Romans Lesson 16 - The Other Side of God
Galatians 6:7 says, 'Whatever one sows, that he will also reap.' Unfortunately many people ignore the truth of this spiritual law until it's too late. So instead of waiting for experience to remind you just how devastating sin is, let this message serve as your reminder.
The Other Side Of God
Sometimes the truth of scripture is a candle, bringing warmth and comfort – other times it is a blowtorch cutting through steel. Sometimes it’s a warm crackling fire-place, other times, it’s a raging forest fire. Sometimes the Word tosses a firecracker of truth into our hearts that rattles our windows and jolts us awake – other times it sends armored tanks rumbling and crashing right into the living room of our hearts and minds.
What the Apostle Paul will deliver over the next 64 verses, from chapter 1 verse 18 through the middle part of chapter 3 is the terrifying, deafening, devastating truth of God’s wrath, and the danger all of humanity is in.
In these verses we are brought face to face with the fury of God. We are about to see, not only the depraved nature of condemned mankind that we’d really rather not review, but we will discover another side of God Himself that we’d really rather not discuss.
In this passage, we will face the truth about the anger of God. We will uncover the reality that while God is a God who loves, He is also of God who hates. While He is a God of mercy, He is also a God of justice. While He not only created an eternal heaven, He also created an eternal Hell. That mankind not only is His cherished creation, it also is His condemned and fallen creation.
The Apostle, by way of inspiration, takes us into a courtroom. And over the next few chapters Paul will bring before the bench of God’s holiness and justice four different categories of people:
Cat. #1: The unbeliever who has never heard the gospel;
Cat. #2: The moral man who thinks he’s impressed God;
Cat. #3: The Jew who thinks he was born into the kingdom;
Cat. #4: The Gentile who thinks he’s good enough to get in.
But the Divine gavel crashes down and the jury of God’s holiness delivers the verdict: Guilty! “There is none righteous, no not even one . . . for all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10 & 23).
And of humanity is condemned and defenseless before God’s holy wrath and righteous anger and terrible fury. Is it any wonder that the wrath of God – the fury and anger of God would be an unpopular attribute of His.
You’ve heard a lot of sermons, “God really loves you”, but have you ever heard one that said, “God is really mad at you.”
We don’t think about God being mad or furious or angry or wrathful. And that, I believe is part of Satan’s strategy who knows full well that if people ever found out, they might cry out for God’s mercy and pardon.
What I find interesting is that this very attribute of anger is the beginning point of Paul’s formal teaching. He has ended his introduction; he has concluded his personal remarks of deep affection for the Roman believers and his gospel passion. But now he begins in verse 18 with the body of his letter and he begins by writing those terrifying words, “For the wrath of God is revealed...”
You think, what a terrible way to start – why not start with the grace of God. Paul is going to turn everybody off – this is not the way to begin evangelizing anybody. It would be better to start with something like, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, right?” “Come to Jesus,” I heard sung the other day on the radio, “and all your problems will be solved.” That’s how you win people!
That’s one of the strategies of the enemy of Christ’s church who seeks to silence the truth of God’s anger and wrath from the pulpits and ministries of our land.
Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the leading voices for liberal theology in the 1920’s and 30’s. He pastored a huge church where he was renowned for his oratorical mastery. He wrote best selling books and influenced seminaries and pastors all across the country with his liberal slant.
He wrote an article for the Harpers Magazine, the July 1928 which opened the flood gates for many gullible church leaders and issue where he rebuked pastors for actually trying to teach the Bible verse be verse. He wrote, “Preachers who pick out texts from the Bible and then proceed to give their historic settings, their logical meaning in the context, their place in the theology of the writer, with a few practical reflections appended, are grossly misusing the Bible. Nobody who speaks to the public so assumes that the vital interests of the people are located in the meaning of words spoken two thousand years ago.”
Oh?? But the words of this Book are sweeter than honey, yea they are sweeter than the honeycomb. The words of this Book are entirely profitable, so that the believer is equipped for every good thing.
But Fosdick was heard and followed by thousands. He was the inventor, in modern church history, of what we call today, seeker driven churches.
In those churches, the desire to relate to the unbeliever supersedes the desire to convict and indoctrinate. In them, preaching begins with the needs of the audience rather than the character of God.
In this same article, Fosdick wrote words that spelled out a frightening prophecy of ministry that has become common place even among churches that consider themselves to be evangelical. He wrote, “Who seriously supposes that one in a hundred of the congregation cares, to start with, what Moses, Isaiah, Paul or John meant in those verses. [So the preacher] should not end, but start with thinking about the audiences vital (felt) needs, and then let the whole sermon be organized around a constructive endeavor to meet those needs. . . .all this is good sense and good psychology.”
