At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans after the greeting, Paul writes of the wrath of God. He states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1: 18 ESV) Though God should be clear and obvious to them in His creation, they do not acknowledge Him. Instead of true divine worship, they venerate idols; that is, they worship the creation rather than the creator. As punishment God has given them up to the “lusts of their hearts.” Paul lists the many sins of humankind: unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are slanderers and haters of God, and also insolent, haughty, boastful, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. They are inventors of evil and disobedient to parents. They both do these things and approves of them in others. They are punished by their dishonorable passions.
It is not only the Gentiles who fall short of the glory of God, but also the Jews. All of humanity is implicated in sin. The judgment of God is clear, and those who are self-seeking and obey unrighteousness will be the objects of God’s judgment and fury. All of humanity will be judged. Though you may hear the idea that God is loving and compassionate and will not judge, this opinion does not match the clear view of the New Testament that judgment of all of humanity will occur.
How do we reflect this view of judgment, very unpopular in modern American society, in our apology and witness? Should we de-emphasize it in the interest of bringing more people into the kingdom?
First, it is important to note that judgment is biblical and constitutes an aspect of the Word of God. The Word of God is rightly divided between Law and Gospel. An individual must know his sin before he can receive the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Christ, dead and risen, is Lord and Savior. The answer to the foregoing questions is that judgment becomes a leading factor in a conversation where an individual needs to become aware or more aware of his sin and of the fact that he has fallen far short of a righteousness he cannot achieve. When someone is much aware of his sin and feeling deeply the guilt that results from the condemnation of the Law, judgment need not be so greatly emphasized. Judgment, then, has an important place in witness and apologetics. Repentance, sorrow for sin, is a vital part of the dynamic of salvation. Those who are uncomfortable with judgment are uncomfortable with the justification of the sinner.
In his apology to the men of Athens on the Areopagus. Paul proclaims, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts of the Apostles 17: 30-31 ESV)
Michael G. Tavella
Saint Francis of Assisi
October 4, 2023