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Reasons for the Wrath of God, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 23, 2023 4:00 am

Reasons for the Wrath of God, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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August 23, 2023 4:00 am

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The first reason for the wrath of God is revelation. Men were given the truth of God. Men were given the truth of God. The Philistines, they knew the truth of God. The Canaanites, they knew the truth of God. The Egyptians, they knew the truth of God. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plains, they knew the truth of God. All men know the truth of God. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It's been rightly said that anger is like fertile soil, capable of growing all kinds of sin. Of course, the Bible is filled with references to God's anger, His wrath. The question, then, is it right for God to be angry? Why would a God who is good and loving pour out His wrath on people He created?

How is that fair? Well, that's John MacArthur's focus in his current series, Wicked World, Angry God. As you follow along with today's lesson, you'll learn why God judges mankind, and you'll have a deeper gratitude for the grace that He gives to those who trust Him. Follow closely with John in today's message from Romans chapter 1. Turn with me in your Bible to the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans, verses 19 through 23. Now this is such a tremendous section of Scripture with so much import and impact that we want to think carefully and closely along with the Spirit of God as He writes through the Apostle Paul. I really believe that this passage answers many, many questions that are constant questions asked by folks about the meaning of the gospel, the nature of God, and the destiny of man. Let me read to you verses 19 through 23 and you follow along as I read. We ought to begin, I guess, at verse 18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. Neither were thankful but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Today we are living in a day in Christianity when there is a rising trend in what is called universalism. That is the belief that ultimately everybody's going to be saved, that God is too kind and too gracious and too good to cast people into an eternal hell, so ultimately everybody's going to wind up in heaven. We shouldn't be concerned about judgment, we shouldn't be concerned about hell. God is too good to send people there forever. And the upshot of it is that we don't have to worry about evangelism either. We don't have to get too upset about spreading the gospel around to the ends of the earth. After all, they can't be responsible for what they don't know.

So just leave them alone and they'll make it. Now this is not the view of the Apostle Paul. This is not the view of our Lord. Our Lord said, the harvest is great and the laborers are few.

Pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest. And the harvest of which our Lord spoke was a judgment harvest. He saw humanity as this mass of people about to be cut and judged and the need for laborers to enter that harvest to warn them was on His mind. The Lord spoke more about hell than anybody else in all of the Bible. In fact, He spoke more about hell than everybody else put together in the New Testament.

The men of God who have lived through the history of the church are men who have understood that God is a God of judgment, that the wrath of God is indeed revealed against ungodliness. John Knox on his knees for lost souls in the little country of Scotland pleaded with God and said, give me Scotland or I die. Hudson Taylor as a young man looked across the thousands of miles to the unreached multitudes of China and cried out to God, I feel that I cannot go on living unless I do something for the lost in China. Henry Martine after landing in India said, here I am in the midst of heathen midnight and savage oppression.

Now my dear Lord, let me burn out for thee. So concerned was James Chalmers for those without the Savior that it is said of him quote, in Christ's service he endured hardness, hunger, shipwreck, exhausting toil and did it all joyfully. He risked his life a thousand times and was finally clubbed to death by men whose friend he was and whom he sought to enlighten. Robert Arthington couldn't go overseas to reach the lost, but through sacrifice he enabled others to go.

He lived in a single room and cooked his own meager meals and gave 500,000 of his dollars to foreign missions. And he wrote, gladly would I make the floor my bed, a box my chair and another box my table rather than that men should perish for want of the knowledge of Christ. You see, they understood what it means to die without God and Christ. They understood that men were inevitably headed to judgment. They understood that men were under the wrath of God.

And unless you understand that, you do not understand the greatest impetus that you have for concern and compassion. And so the gospel begins at verse 18, that's where the main body of Romans starts. And it begins with the wrath of God, revealed on all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. And as Paul says in Ephesians 2-3, men are children of wrath. In other words, they are born unto wrath. Wrath is their nature, if you will. Wrath is their inevitable end. Wrath is their destiny. They are heirs of wrath.

