Romans Chapter 1:
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
This week on the Ministerial Alliance program, we’re looking at the book of Romans, Chapter 1. So far, we’re up to verse 18 and so far, we’ve seen Paul’s condensed presentation of the gospel message, his fervent desire to preach the gospel, and then a brief but powerful discussion of the power of the gospel. Today we’ll look at some of the most chilling verses in the entire Bible- chilling to an unbeliever, extremely comforting to a believer. In this upcoming section of Romans, Paul begins to dismantle the objections and excuses that non-believers have toward the gospel message. May the power of God be revealed in this message, may the truth that is Jesus Christ be revealed to darkened hearts and minds, and above all, may God be glorified. Amen.
Before reading today’s passage, let me back up and re-read yesterday’s passage so that we’ll have some context for today:
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Our passage today starts with a "for" that references the passages I just read. Today’s passage reads:
Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (19) because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, (21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools, (23) and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible manand birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, (25) who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
What we see here is Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation for everyone who believes. In today’s section, he is going to explain why the gospel message is such "good news" and that is because, as he says, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men, who suppress the truth…" It is commonly stated that God is love, and God IS love, but it’s folly to overlook the complete attributes of God, one of which we see right here. God is also a God of wrath. In fact, if we hunt the passage that says "God is love" we find it here:
1 John 4:8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
To stop here and read nothing else illustrates one of the most common errors I see and that is taking verses out of context of the surrounding passages. For instance, one of my favorite examples of this is the passage which reads:
Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning
As a late-night, late-morning person, I love this passage! "Woe to those who rise early in the morning!" Yessir!! I love that verse. Oh, but wait…let’s get the rest of the passage and the surrounding context.
Isaiah 5:11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!
Oops… so much for my doctrine. Turns out that the woe is for those who rise early so that they can get drunk and who spend their day drinking. And the larger context of this passage, as we can see if we continue reading, is that in following intoxicating drink, these people have put God aside. This is a very obvious error, and yet it’s one that I see often. We cannot take single verses and apply them to our whims, but we must place them in the context of the whole counsel of God. If we go back and look at the "God is love" passage we find this:
1 John 4:8-10 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (9) In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Interesting. Here we see that God’s love in manifested, or shown, in the fact that He sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. Now that’s interesting, because it does NOT say "God is love and therefore He simply overlooked and forgot about our sins." No, to the contrary, God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. If we ask some honest questions about this passage- questions like "What do you mean ‘so that we might live’?" or "what is a propitiation?" it will lead us to our Romans passage today. Let’s review it again:
Romans 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness
This wrath- and the wrath of God is a fearsome thing- is revealed against men who suppress the truth. What does it mean to "suppress" something? It means to push it aside, to plow it under, to ignore it, to limit its voice. Think about when a certain group of people is "suppressed" by an oppressive government. Well, according to the Bible, that’s what men do. Notice that the Bible doesn’t say "some men" or "certain men" but merely says "men".
Now you might say "Whoa…wait a minute buddy! What about those people who’ve never heard of God? What about the innocent savage in deep Africa? I mean, me, myself, I didn’t grow up in church or nothing. I’m not suppressing anything!" Paul disagrees with you and says:
Romans 1:19-20 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Paul says "what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them". He’s not saying that you can know everything about God, but he’s saying that the presence of God or the visible things of God are clearly seen, and have been clearly seen since the creation of the world. Paul says that the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen, and furthermore are "understood by the things that are made". These attributes include God’s eternal power and Godhead. And as a result of this men "are without excuse." Now think about this a little bit- is there anyone who has not sat out under the stars or watched a building thunderhead or looked at a tree and thought "Wow…that is really amazing." Is there anyone who has seen these things and not wondered "How did such a thing come to be?" I think not and according to Paul, inspired by God, there is not.
Paul then says:
Romans 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen and yet men suppress the truth of these attributes in unrighteousness. Natural man, when he has considered the implications of a Creator God, does one thing- he suppresses the truth. He creates new gods- Mother Nature, rain gods, fertility gods- or he begins to deny God altogether and creates evolution, in which the creation allegedly springs forth by random mutations. Or man acknowledges God as creator, but refused to see himself as a submissive created being. Man tries to elevate himself into a position closer or even equal to God. If you look at yourself honestly, you will have to agree with Paul and you will have to agree that man is w/out excuse. And furthermore, in suppressing the truth, natural man does not glorify God, nor is he thankful. His thoughts become futile and as he digs deeper and deeper into his man-made hole, farther and farther away from the light that is God, his foolish heart is indeed darkened.
Romans 1:22-23 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (23) and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
The deeper man digs, the more satisfied that he becomes with his creation. I used to be a biologist and I loved evolutionary thought. I noticed one thing, though and that was the sheer arrogance of the gurus of evolutionary thought. This man says he has the answers and all else is folly, another man says "No, that’s foolish and this is the answer." All parties wrote in big swelling words and displayed many letters before and after their names: Dr., PhD, Emeritus, and so on. Wisdom is mine, they declare. And yet, proclaiming something loudly and repeatedly does not make it truth. Are these men correct? The Bible says that "profession to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God to an image made like corruptible man- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping thing." Man exchanges the infinite glory of Almighty God for his own futile creation.
Romans 1:24-25 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, (25) who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Because natural man does this, God gives him up to the lust of his heart, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. Men have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and they worship things other than the Creator. Paul says "Amen" which means "it is true."
We are all guilty of things. Some are guilty to greater extremes than others, but guilt is guilt. Any guilt at all falls short of God’s holiness- in other words, God is perfectly clean and holy and anything that is in the slightest bit dirty is dirty. This is the truth expressed in:
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
ALL men fall short of the glory of God. ALL men have idols they have created. ALL men deny, at some level, the glory of God. ALL men, at some level, deny their creator. And because of this, ALL men are worthy of the wrath of God. But fortunately for us, God is not all wrath. God is also love. And, as John told us earlier, this love is expressed by the earthly manifestation of God in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus became the propitiation for our sins. That means that Christ took our sins upon himself and took the wrath of God for us who believe in him. It does NOT mean that Christians are perfect. What it means is that Christians acknowledge their imperfections and acknowledge that they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Christians admit that they have fallen short and continue to fall short of God’s glory. Christians ask that the propitiation of Jesus Christ be applied to them personally and they cast themselves on God’s mercy and love in asking forgiveness, through the atonement provided by Christ. Christians look around and see that they are in a pit, that they themselves have willingly dug, and they see that this pit is dark and removed from God’s light. They see that they cannot scale the walls of that pit and in their desire to be in God’s light, they ask God to lift them from the pit so that they may bask in His light and, as Paul says in Romans 5- be reconciled to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Where are you? Do you deny the Creator God? Or can you see the walls of the pit? Ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. May God grant you repentance leading to the truth that is Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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