Setting

After expressing his thanks to God for the believers and his longing to see them, Paul went right to the heart of the epistle, expounding in a compact statement the essence, effect, and extent of the gospel. The verse preceding this lesson (1:17) taught us that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel. As we will see in this lesson, the revelation of God’s righteousness means, first of all, that God repays the ungodly and the unrighteous for their sins. In the present, God has given the wicked over to their lusts and to a debased mind. Ultimately, God will also render to each one according to his deeds on the day of judgment.

Key Verse

(1:18)

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Outline

  • God’s Wrath Revealed against All Ungodliness and Unrighteousness of Men
    (1:18-32)
  • Man’s Suppression of the Truth in Unrighteousness
    (1:18-23)
  • God Gave Them up to Uncleanness and Vile Passions
    (1:24-27)
  • God Gave Them over to a Debased Mind
    (1:28-32)
  • God’s Impartiality
    (2:1-11)
  • Self-condemnation and Treasuring up Wrath
    (2:1-5)
  • God’s Judgments on Everyone According to Deeds
    (2:6-11)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    How does the present passage relate to 1:16-17? How does it stand in contrast to it?

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    The preposition “for” in verse 18 indicates that what follows is an explanation for the statements that precede it. Paul has stated in verse 17 that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. Then, starting verse 18, Paul shows how the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. We may conclude, therefore, that the present passage, which discusses God’s righteous judgment, begins to explain what it means for God’s righteousness to be revealed.

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  • 2.

    Record words in this passage that relate to: a. God’s attributes or works; b. What human beings ought to do:

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    a. God’s attributes or works: Wrath (1:18; 2:5); invisible (1:20); eternal power (1:20); Godhead (1:20); glory (1:23); incorruptible (1:23); gave up/over (1:24, 26, 28); truth (1:25; 2:2); Creator (1:25); blessed forever (1:25); righteous (1:32; 2:5); judgment (1:32; 2:2, 3, 5); riches of goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering (2:4); render (2:6); no partiality (2:11).

    b. What human beings ought to do: Glorify God (1:21); be thankful (1:21); worship and serve the Creator (1:25); by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality (2:6); work what is good (2:10).

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  • 3.

    What can we learn in this passage about: a. Truth? b. Knowledge? c. Excuse?

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    a. Truth: The ungodly and unrighteous suppress the truth in unrighteousness (1:18).
    The ungodly and unrighteous exchanged the truth of God for the lie (1:25).
    Man’s error, which means wandering from the truth, [ref] is deserving of penalty (1:27).
    The judgment of God is according to truth (2:2).
    Those who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness will receive God’s indignation and wrath (2:8).
    We understand from this passage that truth is not only how things are in reality, but the attributes and will of God which He has revealed to us and expects us to conform to. Disobeying the truth makes us guilty before God.

    b. Knowledge: What may be known of God is manifest in us because God has shown it to us (1:19).
    Since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (1:20).
    The unrighteous do not like to retain God in their knowledge (1:28).
    The unrighteous, knowing the righteous judgment of God, not only do the same but also approve those who practice them (1:32).
    We know that the judgment of God is according to truth (2:2).
    The one who judges others but practices the same things does not know that the goodness of God leads him to repentance (2:4).

    c. Excuse: Men are without excuse because God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (1:20).
    Those who practice evil yet judge others are without excuse because they know the righteous judgment of God (1:32; 2:1).

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Segment Analysis

  • 1:18-23

    1a.

    What is the “truth” of verse 18 according to its context?

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    Verses 19 and 20 explain that the truth consists of “what may be known of God,” including His invisible attributes, eternal power, and Godhead. (The word for “Godhead” is also translated as “divinity” or “divine nature.”). God has shown the truth to men through the things that are made.

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  • 1b.

    How have men suppressed the truth in unrighteousness?

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    Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts. They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (1:21-23).

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  • 1:18-23

    2.

    Explain how the things that are made reveal God’s invisible attributes.

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    The Bible teaches that “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps 19:1). The immense and complex universe, operating by vast amounts of energy and governed by universal laws, reveals the works of an infinitely intelligent and powerful Creator (cf. Ps 104:24). God’s providence, as seen in the planet Earth, which is carefully designed for human habitation, in His continuing sustenance, as well as in the nourishing nature of His creatures for their young, demonstrates His love, goodness, and mercy (cf. Job 38:41; Ps 104:27-28; 136:25; 145:15-16; 147:7-9; Mt 5:45; 6:26; Acts 14:17).

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  • 3.

    What kind of depravity does man fall into when he does not acknowledge God?

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    Refusing to acknowledge God results in depravity of the mind and of the heart. Paul states in 1:21, “… Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Consequently, they think that they are wise when they are in fact foolish (1:22).

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  • 4.

    What are some ways in which man’s foolishness is touted as wisdom in our society?

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  • 1:24-27

    5.

    According to this segment, how did God respond to men’s ungodliness?

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    God gave them up to uncleanness and vile passions (1:24, 26).

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  • 6.

    Think of examples of how men worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

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  • 7.

    How do people dishonor their bodies as a result of the lusts of their hearts?

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    Men and women leave the natural use of their bodies, burn with lust for members of the same sex, and commit what is shameful (cf. Lev 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor 6:9).

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  • 8.

    In what ways does the world condone what the Bible condemns here?

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  • 1:28-32

    9a.

    What is the retributive act of God according to this segment?

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    God gave those who did not acknowledge God over to a debased mind (1:28)

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  • 9b.

    What is its outcome?

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    Men do those things which are not fitting (1:28)

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  • 1:28-32

    10.

    Share real-life examples of a few of the sinful behaviors listed here

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  • 11.

    What is the penalty for these sins?

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    Death (1:32).

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  • 2:1-11

    12.

    What’s the effect of switching to the second person “you”?

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    In this segment Paul is speaking to an imaginary interlocutor. Such a rhetorical technique has the effect of bringing a sense of immediacy to a reader who may think that what Paul has been speaking about does not apply to them. Speaking in the form of a dialogue also serves to rebut a false assumption or objection that the writer anticipates from the reader (See how this technique is used also in Rom 2:17-25; 9:19-20; 11:19-24.).

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  • 13.

    What common mentality does this segment reveal?

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    The interlocutor presumes to judge others for their wicked deeds, but practices the very same deeds himself. He fails to measure himself with the same measure with which he judges others. This is the kind of double standard we see all the time. Human beings have a tendency to be quite forgiving of themselves while being critical of others (cf. Mt 7:1-5).

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  • 14.

    What attitude is the addressee possibly holding?

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    One possible reason that Paul points out for the presumption of the interlocutor is that he despises the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering (2:4). He is hard-hearted and impenitent (2:5). In other words, he makes the false assumption that just because he has not undergone God’s punishment for his wicked deeds, he is free from God’s judgment and can continue in them.

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  • 15.

    What does this segment teach about God and His judgment?

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    • The judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice unrighteousness (2:2).
    • God is rich in His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering in order to lead us to repentance (2:4).
    • God’s judgment is righteous (2:5) because He uses the same criterion: each one’s deeds (2:6).
    • God gives eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality, but indignation and wrath to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness (2:7-8).
    • There is no partiality with God (2:11)

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  • 16.

    What is this segment’s main message to us?

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    In view of God’s judgment, which is absolutely just and which God will surely render to everyone according to his deeds, we are individually accountable to God for our actions. We should never assume that we are above God’s standard of judgment but humbly accept God’s forbearance as an opportunity to repent of our sins.

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