They are inheritors of wrath. God's smile has turned to a frown. And as the psalmist said, who knows the power of God's wrath? Thomas Watson, that great Puritan, wrote, as the love of God makes every bitter thing sweet, so the curse of God makes every sweet thing bitter.

Now Paul says, man then is under wrath, severe wrath. Now the question that comes up in this passage is this, does man deserve this? After all, we couldn't help being born. Why should we be born having nothing to say about it and then spend forever in hell? We didn't ask to be born. We didn't ask to be born to sinful parents. We didn't ask to be born into a sinful world. We didn't ask to be placed in a predicament of judgment.

How can we be held responsible? And that is precisely the question that Paul answers in this text. The wrath of God is revealed on all men because of their ungodliness and unrighteousness.

That's verse 18 and verses 19 to 23 tell us why. Why God is justified in being angry over the sin of man. Now some men through the history of the world have recognized God's right to be angry.

That is right. Some who are even pagan have understood that God had a right to be angry with them. Let me give you an illustration. Turn in your Bible to 1 Samuel chapter 4. 1 Samuel chapter 4. Now at this particular time in the history of Israel, Israel is paying no attention to God.

None whatsoever. Oh there's a little bit of religious tokenism, but there is no genuineness. But all of a sudden Israel is confronted with their perennial enemy the Philistines and they are worried. And so somebody says look we don't want to fight the Philistines on our own. Somebody go get God.

Pretty good thinking actually. And at that point in their history God is symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant which is up in Shiloh. And God as it were in his presence dwelt on the Ark of the Covenant between the wings of the cherubim. And so when they wanted to be assured of the presence of God they had to have the Ark of the Covenant. So they said go get God.

And so they got very religious. They ran up and got God the little box. Now to the pagans this was just an idol. Just the Israelite idol. And so they came down and they've got God.

They've got the little box. Verse 5 of 1 Samuel 4. And when the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord came into the camp all Israel shouted with a great shout so that the earth rang again God is here.

Talk about the arrival of the cavalry in the battle with the Indians wouldn't be anything compared to this. God is here. The day is won. And of course the shouting was deafening. In verse 6 when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout they said what meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews and they understood that the Ark of the Lord was come into the camp. The God of Israel has arrived.

They've gotten their God. And the Philistines were afraid. And they said God is come into the camp. And they said woe unto us. For there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty gods.

That little box is a powerful thing. Why'd they say that? Because they remembered a little bit about Egyptian history. And they remembered about the entire Egyptian army being drowned.

And they remembered prior to that all the plagues. And then one of them stood up and gave the old pep talk speech in verse 9. Be strong and acquit yourselves like men oh ye Philistines that you be not servants unto the Hebrews as they have been to you acquit yourselves like men and fight.

Now let's get our act together and get out there and win this battle. And you know what happened? The Israelites were in a euphoria. They thought the day was won. Verse 10 says the Philistines fought and Israel was smitten.

Now wait a minute. That's not the way the script was supposed to read. The Israelites are supposed to win. They have God. But God is not a utilitarian genie. You don't just rub your little lamp and say, now God go do your thing. I'm in trouble.

Haven't paid any attention to you for a long time but I need you now. God doesn't operate like that. 30,000 footmen of Israel were killed. The ark of God was stolen and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were killed.

Devastation. The sons of the high priests are dead. 30,000 footmen die and they take the ark.

Now if you think that's a problem for the Jews, you haven't begun to imagine what kind of problem it is for the people who have God on their hands. Now the Philistines have God. Now if you want to know what happened, come over to chapter 5 verse 1. Eli the high priest who was big and fat and old was so upset about his son's dying he fell off his little stool and broke his neck and died. So now the high priest is dead. And now the Philistines have got the ark of God on their hands and they're running around with the presence of God.

And so they decided this is the Israelite. God will put him with our God and so they took him in verse 2 it says and put him in the house of Dagon. Dagon was a Philistine God that was half fish and half man.

The fish God. And so they just took the ark and put it in with Dagon. It was in the town of Ashtad. They rose up early in the morning went back and Dagon was fallen on his face bowing toward the ark of the Lord. And they were pretty puzzled by that. They must have thought there was some localized earthquake or something that knocked him over and so they set him up again. The next day they came back verse 4.

