In his Letter to the Romans, Paul details the Gospel that he is proclaiming to the Gentiles and declares it to be the “power of God for salvation.” Due to humanity’s sin, two forces are at work in the world - righteousness and wrath. In his Son, God has provided the solution to mankind’s desperate plight, one that is available to all men through the “faith OF Jesus Christ.” And in the Gospel, these two forces are revealed whenever the Good News is proclaimed.
Moreover, each man and woman will experience one or the other - righteousness or wrath - depending on how he or she responds to the Gospel.
- “For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, both to Jew first, and to Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is being revealed from faith for faith; even as it is written, But the righteous man from faith will live. For there is being revealed the wrath of God from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in unrighteousness possess the truth” - (Romans 1:16-19).
In the clause, the “righteousness of God is being revealed from faith for faith,” the Greek verb translated as “being revealed” is a present tense verb, signifying an ongoing process. As the Gospel is proclaimed, either the “wrath” or the “righteousness” of God is unveiled for humanity to see.
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WRATH
Thus, in the Good News about Jesus Christ, the “righteousness of God” is manifested. This becomes especially evident when Jews and Gentiles respond to the message in faith. This means there is a present aspect to the “righteousness of God.”
At the same time, “wrath” also is “revealed”; only, against all those “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” Thus, these two processes occur whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, and they affect both Jews and Gentiles. Ethnicity does not determine which result an individual receives. That does upon his or her response to the message, not on his or her biological lineage.
The “wrath upon ungodliness” is the negative counterpart to the “righteousness of God.” Anyone who embraces the Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, is empowered to receive salvation. But “wrath” falls on everyone who rejects it, both Jew and Gentile alike.
Elsewhere in his letters, Paul links this “wrath” to the final judgment, but here, he describes it as a present REALITY or process. The very sins practiced by and delighted in by those who reject the Gospel prove that they are under God’s “wrath” already. The trespasses they commit are part of the “wrath being revealed from heaven” - (Romans 1:22-25).
God delivers rebellious humanity to the very sins for which men lust, even though sinners “acknowledge the righteous sentence of God, that they who practice such things are worthy of death.” Ignorance is no excuse - men and women know full well that they are violating the righteous demands of God.
Humanity wallows in its idolatrous sins because men are experiencing the “wrath of God.” The prevalence and dominance of sin demonstrate that mankind is under “wrath.”
And this is the plight all men find themselves in, both Jews and Gentiles, and this reality is demonstrated especially in mankind’s embrace of idolatry, worshipping anything and everything except the one God who created all things.
This unhappy condition is not due to Divine “predestination,” nor does it violate human free will. God gives sinful men exactly what they want, as well as what they deserve, though every man and woman is free to choose a different way.
And sin is the Great Leveler. Jews and Gentiles alike fall short of righteousness, and therefore, both stand under the just “sentence of God.” Everyone is “without excuse” because of sin. Jews and Gentiles stand or fall before God on the same basis.
Without Divine intervention, and regardless of anyone’s ethnicity, everyone stands condemned, whether “within the law” or “outside the law.” Without exception, every rebellious man and woman will experience condemnation on the coming “Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” But that will be the culmination of a process that is already well underway.
And this must be because “there is no respect of persons with God.” His righteousness demands equal treatment before the Law for both Jewish and Gentile sinners.
On that future day, God “will render to each one according to his works.” And in Chapter 2 of the Letter, Paul begins to stress the future aspect of this “wrath.” Elsewhere in his letters, he links God’s “wrath” to the day when Jesus arrives “from heaven” - (Romans 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
And so, sinners who refuse the offer of salvation that is offered today freely in the Gospel will suffer the everlasting and final consequences of their decision on the coming “Day of wrath.”
“Death” for all men is the universal consequence of sin, whether “saved” or not. This is the common and desperate plight of every man. However, for all those who believe the Gospel, condemnation for sin becomes a thing of the past, and right standing before God is a present reality. Though death still awaits them, they will be saved from “wrath,” and they will not endure the “Day of wrath.”
But for all those who continue to “possess the truth in unrighteousness,” not only will they face death, but afterward, they will experience the “wrath of God” on what for them will be an ominous final day.