Calvary Road Baptist Church


Romans 1.18-20


Something is wrong. You’ve had this nagging feeling that something is wrong for weeks, but you didn’t want to worry about it, and you didn’t want to take time out of your busy schedule to tend to the matter. The only reason you decided to call the doctor’s office is because you could no longer push from your thoughts the concern that the problem may be serious, may be debilitating, may be life threatening. After all, you do have a family history. So here you are in the examination room. After forty-five minutes in the waiting room spent filling out the questionnaire and then looking through ragged and torn magazines, you now sit on the table in a paper gown. You’re a little chilled, especially your feet. You’re somewhat bored slash nervous. Now, for your own good, and before the doctor walks through the door, you have to make a decision. You know something is wrong with you, or you would not be in the doctor’s office. But the decision you need to make is this: Do you or do you not really want to know what is wrong?

Many people don’t want to know what is wrong, so they avoid going to the doctor until it is too late for a possible remedy. That’s just the ostrich syndrome of sticking your head in the sand and hoping the problem will go away. Are you like that? But it is not a given that everyone in the doctor’s office wants to know the truth, either. Some patients want the doctor to equivocate and fib a little, telling them everything is okay when it is not okay. Perhaps some of you are like that. But to do yourself some real good and to give the doctor a fighting chance of helping you you have to want to know the whole truth about your physical problem. You have to want the doctor to give you a complete diagnosis.

My friend, the Apostle Paul is a spiritual doctor. He has made an examination of man’s ills. And in Romans 1.18 through Romans 3.23 he lists the symptoms of the patient and comes to a very definite conclusion regarding the patient’s diagnosis. In Romans 1.18-20 Paul begins to describe mankind’s severe spiritual symptoms by taking the first look at the particular symptoms of Gentiles, pagans, with some of them being referred to as having been turned over to a reprobate mind.

Read with me as we note the first of the characteristic symptoms of a Gentile’s sinfulness . . . the ways in which willful man’s blindness is shown:


18    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

19    Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20    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.




Notice what verse 18 tells you about God’s wrath:


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”


First, you see the origin of God’s wrath. Take note of the event that is described. Just as can be seen in Romans 1.17, Romans 1.18 contains the verb translated “is revealed.” And since the verb is a present tense verb, we know that something is currently being revealed. That is, just as the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to verse 17, was God’s means of revealing on an ongoing basis the righteousness of God from faith to faith, so the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ is also God’s means of revealing on an ongoing basis the subject of verse 18. Which brings you to the wrath that is described. Please notice that it is the wrath of God. And what is the wrath of God? This is something you need to understand. God’s wrath is the holy and righteous indignation of God toward your sin that is manifested by punitive action, by punishment, by violence, if you will. “But I just can’t see God having wrath. God is love.” If you think that way, then you don’t know what love is. You’ve not seen wrath until you’ve seen the wrath of love against someone who has harmed a loved one. Away with this nonsensical and one-dimensional conception of God. The Bible very clearly establishes that God is quite capable of wrath and indignation against a sinner. And when God’s holiness is outraged, as occurs when you dare to sin against the Holy One of Israel, wrath will surely follow. So, the preaching of the gospel just as surely is used of God to reveal His wrath as it is to reveal His mercy and His salvation. We’ve seen that by noticing the event described and the wrath described. But also notice the region Paul describes. Think that God’s wrath consists only of the various little hassles and disruptions of life that frustrate and annoy you? Then think again. Paul does not describe the irritations from petty circumstances beyond your control, but the wrath of God from heaven. And what comes from heaven is not irritation but radiation. What comes from heaven is not frustration but fire. What comes from heaven is not disruption but destruction.

But so much for the origin of God’s wrath. Second, there is the objective of God’s wrath. That is, what is the target of God’s wrath from heaven? Is it indiscriminate punitive action, or is it the intelligent response of God against particular individuals for sins they have committed? Paul declares that God reveals His wrath against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” That lets you know the wrath of God is not like the irrational ravings and lashing out of a man who has lost his temper and kicks a can or punches a wall, but the very rational and intelligently directed fury of a holy God toward the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. But are ungodliness and unrighteousness two separate ideas? They are not. Ungodliness, which refers to your irreverence toward God, and unrighteousness, which is your lack of standing before God, are simply two symptoms of your condition and every lost man’s condition. And when God vents His fury He will do so against you who are lost, whose life exhibits to a greater or lesser degree these characteristics. Thus, God’s wrath is the manifestation of His godliness against your ungodliness, and the manifestation of His righteousness against your unrighteousness.

To review, we have considered the origin of God’s wrath and the objective of God’s wrath. Third, there is the obituary of God’s wrath. When a notable person dies the local newspaper often runs an obituary. An obituary is a brief biographical sketch of someone who has died that describes his characteristics. The last phrase of verse 18 is a Biblical obituary of lost men:


“Who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”


Notice what this obituary says to you. First, it refers to your opportunity. A lost person like you, no matter who you are, when you live, or where you happened to be born, has been exposed to the truth. There has never been a man, there is not presently a man, and there will never be a man, who can truthfully say that he was not exposed to certain life-changing truths about the God of creation. But this obituary also reveals something else about you. In addition to your opportunity, it reveals your obstinacy because you hold the truth in unrighteousness. See the word “hold”? It translates a word that means to suppress or to hold down. Perhaps you do not do it consciously, but you do just as surely do it. By the living out your unrighteous life, you suppress the truth, and you hide and conceal that which could and would lead to your salvation from sin. You also suppress the fact that God’s wrath awaits you. God’s wrath is unconcealed everywhere but in your unsaved mind.




