Romans 1:16-32

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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Observation

  • Paul is not ashamed of the gospel.
  • The reason Paul is not ashamed of the gospel is because of its power to save anyone who believes.
  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation.
  • The gospel is salvation to everyone who believes.
  • Salvation is first for the Jews then the Greeks
  • In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.
  • Faith reveals the righteousness of God in salvation.
  • The righteousness of God is revealed in salvation so we may have faith.
  • The righteous live by faith.
  • It was written in the Old Testament that the righteous would live by faith.
  • The one who is righteous by faith will live.
  • God has wrath.
  • God’s wrath has been and is being reveal.
  • God’s wrath is directed at something.
  • God’s wrath is directed at all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
  • God’s wrath is not against only particular types of ungodliness and unrighteousness but all ungodliness and all unrighteousness.
  • Everyone suppresses the truth.
  • Everyone suppresses the truth by their unrighteousness.
  • People are not simply ignoring the truth, they actively suppressing it.
  • What can be known about God is revealed clearly and plainly to everyone.
  • God has shown what can be known about Himself to everyone.
  • God has invisible attributes.
  • Examples of God’s invisible attributes are;
    • God’s eternal power
    • God’s divine nature
  • God’s invisible attributes have been clearly seen and perceived since the world was created.
  • God’s invisible attributes can be seen and understood in all of creation. i.e. everything that was made.
  • People have no excuse for not believing in God.
  • Everyone knows God.
  • Even though people know God they refuse to honor Him as God.
  • Even though people know God everyone refuses to thank God.
  • People’s thinking has become pointless.
  • People’s hearts are foolish.
  • People’s hearts are darkened.
  • People became fools even while they were claiming to be wise.
  • People traded the glory of God for images that resembled man, birds, animals and things that creep.
  • God is immortal.
  • Man is mortal.
  • God has allowed people to have what they wanted.
  • People’s hearts are impure.
  • God has allowed men to dishonor their own bodies.
  • People have dishonored their bodies among themselves.
  • People have traded truth for a lie.
  • People have worshiped the creature instead of the creator.
  • The creator is blessed forever.
  • People have served the creature instead of the creator.
  • People have served the lesser rather than the greater.
  • Because people have worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator, God allowed their passions to control them.
  • Women had unnatural relationships rather than natural ones.
  • Men had relations with other men rather than women.
  • Men felt no shame about what they did with other men.
  • Men received into themselves the penalty of their error.
  • People did not acknowledge God.
  • Since people did not acknowledge God, He allowed their debased mind to control them.
  • People’s debased mind cause men to do things that should not be done.
  • People are filled with
    • All kinds of unrighteousness
    • Evil
    • Covetousness
    • Malice
    • Envy
    • Murder
    • Strife
    • Deceit
    • Maliciousness
  • People are:
    • Gossips
    • Slanderers
    • God haters
    • Insolent
    • Haughty
    • Boastful
    • Inventors of evil
    • Disobedient to parents
    • Foolish
    • Faithless
    • Heartless
    • Ruthless
  • People knew God’s decree.
  • God’s decree is righteous.
  • God’s decree is that people who practice the things in the above lists deserve to die.
  • Even knowing God’s decree, people practice the things in the above lists anyway.
  • People approved of the practice of the things in the above lists.

Interpretation

The book of Romans is an outline of what Paul taught the churches wherever he went. He preached boldly and suffered the insults, ridicule, social isolation and physical punishment for it. Yet he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Paul was anxious to preach the gospel to the Romans too, but at the point of writing this letter he had not been able to go to Rome.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul teaches what he taught at other churches in person. He sends to the Church in Rome what amounts to a home study course in theology. Some of the teachings are hard truths. They are hard to hear, hard to understand, and hard to preach. So Paul starts the letter reminding his readers what the gospel is. It is the power of God to save. Even though we have turned our back on God, He has still created a way to reach out to us to redeem us. The gospel is a demonstration of God’s righteousness. Nothing required God to redeem anyone. Nothing required God to show anyone mercy. Yet Jesus Christ came and died on the cross, taking our punishment for our cosmic treason against God. Only the mercy and righteousness of God would cause Him to do such a thing.

