FaithHopeLove.net CHAPTER 1 PAUL'S LETTER REVEALING THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD TO GOD'S LOVED ONES IN ROME Theme of the Roman Letter: The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. In revealing the righteousness of God to mankind, Christ called upon the obedience of faith of His apostles to take the
gospel message to the first century world.. Paul was a unique apostle called upon to obey the imperatives of his faith to
take the gospel message to the Gentiles. The message itself called upon the Gentiles in turn to appropriate God's gift of
faith and obey the requirements of that faith to further extend the purposes of God among mankind. In this manner the
righteousness of God was revealed from faith to faith to mankind during the first century period described in the New
Testament. Jesus Christ called Paul to be His apostle to bring about
obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.. Romans 1:1-15 In the first few verses of this letter to the saints at Rome Paul presents his credentials on which is based his authority to
write to them in the name of Christ, and states his purpose in writing.
PAUL'S LETTER REVEALING THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD TO GOD'S LOVED ONES IN ROME
Theme of the Roman Letter: The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.
In revealing the righteousness of God to mankind, Christ called upon the obedience of faith of His apostles to take the gospel message to the first century world.. Paul was a unique apostle called upon to obey the imperatives of his faith to take the gospel message to the Gentiles. The message itself called upon the Gentiles in turn to appropriate God's gift of faith and obey the requirements of that faith to further extend the purposes of God among mankind. In this manner the righteousness of God was revealed from faith to faith to mankind during the first century period described in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ called Paul to be His apostle to bring about obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.. Romans 1:1-15
In the first few verses of this letter to the saints at Rome Paul presents his credentials on which is based his authority to
write to them in the name of Christ, and states his purpose in writing.
"Paul,. a bond-servant of Jesus Christ."
Jesus, the Son of God, being made in the likeness of men, took the form of a "bond-servant" (literally, a "slave'").. Paul tried to have in himself the attitude of Jesus and serve as an example of how others are to become "bond-servants" of Christ. Paul's attitude was illustrated by his statement, "For to me to live is Christ." (Philippians 12:21).
Later in the 6th chapter of Romans Paul wrote more about this idea of being a bond-servant or slave. "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one you whom you obey..." (Romans 6:16). The idea of a bond- servant immediately brought in the idea of obedience. Paul wanted the readers to know at the outset that he served Jesus as an obedient bond-servant.
"Paul, ... called as an apostle."
After Jesus died, was buried, and was raised, He appeared to all the apostles and, Paul said, "Last of all., as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be ca1led an apost1e, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what 1 am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain. (1 Cor 15:8-10). God made Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ and Paul accepted that assignment although he considered himself less qualified than any of the other apostles.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Am I not an apostle:? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord(1 Cor, 9:1). A genuine apostle must have seen the Lord. But, more than that, he must have been sent forth to work by the Lord Himself. Paul saw the Lord and he was sent forth to a special work by Christ Himself, alive after His resurrection. Christ, through His Holy Spirit gave Paul k:nowlege, exhibited miraculous power through him, and sent him forth to preach to the Gentiles.
"Paul, ... set apart for the gospel of God."
After Paul (then called Saul), on the road to Damascus, had heard the voice of the Lord, had been blinded by the bright light, and had been led into the city of Damascus, Ananias was told by the Lord to go to Paul, "for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the gentiles and kings and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).Paul had good reason to tell the Romans who he was. He was going to reveal to them the righteousness of God. The Romans might wonder how this man. Paul, could know about God. He could know because he was a special messenger from the Son of God Himself. So Paul starts out his letter saying, I am a special "called" apostle, "'set apart for the gospel of God". Later in the 15th chapter of Romans, Paul devotes a whole paragraph to a description of his special responsibility to preach the "gospel of God." (See Romans 15: 15-21).
"Gospel of God ... which he promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures."
This phrase sets the stage for chapters 9, 10, and 11. In these three chapters Paul points out that the gospel was preached ln "shadow" even by the prophets of old. They gave an indication of the good news to come. He reminded them that Moses said that God has mercy regardless of what man does, that God's name would be proclaimed throughout the whole earth, and that righteousness based on faith brings salvation. He reminded them that Joel said, "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved>" And he reminded them that Isaiah said, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things." The gospel of God was promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.
"Gospel of God ... concerning His Son."
The good news of God is about His Son! God has a Son! That's a startling revelation to many people.
The term "Son" is applied to the man, Jesus, who was born in the flesh of the woman, Mary. Since he came into the world by birth just as any other human being, He is rightly called the "Son of Man." Jesus often referred to himself as the "Son of Man," emphasizing his kinship with mankind. As a"Son of Man," however, Jesus was unique in that He did not at any time allow His soul to sin. He became the prototype "Son of Man" demonstrating what all other "sons of men" could become if freed from their slavery to sin.
Although Jesus had an earthly mother, He had no earthly, fleshly father. Miraculously He was sired by God's Holy Spirit. So He is also rightly called the "Son of God." He is one of the Persons of the triune Godhead whom John referred to as"The Word," who "was with God" in "the beginning" and who "was God." Then, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1;1:14).
Only with respect to his becoming flesh was this Person of the Godhead referred to as "the Son of God." In Old Testament prophecy God is quoted as foretelling His incarnation with these words in Psalm 2:7: "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee." And in Isaiah 7: 14 the prophet said: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us)." And in Isaiah 9:6 the prophet again intimates that God will have a Son: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders, and his name will be called wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, eternal Father, Prince of peace."
In the New Testament scriptures there are many clear references to the Savior as the Son of God. But in the Old Testament scriptures there are only a few references that refer to, or intimate that, the coming Messiah will be a human being related to God as Son to Father.
"His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh."
The good news about God's Son includes the fact that He became flesh like we are. God arranged through David's descendant, a woman named Mary, for the Son of God to be born as a fleshly human.
"His Son, ... who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead."
Jesus lived life on earth in a fleshly body like a human. In every respect He was truly a human being. When crucified, His fleshly body died as would that of any human being under the same circumstances. But this man didn't stay dead. He was resurrected. God claimed Him. Only the power of God could raise Him from the dead. God declared through His act of raising Him that, "He is My Son."
This was an important foundation to lay for what Paul said later in the 8th chapter of Romans. "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you." (Romans 8:11). God raised Jesus, declaring Him to be the Son of God. Paul showed in Romans that God wants to raise all human beings and make them His sons also.,
"His Son, ... according to the Spirit of Holiness."
He was born in the flesh of the seed of David. But He was the Son of God according to the Spirit of Holiness. Jesus was both human and divine. Mary was his fleshly mother. But God was His Father. Jesus was "'of David", but He was also "of God"'.
"His Son, ... Jesus Christ our Lord."
The only Son of God, a perfect human, thus became the annointed Savior to Christians, their Master, and their Lord. No one else in all God's realm is qualified to serve mankind as He did. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16).
"His Son, ... through whom we have received grace and apostleship."
As Paul writes 1ater in the 15th chapter, "Grace was given me from God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles." This grace came to him through the Son of God. Thus, Paul established his credentials at the very beginning of the Roman letter. But his credentials did not come of his own efforts; they were the credentials of the Sori of God given to His human vessel, Paul.
"to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles."
In Acts 9:15 the Lord told Ananias concerning his purpose for the life of Paul (then called SauI), "He is a chosen instrument of mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel." In Romans 1:5 Paul told the Roman Christians that the Lord's purpose in choosing him as an apostle was "to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles." And in Romans 1: 15 Paul said, "Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome."
We must conclude that these purposes or goals of Paul are all closely related:
(1) "to bear My name before the Gentiles,"
(2) "to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.,"
(3) "to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome."
The bearing of Jesus' name was tantamount to preaching the gospel of Jesus and was for the purpose of bringing about
"obedience of faith" in the recipients of Paul's Roman letter.
In the close of the Roman letter (Romans 16:25-27) Paul recorded his prayer giving glory to the "only wise God" tor the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ "leading to obedience of faith".
