οργη (the revelation of God’s wrath, part I)

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” — Paul, Romans 1.18-23

Romans 1.18-3.20 marks the second division of Romans. The topic, broadly, is sin and condemnation and the world’s need to get right with God.

The teaching of this whole passage may be summarized in 3 points:

  1. Men who sin bring the judgement of God on themselves. They need God’s righteousness (Romans 1.18-2.16).
  2. Men without the Law, the heathen / Gentiles, are taught by nature and conscience. However, they have sinned by falling short of the standard of righteousness given to them (Romans 1.18-32). Likewise, the moralist / Jew who have the Law have sinned by falling short of their standard of righteousness — the Law (Romans 2.1-3.8).
  3. Therefore, the whole world is declared guilty before God (Romans 3.19) and needs God’s righteousness (Romans 3.9-20).

In the passage immediately at hand, the message is perfectly clear. It is an explanation of why God reveals and executes wrath on humanity.

In Romans 1.18, first we come across the subjects of God’s wrath. But before we can talk about the subjects, we must first grasp the wrath itself. The first thing we have to grasp, as uncomfortable as it is, is that God’s wrath is a reality. The Greek word Paul uses here is orge (οργη). So what is this orge of God?

It is anger. It isn’t some agitated outburst of violence. It isn’t the anger that quickly blazes up and just as quickly fades away, nor an anger that arises solely out of the emotions. Rather than all of these, it is a decisive anger. It is an anger that arises out of a thoughtful decision. It is an anger that arises much more out of the intellect than from the emotions.

That being said, who are the subjects of God’s wrath? In Romans 1.18, Paul says that the wrath of God falls on two classes of men, the ungodly and the unrighteous.

The ungodly (asebeia – ασεβειαν) fail to love and obey God. They are those who do not live as God would have them live. They do not honor God by word and deed. They do not reverence God by doing what He says. Quite the contrary, the ungodly are those who do what they want, when they want; who may give lip-service to God, but ignore God in their life day to day.

The unrighteous (adikia – αδικιαν) fail to love others. They are those who do not live with men as they should. They act against their fellow man: lying, cheating, stealing, destroying, oppressing and taking advantage of them.

Pauls point is clear. God is angry with such men.

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