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29 October, 2019

Righteousness and Wrath Revealed in the Gospel

Solitary man reflecting on sunset
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul introduces himself to Christians residing in that city: “Paul, bond-servant of Jesus Christ, called apostle, separated for the Gospel.” This Gospel was promised in Israel’s scriptures and concerned God’s Son, “who came to be of the seed of David according to flesh, was marked off as the Son of God by power, according to a Spirit of Holiness, by means of a resurrection out from among the dead” (Romans 1:1-4).
Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the irrefutable proof of his messiahship and the validity of his Gospel message for all nations.
The thematic statement of this letter is that the gospel is God’s power “for salvation to everyone who believes,” whether Jew or Gentiles. The message Paul preaches empowers individuals to receive salvation from faith, not on ethnicity or any deeds required by the Torah, the law of Moses (Romans 1:16-17).
In this gospel, God’s “righteousness is being revealed from faith for faith.” This translates a present tense verb, apokaluptetai, meaning “reveal, disclose, unveil, uncover.” The present tense signifies action in progress, ongoing action, and refers not to a singular past event but to an ongoing process.
As the Gospel is proclaimed, God’s “righteousness,” His faithfulness, is actively revealed as evidenced by Jews and Gentiles responding in faith. Thus, there is a definite present aspect to the righteousness of God.
In contrast, and at the very same time, God’s “wrath” is also “being revealed from heaven” against all “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” Paul contrasts the two processes; both occur in the present age and are produced by gospel proclamation.
Anyone who embraces and submits to the gospel, Jew or Gentile, is empowered for salvation. In contrast, “wrath” is at the same time revealed against everyone who does not submit to the gospel and “opposes the truth in unrighteousness.” 
While elsewhere Paul links God’s “wrath” with final judgment (Romans 2:5, 5:9, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9). In this passage, he describes an aspect of God's wrath within the present age, a process evidenced by the very sins embraced and practiced by sinners who reject the gospel. Paul stresses the sin of idolatry as the source that leads to the others; refusing to acknowledge God as God (Romans 1:19-32).
Because sinners “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the likenesses of corruptible man, birds, four-footed beasts and reptiles, wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto impurity.” They “exchanged the truth of God for falsehood and rendered worship to the creature rather than to the Creator.”
God delivered fallen humanity over to the very sins for which men and women lusted, even though they “acknowledged the righteous sentence of God that they who practice such things are worthy of death, not only are doing the same things but are even delighting together with them who are practicing them.”
Humanity wallowing in idolatrous sin is a present state-of-affairs and demonstrates that already the world order is under the wrath of God. A humanity given over to an abundance of sin is a punishment from God and evidence of the impending final judgment.
Fortunately, individuals living under this wrath do not need to remain in that state if they respond in faith to the gospel.

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