Romans 1:18 and the Wrath of God

FireHellfire and Damnation.

That is what I usually think of when I hear the term wrath of God.  I think of street preachers or tent revivalist who make a wonderful spectacle of telling people all the different types of sinners who deserve God’s wrath.  I think of conversations I had in college that poured over Romans 1 to show what kind of people are damned.

So I was very surprised when I read this verse and connected a few different dots.

God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice.

This is the “lead-in” verse to the long litany of what people do who deserve wrath and condemnation.  But what Paul does after this verse is not what I usually thought.  He details how God has always given people signs that show who he is and what he desires.  Then, take that idea in conjunction with John 3:17-21, part of Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus:

God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.  This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil.   All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light.   Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.

So, taking these two together, the wrath of God is being revealed when we proclaim, not who is going to be damned, but who Jesus is.  When we proclaim the Good News of victory over sin and death, salvation from sin and alienation, we reveal the wrath of God–without condemning people.  The world is already condemned, and God has left himself with a witness to this (Romans 1).  When we proclaim the redemption from that state in the power and presence of Christ in our lives, the Holy Spirit will convict people of sin (John 16:8).

It is not our duty or responsibility to tell people they are going to hell because of what they are doing.  It is our duty and responsibility to share the Good News that God loves us and has delivered us from all that separates us from him.

The rest of the beginning of Romans shows that no one ought to judge anyone else because we are all in the same situation.  This corresponds with Jesus’ words above as well.  If we, as Christians, have found a life-preserver to keep us from drowning, we ought not condemn others for not being able to tread water.  We ought to offer the life-preserver.

The wrath of God is revealed in our souls by the Holy Spirit when Christians share the Good News of Jesus Christ, not condemnation.  Let the Holy Spirit work in that fashion.  It is his job, not ours.