Thus, with an introduction and closing emphasizing "obedience of faith," we should expect to find in the Roman letter an underlying purpose to lead the Roman Christians to render "obedience of faith" toward God. In fact we do find that everything that is revealed and explained in the Roman letter about the "mysteries" of God's act ions and purposes through the ages is followed by admonition to specific practical steps of "obedience of faith" to accomplish God's purposes in the Christian's lives. With respect to its basic purpose tor the lives of the Roman Christians, the Roman letter may be said to be a treatise on "obedience of faith."
Paul's use of this phrase, "obedience of faith", leads us to understand that the concept of "faith," as Paul used it, always involved actions a f "obedience." Indeed, Paul presented "obedience of faith" as an imperative for the "saving" of those who heard the gospel and for the "bearing of fruit" in the lives of Christians. However, after Paul's use of this phrase "obedience of faith" in the introduction of the Roman letter, he went on to refer to the concept later in Romans by use of the single word "faith". We must always remember as we study Romans, that the concept of "faith", revealed by the Lord to Paul, always involved steps of "obedience".
"Through whom we have received grace and apostleship ... for His name's sake".
Paul served as an apostle, not for his own glory to spread his own name before the world, but for spreading the name of His Lord before the world. Paul's statement, "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21)illustrates this point. Paul understood that his apostleship was for the Lord's name's sake.
"The Gentiles, ... among whom you also are called by Jesus Christ".
In Paul's letter to the Gentile Christians in Rome he carried out a task Christ gave him to do, to bring about further obedience of faith among those who had been "called by Jesus Christ." The "call" certainly included the Christians of Rome.
"Paul ... to al1 who are beloved of God in Rome, ca1led as saints."
Paul wrote to Christians who had availed themselves of God's love. In his introduction, Paul reminded them of this. Also
Romans 5:5 says, "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
And Romans 8:39 says nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus." This letter was
addressed then to those "who are beloved of God in Rome."
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Grace from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ was the best of all possible favor that mankind could have, and it applied to the fleshly lives of the Roman Christians as well as to their eternal spiritual lives. The promise of peace meant the absence of agitation and inner warfare that came from constant problems with sin.
Grace and peace, extended to the Romans by God and then confiscated by the souls of the Romans as the supporting foundation for their lives. made it possible for them to carry out God's purposes for them. Based on the grace and peace from God, Paul showed the Romans how to grow toward a life that follows where God's Holy Spirit leads, away from slavery to sin towards the bearing of fruit for the Lord.
These first seven verses of Romans have set the stage. Paul wrote to Christians. He stated his credentials and his purpose: to declare the gospel of God and bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles. We will see as we study the letter that Paul went on to show that the obedience of faith was something that the Roman Christians had to continue all their fleshly lives in order to make progress as bond-servants of Christ.
Romans, Chapter 1, verses 8 through 15.
"(8) First. I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all. because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." (Romans 1:8) NASV.
First, before writing of other things, Paul said, I thank the God whom 1 serve. I do this, he said, through Jesus Christ. I thank God for you Christians in Rome because of your faith which is proclaimed throughout the whole world. The eternal salvation and the faith enjoyed by the Christians at Rome were gifts to them by "God through Jesus Christ." They had appropriated these gifts as God had intended. The fact that their faith was "proclaimed throughout the whole world" was evidence that they had obeyed the imperatives of that faith (had exercised "obedience of faith"). The phrase, "faith...proclaimed throughout the whole world", is an apt title tor Biblical lessons about the blessings in human lives, and the effect for the whole world, of God's gift of faith to individuals and congregations of His church!
"(9) For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, (10) always in my prayers making request. if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you." (Romans 1:9-10) NASV.
Paul prayed to God unceasingly. God heard him and could testify of Paul's great interest in the Romans and his desire to go to Rome to preach. In writing this, Paul weaved into his words his understanding of his personal human make up and how he was enabled to communicate with God. Paul recognized that he had a personal spirit and called specific attention to it, indicating that his "spirit" had an important part in communicating with God and in his God-given task of preaching the gospel of God's Son. Also we should note that Paul spoke of his "spirit" as though it were but a part of him. He said in effect that "I" (my source of will-power, my soul) serves God in "my spirit" (a part of me over which my soul has control>.
In I Thessalonians 5:23 Paul recognized each Christian as a three part being when he prayed, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". The "complete" human being was recognized as consisting of three parts, "spirit and soul and body". A careful study of the Old and New Testament context of usage of these three words, spirit, soul, and body, as related to the complete human being, indicates that they are three parts of the complete human being with somewhat separate functions. It takes all three together to form the complete human being.
The writer of the Hebrew Letter has indicated in Hebrews 4:12 that the spirit and soul are meant to function separately. If they don't function separately, then the "word of God" is intended "to cut" the spirit and soul apart as a two edged sword might sever bone from marrow. And Jesus Himself indicated in Matthew 10:28 that the soul is separate from the body in that the soul does not die and descend into the grave as does the fleshly body when it dies. Thus the "spirit and soul and body" were understood to have separate functions in the life of Paul and the Christians to whom he wrote the Roman letter.
Paul's understanding of the relationship of his soul to his personal spirit was illustrated when he wrote in Romans 1:9, "I serve (God) in my spirit". We understand that Paul was writing about his soul (the seat of his will-power) which served God in, or through, his spirit. Paul was writing in verses 9 and 10 about his communication with God whereby God knew his mind and thereby could be his witness, and of his communication with God in prayer requesting God's help in going to Rome. Indeed, there is much evidence in the Bible that the personal spirit of a Christian is that part of him which God enables to communicate directly with God. Paul referred to this direct communication in Romans 8:16 when he said, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God".
Paul certainly did not intend that Romans 1:9-10 be a treatise on the details of how God has created people as triune beings, or on how God desires the three parts of a person to function. Paul simply wanted his readers to know that, as an apostle and a preacher of the gospel, he prayed to God that he might go to Rome to "impart some spiritual gift" to the Romans. But in making this point he illustrated his knowledge of his personal make-up and the functions of his soul and spirit. He wrote as to readers who might also have this same knowledge and might fully understand his words. Or he wrote as to readers whom he wanted to stir up to curiosity concerning the full meaning of his words.
Paul's words affect us similarly today. Some people may have studied God's word enough to have some knowledge of the triune make-up the human and the functions of his parts. If so, Paul's words are tar richer in meaning to them. Others may realize that Paul refers to things which they do not fully understand. They may be spurred to greater and more specific areas of study to search out the fuller meanings which are obviously present in the Holy Spirit inspired words of Paul.
"(11) For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; (12) that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine". (Romans 1:11-12) NASV.
One of the reasons Paul longed to see the Roman Christians was that he wanted to "impart some spiritual gift" to them. This may have been a reference to the fact that God's Holy Spirit worked through the apostle Paul to enable Christians to receive and exercise certain miraculous gifts. These gifts were imparted to Christians by the Holy Spirit through the "laying on" of the apostle's hands, and were exercised by the Christians to confirm the preaching of the gospel. The gifts enabled the Christians to do such things as to speak in languages (tongues) they had not learned, or to heal sick people miraculously. The apostle Paul himself was enabled by the Holy Spirit to exercise such miraculous gifts, and others upon whom Paul "laid his hands" were also enabled to exercise miraculous gifts. These gifts were those referred to in I Corinthians 12:4-11 which says, in part, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. ... But teach one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills".
On the other hand, Paul's expressed desire "to impart some spiritual gift" to the Romans may have been simply his desire to teach them the kind of spiritual things he wrote about in the Roman letter. The original Greek word for "gift" simply meant grace, favor, or kindness. By teaching them Paul could impart to them the spiritual grace of understanding the word of God more fully, as he imparted to all who study his Roman letter. This meaning seems to be consistent with his desire "to be encouraged together with you,.. .each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine", as he said in verse 12.
