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Reasons for the Wrath of God, Part 4

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 31, 2023 4:00 am

Reasons for the Wrath of God, Part 4

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Voltaire once said, God made man in his own image and man returned the favor. And that's true. When men get religious apart from the true God, they have violated God's standard at its very beginning point.

It is the most blasphemous thing they can do. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm Phil Johnson, your host. Maybe you've heard the story of two blind men who were trying to describe an elephant. One of the men took hold of an ear and declared that the elephant was flat, while the other blind man thought it was long and thin because he had grabbed the elephant's tail. You get the picture. You know, some would say that people with different religions really aren't so different, and in fact they all worship the same God, the true God, just from their own unique perspectives.

But is that accurate? Consider that important question in light of what Scripture says about God's wrath. Follow along now with John MacArthur as he continues his study, Wicked World, Angry God. Romans chapter 1, and we're looking now at verses 19 through 23. We're going to sum up our examination of these verses. Let me read the text to you, beginning in verse 18.

And here Paul really begins the main body of his letter. 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 hath 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. Now we've titled this section, Reasons for the Wrath of God.

God's wrath revealed in verse 18 and the rationale for it in verses 19 through 23. We've been giving you four points or four reasons for the wrath of God and the last one that we're going to be looking at is religion. We live in a very religious world, lots of religions. Even in our own society, young people flock into cults. They identify with religious groups. At least 2.6 billion people in the world have an identifiable religious affiliation. The pollsters then and the people who count people determine that if they don't know what your religion is, they assume you have one.

They just say your religion is unidentified. Man is religious. Now is all of this religion man really seeking God?

Is that what it is? Is it man struggling through his primitive confusion and the chaos of his world, struggling past the traditions and the errors of his past forefathers? Is man really struggling, trying to find his way through all of this stuff to get to the true God? Is this man on the way up?

Is this man ascending through animism and polydemonism and polytheism finally to monotheism or one God and finally to the true God? Is man really on the road up? Should we pat man on the back and say, we commend you for your pursuit of God?

We honor you for seeking. Is man then to be pitied because he's working so hard and he just can't seem to come up with the truth? It is not readily available to him for one reason or another. Is he just trying to get God in focus and he's doing everything he can to focus the lens but God's just out of focus and he's given it his best shot? Liberal theologians would want us to believe that. And if God then sends that man to hell who's trying so hard to get the thing in focus, isn't God unfair? After all, man is religious.

He's given it his best shot. Well, liberals would also tell us there's no hell. But this isn't what Paul tells us in Romans 1. Paul tells us that man does not ascend to religion, he descends to religion. And that's the message of Romans 1, 19 to 23. Man is to be pitied, not because of a lack of opportunity, not because there's no way he can get his focus clear, not because God is unfair, but man is to be pitied because he refuses the truth. And having refused the truth at the highest level, he descends to the pit of religion. Man did not ascend out of the muck of paganism to discover God, he left the knowledge of God and went down into the muck of paganism.

Religion is not man's ascent, religion is man's descent. Now this is a critical passage because you have to see the justice of God all bound up in this. And that's why it begins in verse 18 by saying, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In other words, God is angry with men and God demands that they face the consequence of their sin. And the reason he has a right to be angry flows out of what Paul says at the end of verse 18. Men hold the truth, but they abandon it. Verse 19 says, that which may be known of God is manifest in them, but they leave that. And verse 21 says, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.

And verse 23 says, and they changed the glory of the truly incorruptible God into their idols. This is the descent of man. Now we've been saying all along that as Paul opens the gospel, he starts with the bad news. You have to have the bad news before the good news. First the danger, then the deliverer. First the judgment, then the way of escape. First the condemnation and then the forgiveness.

First the guilt and then the grace. The whole message of forgiveness, the whole message of redeeming grace, the whole message of the love of God, the whole message of the death of Christ on the cross on your behalf and mine is based upon the fact that we understand that man is truly, honestly guilty before God of abandoning the truth of God. And Paul makes this his message, by the way, beginning in chapter 1 verse 18 and running all the way to chapter 3 verse 20.