Fosdick quote in Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur, p. 76
Those who follow Harry Emerson Fosdick’s methods and pseudo-theology are greater in number now than ever before, in fact, the entire church growth methods popularized today are nothing more than a repackaging of Harry Emerson Fosdick .
One element of this repackaging is found in the writings of influential pollster named George Barna. He wrote in his book, “Marketing the Church” these words that he not only believed but has convinced thousands of pastors in our day to believe it as gospel truth. It isn’t difficult to hear the echo of Fosdick within his words; Barna championed this thought: “It is critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign. If our advertising is going to stop people in the midst of hectic schedules and cause them to think about what we’re saying, our message has to be adapted to the needs of the audience. When we produce [communication] that is based on the take-it-or-leave-it proposition, rather than on a sensitivity to people’s needs, people will invariably reject our message.”
This philosophy has spawned a myriad of ministry techniques and strategies that have nothing to do with truth or scriptural example.
Barna goes on in that book to state, “[The Apostle] Paul was one of the all time great tacticians. He studied strategies and tactics that would enable him to attract the most prospects and realize the greatest number of conversions.”
Barna is quoted in Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur, p. 76
Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, the record of scripture says the exact opposite. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “When I came to you brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom (in others words, I didn’t have any strategy or clever method up my sleeve); For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God, (I Corinthians 2:1-5)
In other words, Paul said, “When I came to you, the most important thing was not you but Christ; what mattered was not that I related to you but that you related to Christ; in fact, I didn’t want to know that much about you compared to the fact that I really wanted you to know much about Him!”
Paul said, “And I delivered to you the truth of Christ crucified – that is, Christ who suffered the wrath of God for the sake of sinners. Christ who paid the penalty of hell on behalf of sinful humanity.”
The truth is, preaching about the anger of God and teaching the truth of God’s wrath does not hinder evangelism, it enables it. It promotes it. It does not lead to false conversion, it leads to true conversion.
To summarize, the fury of God is an unwanted attribute. It is unwanted first of all by the nature of man which is unaccountable to Biblical direction
In other words, people want to behave any way they want.
To talk of judgment you have to imply the existence of a judge. So it’s better to not believe in a God who is a judge otherwise He might do what a judge does and render a verdict.
So let’s just talk about His love. Let’s emphasize the positive parts of the Bible. Let’s memorize the golden rule and the Lord’s prayer. But don’t repeat Revelation 20:15, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So we need to get rid of God. If we can get rid of God as a judge, then there is no enforcer of sin. And if there is no enforcer of sin, there really isn’t going to be a standard of truth. And if there isn’t any standard of truth there won’t be any measurement of right and wrong.
So you can do whatever you think is right for you - no matter what it is.
Should it take us by surprise that, as God’s wrath and holiness are abandoned, so are moral and physical restraints abandoned and human nature given full reign to act itself out.
In 1950, only 170 teenagers in all of America were arrested for committing a serious crime – that entire year – 170 only. Today, and every day there are at least 1,600 teenagers serving time in adult jails.
During the next 24 hours, more than 35,000 Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease – 13 million people this year. And teenagers will contract syphilis at the rate of 623 a day.
We are experiencing the degeneration of society predicted by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1. To read this chapter is to read American History. And the history of any nation who thought that God.
When Paul wrote to the Romans, they were self-destructing. Bulimia was part of there most favored religions where they worshipped in drunken orgies and then vomited and then feasted again and vomited again, only to repeat the cycle.
Child prostitution flourished and political leaders were known for their pedophilia. Bisexuality was considered balanced. Seneca wrote that the elite socialite women dated the months of their calendar by the names of their husbands.
Rome was shrouded with darkness. And Paul’s letter arrived. As a flaming missile it landed on Italy’s shore. And the first thing Paul told his readers had already been spoken by the prophets, a message Greece and Rome had already mocked for generations.
God is a God of wrath. He loves righteousness and He hates sin.
But Rome would vote in favor of darkness.
We also in this country are experiencing an encroaching darkness. And we seem to be voting in favor of it.
In the 1940’s the Public Education System rated their top ten problems:
chewing gum in class alcohol abuse
cutting in line robbery
dress code violations pregnancy
running in the halls drug addiction
And the number one problem in 1940 was “talking out of turn” – contrast with the number one problem in 1990 which was physical assault.