Another reason Paul longed to see the Roman Christians was "that you (the Romans) might be established". The original Greek word for "established" meant "set" or "made fast". Paul wanted to "make them fast", or "to set them steadfastly" in the kingdom of God by revealing the righteousness of God and helping them increase their faith. This will undoubtedly be the reward for those who diligently study Paul's Roman letter.
Paul also wrote of his plan to go to Rome in Romans 15:22-24 and expressed similar sentiments to those expressed here in Romans 1. He said, "I have often been hindered from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain--for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while--but now I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints".
"And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." (Romans 1:13)
Paul expressed here another reason why he wanted to go to the Christians in Rome: "in order that I might obtain some fruit among you". Paul made it clear here as he did in Philippians 1:21-22 that as long as he lived in the flesh he wanted to engage in "fruitful labor" to the extent that "for me to live is Christ."
In addition the thought expressed here concerning the "obtaining of fruit" may also include Paul's desire that there be fruit in the lives of the Roman Christians. The expression "obtain some fruit" presages a major lesson presented by Paul in the Roman letter concerning the "bearing of fruit for God". This lesson is summarized in Romans 7:4, "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God".
"(14) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (15) Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." Romans 1:14-15. NASV.
Paul wrote similarly in I Corinthians 9:16 when he said, "I am under compulsion" to preach the gospel; "for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel". Paul received a mandate from God which began to be revealed to him on the road to Damascus when he was still called Saul and was a persecutor of Christians. Later, when he was baptized into Christ by Ananias he made a commitment to fulfill Christ's commission to him to be "a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel". (Acts 9:15). As far as we know Paul never wavered from his commitment.
When Paul spoke of Gentiles he didn't mean just Greeks but also "barbarians." The term "Greeks" referred to the natives of Greece. But who did Paul refer to as "barbarians?" In Acts 28:2 Paul called the natives of the island of Malta "barbarians." The word "barbarian" in the original Greek language meant simply a foreigner or alien. So this phrase "Greeks and barbarians" simply includes all the Gentiles in the world.
The phrase "to the wise and to the foolish," from another standpoint, denotes all mankind. There were those who esteemed themselves to be wise as in 1 Corinthians 1:22, "the Greeks seek after wisdom." And there certainly were those who were regarded as ignorant or unpolished. Paul wanted it to be known that the gospel has the power to instruct both the wise and the unwise. Even the "foolish" can gain salvation from it. There is no limit to the wisdom of God towards which one can progress if he lets Christ live in him.
Finally, in this introduction to the Roman letter, Paul said, "1 am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." But this statement was still qualified by verse 10 where he said, "if perhaps now at last by the wi 11 of God I may succeed in coming to you."These first fifteen verses of the first chapter of the Roman letter has set the stage tor Paul to plunge into the theme of Romans, "the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." In these introductory remarks Paul affirmed that he had been appointed by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel which reveals the "righteousness of God" and brings about "obedience of faith" in human lives.
B. The gospel of Christ is God's power to save Jews and Gentiles who believe. Romans 1:16-17.
"(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith.'" Romans 1:16-1. NASV.
These verses present the major theme of Paul's letter to the Romans. The primary mission given by Christ and accepted by Paul in his life was to declare the gospel which is the power of God to everyone who believes. Undoubtedly the main motivation for Paul's writing of this letter to the Romans was the declaration of this ancient gospel which could now, since the completion of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, be declared in much greater detail than ever before and in full disclosure of the fulfillment of things which heretofore had been disclosed only in type or shadow and veiled prophecy.
.The actual theme or subject of the letter to the Romans is best expressed, however, by the phrase, "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith unto faith". The letter presents an account of the provisions and gifts which God, in His righteousness, has provided to mankind, and which mankind in return is obliged to appropriate by faith. Man's awareness of a need and God's gift to him to satisfy that need leads to man's appropriation of that gift by faith. And then man becomes aware of still other needs and additional gifts of God which lead to additional, or greater, faith. As one studies the Roman letter one comes to realize that the righteousness of God has resulted in comprehensive provisions for every aspect of eternal life. One is led to greater and greater comprehension of the "depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God." (Rom 11:33).
Although the truths of verses 16 and 17 were expressed in the context of the world of Paul's time. a world populated by Jews and Gentiles. these truths were not new. They were true even before God's formation of the Jewish nation, even from the days of Adam. God's revelations to mankind have always been good news (gospel) to the believer. Only God has had the power of salvation in the past and only God will have that power in the future of mankind. Salvation has always been given by God to the man who has faith (that is, the man who, in his life, renders obedience of faith), and Paul said here that it continued to be true.
Paul made this point by quoting (in verse 17) the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, "But the righteous man shall live by faith", indicating that salvation by a life of faith was not a new concept. These words in verses 16 and 17 form the opening statement to a number of later statements in Romans about the concept of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul presented this concept in the context of all the time that God has given to mankind on earth, "since the creation of the world" (Romans 1:20) to the time of the final judgment when "the wrath of God is revealed." (Romans 1:18) Paul made it clear in passages to follow that God's salvation in Christ was and is for the benefit of all people on earth, including those who lived before Paul wrote and all who would live after he wrote.
What is the meaning of the word "salvation," which Paul used here? The basic meaning of the original Greek word which Paul used is "safety", "soundness", or "salvation." With respect to what does the "power of God" in the "gospel" offer us safety, soundness, or salvation?
This is an important question to explore for there are differing answers being offered today. First of all, the context here in the Roman letter indicates that Paul understood the "salvation" offered to mankind in the gospel to be salvation from the wrath of God which God will exercise in the spiritual realm in the full and final judgment. However, some people today do not accept Paul's teachings concerning the wrath of God, and simply speak of a salvation that enables some sort of freedom from bothersome worldly problems during the fleshly life.
Others hold that salvation is in respect to the wrath of God to be exercised in the final judgment (as does Paul), but that it is given and received by mankind on the basis of an individual's mere intellectual belief in Christ. Many who hold this view also teach that the "baptism" that "now saves you," mentioned in 1 Peter 3:20,refers to some sort of salvation from the world only while the individual is living in the flesh before the final judgment in the spiritual realm. They hold this latter salvation enabled by baptism to be unnecessary to salvation from the wrath of God at the final judgment.
However, in view of Paul's explanation that his apostleship was for the purpose of bringing people to "obedience of faith," it is unthinkable that he held the view that obedience to baptism, that Jesus commanded in His great commission, was unnecessary to that salvation. In Paul's great lesson concerning the meaning of baptism in the sixth chapter of the Roman letter, there is every reason for us to understand that he wrote of a baptism that every Roman Christian had obeyed as a part of his "obedience of faith" in the power of God for salvation from the wrath of God to come.
It is clear as we study the Roman letter that Paul's understanding or saving faith was the same as that of the writer of the Hebrew letter (who may have been Paul himself). The writer of the Hebrew letter wrote in the 11th chapter of Hebrews of the faith by which "the men of old gained approval," faith that was always expressed by obedient actions and was never a mere intellectual belief without action. The faith by which Abel offered a sacrifice, the faith by which Noah prepared an ark, and the faith by which Abraham obeyed and offered Isaac is the faith of which Paul wrote in the Roman letter. He brought to the Roman Christians and to all who have since read his letter a practical plan of how progressive obedience of faith will lead Christians to accomplish God's purpose in their lives.
In Romans 8:28 Paul presented a concise summary of God's objective for mankind, "to love God" and to answer the call "according to His purpose." In the first part of this verse, Paul alluded to the provisions, discussed in the first 8 chapters, which God has supplied to mankind to assist him toward the objective, and concluded they are so comprehensive that it can be said that "God causes all things to work together for good" to those who are seeking God's objective for their lives.
After the 16th and 17th verses of the first chapter, Paul plunged into a progressive revealing of the many gracious provisions which the righteousness of God had granted in behalf of the salvation of the Romans, as well as all people who live during this Christian dispensation on earth. He wrote of God's provisions for mankind in a progressive way as they take people from the terrible state in which they first face God to a state in which they "overwhelmingly conquer." (Romans 8:37). The organization of Paul's letter seems to have been based on the strategy that people cannot make progress toward a better condition of life until they understand their first condition from which they must start.
C. All have sinned and need the gospel of Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. Romans 1:18 through 3:20.
To combat the thought that early man might not have had any ordinances placed on them by God, and being without law from God, might have been free of transgressions against God, Paul points out that God had made his requirements so evident to them that, in their disobedience, they were without excuse. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against them, Paul said. This effectively applied to all people who lived before the time of God's special law given through Moses to the Jews. And since God's special law through Moses was for Jews only, it follows that Paul's arguments in Romans 1 applied also to the Gentiles of the world who lived concurrently with the Jews even up to the time of Paul, and even until today.
Paul strengthened this thought concerning God's law to the Gentiles in Romans 2:14-15. Paul made note that the Gentiles do not have the same Law as the Jews but a another law, written in their hearts rather than on stone, to which their consciences bear witness.
Thus this part of Paul's letter affirmed that the Gentiles are under a law of God. It convicted the Gentile readers of being sinners, without excuse, and in danger of the wrath of God in the final judgment.
Many of the Jews of Paul's day thought that they were such a special people of God that Paul's arguments, concerning sinners without excuse, did not apply to them. But Paul wrote directly to them in chapters 2 and 3 and convincingly argued that they could not escape the judgment of God merely because they wore the name "Jew," and relied on God's special Law given through Moses, and boasted in God. In fact, Paul accused the Jews of his day of dishonoring God before the world of Gentiles by boasting of their justification by Law when they were actually transgressors of the Law.
Of course, Paul's early arguments in the Roman letter were written to lead the reader to appreciation of the extremely dangerous position of one who might appear before the judgment of God without the free gift of God's salvation. But rays of hope were given in this part of the Roman letter in chapter 2, verses 4 through 10. In verse 4 reference was made to "the kindness of God which leads you to repentance." In verse 7 mention is made of "those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." And in verse 10 the promise was made that there will be "glory and honor and peace to every man who does good."
Of what does "doing good" consist? Paul made it clear that it does not consist of striving to merit something through keeping God's law, for such striving will not result in "glory and honor and immortality." Striving to merit glory, honor and immortality through the perfect obedience of God's law is doomed to failure. So Paul's mention here of salvation based on one's "doing good" was probably included in order to lead one to read on to find out the gospel meaning of the term "doing good."
The righteousness of God has been revealed in the great provisions God has given for the salvation of mankind. The first great provision that God gave toward the salvation of mankind was a rule of law. We wi1l see as we study the Roman letter that God did not place mankind under law for the purpose of having him gain salvation directly through law. But law was a prerequisite to prepare mankind to accept God's free gift of salvation. From Romans 1: 18 through Romans 3:20 Paul explained the place and purpose of the laws under which God has placed mankind.
God's laws were given from the time of the creation of mankind in the earth (Romans l:20). Upon God's creation of the Jewish people He gave a special law through Moses intended for the Jews only (Romans 2:17ff). Since the Law of Moses was for Jews only. the Gentiles (all those who were not Jews) remained still under the original law that had been given from the creation. Paul clearly indicated that the Law of Moses had not been intended for the Gentiles but that God's law for the Gentiles had been written in the hearts of Gentile individuals (Romar1s 2: 14-15). But, Paul made it clear that God has placed all people, Jews arid Gentiles, under law. All were not placed under the same law, but all were under God ordained laws.
All people know that they are under ordinances of God, said Paul, and all are aware that they have broken those ordinances and have placed themselves in a position of no excuse before God. (Romans 1: 20, 32). Paul's argument was designed to lead to the understanding that people have to depend upon the mercy of God for salvation from the sin of law breaking, for the law itself made no provision for such salvation (Romans 1:18, 32; 3:20).
If the law did not save people from their sinful state, what then was Gods purpose for placing people under law? This was
the question that Paul's arguments skillfully led reader's of the Roman letter to ask. Paul actually framed this question
using the Jewish law as an examp1e when he asked, "Then what advantage has the Jew?" (Romans 3: 1). In other words, if
the Law of Moses did not save the Jew from his sinful state, what was his advantage in being placed under the Law? Paul
answered that question with respect to both Jews and Gentiles by asking rhetorically, "For otherwise (that is, without law)
how will God judge the world?" (Romans 3:6). The reader of the Roman letter had to conclude that God placed all people
under law in order that He might establish a standard under which He might justly judge them should it become necessary
for Him to do so.
In Romans 2:4 Paul called his reader's attention to the fact that God not only placed all people under law but He also was ready to grant "riches" to them in the form of "His kindness and forbearance and patience." He did this in order to lead them to repentance. In Romans 2 verses 7 and 10, Paul intimated that one's repentance from his sins was tantamount to "doing good" which leads to "glory and honor and immortality." On the one hand, if they continued in their law breaking without repentance, God's judgment in the application of His wrath upon them was certain and just. On the other hand, if they chose to repent in dependence upon God's kindness, they could escape the judgment of wrath to receive instead "glory and honor and immortality."
Pau1's arguments in this section of the Roman 1etter were couched in the universal terms of "doing evil" and "doing good" as indicated by the Old Testament prophecy that God "will render to every man according to his deeds," whether they are evil or good. Paul made it clear, as did the Old Testament Prophets, that "doing evil" consisted of breaking God s law, something that all people were guilty of doing. However, the term "doing good" never meant "the keeping of God's law." Although the term "doing good: was not fully defined in chapter 2 of the Roman letter, Paul reiterated in the letter the Old Testament meaning by making the term "doing good" equivalent to doing acts of "obedience of faith."
Finally, in Romans 3: 19-20, Paul wrote clearly that God's purpose for law was to "speak to those under law, that every mouth may be closed. and all the world may become accountable to God. ... for through the 1aw comes the knowledge of sin." Pau1's strategy was to show the universal truth that people have to understand and acknowledge their sin before they can turn in repentance to the forgiveness of God.
In Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 24, Paul stated that "the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." That is precisely what Paul has affirmed at length in his letter to the Romans.
God has given law to both Gentiles and Jews but all have sinned by breaking God's law. Romans 1:18 through 3:18.
Since the creation of the world the wrath of God has been revealed against unrighteous men who knew God but rejected their obvious responsibilities to Him and His offered salvation through faith in Him. Romans 1: 18-32.
As we consider this verse let us be reminded of the theme of the Roman letter: "The righteousness of God is revealed from .faith to faith. In this verse Paul declared in effect that "the righteousness of God is revea1ed" in "the wrath of God." When that wrath is revealed it becomes an evident statement of God 's righteousness to those who have faith in God and all for which God stands.
The "wrath of God is revealed" as being "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." God s nature can only be described in superlative and absolute terms. God s nature is "godly" and "righteous" so He is absolute1y against "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness." It is absolutely impossible for people who are "ungod1y" (against God) or "unrighteous" (against right) to dwell in the presence of God, thus such peop1e cannot be recipients of God's salvation and must be the recipients of His wrath.
In Romans 3:5-6, Paul alluded to some of the critics of this teaching who argued that it was unrighteous and unjust of God to exercise wrath against unrighteous people because, after all, their unrighteousness simply demonstrated the righteousness of God. Paul asked rhetorically, "The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? ... May it never be! For otherwise how will God Judge the world?" We must conclude that the wrath of God applied in God's ,judgment of "ungodly" and "unrighteous" peop1e is justified and camplete1y in accord with His righteous nature.
Paul indicated in the 2nd chapter of Romans, verses 7 and 9, that there are in God's sight on1y two categories of peop1e,
those who "do good", .:and those who "do evil." The two states of "good" and "evil", with no grey areas in between, do
exist in God's creation. But "good" only emanates from God and no one else. No "evil" emanates from God.
God's complete abhorrence for "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness," and His just pronouncement of wrath against "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness" of men, has been declared universally in both the Old and the New Testaments. The prophet Ezra warned that God's "power and His anger (wrath) are against all those who forsake Him." (Ezra 8:22), and the Old Testament revealed many, many instances in which the wrath of God was exercised directly against ungodly and unrighteous individuals and nations. In New Testament Scripture Jesus warned, "He who does not obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36). Paul s warning to the Romans here in Romans 1:18 was in the context of the revealed truths of the gospel concerning God's Son and the necessity in this last dispensation for mankind to obey the Son.
The "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness" of the men against whom the wrath of God is revealed, was evidenced in Paul 's description of them as "those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." The righteousness of God is revealed to mankind in God 's revelations of truth to mankind. God has always revealed His truth, said Paul as he wrote this part of the Roman letter. In Paul's day the truth, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, was revealed to mankind. Those who suppressed this truth, or those who had suppressed any of God 's revealed truth in the past, necessarily had done so with unrighteous motives, said Paul. This suppression of truth set them against God. Such people had placed themselves in danger of the exercise of God's just wrath against them.
Already in verse 18 alone Paul has introduced us, in a negative way, to two great positive provisions for mankind's salvation which the righteousness of God has revealed. The first is the knowledge of God's wrath which is necessary to lead one to a proper understanding of God's nature and to warn one to avoid ungodliness. The second is the knowledge of truth which is also necessary to a proper understanding of God 's nature and which instructs and leads us to salvation.
"(19) Because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them." Romans 1:19. NASV.
This verse is a continuation of the sentence Paul began in verse 18 and referred to those "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." It defined the truth which had been suppressed as "that which is known about God." The context indicates that "they" were held responsible by God to have some certain knowledge about God "within them" because God had "made it evident to them."
The term "within them" seems to intimate that God has placed some knowledge in the "inner man'", leading one to think of the possibility that God pre-programmed at creation the soul and/or spirit of mankind with some k:nowledge of Himself. Indeed, in the very next chapter while Paul was still discussing this same subject, he said, "...Gentiles ...do instinctively the things of the law... in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them..." The word "instinctively" seems to refer to a kind of pre-programming of mankind. The words "hearts", "conscience", and "thoughts" seem to refer to functions of the "inner man". the "soul" and/or the "spirit" of mankind.
In the next verse Paul explained how God also has made truths about Himself evident to people through external manifestation, that is, through what God has made. We are awed by the thought that the righteousness of God is revealed to mankind both inwardly and outwardly, through the "inner man", and through the "outer man" by observation of "what has been made." These provisions, God's inward and outward revelations to all mankind since the creation of the world, are the first of a long list of God's provisions for the salvation of mankind that Pau1 has cited in the Roman 1etter.
"(20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20. NASV.
In this verse Paul explained what God had made evident to people, how God had made it evident, and the result of people's mishandling of the truths that were evident. The truths that had been made evident were God's invisible attributes, His eternal power, and His divine nature. These truths had been made known by God through people's inevitable observance of God's creation all around them. The result of people's suppression of these truths was that they were found without excuse, were found gui1ty of disobeying an obvious responsibility placed on them by God.
The phrase, "for since the creation of the world," indicated that responsibi1ity was not on1y placed upon the Romans and other peop1e of Paul's time but had been placed on all people in all past history. It was not a new responsibi1ity. Since the people of the world of today live in the same dispensation of God in which Paul lived and wrote, it is clear that all people today have the same responsibility towards God 's revealed truths that people always have had since the creation of the world. To all people today the invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature of God is revealed and understood through what has been made, and those today who suppress the truth thus revealed are also "without excuse" and in danger of the "wrath of God."
Let us pause and give thought to what people of the world have learned "through what has been made," that is, through observation of the universe of life and matter which surrounds us. The drawing of conclusions from such observations forms the basis of all that has been learned in all the ages through the sciences. To what other source of knowledge have scientists ever had access except to the source inherent in "what has been made?" Has not all so-called scientific knowledge been derived from observations and study of the universe which surrounds us? Such a large body of knowledge has been accumulated that it has become extremely difficult to keep track of it. It has become necessary for the time and energy of many to be given over simply to the managing, storage, and retrieval of useful information that has been derived through observation of what has been made. The industries of the world, which have given us the multitude of modern products which contribute to our lives, are all based on scientific discoveries made in studies of the life and matter which surrounds us.
Through study of the physical world around us, many things which were once "invisible" to us have become "visible". It appears that this source of "invisible" things is inexhaustible. Does anyone reasonably suggest that research in the sciences cease because we have found everything there is to find from "what has been made?"
But the knowledge of God available to mankind through what has been made does not comprise all that mankind needs to know. It is just enough to leave mankind "without excuse," sinners, who desperately need the gospel. Thanks be to God for His written Word, the B1ble, in which is revealed "the righteousness of God," and in which is declared the gospel, the power of God for salvation to all mankind.
In verses 18-20, Paul clearly stated that God holds everyone responsible to know and act upon what has been made
evident. Conversely, he intimated that God does not hold anyone responsible to know what has not been made evident.
Some people grasp at the latter thought to argue that the remotely located tribes of the earth do not need the gospel of
Christ for nothing of God and His requirements have been made known to them. Having no knowledge of God's laws,
these tribes have no responsibility to obey. They cannot be held guilty for breaking God's laws. It is argued that these
"primitive" tribes should be left alone in their state of "blessed ignorance" for the missionary message will only get them in
trouble with God, making them guilty.
On the other hand, some hold that Christians may be held accountable in God's judgement for the sins of those remote peoples if the Christians do not take Christ's gospel of salvation to them. For instance, I have been told that" their sins" will be laid to "my charge" if I do not take the gospel to them. But again, we must note that Paul said "they are without excuse" because of their own conduct in suppressing truth which God Himself made evident to them. I may be held accountable in judgement for my failure to carry out the "great commission" of Christ, but not for the evil conduct of others.
"(21) For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Romans 1:21. NASV.
Something of God is revealed to every person. In this way every person "knows God". But, of course, God created every person with a free will. A person can honor God by following up on what he knows of God, by seeking to know more about God's will for his life. This puts him on the path to the salvation which God has provided for every person. Or a person can dishonor God by ignoring Him and ordering his life in accordance with his own speculations. This puts him on the path that leads ultimately to his engulfment by the "wrath of God."
As we continue to study the Roman letter, we will learn that God does not easily give up the person who starts down the path of his own speculations. Before God brings His wrath upon a person, He puts into operation another of His provisions He has designed to bring that person to salvation. God provides "stumbling blocks" to interrupt the 1ife of a person on the path to destruct ion. In Romans 11: 7-12 Paul explained the principle of "stumb1ing b locks" in more detail. He quoted words of the Old Testament prophets Moses, Isaiah, and David concerning the principle, and pointed out that God has always used it to awaken a person to his danger of destruction on the path of his own speculations. Here in verse 21 Paul made a veiled reference to the principle. He said that if a person ignores what God has made evident to him, that person becomes futile in his own speculations, and his heart, then called foolish, becomes darkened. Later in chapter 1, verses 24 and 28, Paul referred to the principle when he said, God "gave them over" to their evil practices.
"(22) Professing to be wise, they became fools." Romans 1: 22. NASV.
In their speculations they profess to be wise. They may be considered to be very wise by their peers. They may have invented a new religion that has attracted a multitude of people. They may have philosophized that God is dead. or they may have devised a theory of evolution that contradicts God's revelation. But, in actuality their minds have become darkened and they have become fools.
"(23) And exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." Romans 1:23. NASV.