Verse 19: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.”


Observe two things about the truth contained in verse 19:

First, God’s witness is manifest in you. We all realize that you cannot fully know God. He is too immense. He is too profound. He is too sublime. He is too different from you and me. He is so far removed from anything that you use for reference points or boundary markers that you really do have difficulty comprehending Him. Understanding that you know what we all know, primarily, by comparing and contrasting what we are familiar with what we are not familiar with, it is then easy to see why God is not fully knowable. To what do you and I compare to know God fully? These things understood Paul points out here that there are certain things about God which are knowable. And what things about God are knowable he describes as “that which may be known of God.” These things, these facts about God which help you to understand certain things about Him, have been manifest in you or revealed in you.

And how does this manifestation occur? Second observation. God shows it to you:


“. . . God hath shewed it unto them.”


We’ll see in a moment that Paul is talking about showing to you the things of nature which tell you about the God, Who created all things. But the point I seek to make here is, God is undiscoverable. You do not discover things about God at all. Oh no. For you to know things about God, He must choose to reveal those things to you. And the assertion made in verse 19 is that God has done just that. He has chosen through nature, natural revelation the Bible scholars call it, to reveal those things to you which can be known about Him. Again, it must be said that though you may deny the existence of God (if you are an atheist), or you may deny that God is knowable (if you are an agnostic), God has declared that not only can truths about Him be known, but that He has seen fit actually to reveal them to you, as Psalm 19.1-3 declares:


1      The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

2      Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

3      There is no speech nor language, where their voice [which is to say the voice of the heavens] is not heard.




Verse 20: “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.”


Notice the description of God’s witness:


“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.”


Three phrases here need a closer look: What does Paul mean when he tells you that the “invisible things are clearly seen?” Isn’t that a contradiction? Not really. The word “seen” doesn’t refer to seeing with your physical eyes. You often use the phrase “I see” concerning things not seen but understood. Don’t you? This is what Paul is referring to. So, not only are these things understood, but Paul tells us that you have understood truths about the invisible things of God from the creation of the world, from the beginning.


“Being understood by the things that are made.”


Friends, from Greece to Rome, from the South Sea Islands to South America, there are examples of men never exposed to the truth of God’s Word who have, nevertheless, realized from conclusions they have arrived at by looking at the world and universe around them that there is a God, that He is all-powerful, and that He is divine. Which is exactly what Paul next writes: “Even his eternal power and Godhead.” This, then, is the description of God’s witness of Himself to you in nature, in His creation.

And what is the consequence of God’s witness?


“So that they are without excuse.”


What are we to make of this statement? Did God create the universe to have a reason to justify the outpouring of His wrath on lost mankind? No. I don’t believe that’s the thrust of what Paul is saying. This is not the reason God has chosen to reveal Himself to you. This is not the reason He has decided to make it possible for that which is potentially knowable of Him actually to be known, so He would have cause to vent His wrath upon you. Since God elsewhere describes judgment as His “strange work,” we have no cause for believing that God revealed Himself, that He left witness of Himself, so that He could pour out wrath from heaven on unsaved people like you. But it is a result. Though He did not leave witness of Himself to have cause to pour out His wrath, the fact that He did leave witness of Himself means that you who have not received His witness are left without excuse of any kind.


“Doc, what’s wrong with me?”

“My friend, you have a terminal illness. Though I’ve seen the symptoms many times before, I’ve never successfully treated a patient who has been sick in this way.”

“But what symptoms did you find, Doc?”

“Well, I don’t have time to go over all of them, so I’ll review the first type of symptom that you have, which is in itself conclusive. You are blind. I know that you think you aren’t blind, but I must say that it’s spiritual blindness I’m referring to not the physical capacity to see.”

You must understand that though God’s wrath is unconcealed; you have sinfully suppressed the truth of it. Though God’s witness is unmistakable, in your willful and intentional blindness you have mistaken it. And though His witness is universal, you have nevertheless ignored it.

“But Doc, what can I do?”

“You can’t do anything.” “What will happen to me?”

That certain wrath of God, which you have denied the existence of, shall someday rain down upon you, and you will spend the rest of your eternal existence in the lake of fire, suffering the wrath that you denied. In fact, God’s wrath has already begun to be poured out on you to some degree.

“Am I doomed?”

Friend, without Christ you are doomed. Your spiritual blindness is irreparable. Your destiny is irreversible. Only when Jesus Christ, the great Physician of sin-sick souls, steps in and works His miraculous healing of the soul will the blind man see, and the man under wrath goes to heaven.

How about you? Without Christ, you and I, and everyone is without excuse of any kind before God. But with Christ excuse is not needed. If you are here this morning in need of the Savior’s love, in need of the Savior’s forgiveness, in need of the Savior’s powerful remedy for sin . . . come.

Don’t continue to hold the truth in unrighteousness. Clearly see the invisible reality that there is a God in heaven to be reckoned with and make today your day of reckoning.

“But why should I come?” you may ask. Come because the Lord Jesus Christ directed you to come. In Matthew 11.28-30 we read these words:


28    Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29    Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30    For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Perhaps your heart and soul are weighed down by your sin, and by your suppression of the truth. You know you are lost. You know you are sinful. You know you stand condemned before God. My friend, you need a Savior and His salvation, and it is yours who hear His voice and obey Him. Therefore, I urge you to come to Christ for salvation from all your sins full and free.


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