A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #3 — The Rational Sinner: God’s Anger at Willful Sin – Romans 1:18-32

10 Jun

Blog Post - Evangelical Syncretism: Seeker vs. Sinner

Man’s greatest need is not food, clothing, or shelter. The apostle Paul would say that man’s greatest need is Christ and the gospel. That is the reason he gave his life to a proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

In Romans 1:16, 17, he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

Every single hour someone somewhere enters an operating room and undergoes surgery at a hospital. But one is not likely to undergo surgery unless first he is convinced he needs the surgery. So it is in the spiritual realm. One may have a tremendous need, but if he does not understand the need he probably will not apply the remedy.

We will now focus upon 1:18-21, where Paul gives attention to the ‘rational’ sinner. The rational sinner reasons or rationalizes God out of his thoughts. He does not want to think about God. To think about God would be to reprove his evil deeds.

At 1:18, immediately after discussing the good news and the gospel being the power of God unto salvation, Paul turns to the wrath of God. He says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, . . .” One response that man often makes is to reject the light that God has given.

In John 3 Jesus spoke of the light that God had shed upon man and how man rejects that light: For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil (John 3:17-19).

God has turned on the light in this world. Man has light at his disposal so that he may seek after and find God. The problem is, as Jesus points out in John 3, men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Man rejects the light God has given.

If a man makes up his mind that he wants to know God, Jesus says he will know the teaching. Somehow, some way, when the sincere seeker of truth makes his search, God will bring him into contact with truth.

The problem is that the truth convicts and convinces men that they are in need of God. It convinces men that they are in rebellion against God.

The answer to rebellion is to say no to ourselves so that we can say yes to God.

That cuts across the grain of man’s pride, for in his pride he may not want to feel any need for God. Therefore, he may not want the truth. He may reject the light God has given; he may love the darkness because his deeds are evil. Verse 18 says he “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.” He holds down the truth.


What kind of light has God revealed to man? Romans 1 gives the answer. The apostle points out that man often rejects the light from within. God has given light within every man.

Romans 1:19 (NASB) “…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

God has placed within every human being a moral conscience. Man, therefore, is hopelessly religious. You and I do not decide whether to be religious or not.

A man may say, “I am not very religious.” He means that he may not participate in religious activities, per se. He is religious though. God made us incurably religious.

There is a longing within the hearts of all men for God. One may respond by saying, “I did not know that I had this longing within,” but it is there, nonetheless. A hunger which cannot be satisfied except by God exists in each man. Man tries to satisfy it in various ways.

Man knows that he is not happy, but he wants to be happy. There is a gnawing pain inside. He may feed upon pleasure; he may feed upon education; he may surround himself with wealth; he may strive to have power over other people.

What is he doing? He is seeking to satisfy that longing within. Of course, none of these can ever satisfy. Augustine said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and we cannot rest until we rest in Thee.”

In Psalms 42:1, David said, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”

It is there. We can suppress it. We can deny it. We can ignore it. But it is there.

The rational sinner wants to put God out of his thoughts. He does not want God to control his life. He wants to do his own thing, go his own way.

The longing is there, but he is justly under the condemnation or wrath of God. He is rejecting the light that God has given, the light that says, “God is, and I am indebted to Him.”

Romans 1:18 (NASB) “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…

Why is God angry with sin? Because people have substituted the truth about him with a fantasy of their own imagination (1:25). They have suppressed the truth God naturally reveals to everyone in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centered lifestyles.


Paul also shows that the rational sinner, in seeking to put God out of his thoughts, rejects the light of creation, or the light from without.

Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.”

The paradox can’t be missed—God’s invisible qualities are clearly seen. How? God created the world with natural processes, with cause and effect. In the same way that observing a painting leads a person to conclude that there is an artist, so to observe the tremendous creation is to conclude that there is a supreme Creator, one with eternal power and divinity (He was here first, He had the power to create, He is not human!). This is part of the truth that unsaved people are suppressing.