Here Paul described some of the vain imaginations and futile speculations in which people had engaged. All people have had and do have incentive and opportunity to worship the incorruptible God. But, in times past, they have turned away from the glory of God and made for themselves images of corruptible men. In Paul's time many people worshiped, as though they were rea1, the Greek and Roman gods of mythology. These gods were supposed to be somewhat like men, perhaps supermen. They were thought of as having passions and foibles just like men. People erected statues of the gods which, of course, were images of men. Other people formed images of birds: the Egyptians worshiped the hawk, Romans worshiped the eagle. Others made and worshiped images of four footed animals. The Egyptians made idol images of oxen. The Israelites copied the Egyptian practice with their "golden calf" in the wilderness. And they formed images of creeping or crawling things. The Egyptians also were known to worship crocodiles and snakes.
In our time in the United States there are not many people who actually worship statuary idols. But many of us do exchange the worship of God for the worship of men. Many religious organizations of our time have exchanged their belief in the eternal, spiritual God, and Christ as the Son of God, for a belief in the "god" who has evolved within man. These organizations do not base their understanding of love and service or. the Almighty God who loves and serves mankind, but teach that the highest service is merely social service for fellow men. They have exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of corruptible man.
"(24) Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. Romans 1:24. NASV.
When God "gave them over ... to impurity," did He exert any influence on them to sin? No. The verses just preceding
indicate that God's influence was just the opposite. Verse 19 says that He placed evidence of Himself "within them." Verse
20 says that He placed the clear evidence of His attributes before them. Later Romans 2:15 says that God gave them
information which worked in them so that they had a law written in their hearts causing their consciences to lead them to
God, not away from God into sin. God's plan was to bring about their "obedience of faith." It was not God's plan that they
should become disobedient and die in their "impurity."
These people whom God "gave over to impurity" were violators of God's law written in their hearts. Romans 3:19-20 says, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks ... that every mouth flay be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God ... for through the law comes the knowledge of sin." Romans 7: 7 says, "I would not have come to know sin except through the law; for I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, you shall not covet." So the law written In the hearts of all people was given to bring people to the knowledge of their sin. Then Romans 11:32 sums up, "God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all." Thus is outlined God's principle which I have called God's principle of "stumbling blocks." It was designed to bring sinners up short in their sin so that they might know of their dangerous condition under the possibility of God's wrath. We conclude that it was a part of God's plan to "give them over to "impurity" when they sinned, to teach them:
(1) that they cannot sin and still remain in fellowship with God, and
(2) that they are shut up in disobedience away from God's mercy until they repent and turn back to the exercise of their obedience of faith.
As we read of the evi1 actions of the ungodly and unrighteous people listed in Romans 1: 18-32, we may be inclined to think that the peop1e Paul spoke of here were unusually evil peop1e, 1eft without hope of salvation, or God would not have "'given them over." But this is not the case. These are the very people for whom Christ died! We may be inclined to think that the sins listed here are unusually gross and repulsive to God because they seem unusually repulsive to us. Although we know that we are not free from sin, we may be inclined to feel somewhat superior to the people Paul describes here for surely we have not committed such gross evil practices. Surely God has not "given us over" just because of the lesser sins which we commit.
But are there lesser and greater degrees of sin in God's sight? God glories in perfection, the superlative state where there is no sin at all, not even a slight "missing of the mark" of perfection. And Paul finally concludes in Romans 3:23, that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" There is no hint here of lesser or greater degrees of sin. All have missed the perfection which God requires. Of course, God's Holy Spirit through Paul's Roman letter wants us to come to understand that the perfection, that we must have to dwell with God, can only come to us through Jesus Christ. When a person sins, even a sin we might consider of "lesser degree," does God stay with him and protect him from the immediate consequences of his sin.? No. When a person sins, God has obligated Himself to "give him over." But in that "giving over" we learn that God is not leaving us without hope. In that very "giving over," the patience and mercy of God comes into evidence and God's principle of "stumbling blocks" begins to work to bring us to a knowledge of our danger.
A real life example of the working of God's provision of "stumbling blocks" was related by Paul in his First and Second Corinthian letters. In I Corinthians 5: 1-5 Pau1 upbraided the Corinthian brethren for their improper attitude toward one of their brothers who had "his father's wife." Pau1 told them they must "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the ,day of the Lord Jesus." Paul's implication was that the man, through his own free will, had chosen an evil way of life, and in doing so he had delivered himself to Satan. God had "given him over in the lust of his heart to impurity" with the purpose of making the man aware that he was in danger of the wrath of God. But the man's Christian brethren had not consented to God's action. They had not "given him over," had not removed h1m from their midst. Paul pointed out God's loving purpose for "giving him over." It was that "his spirit maybe saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Later in the writing of II Corinthians 2:1-11, Pau1 referred again, apparently, to the case of the sinful brother. In the
second letter, Paul instructed the church in Corinth how to bring the action in behalf of the sinful brother to a successful
conclusion. Their "giving over" action had succeeded in bringing about God's purpose. The man had become sorrowful
about his sin and had repented. Pau1 said, "Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the
majority." He went on to say, "You should ... forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by
excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge to reaffirm your love for him." This is an example of the successful working of God's
principle of "stumbling blocks," one of God 's provisions for the salvation of mankind. Paul spoke more about it later in
the Roman letter.
The "lusts" which lead people to sin were spoken of 1ater in Romans 13:14 when Paul said, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Th is indicates that the body of flesh can be the source of "lusts." But it is the soul, a part of the inner heart, which makes decisions concerning the taking of sinful actions. Peter referred to this when he spoke of "fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul." (I Peter 2:11). The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel likened the soul to the very essence of a person, that makes the person's decisions to sin or not to sin. God, through Ezekiel, said, "Behold, all souls are mine: the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine. The soul who sins will die." (Ezekiel 18:4).
Paul 's statement here In Romans 1:24 was consistent with these truths concerning the functions of the soul and body. When Paul spoke of "the lusts of their hearts," he spoke of the desire of their souls to engage in sin. The next phrase concerning their bodies indicates that the body had a part In the sins mentioned here. Therefore. one of God 's purposes when He gave them over to their sin was to make them aware of the "dishonor" they had brought to their "bodies" as well as the sinful decisions they had made in their '"hearts."
Paul made it clear that the sinful actions of people are reprehensible to God and can bring the wrath of God against them. But he also made it clear that in God's action of "giving them over" to their sin, God actually had their eternal best interest in mind. God's "giving over" to sin is a result of His love (AGAPE) for mankind and a provision designed to bring salvation to them.
"(25) For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Romans 1: 25. NASV.
Paul said that mankind, since the creation of the world, has had "the truth of God." But they have exchanged it for "a lie." This led to their worship of the creature rather than the Creator, a dangerous sin which could bring them under "the wrath of God."
What was meant by "the Creature?" Jesus said in Mark 16:15, Preach the gospel "to every creature." Jesus obviously restricted the meaning of the word "creature" to created human beings for whom the gospel message was intended. Here in the Roman letter Paul's words contrasting "the creature" with "the Creator" may not have restricted the word "creature" to human beings alone. People, creatures themse1ves, were known to have worshiped not only themselves, but also "birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures." (Romans 1:23). All those sinful practices of worship must have been included in Paul's statement here.
But all the sinful practices of creature worship came from the speculative minds of human creatures. Essentially all creature worship resulted from people's elevation of the mind of the human creature above the mind of the Creator. Thus, it was essentially the human creatures preference for themselves rather than God, and their worship of themselves rather than God, which was being shown to bring upon them the wrath of God.
The wisdom (so-called) of the world says that people must "worship" and "serve" themselves for there is no one else who has the power or inclination to "serve" them. This must have been the belief of Adam and Eve when they decided to ignore God's loving command and warning concerning the eating of forbidden fruit. Virtually every sin of mankind has been a derivative of the prototype sin of Adam and Eve which essentially was the sin of worshiping the creature (themselves) rather than the Creator.
The truth of God almost always appears as a paradox to the world's way of thinking, making it difficult for worldly minds to embrace. The appearance of a paradox in this case lies in the fact that mankind, the creature, cannot serve himself with respect to provision of eternal well being. Only God, the Creator, can serve mankind with provision for eternal well being. This truth should be evident in what God has revealed to everyone, either "within them" or within their observance of all God's creation around them. Only when mankind reverses worldly wisdom and turns to worship of the Creator rather than the creature can eternal salvation be appropriated.
