Suppressing the Truth in Unrighteousness
By Mary Kroeger
In Romans 1:18 the apostle Paul wrote, "The wrath of God is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." One of our questions is, how can truth be suppressed or held down in unrighteousness? Another question, how does God's wrath manifest itself?
The scriptures tell us that God is righteous. He only does what is right! Humanity, on the other hand, CANNOT do what is right. "There is none that is righteous, no not one." (Rom. 3:10) The natural mind is hostile toward God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. (Romans. 8:7. See also I Corinthians 2:14.) We all come into this world, dead in our trespasses and sins. God's righteousness is revealed to us in His wonderful provision for our salvation in Christ! To avail ourselves of His provision we need to believe Him and put our faith in Him! Without faith it is impossible to please Him! "But the righteous will live by his faith" is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4, and also from Romans 1:17. Rotherham's translation reads, "But he that is righteous by faith shall live."
On the heels of this wonderful and grand pronouncement of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is, comes the revelation of humanity's hopeless condition. Humanity is unaware of the depth of its unrighteous nature and the hopelessness of it, so it tries to heal itself. Understanding our true condition is a necessary prerequisite for realizing our need for the gospel. Everyone needs the gospel - both Jew and Gentile! In Romans 1:18-32 we see the hopeless condition of all mankind - the universal need for salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The mighty power of the gospel in Christ Jesus does away with all of man's depravity and brings him into life!
The revelation of God's righteousness brings forth he revelation of "the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." (v.18) God's wrath is not against people, but against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of those who suppress truth. So let's take a closer look at the wrath of God and see how it functions.
When we think of wrath, we generally picture someone who is so angry that his mouth moves faster than his brain; someone who is bent on getting what he wants, regardless of the hurt he may have to inflict on others in order to obtain it. This is man's wrath, but it is NOT God's wrath. The Greek word, "orge", translated as wrath, would be better translated as passion. God is passionately against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.
Ungodliness is everything that is unlike the very essence of God's being . Unrighteousness is everything that is not His righteousness, everything that is not right in His eyes, and everything that does not have its source in Him! Godliness has to do with who God is; righteousness has to do with what God does. Ungodliness pertains to what humanity is; unrighteousness pertains to what humanity does. Everything that is against the essence of God is sin. He is the One who declares what is right. Only what is right in God's eyes counts - not what is right in our eyes! This is basic to understanding the gospel.
We do not have the ability to decide what righteousness is; we can only agree with God's definition of righteousness. If we disagree with Him, we are not believing God. God's definition does not compute with our natural mind. That is why humanity suppresses the truth in unrighteousness. The Greek word for suppress, "katecho", literally means to hold down, to restrain or to hinder. If we do not receive truth, we are suppressing it! It's as simple as that. We then remain in the lie and the deception of the natural mind.
This scripture states that God's wrath is against the unrighteousness in men - it's not talking about the devil and evil spirits. Blaming the devil is a cop-out. When Adam and Eve acted on the devil's advice, they received his mind of lies and deception. Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. By acting on Eve's deception instead of obeying God, Adam suppressed truth.
Disobedience is a suppression of truth. When God's righteousness is revealed to us, but we refuse to receive it, we suppress truth. This is the devil's opportunity to present us with more lies. The natural mind receives them, and more ungodliness and unrighteousness occurs. This pictures the heart of unregenerate man throughout history.
God's desire is for everyone to be filled with His righteousness, and He has made provision for this! Those who not only disregard the truth they have received, but also try to suppress it, will experience the wrath of God on their ungodly attitudes and actions. His wrath allows man to continue in his descent into greater deception without any interference by God. We all need to learn the pitfalls of self-will, and experience God's restraining hand in keeping us from stumbling. The drawing power of God's love and grace enables us to put our trust in Him! When we refuse to listen to God, His wrath will allow us to experience the tragic results of our disobedience! Once we come to the end of our vanity and self-effort, and cry out to God, God will hear us. But before we will turn to God and accept His wonderful salvation, we have to be convinced of our need!
Without God's intervention in our lives, we won't get to know Him. We all need to acknowledge that our own ideas do not work, and that we cannot experience peace and happiness without God! Since the natural mind CANNOT understand spiritual realities, it follows that man cannot come to God of his own volition. God needs to open our blind eyes to see the grace of God and His love! Only then can we receive from God!
The revelation of truth came in Jesus Christ! He said, "I am the truth." Truth cannot contain any lies, deception or anything that does not have its source in God! Truth is not truth when separated from the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who gives life. Doctrine, spoken apart from the Spirit of truth, is not truth at all, for everything without the Spirit remains in the death realm - in the spirit of Babylon.
When truth is received in the carnal mind of man, the mind that cannot receive spiritual realities (1 Cor. 2:14), it remains in the death realm. That mind is preoccupied with overcoming evil by choosing the good and avoiding the evil. But good and evil is one fruit, and both come from the same tree - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - the tree that is rooted in disobedience! So that does not work.
We need truth! The lies and deception of humanity's thinking will remain hidden if we do not receive the light that truth is. Without a statement of truth, the lie will not be detected; it will remain hidden. We need truth to reveal the counterfeit! Jesus Christ is our statement of truth! His mind did not receive any lies. It was always focused on the Father and on obedience to the Father's decrees. He only did what the Father showed Him to do!This is the mind that we have received in Christ!
The suppression or putting down of truth takes place when ungodliness and unrighteousness emerge as truth - when truth is used to stimulate the appetite for unrighteousness - for honour, riches, and self-interests. Their talk sounds right, but the way they live hides the truth. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus talks of those who will say, "Did we not prophesy in your name and cast out devils in your name?" And Jesus will say, "I never knew you!" The relationship with truth was missing! The things they were doing came out of a desire for self-enhancement and honour! God's wrath is against all religious hypocrisy!
God is love, so everything He does is prompted by love! His judgments are prompted by love, for they are to lead people out of the deception of carnal thinking! Even His wrath is prompted by love, for it is designed to help people realize their need for a Saviour! God's goal for humanity is that it be created in His image! When His image is formed in us, Christ will be revealed to the world.
Our high calling in Christ Jesus is to reveal Truth (Christ) in righteousness. We praise God for His intervention in our lives, and His ability to transform us into His likeness!