In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul lays out a very startling principle about God’s wrath and punishment. He says that God’s wrath is revealed in the world when people suppress the truth of God and turn to following their natural urges and desires instead of following God’s standards.
When you first read it, you are not surprised. Of course God has wrath against people who disobey him. You expect that, everybody thinks about it. We joke about lightening bolts from God to strike us dead or punish us. Whenever there is a hurricane or earthquake or disease there are sure to be dozens of famous preachers talking about how God is punishing us for something or other.
But that is wrong.
Romans 1 says that God’s punishment is to give us over into more and more sin. It says nothing about disaster and tragedies. All those kinds of punishments were poured out on Jesus on the cross. He took those things on himself. In place of those things he offers forgiveness and grace and blessing to us.
Are there still hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis and disease? Yes, of course, but they are not God’s wrath. God’s wrath as punishment was taken by Christ. Those things are a part of our fallen world, and they will increase with time, but they are not direct punishments because of some sin that you did. If God wanted you to suffer and die for your sins, he wouldn’t have sent Jesus to suffer and die for your sins.
The punishment for sin is more sin. If you suppress the truth of God (Romans 1:25) and choose to follow lies, you will find yourself entangled in all sorts of lies. It is natural. If you set your GPS to the wrong destination, you will go to a wrong destination and every turn along the way will be the wrong turn and get you more lost. If you base your life on the denial of God’s truth, then you will get all sorts of lies, errors, and problems.
Romans 1 says three times that God will give you over into more and more sin. If you reject him, he will send you into more and more sins. He does this because first, you are the one choosing it, and second, because he hopes that someday you will get so caught up in your sin, error and lies that you will wake up and come to your senses and call out to him for forgiveness.
In this way, God’s wrath is also an act of mercy. He could simply kill you with lightning as soon as you sinned. Or he could simply bless you and pretend the sin never happened. Neither one of those things would be forgiveness. Neither one of those things would make you into a better, more godly person.
Instead, God sees us when we choose lies over truth, and says “you want lies? I will give you lies until you can’t handle it anymore and come back to me.” It is done in hope (See Romans 8). It is done because God wants you to change. He can’t make you change, but he can certainly show you where you have gone wrong until you come to your senses on your own.
All of us are in this together. All of us have lied, all of us have rejected God in some area of our lives. All of us need his forgiveness. The only question is how badly you know you need his forgiveness. If you think you haven’t done anything seriously wrong, or you don’t really need to be forgiven, then you haven’t woken up yet.
Be prepared. God’s wrath will show. Your so-called “innocent” sins will eventually grow into bigger ones, and multiply into more and more of them. Sooner or later it will lead you so far down the wrong road that you will wake up and admit it. That is the moment that God’s wrath turns into God’s grace and forgiveness. That is the moment when you see how you have gone wrong and you look to heaven and say “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” And at that moment the grace of God overwhelms you and Jesus looks down from the cross and says “father forgive him/her, I have paid the debt with my blood.”
From that moment on you worship Jesus in truth, because you have met him and you know the truth and lies and sin do not have power over you anymore.
We don’t always like to discuss God’s wrath and our sin, but God uses his wrath to expose our sin to us, so that we will call out to him for mercy. That is why Paul says he loves the good news of Jesus, because in it, God’s righteousness is revealed. God is right in his wrath, and his wrath points us to his mercy. Even wrath and sin reveal God’s righteousness.
Praise him for it.