18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (ESV)
The modern God has been tamed from his anger, and thus neutered of his power and stripped of his holiness.
But the God of the Bible is an angry God. He is more than merely an angry God, but he is not less! Romans 1:18-23 describes both the fact of God’s anger and the reason for his anger.
1. The fact of God’s anger (18)
Ungodly people (and by this I mean all people everywhere, as Romans 3:23 says) “suppress the truth.” Paul will unpack this brief description of the reason for God’s anger in verses 19-23. The main point here is that God is angry at unrighteous people; his wrath burns agains the ungodliness that fills men’s hearts and minds.
This point shows us what God is like.
2. The reason for God’s anger (19-23)
This second point shows us what we are like.
Here, Paul proves that men suppress the truth. God has made the fact of his power and nature obvious in creation (v. 19-20d); in spite of this, people refuse to honour or thank God but rather foolishly exchange his glory for idolatry (v. 21-23).
Therefore, they are without excuse (v. 20e). This is the core assertion of this passage. The twofold reality of God’s revelation of himself in creation and people’s stubborn refusal to honour him shows that they are deserving objects of God’s wrath.
God’s settled state towards unredeemed humanity is anger. He is against them; the sword of his wrath and judicial punishment hangs above the head of every unsaved soul. “Whoever does not believe is condemned already,” Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:18, “because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” We deserve God’s anger for our deliberate rebellion in the face of unmistakable evidence of God’s power and holiness our responsibility to worship and honour him.
Yet the amazing reality is that the God who hates sin also loved the world so much that he sent his Son! John 3 not only reveals God’s wrath but also his love. The same is true of Romans, for after the darkness of the first two-and-a-half chapters, starting in 3:21, the blazing light of the truth of God’s gift of justification by grace, through the blood of Jesus, shines brightly!
And it is only against the black backdrop of Romans 1 and 2 that the beauty of Romans 3 sparkles gloriously.
Have you received the gift of grace? For it is only by taking refuge in Christ that you can enjoy God’s love instead of suffer his anger.
Are you sharing the gospel with your unrighteous coworkers, family, and friends? For God is angry at unrighteous people, because they suppress the truth of his power and nature that he has clearly shown them in creation, which leaves them without excuse.
(The green dot notes in the image above are summaries of sub-points, and the red dot notes are summaries of main points. These are building blocks for my Main Point Summary.)
Very helpful bracket! What stands out to me (that I didn’t see in the passage prior to your bracket) is the two-pronged reason that we are without excuse: both the visibility of God through creation AND our willful suppression of the truth. Also, I’m convicted by your question at the end. It’s one thing to give mental ascent to this truth; it’s another thing to allow it to be a driving force that compels us to evangelize.