Paul is about to talk about about sin and the wrath of God so he starts by briefly reminding us God’s mercy. The gospel is the power of God to save everyone who believes. Why do some believe and some not? Paul does not answer that here. Here he simply states God, through the gospel saves everyone who believes.

After saying “…to everyone who believes…” Paul says the power of the gospel however is received by faith. “Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Faith is the genesis of our righteousness and our righteousness produces faith. Righteousness is offered by the gospel and received by faith. Paul says “to faith” because our faith is not a stagnate faith. It advances in knowledge. Therefore, our righteousness in God increases. The main point of the first part of Paul’s letter to the Romans is contained in this section. “We are justified by faith through the grace of God alone.”

Paul shows there is no righteousness within us except that which is provided or comes through the gospel. Paul shows that, without the gospel, all men are condemned and through the gospel we find salvation.

In our culture today we emphasize the love and mercy of God. We ignore the wrath of God. We ask how a loving God can be wrathful. We forget God is also just. He does not forfeit one attribute for another. Paul clearly and unequivocally says God has wrath. The wrath of God is not an unrighteous wrath or an unwarranted anger. It is the vengeance of God. God is justly punishing sin. It is not an emotional reaction. It is an act of justice.

Not only is God capable of wrath, His wrath is being shown now. God’s wrath is against ungodliness and unrighteousness of people. We are all unrighteousness. We do not simply ignore the truth; we actively work at suppressing the truth. We do not just ignore or deny it, we suppress it. Suppressing God’s truth causes God’s justice to be revealed.

The world today believes God loves everyone. By that they mean that God will let everything go. There is no justice in God only forgiveness. Paul says that is not true. God hates the unrighteous. And guess what, we are all unrighteous. Therefore, God’s justice comes against us. In order to experience His love we must first become righteous. Praise God! He has provided a means for us to have His righteousness imputed to us so He can show us mercy and still preserve His justice.

We are guilty of robbery. We have given the worship and praise, which belongs to God alone, to other things. In doing so, we have stolen from God. It is unrighteous when we give to ourselves what belongs to God. We unjustly rob God of his glory.

Paul says, we do not do these things out of ignorance. God has revealed Himself in nature. We will not be able to say to Christ at the judgment, “I did not know.” God has made Himself known plainly and clearly in what He has made. We will have no excuse. We are justly condemned. We cannot say, “The truth was hidden. It was confusing. If it had been a little clearer, I would have believed.” Paul says no, God has clearly revealed Himself. The truth is so clearly revealed that it causes knowledge within us, “For even though they knew God…” Not only are we capable of knowing God we actually know God. But even though we know God we refuse to honor or worship Him.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools…” Here Paul is not referring to academics or intellectuals only. He is referring to common everyday people. How many times have you heard an argument the goes something like this. “I do not believe God would condemn anyone of that. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t see why He would do that.” As if, “If I don’t understand it, it cannot be true.” That is the height of arrogance. It is the height of foolishness. Even so, I have done it. And I am sure you have too. Why do we do it? Our sinful nature refuses to honor God and give thanks to Him. Instead of relying on the revealed infallible knowledge of God i.e. the scripture, we rely on what we know is imperfect namely our own reasoning. That is shear madness.

There is a misguided debate in the church about free will verses predestination, or the sovereignty of God. This is purely a false dichotomy. Paul starts to address that issue here. He will continue it through the first half of the letter. Here Paul asserts man has free will. God lets you do what you want. He has given men over to their desires, what they want. Everyone gets to choose the desires of their heart. What is the desire of our heart? It is; all kinds of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but a representative list. As Paul will write later in this letter, “There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:11b) Paul has proven the justice of God’s wrath. Even though we know better we desire exactly the opposite of what we ought.

How God gives men over to their own lust and how he draws them to Himself while preserving free will is not known. We only know that He does. God permits men to fall into sin, by their own desires. The devil did not make us do it. We sin because we want to sin.

Application

One of the problems we have is understanding the wretchedness of sin. Our attitude is, “No big deal everyone is doing it.” But God does not grade on a curve. He grades based on a standard. And that standard is Christ Jesus. Confession your sins and pray that God will save you out of your condition and not give you over to the lusts of your heart.

 

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