God is not visible to the human eye. He is invisible. But the invisible things of Him have been made manifest. How? Paul says they are clearly seen by the things that are made.

He is referring to the created world. God made a world, and this world is a testimony, a visible testimony to the invisible God.

David said in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.”

Man, in his rationalism, can look at the world and say all this happened by accident. He says a big explosion occurred millions of years ago and the universe resulted. But in reaching that conclusion he is holding down or suppressing the truth about God.

The creative world declares the existence of God; it is evidence that God is. You and I are held responsible to accept that evidence and seek God.

The rational sinner who does not want to think about God rejects the light. He rejects the light within, his moral consciousness; he rejects the light without, the created world which proclaims the existence of God.


Of course, in our day we have additional evidence for God’s existence. God has spoken to man. His Word is revealed in the Bible. When one rejects the existence of God, he also is rejecting the light of God’s Word, the light from above.

The Bible is here. How are we to look upon it? Are we to consider it only as the product of a few feeble men who in their own human efforts wrote down this book that has no equal?

The evidence concerning the Bible, both internal evidence from the Bible itself and external evidence from outside the Bible, says the Bible is the Word of God.

You and I are called upon to accept that Word as a revelation from God. When we turn away from the Word we are rejecting the light. The rational sinner wants to put God out of his mind so he rejects the light God has given.

He overlooks that moral consciousness within; he bypasses the creative world which says God is, and he gives only a passing thought to the Bible as a revelation from God.

As a result of rejecting the light God’s wrath or judgment falls upon the rational sinner.

1:21 Although they knew God.NKJV Their denial of their own awareness of God is what left people without excuse. When Paul says that men knew God he is not describing a knowledge that could save them but a knowledge that simply recognized God’s existence. He was describing an awareness of God, that, if not suppressed would be nurtured by God.

   There are six judgments announced in Romans 1.

  1. First of all, Paul says, “Their foolish heart was darkened” (1:21). If one loves the darkness, God will allow him to walk in the darkness and never come to the light.
  2. Verse 22 gives the second judgment: “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” When one puts God out of his thoughts, he becomes a fool. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psalms 14:1). One may even claim that God exists, but if he lives as though God does not, he is a fool.
  3. The third judgment of God is announced in verse 23: “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.”

When man rejects God, he turns to idolatry. In ancient times man built his own gods. He made temples to his gods. 21st century man in the Western world is too sophisticated to bow before a god of stone or wood. But he has his gods.

His god may be himself, it may be his job, or it may be possessions. If you reject God for possessions, God will allow you to go on in your idolatry.

  1. The fourth judgment of God is seen at verse 24: “God gave them up to . . . the lusts of their own hearts.” God will allow you to be consumed by your lusts if you want to be.
  2. In the fifth place, in verse 26, He gave them up to immorality: “For this cause God gave them up to their vile affections.” He speaks in these verses about homosexuality and condemns it as worthy of the judgment of God. We can try to make sin respectable if we want, but God calls it what it is—sin. If one is determined to go on in immorality, God will permit it.
  3. Verse 28 is the sixth judgment of God. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  If you decide that you are going to reject God, that you are going to do as you please, God will give you up to do it. He will allow you to be consumed in your wickedness.

    DOWNWARD SPIRAL. Paul portrays the inevitable downward spiral into sin.

  • First people reject God
  • Next they make up their own ideas of what a god should be and do
  • Then they fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, gossip.
  • Finally they grow to hate God and encourage others to do so.

God does not cause this steady progression toward evil. Rather, when people reject him, He allows them to live as they choose.

God gives them up or commits them to experience the natural consequences of their sin.

Once caught in the downward spiral, no one can pull himself or herself out by themselves! Sinners must trust Christ alone to put them on the path of escape

Before you say there is no God, think seriously about the evidence for God’s existence.

Before you live as though God does not exist and has no claim upon your life, read carefully Romans 1, for it depicts the rational sinner, a description of many who are in the world today.


Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2021 in Romans


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: