The Root of Righteousness: A Study of Romans 1:18

The Root of Righteousness: A Study of Romans 1:18

Romans 1:18 serves as a crucial entry point into the apostle Paul’s profound exposition on the righteousness of God and the human condition. In this verse, Paul begins to unfold the central theme of his letter to the Romans: the revelation of divine wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. This study explores how Romans 1:18 lays the groundwork for understanding righteousness in the context of God’s justice and mercy.

Exploring Romans 1:18

The verse reads: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Here, Paul introduces the concept of God’s wrath, which is not a capricious emotional outburst but a holy response to sin and injustice. The “wrath of God” is portrayed as being revealed from heaven, emphasizing its divine and righteous nature, against all forms of human sin—specifically targeting ungodliness and unrighteousness.

Key Themes and Insights

  1. Revelation of Wrath: The phrase “is revealed” suggests an ongoing process. This revelation is continuous in the natural order and history, showing that God actively opposes everything that contradicts His nature.
  2. Ungodliness and Unrighteousness: Ungodliness refers to offenses against the divine, such as failing to honor God as God. Unrighteousness, on the other hand, refers to injustices against fellow human beings. Both are seen as active suppressions of truth.
  3. Suppressing the Truth: This expression indicates that inherent in all humans is a knowledge of God and His requirements, which is suppressed or pushed aside by sinful behavior. This suppression leads to further ungodliness and the cycle of sin continues.

Relevance to Righteousness

In discussing the wrath of God, Paul sets the stage for the necessity of a savior. This initial condemnation highlights the stark contrast between human unrighteousness and the righteousness provided through Jesus Christ. It underscores the need for divine intervention in the restoration of a right relationship with God, leading into the themes of salvation and justification that Paul later develops.

Related Bible Verses

  1. Romans 2:6-8 – “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”
  2. John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
  3. Ephesians 5:6 – “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
  4. Psalm 7:11 – “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.”
  5. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – “In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

Suppressing the Truth

The wrath of God in Romans 1:18 is specifically linked to the human action of suppressing the truth. This truth about God is clearly perceived through the created world, as Paul elaborates in the subsequent verses (Romans 1:19-20). Despite the evidence of God’s existence and divine nature evident in creation, people choose to reject this truth, exchanging it for lies and idolatry—worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. This suppression not only encompasses a denial of God’s power and divinity but also leads to a myriad of other sins, as people turn away from the truth they inherently know.

The Need for Righteousness The suppression of truth sets the stage for the expression of God’s wrath because it underscores the universal human condition of ungodliness and unrighteousness. As all have sinned in this manner, all stand condemned under God’s just wrath. This situation underscores humanity’s profound need for righteousness—an unattainable standard on our own but offered graciously through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul uses this stark backdrop of human sinfulness to highlight the beauty and necessity of the gospel, which presents the only means through which we can achieve righteousness: not through our own efforts, but through faith in Christ.


Integrating these points further emphasizes the comprehensive and desperate nature of humanity’s situation without divine intervention, as described in Romans. It enriches our understanding of why Paul is so intent on presenting the gospel as the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). This exploration into the nature of sin, wrath, and salvation sets a profound stage for appreciating the depth of God’s mercy and the transformative power of the gospel.