"(26) For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, (27) and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another., men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." Romans 1: 26-27. NASV.
These kinds of sexual sins were common among the Greeks, Romans, and Cretans. Many of the famous Greek authors of literature admitted to homosexual practices and wrote of them without disapproval. Socrates life is said to have been an almost solitary exception to the immoral lives of other famous Greek writers. So these sins raged for hundreds of years before and also in the time of Paul. Today, such immoral practices are widespread and even beginning to be looked upon as normal behavior in some circles.
If people turn to unnatural, evi1 affect ions, they wi 11 become so enmeshed that they will lose their natural God-given affections and find themselves unable to extricate themselves from their sin. Such sin causes suffering in this fleshly life as well as suffering under the wrath of God in the eternal spiritual life.
"(28) And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper." Romans 1:28. NASV.
Here was a reiteration of God's principle of "giving over" the sinner to the sin they insist on practicing. (See comments above on Romans 1:24.)
"(29)... being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, malice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips." Romans 1:29. NASV.
The phrase "being filled" indicated that the list of evil practices which followed were so prevalent in people that they were full of them. Indeed, once one is enmeshed in a sin, he will be forced to be full of it. .
The phrase "all unrighteousness" means iniquity in general. More specific evil practices follow in the enumeration.
The practice of "fornication." listed in the King James Version of this verse is not found in the New American Standard Version.. It refers to any improper sexual act or relationship.
The word "wickedness" refers to a desire to injure others. to perform a malignity (from the Greek word PONERIA).
The word "greed" ("covetousness" in the KJV) refers to a desire for one to obtain that which belongs to others.
The word "malice" ("maliciousness" in the KJV) refers to willful evil or badness (from the Greek: word KAHIA).
The phrase "full of envy" refers to one full of discontent because of another's prosperity.
The word "murder" refers to the premeditated killing of a fellow human.
The Word "strife" ("debate" in the KJV) refers to evil contention, with anger towards another.
The word "malice" ("malignity" in the KJV) refers to the willful misconstruing of the words and actions of others. (From the Greek word KAKOETHEIA.).
The word "gossips" ("whisperers" in the KJV) refers to people who make secret and sly hints or innuendos to injure others, especially about those not present.
"(30)... slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents." Romans 1:30. NASV.
The word "slanderers" ("despiteful" in the KJV) refers to those who speak ill publicly of others who are absent.
The phrase "haters of God" is, perhaps, the most severe charge that could be brought, although the practice of other things in the 1ist proves that one must be a "hater of God." Every sinner must be brought to understand that he is a "hater of God." Jesus said in John 7:7, "The world hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil." The Holy Spirit is testifying through Paul in this list of evil practices that the deeds of the world are evil.
The word "insolent" ("despiteful" in the KJV) refers to those who treat others with disdain arid spite, especially others who are present, and especially in public.
The word "arrogant" ("proud" in the KJV) refers to inordinate self esteem. A Christian should be "poor in spirit." The Roman letter reaffirms the teachings of Jesus.
The word "boastful" ("boasters" in the KJV) refers to the practice of speaking of, and glorying in, things one does not possess; to the practice of proclaiming one's own merits even above what one actually has.
The phrase "inventors of evil" refer's to people who make new plans, seek new ways and devices with which to do evil or to satisfy lusts. The passions soon cease to be satisfied with old forms of evi1. Evi1 peop1e are obliged to resort to new forms to pamper their evil appetites.
The phrase "disobedient to parents" may refer to the withholding of due honor and respect to parents. Even the pagans had laws and customs requiring people to honor and respect their parents. But evil people ignored them.
"(31)... without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful>" Romans 1:31. nasv.
The phrase "without understanding" means inconsiderate or foolish. The statement in Romans 1:21 that "their foolish heart was darkened" refers to people who had become "without understanding."
The word "untrustworthy" ("covenant breakers" in the KJV) refers to those who are false to their contracts.
The word "unloving" ("without natural affection" in the KJV) denotes those lack of respect for and care for children. Some heathens were known to have killed their children in pagan sacrifices.
The word "implacable" is not included in the list in the NASV but is included in the KJV. It refers to those who will not be reconciled after a quarrel.
The word "unmerciful" means destitute of compassion.
All of the listed evil characteristics are at odds with the attributes of Jesus. They are opposites of the general characteristics represented by the words godliness and righteousness, and are all included in the statement of Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness anti unrighteousness of men.".
"(32)... and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." Romans 1:32. NASV.
The word "ordinance" in the NASV is translated "judgement" in the KJV. It refers to a judicial sentence.
Concerning the sins enumerated in verses 26 through 31, do not all the peoples of the world universally agree that they are wrong? This enumeration of evil characteristics does not need to be proven by quotations from God's word (although it can be). That these things were practiced, and yet universally believed to be wrong, was clearly understood by all people. For those people without God's written word, the k:nowledge of God's attributes from both a positive and a negative standpoint have been known since the creation of the world. And those who practiced such things knew that, in so doing, they were dishonoring God. (Romans 1:20.). Later in Romans 2:15 Paul pointed out that the Gentiles, who do not have the Law of Moses, were nonetheless stricken in conscience by such practices, "their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them."
The peoples of the earth were given by their Creator a moral sense. They even had a knowledge of the judicial sentence that God has laid down to be applied to those who practice the sins here enumerated. They knew that God's judicial sentence prescribed "death" for those who did such things. Yet they went ahead and practiced them and encouraged others to practice them. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, knowing perfectly all human foibles, could say through Paul that "although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they riot only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
It is true also today. These sins are rampant upon the earth today. And all the people of the earth are held responsible for breaking the ordinance of God just as they always have been since the creation of the world.
REVIEW OF ROMANS 1:18-32.
This section of the Roman letter has told us that man has had ample chance to know right from wrong and is therefore fully responsible for his ungodly living and attitudes. Every person can see and understand from natural creation the everlasting power and divinity of the Creator. Everyone can see evidence of the Creator's planning and purpose. This is enough for man to know that he too was created by the Creator for a purpose, and that he ought to seek to find out more about that purpose. Man knows he is "without excuse" unless he "asks, seeks, and knocks" (as Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8) to find out God's purpose for him.
This is a principle of God which has been true since the creation of the world. It was true in the days of Abel and Enoch for it was said in Hebrews 11:6 that these men believed that God is, "and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him." The ability to believe that God is, and the ability to seek God has been placed by the Creator in all people. Thus Romans 1:19 reminds us, "That which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them."
Romans 1, verses 21 and 25, tell us that mankind once knew God but exchanged the truth of God for a lie. This clearly refutes some of the modern theories concerning the "evolution" of religion among the early peoples of the earth. Some theories have it that man was first polytheistic and that his ideas of religion evolved with his own evolution until the idea of monotheism finally came to him (only about 2,500 years ago). But Romans refutes this as do many books of the Bible. The first couple, Adam and Eve, and their offspring, Cain and Abel, knew the one God intimately. The earliest people knew God and how He was to be worshiped f rom the beginning. Modern theories of history speculate that mankind in the beginning had ideas of many lesser gods, like the gods of Greek mythology, and that mankind gradually developed ideas of a one all powerful God. The Bible reveals that man's religion actually started with knowledge of the one true God. History actually reveals a drawing away of mankind from the one true Creator to ideas of polytheism and worship of created things rather than the Creator.
All the sins enumerated in Romans 1:23-32 appear to be caused by one underlying human attitude, that of human pride, where man elevates himself and at the same time debases God. From the beginning man chose to live apart from God as though he had no need of God, as though he was fully able to take care of himself and determine his own destiny. Adam, in his rejection of God's guidance, was the prototype of every human to be created after him. Romans reminds us that if man doesn't come to his senses, he is headed for a fall; he will reap the wrath of God. We are reminded of Jeremiah's prophecy, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps." (Jeremiah 10:23). If man does not turn to God, he will grow in sin until there is no doubt that he is "worthy of death."
The sinful characteristics enumerated in Romans 1 are contrasted with the characteristics Jesus recommended in His Sermon on the Mount. The unrighteous, wicked, greedy, insolent, arrogant, boastful, unloving, and unmerciful must be contrasted with the poor in spirit, mournful, meek:, gentle, hungerers for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. The people Paul referred to in Romans 1 chose to turn away from God and "write their own ticket'" while Jesus referred to people who would choose to enslave themselves to God and His righteousness. (Romans 8:19-23). The former received the wages of sin which is death. The latter received comfort, satisfaction, mercy, the kingdom of heaven, adoption as sons of God, and eternal 1ife in the presence of God Himself.
Romans 1:26-27 reminds us of the fact that one of the most prominent areas of sin in human lives is caused by lust of the flesh. Sexual drive, for instance, is a powerful factor in human lives. The Creator intended it so to be. But when God's guidance is rejected, sexual drive can become lust and can lead to the sins enumerated by Paul. Although God made man in His own image with the power of choice so that man can truly be lofty in character, when he makes the wrong choice he will degrade himself lower than mere animals.
These sexual sins are mentioned first in the list. They were prevalent in the time that Paul lived. They. are still prevalent in the world today. If practiced they inevitably will lead people into sins which are even more difficult to correct and which will affect other people. They lead to murder, strife, deceit, and malice. "They that practice such things are worthy of death."
When God sends sinful people to eternal punishment, He is not treating them unjustly. God is just, and justice demands that sin be punished. The worthy punishment of sin is death. Sin deserves the "wage" of eternal punishment which is referred to here as the "wrath of God."
God 's wrath is difficult for us to understand, perhaps. While God loves each human being personally, His wrath must be applied impersonally. Apparently, God finally. must turn from His personal regard for each unrepentant human being and surrender him to the humans own choices in Satan's world, a world destined to reap the wrath of God. God does not desire for any of mankind to perish. (II Peter 3:9). But God's justice cannot be denied, and it is necessary for wickedness to be punished. The Holy Spirit considered it important that this stark and sobering fact be clearly pointed out in Paul 's Roman letter. But the letter is not just about the wrath of God. It is primarily about the mighty provisions God has supplied for mankind to escape the wrath of God.
We should know that when we violate the laws of the almighty Creator we must suffer the consequences. When we violate His natural laws of agriculture, we do not get a crop. When we violate His natural laws of healthful living, we become ill. When we fall off a cliff, we inevitably fall to the bottom pulled there by God's natural law of gravity and the abrupt cessation of the fall may kill us. We do not question the justice of these laws and the consequences of their violation. In fact, these very same laws make it possible for us to have many good and necessary things for 1ife. Is it strange, then, or unbelievable that God has moral and other kinds of laws that govern our lives in the spiritual realm? "The wages of sin is death," is an immutable ordinance. (Romans 6:23). All law was given for our good. But we have to cooperate with God to reap the good. We have no justification for ignoring God's laws. If we ignore them we must reap the consequences. These are some of the thoughts that the Holy Spirit through Paul is making clear in the first part of the Roman letter.
Now we have just started our study of the Roman letter. Most people feel that it is a difficult letter to understand. Why is it a difficult book? I am convinced it is difficult because we have developed pre-conceived notions about many of the truths taught here. We have been mis-led by the world, by Satan actually, into some notions which just are not true. Even Christians often hold false notions concerning God's eternal plan, God's kingdom, and the Christian life. The Roman letter was written to Christians in order to set them straight in the basics of God's truths for our age.
All men are born in the flesh into Satan's kingdom, a world which, because of the choices Adam made, we have inherited from him. But the power of God is also present in the world. God is not absent from the world. Actually the whole universe, including the world, belongs to God and He is actually in control. God does not abandon men to Satan. Actually, God is using Satan to accomplish God's own purposes.
God has put knowledge about Himself within every man. God has written His laws in the heart of every man. It is up to
every man to seek God who has been revealed to him. But each man, being in the world where Satan is allowed to roam,
falls under temptation and he has to make choices just as Adam did. Sooner or later every man succumbs to Satan's
temptation and commits sin. But, even then, the man is not abandoned by God. Sinners have opportunity to forsake Satan's
world and become Christians, sons of God! And, praise God, many do.
If Satan can get a person to feeling that the Christian life is hard work and drudgery, he may make him dislike being a Christian. In fact, Satan is always busy planting false notions in the heads of young people, getting ready for the time when the young person might become a Christian. One of these false notions is that salvation can only come through works of merit under law. That notion seems to have become imbedded deeply in every human being. Almost no one has escaped indoctrination, somehow, in the notion that salvation comes by works.
When one becomes a Christian, and, through the grace of God, is placed in a position where he is free from the law, Satan moves in to make us think that we have just traded one law for another similar law. When we learn that we cannot gain salvation by works under the Law of Moses (which was never applied to Gentiles anyway), Satan tries to make us think that we still must merit salvation under any other 1aw that we find in our hearts. When we learn that sa1vation does not come under the law written in the hearts of Gentiles either, Satan tries to get us to subscribe that we must be saved by works under a new law of Christ. But that is no more possible than it was under the previous laws.
If we could lay aside our pre-conceived notions, the truths of the Roman letter could change our lives. Paul was given a deep insight in to our human makeup, spirit and soul and body. Pau1, having been influenced greatly by Satan in his early life, was led through all the stages of divorcement from the influence of Satan's lies. Satan had deceived him greatly during his early life. So, in the Roman letter Paul seems to bring to us his hard learned knowledge to help us understand ourselves. He exposes many of the false notions that Satan tries to implant in every person. And then he shows us how God does all the necessary works of merit, relieving us of them, leaving nothing hard for us to do. Paul shows that God simply leads to make right choices in our free wills, choices that will allow God to use us as vessels of his mercy to other human beings.
By the end of the 8th chapter of Romans, Paul will have shown us how we can be living lives that "overwhe1mingly conquer." Have you ever felt that God operates in your 1ife so that you "overwhelmingly conquer?" Is your "yoke easy and your burden light?" Or do you have a constantly nagging notion that you must do more work, finding at the same time that you can never do enough? Do you feel you work hard for the Lord but find yourself constantly discouraged? Have you failed to find real happiness in the "Kingdom of God?" If so, you are not alone! I am convinced that many Christians have become discouraged and have even "dropped out" of the Christian "walk" because of frustration in their lives. The 7th chapter of the Roman letter tells us that Paul also had that experience. The Roman letter gives God 's answer to discouragement in the Christian life.
The study of the Roman letter can be a most exciting study. We can learn something from God, something new to us in this study. But we must take it at Paul's pace and as Paul presents it, chapter by chapter. At times we may not understand how the various disclosures fit together and how they might apply to us. But we must consider the points as Paul makes them, one at a time. Each point builds on the previous points. It is important to get some acquaintance with the entire letter early in the study so the letter should be read over and over again until the words and phrases become familiar to us. Then the overall meaning of the letter w1ll be grasped more quickly.
In the first chapter we 1earned that every man since the creation of the world (that includes us as well as the so-called ignorant heathens of the "darkest"places on earth) has had some know1edge of God and has responsibility to keep a 1aw which God made evident within him. He has, at one time or another suppressed the truth that God gave him, has sinned, and on that account is without excuse. He has known the ordinance of God, but has broken it anyway, arid has given approval to others who have also sinned. He has set himself up to receive the wrath of God. First of all, we must know that this is true. But the Holy Spirit, who guided Paul 's writing of this letter, does not leave us here. He has simply set the stage for our appreciation of the great provisions God has made for our salvation from our serious predicament.
(This has been taken from the book "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on the Roman letter, by F. M. Perry.)
©2002, F. M. Perry