God’s Revelation, Romans 1:18-32

“Guilty as charged!” The judge’s gavel slams down with thundering finality.

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Like a seasoned attorney in a court room, Paul threads God’s general revelation through nature as a convincing argument for the revelation of God’s wrath in His judgment on the Gentiles who rebel against Him. In the following verses, Paul tackles a common objection: How could a loving God send anyone to hell?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – vs. 18-20(NIV)

God’s revelation of Himself through nature gives the simplest grounds of our responsibility toward Him. Through His creation, (although marred by sins’ effects, Gen. 3:17-19), we know God is powerful, intelligent, creative, and a God of order and beauty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoes anyone have an excuse for not acknowledging God?

Although no one will be excused for not believing in God, some will choose not to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks.

Sins’ Downward Cycle

Paul comments about God’s wrath in verse 18 from Romans 1:19-3:20. The downward cycle of sin can be summarized as the following:

  • Rejection of God—arrogance and rebellion; self is placed on the throne
  • Idolatry—One makes up ideas of what a god should be and do; exchanging the truth for a lie to fit one’s lifestyle
  • Fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip are a few mentioned here
  • Hatred toward God—encouraging others to join them
God’s Nature

Although God is patient and long-suffering—desiring to restore the sinner— He will not put up with sin forever. His very nature is holiness.

The Verdict?

God’s judgment of sin and impurity begins by allowing the consequences of people’s sinful choices. Verse 21 speaks of those who refuse to glorify and thank God: “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts darkened”. Verse 24 speaks of God giving them over to their sinful desires, indicating sexual impurity. Finally, Paul lists 21 indictments (negative qualities) against those who abandon themselves to their sinful natures (vs. 29-32).

Following God and choosing faith in Him may be hard, but is choosing not to follow Him easier?

Resisting God may seem easy at first, but this path eventually leads to the worst kind of slavery: slavery to sin.

God’s Righteous Judgment, Romans 2:1-16

High-fives echo in response to the judge’s verdict on the Gentiles: “Guilty as charged.”

166163e41e3c9ac70768869d063e6d8bLike the last passage, I feel like I’m in a courtroom, but this time slinking down in my seat to avoid apostle-attorney Paul’s piercing gaze as his focus shifts from the Gentiles toward the Jews. No, I’m not Jewish, but Paul didn’t let anyone slide. Probably some Jewish heads nodded their approval when Paul pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan Gentiles. Paul lights into their condemning attitude like a firecracker (verses 1-10).

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” –vs. 1

Despite knowing God’s laws, the Jews failed to live up to it. Their sin may have been hidden in more socially acceptable forms. But Paul faults them for having a stubborn and unrepentant heart, treating God’s great kindness, tolerance, and patience with contempt.

Those who patiently and persistently do God’s will, however, will find eternal life (vs. 7). This may sound like a contradiction to his statement that salvation comes by faith alone (1:16-17), but he is stressing that our deeds follow in grateful response for what God has done.

Again, Paul warns of God’s wrath toward: self-seekers, those who reject the truth, and those who follow evil.

Judgment With or Without the Law

All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” – vs. 12

Paul weaves his case: Can the religiously privileged Jews expect special treatment because they’ve been given the Mosaic Law? This gave the Jews greater responsibility for following it.

Or could the Gentiles receive an easier verdict for not having God’s Law? Certainly God’s revelation through the Law made His will more fully known. But God made Himself known to the Gentiles through nature and the inner law of conscience.

Conclusion

Paul concludes that all—Jew and Gentile—are guilty of violating God’s Laws. People are condemned for what they do with what they know, not for what they don’t know. God doesn’t play favorites. God patiently waits for our repentance. But a time is appointed when He will judge everyone’s secrets when we stand before His throne. No one will stand apart from the saving grace found in His son, Jesus Christ. (For more on God’s judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.)

So what?

The sins we’re tempted to point out in others are often the sins we struggle with the most. Like King David, we need to consistently ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin so we can seek His forgiveness.

Ps. 51Those of us who have grown up in Christian families could be considered today’s religiously privileged. Are we focused on living according to what we know? Or are we passing judgment on those around us?

