“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” Romans 1:18-19
In our last study in Romans we looked at the history of the ungodly and unrighteous suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
In this study we will begin looking at the purpose for God’s wrath.
One of the questions I hear often from atheists and agnostics is what right God has to be angry with the way people behave “if” He created them. While the question is sometimes asked with the belief that it is a “defeater” of theism, it is not. We read in Genesis 1:31 that “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” God said that after creating Adam and Eve. So, why would God reveal His wrath from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men if everything He created was “very good”?
The answer is found in Genesis 2 where God warned Adam about eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We know from Eve’s statement in Genesis 3 that Adam had shared that warning with her –
“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
We know from what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:14 that “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Adam disobeyed God even though he knew the truth. That’s why Paul wrote –
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned … For as in Adam all die …” Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22
As we saw in our last study, Adam suppressed the truth in an act that can be understood as “unrighteousness.” God told Adam the truth that in the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would “surely die.” Adam ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and God revealed His wrath on that same day –
“To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19
One positive note we can take away from the encounter is what God said to the serpent (Satan) –
“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
We will see how important that promise is as we continue our study of Romans, but for now let’s return to the question of why God reveals His wrath against people.
“… because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
διοτι το γνωστον του θεου φανερον εστιν εν αυτοις ο γαρ θεος αυτοις εφανερωσεν
Literal readings of Romans 1:19 include – “because the known of God manifest is among them God indeed to them has revealed” and “because the thing known of God manifest is among them for to them God manifested.”
What is “the known” or “thing known” of God mean?
διοτι το γνωστον του θεου
διοτι is a conjunction and means “because, on this account, for.” It is used emphatically and is understood as meaning “on account of that.”
γνωστον is an adjective and is an experiential “knowledge” (from the verb γινώσκω – I come to know, learn, realize through first-hand experience). This experiential knowledge is του θεου – of God. Humans have an experiential knowledge of God. How so?
φανερον εστιν εν αυτοις
φανερον is an adjective which means “apparent, clear, visible, manifest.”
God Is Not Hidden
Another question I hear from atheists and agnostics is – “why is God hidden? Why doesn’t God show Himself to us if He exists?” The Apostle Paul made it clear that God is NOT hidden. God has shown His existence “clearly, visibly,” εστιν εν αυτοις – “among them.” The word εν can be understood to mean “inside, within.” The experiential knowledge of God is “inside, within” people. How did that happen?
One important note before we move forward – God began His creative relationship with the first humans through self-revelation. By that, I mean that the first humans (Adam and Eve) saw their Creator.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed … Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die … And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man … And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself … therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 2:7-8, 16-17, 21-22; 3:8-10, 23-24
What we see here is that God had a personal, hands-on relationship with Adam and Eve. He “formed” man from the dust of the ground, “breathed” into his nostrils the breath of life, “put” the man into a garden that was east of Eden where God had created him, gave him a verbal “warning” about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “caused” a deep sleep to fall on the man, “took” one of the man’s ribs and “made” the first woman from it, and “brought” the woman to the man. The man and woman “heard the sound” of the Lord God “walking in the garden” in the cool of the day. God “spoke” to them and they “answered.”
What we read here is not a God who “hid” Himself from the humans He created. We know from several Scriptures (e.g. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Hebrews 1:2-3) that Jesus Christ, God the Son, created all things including Adam and Eve –
- God the Son “formed” Adam and breathed life into his body
- God the Son “created” a garden east of Eden and “put” Adam there to tend and keep it
- God the Son verbally “warned” Adam about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
- God the Son “caused” a deep sleep to fall on Adam
- God the Son “took” one of Adam’s ribs and “made” Eve
- God the Son “brought” Eve to Adam
- Adam and Eve “heard the sound” of God the Son “walking in the garden” in the cool of the day
- God the Son “spoke” to Adam and Even and they “answered”
Hidden? Where in this historical record do you see a “hidden” God? The Son of God, who is the “image of the invisible God,” “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person,” revealed Himself to Adam and Eve in the garden. There was no “hiding” on God’s part. Adam and Eve did the hiding – “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8)
Picking up again in Romans 1:19 –
ο γαρ θεος αυτοις εφανερωσεν – “God indeed to them has revealed”
God “revealed” the experiential knowledge of Him within every human being. He is our Creator. We are alive because His “breath” is in us.
That’s interesting in the context of the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
The Greek word translated “revealed” in Romans 1:18 is ἀποκαλύπτω. The word translated “revealed” in Romans 1:19 is εφανερωσεν. What do we learn from how these different Greek words are used in the same context?
ἀποκαλύπτω is a verb that means “uncover, bring to light, reveal.” εφανερωσεν is a verb that means “make clear, visible, or manifest.” It is similar to φανερόν which Paul used a few words earlier. God’s wrath is “uncovered, brought to light” because what was “made clear, visible” is inside people. While there are things about God that were hidden until revealed (e.g. His wrath), His existence was not and is not hidden. In fact, it is very clear.
We’ll look at how God has made His existence “clear” to people in the next part of our study.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”