When I consider God’s wrath, I imagine fire raining from Heaven. I see images of terror and destruction; cities destroyed and people in panic. So when Paul says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness” (Romans 1:18), my first thought is sheer horror. But, that’s not the imagery the apostle describes at all. In fact, the “wrath” that is revealed is subtle and, often times, goes virtually unnoticed by its recipients.
This deserves some explanation.
Romans 1:18-32 is Paul’s explanation of the universal condemnation of mankind due to sin. The main charge is that man refuses to worship the Lord and give Him the praise He’s worth (1:21-25, 28). Despite the fact that God has revealed Himself to mankind, “in the things that have been made…they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him” (1:19-21). Bottom line, man has robbed God of His glory as the Creator in order to live for himself. Man has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (1:25).
So, we would expect God to unleash fire and brimstone like He did against Sodom and Gomorrah, right? Not exactly. In this section of Romans, God’s judgment comes in the form, not of fire from Heaven, but in the form of abandonment.
In response to the defilement of His glory, Paul says, “God gave them up” (1:24, 26, 28). He gave them over to their sinful passions and desires. God “gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (V.24). He gave them up to homosexuality (V.26-27). “He gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (V.28). In essence, God’s wrath, according to Paul in Romans 1, is giving people over to their wickedness. Or, in other words, He abandoned them. This is what happens when mankind turns its back on God. He, in return, turns His back on them. The most devastating effect of God’s wrath in this case is that most people don’t even realize what they’re up against. When God removes His favor, man sinks into more wickedness, more love for his sin, and more hatred for God. He doesn’t know he’ll soon face destruction.
Does this sound familiar? Is it possible that our nation, because of our increasing ungodliness, is in the process of facing God’s wrath of abandonment? We must at least consider it a possibility. Our nation is sinking deeper into idolatry (V.22), deeper into sexual immorality, particularly homosexuality (V.26-27), and deeper into overall wickedness (V.28-32). Therefore, why wouldn’t we expect God to do what is described in this portion of His Word? What we see as liberation, the Bible describes as condemnation. What we celebrate is actually the consequences of our sinful passions. Personally, I am convinced Romans 1:18-32 applies perfectly to our nation in this day and age. I believe the rampant immorality we are currently witnessing is the direct result of God slowly removing His hand of grace and giving our people over to what they desire. As time goes on, we probably won’t see fire from Heaven, we’ll see our nation move further away from God, and as we do so, we’ll see wickedness continue to rise.
Perhaps the words of Abraham Lincoln will be fulfilled. “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”