And on the same day that girl in Virginia was barred from reading her Bible on the school bus – on that same day as on average every day, 135,000 kids brought their guns to school.
We seem to be voting in favor of the darkness too.
Secondly, the wrath and fury of God toward sin is unwanted by the religion of man which is independent of Biblical doctrine.
The nature of man doesn’t want to hear of the wrath of God because he wants to be able to behave any way he wants.
And here also, the religion of man doesn’t want to hear of the wrath of God because it wants to believe any thing it wants.
Give it mediums and astrology; give it relativism and inward journeys; give it yin yang or crystals, yoga or astral travel. Man wants the ability to believe whatever he wants to believe without correction or dogma.
The L.A. Times carried an article a few months ago on feng shui (pronounced fung shway). It’s a raging phenomenon on the west coast, luring upscale consumers with the promise that simply rearranging yo9ur furniture will bring spiritual peace. It’s based on the Chinese philosophy that objects release a force of spiritual energy that can bring good tidings like health, success and prosperity. According to CBS News, there are over 300 Feng Shui consultants in Southern California alone. It’s a watered down version of Hinduism with encourages people to redecorate their homes and offices, this time along the lines of a pagan temple. Make things face a certain direction, that windows open all the way rather than slide up and down, that the couch faces the door so as to not block positive energy when people walk in, etc., etc.
What’s interesting is that this secular news article cut to the chase in it’s last statement. “Decorating requires less soul-searching than religious study. Furniture won’t hold people accountable for their actions. You may have to buy new stuff, but you won’t have to change yourself at all.”
.A. Times quoted in World Magazine, October 7, 2000
This new, self styled, self concocted religion and others like it is far more in demand than the old time religion. Because the old time religion had a God who held you accountable, not a sofa you rearranged.
Go all the way back to the last spiritual awakening we had in America. You’ll have to travel back to the 18th century and listen as one influential man preached a sermon that brought an powerful revival. His most famous sermon was entitled, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God, Jonathan Edwards preached to his New England congregation, “The pit is prepared. The fire is made ready. The furnace is now hot, ready to receive them. The flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is sharp and held over them, and the pit has opened her mouth under them . . . O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in.”
When Jonathan Edwards preached that sermon, men wept and women fainted as they cried out for God’s mercy and pardon. They were brought face to face with this other side of God and it caused them to cry out for God to meet their greatest need; when they came face to face through a Biblical description of the fury of God, they repented and all of life began to revolve around Him and not them.
But man’s nature resists this truth of accountability to God’s wrath because he wants to behave any way he wants. Man’s religion resists accountability to the truth of God’s word, because he wants to believe anything he wants.
Thus, man’s behavior and his beliefs must reject God’s wrath and God’s word. For mankind can tolerate anything but a righteous standard of holiness and the implications that such a standard bring to every human being. So God’s holy presence must be slowly but surely “erased” from the memory and practice of modern society.
A recent news release illustrates this “erasing process” was quoted in a recent email to me. It originated from the American Family Association. “In the wake of the U. S. Supreme Courts recent decision making school-initiated prayers on public address systems before high school football games unconstitutional, many Christians have responded in a variety of ways. One High School Principal in eastern Tennessee, chose not to pray over the PA system, but instead used the opportunity to remind the football fans that night why it is important they should pray. Mr. Jody McCloud, the principal of Roane County High School in Kingston, TN, stepped to the microphone on Friday evening, September 1, 2000 and spoke these words which were picked up by Agape Press and released. “It has always been the custom at Roane County High School football games to say a prayer and play the National Anthem to honor God and Country. Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a prayer is now a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it an alternate lifestyle, and if someone is offended, that’s OK. I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity by dispensing condoms and calling it “safe sex”. If someone is offended, that’s OK. I can even use this facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a viable means of birth control. If someone is offended, no problem. I can designate a school day as earth day and involve students in activities to religiously worship and praise the goddess, mother earth, and call it ecology. I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depict people with traditional Christina convictions as simple-minded and ignorant and call it “enlightenment.” However if anyone uses this facility to honor God and ask Him to bless this game with safety and good sportsmanship, Federal Case Law is violated. Apparently we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except God and His commandments. Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent. For this reason, I shall “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and refrain from praying over the PA system. However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank God, and ask Him in the name of Jesus to bless this event, please feel free to do so by yourself. As far as I know, that’s not against the law – yet!”
Jody McLoud, Roane County High School Kingston, TN
While the fury of God is an unwanted attribute of His, it is however An Undeniable Attribute
Paul goes on in verse 18 of Romans chapter 1 by saying, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.”
