The body of this magisterial letter officially commences at 1:18. Here, we encounter some of the most devasting words in all Scripture. But they are intended to bless, not curse. They are primarily concerned with answering the question, why do I need a righteousness from God—from what do I need to be saved?
As such, this section (1:18-3:20) is systematically preparatory. Before unfolding the glorious riches of the gospel, the utterly repulsive nature of sin and the devastating danger of being unrighteousness before God must be considered carefully. We must keep in mind that this was written to believers for their understanding. So this section is no less significant for us today. Though heavy and uncomfortable these words should not be passed over quickly. They have more to do with our understanding of God and our own hearts toward Him than with mere morality and indictment. The issue is ultimately a matter of worship. We reject the worth of God and worship worthless things. This epitomizes unrighteousness.
All human beings in themselves are universally unrighteous. Naturally, we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God. This is the plight of humanity—our truest problem. And the reason that Paul draws so much attention to this uncomfortable subject is because a right solution depends on a right diagnosis. The intelligibility of the gospel hinges on understanding that all people everywhere, without exception, are corrupt and culpable. Indeed, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10–11). The case presented here against humanity is both comprehensive and conclusive. The righteous God is angry with unrighteous man.
God’s wrath is being revealed universally and will culminate on the day of judgment upon all who are found unrighteous. God’s grace is being revealed exclusively in the gospel, availing righteousness to all who trust in Christ. All are corrupt and culpable, and Christ is the only righteous redeemer.