A good portion of chapter 1, all of chapter 2, and a good portion of chapter 3 all deal with the fact that man is guilty before God, he is a sinner. So God's indignant hatred of sin is continuously being revealed from heaven against ungodly men because they have the truth but they descend from it into the pit of religion, which, by the way, is the ultimate blasphemy because it substitutes a false god for the true God. One writer said, God's righteous anger never rises and never abates. It is always at flood tide in the presence of sin because he is unchangeably and inflexibly holy. And so God is continually revealing his wrath against sin.

In fact, in Psalm 7 and verse 11 is this interesting statement. God is angry every day. God is angry every day. Continually against sin. You say, well, does God have a right to be angry?

Of course. Indifference to sin would be a moral blemish. He who does not hate sin is a moral leper, said Arthur Pink.

And he's right. How could one who delights only in what is pure and lovely not loathe what is impure and ugly? How could he who is infinitely holy disregard sin that violates that utter happiness? How could he who loves that which righteousness manifests not hate and acts severely toward unrighteousness? And how could he who is the sum of all excellency look with satisfaction upon virtue and vice equally? He couldn't.

And he can't. Because he's holy and just and good, he hates sin. And he has a right to react because man is guilty. Man has turned his back on available knowledge of God. And we've been seeing that as we've been flowing through these verses. The wrath of God is simply the proper reaction of holiness to unholiness. And Paul wants us to know that before we can understand the grace of God, we have to understand the wrath of God.

Before we can understand the meaning of the death of Christ, before we can understand how loving God is and how forgiving He is and how gracious He is and how merciful He is, we have to understand how guilty and undeserving we are. His wrath, by the way, is no less a divine perfection than His love or His holiness. It's just as much an element of His perfection as anything else.

It is a divine perfection. In Psalm 95, 11, for example, it says, "...unto whom I swear in my wrath." God says certain things in His wrath. He swears in His wrath that He'll do certain things. Now there are two occasions of God swearing in the Old Testament. Two times when God swears to do something.

One is when He makes a promise. And that would be such as Genesis 22, 16 or any other time God says He swears and makes a promise, it means He'll bring it to pass. The other time that God swears is in denouncing and calling for judgment, such as Deuteronomy 134, and you can look those up as examples. We know that God swears in mercy to His children and sometimes He swears to terrify the wicked. God will as surely bring wrath on the wicked as He will bring His mercy on the just.

He swears to do both and we must understand that. God is perfectly angry as He is perfectly loving because men are guilty. Now there are four reasons why God's anger is justified.

Reason number one, let's look back and be reminded, is revelation. And what I mean by that is men have been given the truth. Verse 19, that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it unto them.

How did He do that? Verse 20, through the invisible things of Him being displayed in the creation of the world. They are understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead. You can know of His supernatural nature and His great power by just looking at creation.

I read the statement of a scientist. He said, The phenomena of nature reveal the two qualities of force and intelligence working in perfect harmony. You have to see force and you have to see tremendous intelligence. And that is what Paul is saying. You can see His eternal power and you can see His Godhead, His infinite supernatural intelligence and wisdom just by looking at the world around you. Now God is manifest in creation so that man is without excuse. And we've been trying to show you that if man would live up to the light that he sees in creation, God would reveal the rest of the truth to him.

But man turns his back at that point. If he would follow the light that God gives, God, I believe, would give him more light. And God would give him the message of Christ. The Lord wants every man to know Christ. That's why it says in John 1-9 that Christ is the light that comes into the world and lights every man. God wants men to know Christ and wherever He finds an eager, willing heart, He'll bring the message of Christ some way to that heart. But men don't even live up to the light they have.

And that takes us to the second point...rejection. In verse 21 we learn that men have turned away from the truth 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. Now when they knew God, they turned their back on God. And there's a very simple reason why and it's indicated to us in John 3.20, I believe. They didn't come to the light because they were afraid their deeds would be...what?

Exposed. Men see God and they see the truth of God and they run because they don't want to be exposed. That's the basis of it. They are not willing to come to the light lest their deeds should be reproved, lest they should be unmasked, lest the rock under which they hide should be lifted up and everyone know the truth. And so they reject God. Daniel's indictment, by the way, of Belshazzar in chapter 5 of Daniel verse 23 is true of many people.

It says this, and I think it's a great statement. "'The Lord in whose hand thy breath is and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified?' The Lord in whose hand thy breath is and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified?' You reject the very God who is your life. And when man does this, when he rejects revelation and he turns his back on God, he greases the slide and he slides further away from God.

