“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 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:”-Romans 1:16-20
In this passage, Paul has just finished telling the church at Rome of his great desire to visit them, and that he is ready at any time, but is only waiting for it to be God’s will (vs. 10-15). And in verse 16 he is explaining why he is always ready and why he is a “debtor” to them.
Ever wanted to access the power of God? This is where it’s at, “the gospel of Christ”. God hasn’t given us access to His infinite power in any other avenue, and no this isn’t about living prosperously here and now or how to fill the church pews, because the access given to us is “power unto salvation”. And this power only comes through the “gospel of Jesus Christ”.
Let’s clarify this a little. Jump down to verse 18-20. God’s wrath is “againstall ungodliness an unrighteousness”. That means that God’s wrath isn’t just against Hitler, suicide bombers, serial killers, rapists, and child molesters. All means all, so, God’s wrath is against idolators, people who deny God, blasphemers who use the holy name of God their Creator as a curse word, haven’t kept a sabbath or given any time to God, have disobeyed their parents, have been unjustifiably angry and murdered in their heart, have stolen anything ever, liars, and coveters (desiring things that don’t belong to you). Any and all sin is enough to justify the wrath of a perfectly holy God.
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”-1 John 3:4
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
The guilt is worsened by the fact that the knowledge of God is made known within us and that God Himself has shown us Himself (vs. 19). And yet as in verse 18 we literally hold down this truth, we ignore and deny it’s very existence. And verse 20 makes our situation worser still, in that the very creation, the fact that there is an earth, a universe, people, is proof enough that there is a Creator. Spontaneous regeneration is impossible, something never comes from nothing. An effect must have a cause. And the entire universe is winding down, indicating that there is an end to it, which implies there must be a beginning. God has not hidden the fact of His existence, nor has He kept men from knowing Him.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”-Psalm 19
The most condemning statement comes in the last phrase of verse 20. Because God has made the truth of His existence and showed Himself to us that we might know Him, and has revealed openly these things in creation, we are without excuse. In other words, you won’t have anything to say in your defense when you stand before the eternal and just God. And because we have no excuse, God’s anger is justifiable.
If someone were to walk up to you and punch you in the nose out of anger, this would be unjustifiable anger and an unjust act. However, if you were trying to steal a woman’s purse, and her husband punched you in the nose, his actions would be justifiable as would his anger, because you have sinned against him.
Now let’s look at God’s wrath. If God crushed all of us in His wrath in this very instance, He would be justified in doing so, because we have sinned against Him. But God is loving, merciful, gracious, patient, and longsuffering with us. That’s why He hasn’t done what would be deserved by our actions.
So, what does all this have to do with verse 16? Justification. God’s anger and wrath is justified by our sins. The best example of God pouring out His wrath against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” is found at the cross of Jesus Christ. It was here that the wrath of God that was justly deserved by our ungodliness and unrighteousness was poured out on the sinless and holy Son of God.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”-2 Corinthians 5:21
God’s wrath against the sin of those He has redeemed was justified at the cross. This is the “gospel of Christ” where “the power of God” is revealed “unto salvation”. In verse 17, the righteousness of God in Christ is revealed that “The just shall live by faith.” We can stand justified before God because of Christ’s righteousness given to us by faith. If we have repented and put our faith in Christ and have been regenerated as a new creature, then God’s wrath cannot be executed upon us; it would now be unjustifiable wrath, because His wrath was already put on Jesus Christ.
If we are saved this news should spur us on in witnessing and sharing the gospel with everyone, because apart from Christ’s righteousness all people will be under the just wrath of God and will be without excuse. And should make out Savior only sweeter and make us love Him more.
If you are not saved, then know that right now is the moment to seek God’s power in salvation. There is no guarantee that God, who is mercifully allowing you to live by providing every breath and beat of your heart each moment, will continue to do so. You may walk across the street and be hit by a car or die in your sleep tonight. Do not let this rest until you are sure He has saved you. Plead for His mercy, turn from your sins, ask His forgiveness, but don’t wait. For when you stand before the all powerful and mighty God His wrath will be justifiable and you will be condemned without excuse. Then read His Word, the Bible, that you might please Him and walk in obedience to Him. Love in truth.