This time he was fallen on his face again only this time his head and both the palms of his hands were cut off and only his stump was left. And God was saying I don't tolerate any competition. Well now they knew they were in trouble.

To run through the text all of a sudden the hand of the Lord was heavy on them verse 6. And he destroyed them and smote them with internal tumors. And then the text says the ones that didn't get tumors were attacked by mice carrying a deadly plague.

And thousands upon thousands of the people died and the ones that didn't die from the plague of the mice received the tumors. So the people in Ashtad said let's get rid of this thing. They said what are we gonna do with it? They said well let's take it to Gath. Which wasn't a big favor for the people in Gath. That's the next town along the line in the Philistine area and there was a famous man from Gath you might remember his name was Goliath. They took it to Gath and the Gathites had the same problem. Then they said take it to Ekron and the Ekronites cried out and said don't bring that thing here. And they were passing it all over the place and everybody was in the same boat.

They were all either dying from the plague or getting the tumors. Now this is judgment. Now what is the pagan response gonna be? Are they gonna say what kind of a god are you?

Well this isn't fair. No. No and in chapter 6 they got all their diviners and priests together and they said what are we gonna do? In verse 3 they said if you send away the ark of the God of Israel send it not empty.

Now listen to this. But by all means return him a what? Trespass offering.

Ask you a simple question. To what does a trespass offering admit? Sin. These uneducated unschooled pagans knew that they somehow in some way were getting exactly what they deserve for they had violated this God. Even they recognized that God had a right to judge them.

And so they sent back what they understood to be a trespass offering. So even pagans understood that God had a right to judge them. They said we acknowledge the sin, we have dishonored you, and we deserve exactly what we receive.

Now listen to me. God never judges unless judgment is deserved. He's a God of absolute justice. And if God judges and God pours out wrath then there is every confidence in my heart to know that that is exactly what is right and proper in that situation. Now let's go back to Romans chapter 1. How can a man be held responsible for his sin? How could those pagans be held responsible? How could those Philistines be responsible? I mean they didn't have the Old Testament law. How could God possibly slaughter them with plagues and inflict them with tumors? And how could God drown the entire Egyptian army? And how could God slay all of the firstborn of the land of Egypt? And how could God wipe out whole cities of the Canaanites? And how could God bury Sodom and Gomorrah? I mean how can God judge people?

I mean what if no one ever told them about the truth? How can he hold them responsible? How can so much wrath be deserved? The answer comes beginning in verse 19 and there are four reasons for the wrath of God. I call them revelation, rejection, rationalization, and religion. Let's begin with Revelation, verse 19 and 20. The reason God can reveal His wrath against them is because that which may be known of God is manifest in them for God hath shown it unto them. How? For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without what?

Excuse. Now here's first point. The first reason for the wrath of God is revelation. Men were given the truth of God. Men were given the truth of God. The Philistines, they knew the truth of God. The Canaanites, they knew the truth of God. The Egyptians, they knew the truth of God. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plains, they knew the truth of God. All men know the truth of God.

The great theologian Augustus Strong wrote, God has inlaid the evidence of the fundamental truth in the very nature of man so that nowhere is he without a witness. Now there is a verse in Ephesians 2 12 that says that unregenerate man is without God in the world, but the signification of that phrase is that he is forsaken by God, not that he is ignorant of God. He is without God, not because he doesn't know of God, but because he will not receive God and therefore God forsakes him. Now this section refers primarily to the Gentiles because it assumes only what we call natural revelation. It's not talking about the scripture which was applicable to Israel, and Israel of course not only rejected natural revelation but special revelation.

Not only did Israel reject creation as the evidence of God, but they even rejected the scriptures. But here we see primarily the Gentile world, and what he says is that they could know God because God has manifested himself under them. But back in verse 18 as we saw last time, they have suppressed the truth.