And he falls, it says in verse 21, into vain imaginations or vain reasonings. And we talked about that last time, meaning human philosophy. Now I want to make something very clear. I'm not totally against all human logic. I'm not against all human reasoning. Every once in a while man has intersected with the truth.

There's no question about it. But when I talk about philosophy, I'm talking about it the way Paul does in Colossians 2.8. I'm talking about the vain reasonings that he talks about here. And what we mean is useless philosophy, empty reasoning that is devoid of God. When God reveals himself and man rejects, then man slides down from God into his own philosophy, his own reasoning, his own imagination, his own speculations of science falsely so called. And man's perception of truth becomes hopelessly clouded, confused and uncertain. His heart is plunged then at the end of verse 21 into total darkness. The light is out.

He starts with light. And you can see this. You can see this.

The way you can see this is by watching a little child. They respond to the message. We had lunch with a couple from Florida and the man said that he had gone home to his family when he was saved and he got them all together and he has seven brothers and sisters. And he stood up and told all of them about Jesus Christ and they tore him to ribbons and they mocked him and they laughed at him and he said they're all into the Harvard thing and the MIT thing up in Boston. And they all fancied themselves as intellectuals. And he got all done with the whole thing and he had two little sisters. And they stood up with tears after his whole presentation and they said to the rest of the family, can't you see that what he's telling us about Jesus is really true?

Where'd they get that? He never met an eight-year-old atheist. They don't have any problem with that. That which may be known of God is visible to them. There's a heart of belief. That's why Jesus said, except you become as a little child, you don't enter the kingdom.

And then when they get older and they get sophisticated and they have to call their own shots, they turn their back on God. And so they become dark. First of all, it's vain empty reason and into the vacuum of vanity and emptiness plunges darkness and the lights go out. And that's why when the Apostle Paul set about to minister, the definition of his ministry is thus, I was sent to the Gentiles, Acts 26 18, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to what? To light.

Why? Because they're in darkness. Their evil heart is darkened. Their foolish heart is darkened. And we said last time that that is both intellectual darkness and moral darkness. And we see that throughout Scripture that darkness can refer to the intellect or to the morality of an individual. So man descends from knowing God, rejecting God, failing to glorify and thank God. He then is left with his own human reasoning and it plunges him into utter blackness and he is totally unable to discern what is right, what is wrong, what is true, what is a lie.

He's lost. And by the way, he has descended so far from God, of course, into his pit of darkness that there's no ability in him to restrain evil. That's why as countries and nations and people move away from God, they move into immorality and amorality because there are no restraints in human philosophy, ultimately. And that leads us to the third step, rationalization.

Remember that from last time, verse 22? Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Men have heard the truth, rejected the truth, and now they affirm that their darkness is the truth. And they stand up and say, we know the truth. And that tells me that they've lost touch with reality. They have totally lost touch with reality. They no longer know what truth is. Like Pilate said to Jesus, what is truth?

Who knows what that is? That is the character of lost man. He's utterly unable to ascertain what is true.

He doesn't know. In 2 Timothy 3, 13, you get the picture here. Evil men and seducers...listen...shall become worse and worse...listen to this...deceiving and being deceived. That is characteristic of human philosophy. They deceive others because they are totally and utterly self-deceived. They do not know the truth.

In Titus 3, 3, we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived. It is characteristic of unregenerate man that he's deceived. He doesn't know the truth. He can't know it.

He's in absolute blackness. But you know what he'll do inevitably? He'll stand there and rationalize that he knows the truth. And he'll spew out all of these supposed answers. An interesting statement made by Isaiah the prophet in chapter 47 verse 10, he says, "...thy wisdom and thy knowledge hath perverted thee and thou hast said in thy heart, I am and none else beside me." Isn't that interesting? You're so perverted by what you think you know that you've decided nobody knows anything but you.

You've got all the answers. What an illusion! That was the illusion by which Lucifer fell, incidentally. Thought he had all the answers. He thought wisdom resided with him. He looked at himself and saw the majesty and the beauty of his person as created by God and went to his head. He thought he would be superior to God. What an illusion!

