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The Uncomfortable Side of God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 1:18

We do not know God as we should if we do not grasp the concept of His holy wrath against human sin. This is an uncomfortable thought for many, especially unbelievers. But this truth, which is both terrifying and comforting, is undeniable.


Sometimes the truth of Scripture is like a fire in a cozy fireplace, but sometimes it is more like a blowtorch cutting through steel. Sometimes the truth of God’s Word is like a little firecracker out in the driveway that rattles our windows, but other times it is like a bomb that comes crashing into the living room of our lives.

The apostle Paul has just told us in Romans 1:17 that the gospel, the truth of God’s word, reveals the righteousness of God. Now in verse 18, he tells us it reveals “the wrath of God.”

In fact, the next sixty-four verses—from Romans 1:18 to the middle of chapter 3—Paul brings us face to face with the terrifying, devastating truth of God’s fury and wrath. It is what I call “the other side of God.” And it is this uncomfortable side of God that people do not want to hear about today.

Yes, He is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of justice. Yes, He created an eternal heaven, but He also created an eternal hell.

I find it interesting that this attribute of wrath is actually the beginning point of Paul’s formal teaching to the Romans in this letter. His introduction is over, and now he begins in verse 18 with these rather terrifying words: “For the wrath of God is revealed.”

You might think this is a terrible way to start the teaching portion of Romans. Why not start with the grace of God? Paul is going to turn everybody off—he is not going to evangelize anybody. Wouldn’t it be better to start with something more positive? I heard on the radio the other day a song that basically said, “Come to Jesus, and all your problems will be solved.” That is how you win people to Christianity!

I personally think one of the strategies of Satan is to silence the truth of God’s anger against sinners and His coming wrath upon mankind. Satan knows that if people get ahold of this truth, they might cry out for the mercy of God.

Beloved, preaching the truth of God’s wrath does not hinder evangelism; it actually leads to genuine conversion. People get saved when they realize they are accountable sinners before a holy God.

Paul makes that clear here in verse 18 when he says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven.” In other words, God’s wrath is not Paul’s idea; wrath is a divine attribute revealed by God Himself.

Now there is a difference between God’s anger and man’s anger—between God’s wrath and man’s wrath. They are worlds apart.

There are two primary Greek words in the New Testament for wrath or anger. One is thumos, which gives us our English words thermos and thermometer. Paul never uses thumos when he refers to God’s anger. Thumos refers to red-hot—often, uncontrolled—anger. This characterizes human wrath—what we see in “road rage” today, when people just about go out of their minds with explosive, uncontrolled anger.

The word Paul uses here for the anger of God is the Greek word orgē, which refers to “settled conviction.” It is a holy hatred of evil, an anger that is never uncontrolled but motivated by God’s righteousness and justice.

It is important to note that Paul uses the present tense when he writes that the wrath of God is “revealed.” How is revelation taking place today about who God is and who we are? God’s revelation comes in two forms: general revelation and special revelation.

General revelation is something every human being around the world has access to. General revelation includes creation, which gives a clear testimony to a Creator’s existence. Paul will deal with this a little later on.

General revelation also includes human conscience. Because of sin, the conscience is imperfect, but it still whispers inside all human beings when they do something wrong. It is that inner voice God created in us that teaches even that person living in the jungle far from any biblical instruction that it was wrong to steal his neighbor’s chicken.

Every human being has the gospel of creation, which informs him that there is a Creator. And every human being lives with a sense of right and wrong, which he defies when he chooses to live in sin.

The other form of revelation from God is what we call special revelation. This is explicit communication from God. Special revelation from God is the divinely inspired Bible.

General revelation, through creation and conscience, is not enough to save a person. However, Paul will explain later that creation and conscience are enough to prove every unbeliever is guilty and without excuse. Why? Because mankind denies the revelation of creation and conscience. In fact, the more humanity has discovered about the beauty and complexity of creation, the more they have to work at denying the Creator—the harder they have to work to silence the voice of conscience. And as a result, people become more confused and more sinful all the while.

I have read that 100 years ago, there were only 170 teenagers arrested in the United States for committing crimes. Today, several thousand teenagers are arrested every day in my country. If you can imagine it, in just one day, 1 million people worldwide will contract a sexually transmitted disease—more than 374 million people a year.[1]

When Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, the empire was already self-destructing. Bulimia was a part of one of their favorite religions. They worshiped the god Bacchus with drunken orgies, feasting on food, and then vomiting it up as a sacrifice to their god! Then they would go feast again and repeat the cycle. 

Child prostitution was flourishing in Rome, and political leaders were known for their pedophilia. Bisexuality was considered the balanced perspective. Divorce was so common that Seneca, the Roman statesman wrote that the elite women of his culture dated the years on their calendar by the names of their husbands.[2] 

Paul’s letter arrives like a flaming missile into this culture. He informs them that there is a God in heaven, and He is not happy with sinful mankind. He is revealing His wrath against sin.

Paul continues in verse 18, writing that God’s wrath is directed to “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Ungodliness and unrighteousness are two terms that sum up all of human sin.[3]

“Ungodliness” (asebeia) refers to rebellion and defiance toward God. “Unrighteousness” (adikia) refers to evil actions toward other people.

And then verse 18 reveals a common ingredient among the unrighteous and ungodly human race: they “suppress the truth.” They push it down; they keep it out of the press. In other words, at this very moment, there is a universal cover-up of the truth! The truth is being systematically denied.

Why? Sinful mankind rejects God’s wrath because he wants to behave any way he wants. Mankind rejects God’s word because he wants to believe anything he wants.

But as hard as sinners try to suppress the truth, God’s creation declares the glory of God, shouting the news that there is a Creator, and the human conscience keeps on whispering that there is a moral standard of right and wrong.

Beloved, no matter how corrupt your culture might be today, remember first-century Rome. And remember that as far as God was concerned, the time was perfect and Rome was the perfect place to plant a church and begin shining the light of the glorious gospel to those bound in sin and desperately in need of God’s saving grace.

Wherever we are today, it’s the perfect time and the perfect place to do our part and to shine that gospel light into our world.

[1] “Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” World Health Organization,, July 10, 2023.

[3] Alva J. McClain, Romans: The Gospel of God’s Grace (BMH Books, 1973), 63.

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