For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
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Notice Paul’s discretion, that after encouraging the Romans by the gentler things he turns to the more dreadful ones. For after saying that the gospel is the cause of salvation and life, that it is the power of God, and that it brings forth salvation and righteousness, he mentions what might well make them fear, if they were heedless of it. For since in general most men are drawn not as much by the promise of what is good as by the fear of what is painful, Paul draws them on both sides. It was because of this that God not only promised a kingdom; he threatened hell as well. The prophets spoke to the Jews in the same way, always mingling the evil with the good. Paul changes tack for the same reason, but not arbitrarily. Notice how he puts the good things first and after them the bad ones, in order to show that the former came from the guiding purpose of God but the latter from the wickedness of their backsliding. The prophet also puts the good first: “If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel you shall be devoured by the sword.” “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven”—and this often takes place in famines and plagues and wars, for then each person individually and all in common are punished. What will be new then about this coming judgment? The punishment will be greater and common to all, and it will have a different purpose. For what happens now happens for correction, but then it will be for vengeance. Paul showed this elsewhere when he said: “But when we are judged by the Lord we are chastened, so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” Another point is that now many of these things seem to come not from the wrath from above but from human malice. But then the punishment from God will be manifest, when the Judge, sitting upon the terrible tribunal, will order some to be dragged to the furnaces, some to the outer darkness, and some to other inexorable and intolerable punishments. Why then does he not speak as clearly as this … but says rather that “the wrath of God is revealed”? This is because his hearers were still new converts, and he wants to win them over by talking in a way they can accept. And besides what is stated here, he seems to me to be aiming at the Greeks. This is why he starts with God’s wrath and only afterwards introduces the subject of Christ’s judgment. The ways of ungodliness are many, but the way of truth is only one. Error is something various and multiform and compound, but the truth is one. After speaking of doctrines, Paul speaks of life, mentioning the unrighteousness of humanity. For there are also different kinds of unrighteousness. One is in financial affairs, as when someone deals unrighteously with his neighbor in these, and another in regard to women, when a man leaves his own wife and intrudes upon the marriage of another…. Others do not injure wife or property but the reputation of their neighbor, and this too is unrighteousness.