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ: Romans 6:1-14

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”  (Rom. 6:1)

In other words: If God is so forgiving, why change? Why not continue in sin if His grace is indeed greater than the deepest stain of sin? (Rom. 5:20)

Never one to hold back his beliefs, Paul retorts to this distorted line of reasoning: “By no means!” He continues describing the Christian’s death to sin by using the picture of baptism.

Baptism

“In the church of Paul’s day, immersion was the usual form of baptism—that is, new Christians were completely “buried” in water. They understood this type of baptism to symbolize the death and burial of the old way of life. Coming up out of the water symbolized resurrection to new life with Christ” (NIV Study Bible).

Baptism is a witness to the world that one identifies with Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."  - Colossians 3:1-4

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  Colossians 3:1-4

So What?

God’s amazing grace covers all our sins, but His forgiveness doesn’t make sin less serious. Although His mercy and pardon are free, it cost Jesus His very life to pay our ransom from sin. God never intended His unlimited reservoir of grace to be wasted, or become an excuse for immorality.

As long as we are here on earth we will feel the pull of sin and temptation, but through the indwelling Holy Spirit, God frees us from sins’ captivity. If we think of our old, sinful life as dead and buried, we have a strong motive to resist sin and enjoy this new life with Christ. This is the believer’s daily choice and responsibility. (For more on this concept see: Galatians 3:27, Colossians 2:12 and 3:1-4.)

Thirsty?

Nothing beats a cup of cold water on a hot summer day.81abe43416489ac66371805e106cd390

Just as our bodies hunger and thirst for physical food and water, our souls hunger and thirst for spiritual food and water.

One of my favorite Bible stories is Jesus talking to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26). No respectable Jewish man would be caught talking to one like her. For she was a despised Samaritan woman, a member of the mixed race that the Jews hated. She was also known to be living in sin.

I love that Jesus crossed all barriers to share the good news of the gospel with her.3b369e614d01db8539a984f32a156ac4

In the heat of the day, Jesus stopped by the well where she was drawing water. He said to her:

Will you give me a drink?”  – John 4:7

Surprised, the Samaritan woman said:

You are Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” – v. 9

Jesus answered:

If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water . . . whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  – vs. 10, 13-1456c8bd70bcf235d876ca31a292cb3b51

What did Jesus mean by “living water”? Several Old Testament verses speak about thirsting for God as one thirsts for water (Psalm 42:1; Isaiah 55:1; Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 13:1).

God is called the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9) and the spring of water (Jeremiah 17:13). Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah by forever quenching a person’s thirst for God (John 4:25-26). Only the Messiah can give this gift that satisfies the soul’s desire.

Are you spiritually thirsty? There is only One who can forever quench your thirst. His name is Jesus.

One For All

Amidst the heinous bombings at the Boston Marathon shine the heroes who risked their lives to help the wounded. One story in particular keeps replaying in my mind.

Runners cross the finish line of the 35th Mari...

(Photo credit: United States Marine Corps)

Carlos Arredondo, the “Latino cowboy” immigrant, cheered for a friend who was running in honor of his son, who died fighting in Iraq almost 10 years ago.

Immediately after the blast, instead of running away, he ran toward the scene. He crossed the street and tore pieces of a fence that separated the runners from the crowd. Then he scaled the fence and tended to victims.

This American hero reminds me a little of my action hero.

God the Father―who also knows the pain of losing a son―cheers for us as we run our Christian race (Romans 8:31; Hebrews 12:1).

Jesus crossed the universe, defied physics, and hurdled time by entering earth’s history (John 1:1-15; Isaiah 7:14).

Instead of running away from sinners, the light of the world ran to us (Luke 15:2-7).

Jesus tore away obstructing sin that separated us from our holy God (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9).

Through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, God triumphed over Satan’s rule of sin and death (Hebrews 2:14).

After Jesus ascended to heaven, He distributed His plunder by giving gifts to His children/church (Ephesians 4:8). Paul, during his imprisonment in Rome, compared Jesus to a conqueror marching to the gates and taking tribute from the fallen city (Psalm 68:18). The following links open to a study of these spiritual gifts:

http://www.bible.org/seriespage/spiritual-gifts-1-corinthians-121-11

http://www.qualityoflifeministries.info/purpose-of-gifts

Christ’s resurrection helps us find meaning, even in great tragedy.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  – Hebrews 6:19-20