospel of Christ. The reason we desperately need God’s righteousness is because we are sorely lacking in the righteousness department and “because (for) wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18). That stipulated, an equally important theme in Romans 1:18-32 is worship. Summed up in 1:24-25: Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their heart…because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever!” Amen. And again in 1:21: “They did not honor him.” And 1:23: “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” And 1:28: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up…”

    Worship, serve, honor, glory, acknowledge. All of these are different ways to speak of worshipping God, or in this case, the lack thereof. So, this passage is about wrath and worship, a wrath revealed against a bastardized form of worship, a bastardized form of worship summed up in holy Scripture by the word idolatry. You can see how easily Exodus 20:3-6 runs through this passage.

    You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    Equally interesting is the way this passage highlights the way worship—in the case here, false worship, but the same principle holds true for right worship—makes us, forms us, shapes us. To borrow a phrase from Greg Beale: We resemble what we revere, and this is true for either ruin—as is the case in Romans 1—or restoration—as is the case with the gospel. It’s something closely akin to what the Psalmist says,

    Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them (Psalm 115:4-8; cf. Ps. 135:18)

    And once we begin to see the presence of idolatry here and remember that idolatry is the “essence of sin” (Beale) we can begin to understand the picture Paul is painting here. God’s wrath is being revealed here and now against a malfunction in the worship of him and the way

    his wrath is revealed is in the malfunctioning of other relationships, including things like homosexuality and lesbianism, and disobedience to parents, to name a few. To quote Greg Beale one last time, “…the idol worshippers’ unnatural relationships with others resemble their unnatural relationship with God.”

    Romans 1 offers us a fitting reminder that we become what we worship.

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    Brian
    Pastor of New Life La Mesa Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA.

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