“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
While the wrath of God is hardly a popular subject, the Biblical book of Romans provides us with a basis for discussing this difficult and uncomfortable topic: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
This passage identifies three actions that serve to generate God’s wrath: the ungodliness and unrighteousness of human beings who suppress the truth. These behaviors are important in helping us understand the reason behind God’s wrath and why “God did not appoint us to wrath” as mentioned in the passage quoted above.
We can begin with a look at the word ungodliness, a characteristic that is associated with a person who lives without reverence for God. In general, the word “ungodly” is used to describe a mindset of a person who presumes God does not exist. It also serves to identify those who show their disrespect for God in the way they speak or act. In short, “ungodliness” indicates that something is wrong in one’s vertical relationship with his or her Creator.
On the other hand, “unrighteousness” indicates that something is wrong horizontally in one’s relationship with others. As used in the Scriptures, “unrighteousness” refers to injustice, inappropriate conduct towards others, or violations of the law. (1) Unrighteousness is likely to follow ungodliness for once our vertical relationship with God is damaged or marred, then it will surely have an effect on our horizontal relationship with others.
Romans 1:18 goes on to tell us that such individuals “…suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The word “suppress” literally means “to hold something down.” It’s been said that we can illustrate the use of this word with the image of a sailor who is determined to pilot his or her boat against a current of water. To accomplish this, the sailor must “suppress” or hold back the natural flow of water by forcing the rudder to take the boat in the direction he or she wishes to go instead of the direction of the current.
So what is the “something” that people seek to hold down or suppress? Well, Romans 1:18 describes that “something” as the truth. We should notice that it is not “truth” or “a truth” that serves as the object of this effort- it’s “the truth.” We’ll explore the significance of that little three letter word next.