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Gentiles Need Gospel Righteousness (1:18-32)

Romans 1:18-32

The Fact of God’s Just Wrath
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven …

The Rationale for God’s Just Wrath
…against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

The Outworking of God’s Just Wrath
24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.

The Result of God’s Just Wrath
29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

Main Point

When reading any one paragraph or unit of thought in Romans, we must pay attention to what came before and what comes after and how the two paragraphs are joined (e.g., with “since”, “for”, because”, “therefor”, etc.) . In this way, we can see (1) the overall trajectory or flow of Paul’s argument, and (2) the meaning and rationale of the text we’re presently focused on, i.e., 1:18-32.

From reading the letter several times, we note that Paul announces his theme (in miniature) in the immediately preceding verses, 1.1-15, 16-17, especially v.17. His theme concerns how God’s saving power is revealed in the gospel and centers on righteousness through faith.

It appears, then, that 1:18-32, since it focuses on the just wrath of God against human unrighteousness (“sin”), shows us why people need the gospel. They need its righteousness because they are under judgment for unrighteousness. The theme of God’s just wrath continues in 2:1-3:8, wherein Paul focuses on Jewish sin(s) and unrighteousness. It seems, however, that the apostle focuses mostly on Gentile unrighteousness in 1:18-32 and mostly on Jewish unrighteousness in 2:1-3:8.

The main point, then, of Romans 1:18-32, is that Gentiles need the righteousness offered in the gospel (God’s saving power) because they are under God’s just wrath for unrighteousness. Indeed they use their unrighteousness and ungodliness to suppress the knowledge of God in creation, all the while willfully descending into idolatry and gross immoralities. They neither glorify Him as God nor give Him thanks; He is just to punish.


  • The Fact of God’s Just Wrath (1:18a)
    1. The Just Wrath of God
    2. Progressively Revealed from Heaven
  • The Rationale for God’s Just Wrath (1:18b-23)
    1. People Suppress the Plain Knowledge of God in Creation
    2. People Are Without Excuse
    3. People Do Not Glorify God or Give Thanks to Him
    4. People Descend into Idolatries
  • The Outworking of God’s Just Wrath (1:24-28)
    • Therefore, He gave them over… (24)
    • For this reason, He gave them over… (26)
    • He gave them over… (28)
  • The Result of God’s Just Wrath (1:29-32)
    • People Are Filled with Unrighteousness (1:29-31)
    • They Reject the Knowledge of God (1:32)
    • They Deserve Death (1:32)