This series of posts is intended to be a progression from The Johannine Logos which deals with the Christian God as the necessary precondition to epistemology and will naturally presume much of that content. Those posts are linked here so that they may be referenced as needed.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
— Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)
This series of posts has looked at man’s innate knowledge of God as laid out in Romans 1:18-23 in that man was created in God’s image, as God’s image-bearers and with the light referred to in John 1:9 that gives every man the ability to interact with the world in which he lives. But man continually works hard to hold down that sense of Deity, to suppress it in a manner that denies the Creator and subsequently leads to the wrath of God revealed. It is this revelation of God’s wrath that takes us back around to Romans 1:18, the same verse with which this series began. But before looking at the revealing of God’s wrath, we should look at the revealing of God’s righteousness and for that, we need to go a little further back, particularly Romans 1:16-17.
The Righteousness Of God Revealed
Romans 1:16-17 reads:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”1
When Paul says that he is “not ashamed of the gospel” he essentially lists two reasons for why he is not ashamed, the first, that it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe it and the second that it reveals the righteousness of God. But how is it that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God?
There are certainly numerous views as to exactly how the gospel reveals the righteousness of God but for sake of this post I want to look at the aspect that was raised in Part 2 of this series. In that post I discussed the relationship to God that every human being has, that it is a position of right-standing with God. In this sense the gospel reveals the righteousness of God for those who believe by changing the recipients status of righteousness. Mounce clearly notes that “[t]he result is that people of faith are declared to be righteous.”2 Of course, this is through no work of our own. One of man’s greatest problems is that he insists on becoming righteous by his own means.
Contrast Christianity with every other system of thought and you will find that every other system of thought has at least one thing in common that Christianity does not. It is that non-Christian systems demand that you can do something to merit righteousness. Christianity, however, insists that this is impossible. In fact, our standing before God is entirely determined by our faith in Him – it is “by faith for faith” in that our right-standing begins in faith and is subsequently carried out through faith. We can do nothing but trust in God. As I wrote in my Salvation page “If our current predicament could be described as our current world and God being separated by a great chasm, the thinking of our current world desires a way to get to God on our own, that is, we as humanity must find a way to bridge the chasm. Christianity, on the other hand says that only God can bridge that chasm and provide a way to Him.”
But if we can only be declared righteous through trust in the gospel then without that trust we are by definition unrighteous.
The Wrath Of God Revealed
And about this unrighteousness Paul writes in Romans 1:18:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
It is in this unrighteousness that the pagan man suppresses the plain innate knowledge of God and it is against this unrighteousness that the wrath of God is revealed. The contrast between the righteousness of God being revealed from the gospel and the wrath of God being revealed from heaven needs to be stressed. Man is subject to God’s wrath which is a direct result of man’s unrighteousness, that is to say, God’s wrath is revealed because man has suppressed his own nature that was given him by God.
The importance of God’s wrath in a discussion of the righteousness of God being revealed cannot be overemphasized. If God is righteous3 then by nature He cannot let sin go unpunished or simply tolerate any acts of wickedness. Any judge who does such things is considered a crooked judge. The JFB commentary defines the wrath of God as “righteous vengeance against sin.”4 The first part of Proverbs 11:21 reads “Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished”.
All of that being said, Jesus commands us to preach the Gospel!5 Why? Because the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God. The Gospel is what allows a person to be in right-standing with their Creator again. That man would go so far as to suppress the truth they’ve been given, God goes farther to reveal His righteousness again. In Romans 10:4 Paul asks:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Think about that. Mankind, left to his own devices will do nothing but suppress the truth of God. Surely, how can anyone call on the name of the Lord if they have suppressed their innate sense of Him? It follows they must be told, but if they are never told, then how can they hear? The answer is that Christ crucified must be preached. God has provided a way in which man may be declared righteous and it is up to us to preach it to those who are perishing. Think of what 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. That “power of God” leads us right back to Romans 1:16 and the first reason Paul gives for not being ashamed of the gospel. As the second half of Proverbs 11:21 reads “but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.”
Mankind was created with an innate knowledge of God. We were made in God’s image, as God’s image-bearers. But mankind has suppressed, that is held down or imprisoned that innate knowledge in order to go his own way. Even the creation testifies to the Creator, but man has chosen to deny this and instead go so far as to worship the creation itself. Therefore our position to God is one that is an object of wrath.
But as 2 Peter 3:9 says God is not willing that any should perish and has chosen to reveal His righteousness through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is, though we are objects of God’s wrath, we can be declared righteous by faith in the message of the cross. But because mankind is suppressing the truth, this message must be preached. This is why Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for all who believe.
- All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, use: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. ↩
- Mounce, R. H. (1995). Vol. 27: Romans. The New American Commentary (73). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
- Righteousness may be thought of as just, as we would think of a just judge. ↩
- Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ro 1:18). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. ↩
- See Mark 16:15 ↩
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