Now you need to know the difference between God’s anger and man’s anger. God’s wrath and man’s wrath.
They are worlds apart.
There are two primary words in the New Testament for wrath or anger. One word is thumos (qumos) – it gives us the English transliterated words thermos or thermometer.
It is rarely used of in relation to God, and in fact, Paul never uses it when he refers to God’s anger which he speaks of 10 different times in the Book of Romans.
The word thumos refers to red-hot, uncontrolled anger. Thumos is the word we would use when we refer to road rage – that feeling you get every morning on I40. The root word literally means to “rush along fiercely”. That does sound like you on the interstate now doesn’t it?! It could be translated, “to be in a heat of violence”, or “panting rage.”
The point of thumos is that it usually refers to someone who is reacting with rage – uncontolled emotion – temporary insanity.
I can remember one moment of thumos in my childhood. I was in the back yard with a boy who was at least 100 pounds heavier and stronger than I was. I don’t remember what he was doing, but whatever it was he was not provoking me to love and good works. I remember taking all I could and then balling my hand up into a little pint sized fist and . . . the next thing I knew, he was holding his bloody nose – there was that awkward moment of “what do I do now?” And I could see in that instant the look in his eyes meant I was in deep trouble. I turned and began to run, he was right behind me. At the edge of the yard was a chain link fence about 4 ½ feet high. The only thing between me and a happy childhood was that fence. I never even touched it – he on the other hand ran into it – huffed and puffed over it, but by then I was gone – running on into the wonderful prospect of a longer life.
Thumos is a problem. The anger of man is often uncontrolled and disastrous – you don’t always escape the consequences either.
The word, however used for the anger of God is the Greek word, orge (orgh). It refers to settled conviction. It is, John Murray wrote, “holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.” It is an abiding hatred of evil; an anger that is never out of bounds but motivated by holy righteousness.
The Old Testament records for us this aspect of God’s character in:
Psalm 90:11. Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
Psalm 76:7. You, even You, are to be feared; And who may
stand in Your presence when once You are angry? 8. You
caused judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared
and was still; 9. When God arose to judgment...”
Psalm 2 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2. The kings of the
earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed,
saying, 3. “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the
heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify
them in His fury. . .10. Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the
earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. 12. Do homage to the Son, that
He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are
all who take refuge in Him!
Study at some point the illustrations of God’s wrath in the Old Testament accounts of the garden and God’s judgment on Adam and Eve and all of creation (Genesis 3). The flood in Genesis 6 where God drowned the entire human race except for 8 people who believe His word and got on the ark. Then God’s fury unleashed in Genesis 19 on the perverted cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the Old Testament there are more than 20 words that refer to God’s wrath. In fact, there are 600 passages on the subject of God’s anger.
This led Authur Pink to make the observation that if you took out your concordance you will find more references in Scripture on the anger and fury of God than on His love and tenderness.
J.I. Packer once said, “One of the most striking things about the Bible is the strength with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God’s wrath.”
Thus, in the New Testament, the wrath of God is an undeniable fact just as it was revealed in the Old Testament.
John writes in his gospel, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (3:36)
Paul writes in Ephesians 5:3. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4. and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Again to the Colossians he writes, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience. (3:5, 6)
You say, but I don’t see God’s wrath being demonstrated today on evil. It seems to me that evil men are having their way and the wrath of God is a distant Old Testament or New Testament event.
Whether you can see it or not, feel it or not, experience it or not, the fury of God has come, is coming and will come with unleashed terror one day.
Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of an editor who once answered wisely someone who didn’t believe in God’s wrath; and he answered him with a single sentence. The story goes that the godly farmers in a western community were greatly shocked one spring Sunday morning, when they drove up to their little church in the country, to see that the man who owned the forty acres across from the church was in the midst of plowing. The people went on into the church and could hear the rise and fall of the noise of the tractor as it approached and then went on to the other side of the field. The farmer who was doing this worked other fields all week but always came to the field by the church on Sunday to show his disdain for their worship of God. And so on through the spring, summer and fall he plowed, disked, dragged, fertilized and cultivated his field. Finally that October, he harvested his crop of corn and then wrote an open letter to the editor of the local weekly paper. In his letter he pointed out that he had done al this work on Sunday, and yet he had the highest yield per acre of any farm in the county. Then he asked the editor how the Christians could explain this. The editor, printed the letter, but followed it with one simple statement: “God does not settle all His accounts in the month of October.”
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