The word hold meaning suppress. So man cannot plead ignorance entirely apart from special revelation through the scripture, which so many have never heard admittedly. God has made himself known and continues to do so by means of his creation. Men on their own initiative I grant you could not know God, but verse 19 says God has shown himself unto them. God would never send someone to hell who didn't have an opportunity to know him. God is a God of justice. God is a God of equity. Tertullian, the great early church father, has much to say about this conviction that God can be revealed in creation. He says it was not the pen of Moses that initiated the knowledge of the Creator.

The vast majority of mankind, though they had never heard the name of Moses, to say nothing of his book, know the God of Moses nonetheless. And nature, he said, is the teacher and the soul is the pupil. One flower of a hedge by itself, I think, and I do not say a flower of the meadow. One shell of any sea you like and I do not say a pearl from the Red Sea. One feather of a moor fowl to say nothing of a peacock. Will they speak to you of a Creator?

If I offer you a rose, will you scorn its maker? In other words, creation manifests God. And even for those who appear unable to perceive that creation, there is the manifestation of God within them. The great story of Helen Keller, the deaf, mute, and blind woman.

Absolutely no capacity to communicate until Anne Sullivan spent hours upon hours, days upon days, and months upon months to unlock communication. And when Anne attempted to tell Helen Keller about God, her response was, I already know about him, I just didn't know his name. Let's look at the verse again, verse 19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them. Now that which may be known of God is basically nosas, and it means what is knowable about God. Obviously, we can't know everything about God, even through special revelation. But what is knowable is revealed. What may be known of God, what is knowable, what is apprehendable to the senses of man, can be known, mark this, apart from scripture.

That's what it's saying. And verse 20 tells us the content of what may be known. It says, His eternal power and Godhead. And it says it is revealed, look at verse 19, in them, and God has shown it unto them, in them in their midst, in them in their minds. By the way, any revelation has to ultimately reach the mind or we don't comprehend it, right? So God has revealed himself to us. You're listening to John MacArthur on Grace to You with a message from his current series titled, Wicked World, Angry God. Along with teaching on this daily broadcast, John is also a pastor, an author, and he's chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary located in the Los Angeles area. And now, John, you touch today on what's known as universalism.

You've actually taught much more on that subject. Why has that captured your attention and what does the person listening need to understand about universalism? Well, universalism usually has the idea that everybody's going to heaven, everybody's going to be okay, everybody's going to be saved, whatever that might mean. It doesn't really matter what you believe.

You know, we all go down different roads, but they all end up in the same place, namely heaven. That is absolutely a lie. That is a deception. That is not true. And that's why I wrote the book called Why One Way.

You have this pluralism that is just rampant in our culture today. You have this idea that you can get to heaven if you don't know about God, you don't know about the Bible, you don't know about Jesus, and you don't know about his death and resurrection. And I'm talking about this being advocated by people who call themselves evangelicals. You have the idea that everybody's headed the same way, whether you're Christian or Muslim, whether you're Catholic or Protestant.

It really doesn't matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. And the book Why One Way targets in on the exclusivity of the gospel. It is an argument for the truth and the distinctiveness of the gospel.

Clearly, the Bible says not all roads lead to heaven. This book is definitive. It captures the essence of the exclusivity of the gospel in a very brief, readable fashion. It's a bold book. It's a critically important issue.

It is reasonably priced. You ought to get a bunch of them and distribute them. It's a needed message in this day. Let us know you want a copy of the book Why One Way. That's right, this is a much needed message, and this helpful resource provides a layman's guide to the battle between human philosophy and biblical truth. It's a great gift to put into the hands of someone you've been witnessing to, so to get a copy of John's book called Why One Way, contact us today.

Why One Way costs $10 and shipping is free. To order your copy of Why One Way, call 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, That number again, 800-55-GRACE and the web address,

And friend, just a quick reminder that Grace To You is able to make verse-by-verse teaching available to millions of people around the world every day because of the support of listeners like you. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can do that easily online. Just look for the Donate tab at our website, You can make a one-time donation or set up a recurring donation.

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Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Or call us at 800-55-GRACE. That number again, 800-55-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Be sure to watch Grace To You television this Sunday, DirecTV Channel 378, and be back tomorrow to learn the connection between God's creation and man's condemnation. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-01 12:57:21 / 2023-09-01 13:07:13 / 10

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