In a world full of self-worship and runaway passions, Romans 1 is arresting and sobering. This isn’t the sort of thing most folks want to talk about at your local coffee shop or over dinner and drinks. Paul directly confronts sin and brings us face to face with God’s righteous wrath. Indeed, God’s wrath, says Paul, is revealed against all ungodliness.
The judgment described is frightening. Perhaps the most frightening phrase is this: “God gave them up” (Romans 1:24). When our hearts are blind, false, desirous of carnality and evil, He gives us what we desire. To get what we want in this life is sometimes—dare I say most of the time?—not blessing, but judgment.
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” So also, unrighteousness anywhere is a threat to righteousness everywhere. The minute we begin condoning evil, justifying our selfishness, and excusing our pet sins, instead of repenting of them, we are asking for judgment: for blindness, darkness, waywardness, folly, debased minds, and perverse passions.
It is a slippery slope, and there aren’t any pit stops along the way. There is no “sort-of” righteous, no “halfway” committed. There is no neutrality. There is wisdom or folly, life or death. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).
However, this talk of judgment isn’t a load of pessimism. God’s righteous wrath is the only good response to a world of sin, and even to our own rebellious hearts. It flows from the simple fact that God is good and holy.
God’s holy wrath was visited upon Christ on the cross. His righteousness triumphs; yet in the midst of His wrath, He remembers mercy. Because of this, it is possible to both tremble and to trust.
I am comforted by Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:9: “But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all.” Folly can’t be hidden. Ungodliness and unrighteousness will be revealed for what they are. This is both sobering and glorious news. I am provoked to repentance for my own folly and unrighteousness, and also to thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness and grace.
May Christ Himself keep us and guard us from our own folly—from the love of self and the love of the world, from presumption and from pride. May He keep us in His grace, that we may fear Him all the days of our lives. Thanks be to God, and to Him alone be the glory!
Written by Caleb Faires