So God has the right to judge man because man rejects him in the darkness of his twisted, perverted mind and then stupidly affirms that he's wise, his fantasy carrying him into that deception. But you know something? Even in the midst of his human philosophy and in the midst of his befuddled mind and the blackness of his heart, he has a residual knowledge that there must be God. Have you ever noticed that?

It's true. Even though he wants to be a philosopher, he wants to have it all reside with him. Ultimately he is a religious being and he can't deny that.

And so we come to the fourth in the four reasons for God's wrath, the fourth step in the descent of man, religion. From revelation to rejection to rationalization to religion in verse 23, because he cries out for a God. He's got to have a God.

There's the pulling of the supernatural dimension on his nature. He must worship. He has to bow someplace. Just as he breathes air, he must worship somewhere.

And he will. Even in the midst of his philosophy, he's got to have some God. And if he will not have the true God, he will invent a God that he can live with. And verse 23 tells us, so he changes the glory of the incorruptible God into an idol or an image like corruptible man and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Voltaire once said, God made man in his own image and man returned the favor.

And that's true. He falls all the way to the pit and he does the worst thing that a human being can do. He gets religious, the worst blasphemy against God, religion apart from the true God.

I want to show you how I know that. Go back to Exodus chapter 20. Exodus chapter 20. Now here, God lays down the rules, the standards. This is the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. Verse 1, and God spoke all these words saying. Here comes God's priority standards. I am the Lord thy God who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Here comes rule number one. Thou shalt have no other...what?...Gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. Rule number one, no other gods. Rule number two, no idols of any shape or form.

That is the highest standard. It is summed up in the statement of our Lord. This is the great commandment, love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength. In other words, utterly committed to the true God, no place for any other God. When men get religious apart from the true God, they have violated God's standard at its very beginning point.

It is the most blasphemous thing they can do. You've been listening to John MacArthur here on Grace To You. Along with teaching on this daily radio program, John is also chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, both in the Los Angeles area. And the title of his current study, Wicked World, Angry God. You know, we're nine days into this study from Romans 1, and think about this. We've only looked at eight verses. So, John, what statement does that make about the book of Romans? Well, maybe it makes a statement about how slowly I move through Scripture. But I do think it also makes a statement about the book of Romans. And it could be a statement about almost any book of the Bible, that there is a lot more there than on the surface. You know, I think people assume sometimes that you can just read through a verse of the Bible, make a few practical comments, and you've reflected the Word of God.

And that's not true. I get very, very discouraged sometimes when I turn on a television preacher, and I hear him read a verse and give some off-the-cuff explanation of the verse that may or may not be accurate, and then launch into some kind of application that may not even be what the verse intends to communicate, as opposed to digging down deep. I love digging down deep, because that's where you mine what God really deposited in these passages.

Let me encourage you to do something. I've written two volumes of commentary on Romans. Two volumes, about 700 pages maybe, explains the book of Romans in depth. Just start by ordering those two volumes and reading a little bit every day, and watch the profound impact on your life. Start with the book of Romans. It's available along with all the rest of the New Testament commentaries. Order your Romans commentaries today, or any of the other volumes you want. Start digging into the Word. It'll totally transform your life.

Yes it will, and thank you, John. And friend, something that John Calvin said, when you understand the book of Romans, it opens up a sure road for understanding the entire Bible. John MacArthur's commentaries on Romans will help you walk that sure road and unlock the riches of this amazing book. To purchase the Romans commentaries, contact us today. Call us at 855-GRACE, or you can also order the commentaries at our website,

The two Romans commentaries cost $19 each, and there are 31 other volumes to choose from in the MacArthur New Testament commentary series, and each volume is also $19. Again, to place your order, call 855-GRACE, or go to And while you're online, remember you can download all of John's messages, including the sermons from this current study, Wicked World, Angry God.

All of them are there in MP3 format, free of charge. We also have transcripts of those messages, and a lot more, available free of charge. Just log on to our website, And thanks for remembering that Grace to You is funded by listeners like you who have benefited from these broadcasts, and you want to give to help others benefit as well. You can mail a tax-deductible donation to Grace to You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Or you can call us at 855-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Tune in tomorrow to learn why God is just as angry with people who seem good as He is with criminals. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-31 05:24:51 / 2023-08-31 05:35:03 / 10

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