Sunday, July 12, 2009

Romans 1:18-23:
The Righteous Wrath of God

[Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

I am using Carl Palmer's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text is:

(NET) Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people39 who suppress the truth by their40 unrighteousness,41 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them,42 because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people43 are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts44 were darkened. 22 Although they claimed45 to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings46 or birds or four-footed animals47 or reptiles.

39 tn The genitive ἀνθρώπων could be taken as an attributed genitive, in which case the phase should be translated “against all ungodly and unrighteous people” (cf. “the truth of God” in v. 25 which is also probably an attributed genitive). C. E. B. Cranfield takes the section 1:18–32 to refer to all people (not just Gentiles), while 2:1–3:20 points out that the Jew is no exception (Romans [ICC], 1:104–6; 1:137–38).

40 tn “Their” is implied in the Greek, but is supplied because of English style.
41 tn Or “by means of unrighteousness.” Grk “in (by) unrighteousness.”
42 tn Grk “is manifest to/in them.”
43 tn Grk “they”; the referent (people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
44 tn Grk “heart.”
45 tn The participle φάσκοντες (phaskontes) is used concessively here.

46 tn Grk “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God in likeness of an image of corruptible man.” Here there is a wordplay on the Greek terms ἄφθαρτος (aphthartos, “immortal, imperishable, incorruptible”) and φθαρτός (phthartos, “mortal, corruptible, subject to decay”).

47 sn Possibly an allusion to
Ps 106:19–20.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
From the Note Sheet:
  • No amount of knowledge, education, technology, cultural advance, sophistication, etc. – has overcome the problem of sin in the human heart.
  • God is unalterably opposed to everything that mars His creation and good purpose.
  • The problem of sin is not just wrong behavior, but wrong thought patterns that lead to wrong behavior.
  • The great sin is suppressing the truth of God – and replacing Him with some part of His creation.
  • There are great benefits of knowing “the wrath of God”:
  1. Why does Paul begin with “the wrath of God”?
  2. How is “the wrath of God” related to “the righteousness of God”?
  3. How is God’s “wrath” our only hope for a sinless eternity?
  4. What can be known about God from creation? What does creation not reveal about Him?
  5. Do we “suppress the truth”?
  6. In what ways do people today “exchange the glory of God” for something else?
Carl Palmer: The wrath of God is not to be confused with human anger - that sudden outburst that flies off the handle.
The wrath of God is the settled, consistant, pure, deeply felt, eternal rejection of evil
One of the clearest analogies I have heard is in the audio when Carl talks about a mother and her hatred of the cancer she is battling in her son.

Walter Taylor:
Thus the whole section from verse 18 on is couched in what Hays calls mythico-historical language, in which the whole pagan world is implicated. Paul's "exchange of truth for a lie," verse 25, is his way of expressing the primordial sin that continues as the fundamental stance of humanity. The charge is a corporate indictment of pagan society, not a narrative about any one individual.
My comments: I have quoted this passage a fair number of times. First, because it is one of those "natural law" kind of passages; and second because it is a run-up to the laundry list of "sins" at the end of Romans 1 including the section on homosexuality.

The natural law element is important. One of those questions presented to followers of Christ is "how can God send someone to hell if they just didn't know?" Paul presents here that they do know - that "they are without excuse". Not only are God's attributes visible in His creation, but one of the translations of verse 19 is that "what can be known about God is manifest in them". Paul then is saying that not believing in God is not a matter of insufficient information, but a matter of will - we decide not to believe what is manifest both in the world and within ourselves. When the truth of God begins to rise up around us or within us we "push it down" - we suppress it. See also:
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
Appendix: This section is included in a textual issue one reader brought up

Next: Romans 1:24-32 -- "God Gave Them Over"

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I have been pondering and searching my Bible and all around racking my brain for weeks now on the subject of, will people go to hell if they have not heard. I am now fully aware of why. Instead of people looking upon the Sun and thinking what formed this and then seeking after God they stop and worship that which should be worshiped had created. Also as I was reading my brain started to bubble as to other's sin and how it effects thoughs around. As I read through the Old Testament, I find that one individuals sin has a drastic effect on those around; somtimes reaching the entire country or nation. I find that is true today as always. To denie the call and truth of Jesus is sin. and I see that sin reaching and effecting the world. For instance Oprah's flat denial of Christ (sin). Oprah has a seemingly unending supply of resources and clout but because she sinns by denying the Truth of Christ, how many will feel the shock waves of her sin. Make no mistake I'm not the one who will Judge Opra, I have to many planks in my own I but to see the fruits of so many laborerors to deny Christ is heart wrenching. My name is steve and my grammar and spelling are sometimes lacking.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly