In his Letter to the Romans, Paul describes in detail the message of salvation that he proclaims among the nations. He declares that it is the “power of God for salvation” to all men who accept it. Due to humanity’s sin, two forces are at work in the world - Righteousness and Wrath. In Jesus of Nazareth, God has provided the solution to humanity’s desperate plight and made it available to all men through the “faith OF Jesus Christ.”
Both forces or processes are unveiled whenever the Good News of God’s Kingdom is announced to men. Its proclamation produces either “righteousness” or “wrath,” depending on how men and women respond to the message and its offer of salvation.
- (Romans 1:16-19) – “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.”
In the preceding passage, Paul declares that the “righteousness of God is BEING REVEALED from faith for faith.” The Greek verb translated as “being revealed” is in the present tense, which signifies continuous action, an ongoing process. As the Gospel is preached, either the “wrath” or the “righteousness” of God is manifested for all men to see.
Thus, in the Gospel, the “righteousness of God” is unveiled. This is especially evident when Jews and Gentiles respond to it in faith. Thus, there is a PRESENT ASPECT to His “righteousness.”
At the same time, “wrath” is also “revealed” against those “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” The two processes occur whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, and they affect the Jew or Gentile the same depending on the person's response. Ethnicity or nationality does not determine which result an individual will receive.
The “wrath upon ungodliness” is the negative counterpart to the “righteousness of God.” Anyone who embraces the Gospel is empowered to receive salvation since the Gospel message is the “power of God.” However, “wrath” falls on everyone who rejects it.
Elsewhere in his letters, Paul links this “wrath” to the final judgment. However, in this passage, he describes it as a PRESENT ASPECT or process. The very sins practiced by and delighted in by those who reject the Gospel prove they are under God’s “wrath” already. Their transgressions are part of the “wrath from Heaven” - (Romans 1:22-25).
God delivers rebellious humanity to the very sins for which it lusts, 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 of the “wrath of God,” sins that demonstrate that sinners are under His “wrath.” This is the plight of all men, both Jews and Gentiles, and this reality is demonstrated especially in mankind’s 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, though every man and woman is free to choose a different way.
Sin is the Great Leveler. Jews and Gentiles alike fall short of the righteousness requirements of the Las, and therefore, both stand under the just “sentence of God.” Everyone is “without excuse” due to sin, and everyone stands or falls before God on the same basis.
Without Divine intervention, every man or woman stands condemned, whether “within the law” or “apart from the law.” Without exception, the rebellious sinner will experience condemnation on the coming “Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” That Day will be the consummation of a process that is already underway.
On that day, God “will render to each one according to his works.” In Chapter 2 of Romans, Paul stresses the FUTURE ASPECT of this “wrath.” Elsewhere in his letters, he links this “wrath” to the day when Jesus arrives “from heaven” to vindicate his saints but condemn his enemies - (Romans 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
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Since believers have been “declared righteous through his blood,” they also “will be saved through him from the wrath.” The process of “salvation” is consummated in the future when Jesus raises his people from the dead - (Romans 8:21-23). Likewise, sinners who refuse the offer of salvation now will suffer the everlasting consequences of their decision on the “Day of Wrath.”
“Death” is the universal consequence of sin for all men, “saved” or not. However, for everyone who believes and embraces the Gospel, condemnation for sin becomes a thing of the past, and right standing before God is a present reality. Though death awaits them, they will be saved from “wrath.” They will not endure the “Day of Wrath”; instead, they will be raised from the dead and receive everlasting life.
However, for everyone who continues to “possess the truth in unrighteousness” and rejects the “Gospel of God,” not only will they face death, but afterward, they will experience the “wrath of God” on what will be their ominous final day.
Thus, the Gospel proclaimed to the nations by the Apostle Paul is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”