As we jump into the text of Romans, we need to remember that this is Paul’s best exposition of the Gospel in Scripture. With that in mind, let’s read the chapter.
I broke the chapter down the way you see it on the flip chart.
KV 11: Paul – the man and his mission
1-7: Paul’s credentials and mission
8-17: Paul’s longing to preach the Gospel
18-32: Paul details the depravity of humankind
The Lord has focused me on Paul the man and his God-given task this time through the chapter, although there is so much more than can be said regarding the contents of the book. In all, Paul gives his most specific and detailed doctrine of salvation in Christ Jesus here over 16 chapters. He talks about it all – the reasons behind it, the driving need of man for redemption, the sin that stands in the way, and how every aspect of humankind is touched and tainted by sin, he touches on what have become known as the doctrines of grace, including in this chapter what is known as radical depravity from verses 18-32. Let’s jump right in and see what Paul had to say to Roman believers, and better, what he has to say to us today.
KV 11: Paul – the man and his mission
Paul was a man with two names, not simply two natures, which we will hear about in chapter 7 if nowhere else. He formerly went by the name of Saul. We encounter him first at the stoning of Stephen, the church’s first martyr. He was standing by in Acts 7:58, to watch over the cloaks of those who participated in Stephen’s mob execution at the hands of the holier-than-thou Jewish intelligentsia. It tells us there that his name was Saul.
It was more common that we know these days for Jewish people to have Roman names if they were citizens, and their Jewish names, used by their family and intimate friends. Paul was born in Tarsus, a Roman colony, and was granted Roman citizenship by birth. However, both of his parents were Jewish (as he would later explain in his letter to the church at Philippi (3:5) where he told them he was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. It turns out that is what is called a Hebraism, that is a Jewish way of saying that both of one’s parents were Jewish.
This is the man that in Acts 8:1 was approving of Stephen’s death. Acts 8:3 continues on to tell that he became a leader of those who pressed the persecution of the infant sect of “the way,” that is followers of Jesus. At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul stands ready to take his show on the road to Damascus in Syria and find those followers of Jesus and imprison them, torture them for information, and even to execute them with full authority from the High Priest of his religion. In Acts 9:3, Saul comes to a full stop. You can read the story for yourself, but by the end of chapter 9, Saul has met Christ Jesus personally, and has been chastised for his aggression, and also shown by the Lord how he will become, by divine call, the apostle of this Christ to the Gentiles, so to show reconciliation to all men, and those who would believe would become saved. Because of that call, many including myself believe that Saul began to use his Roman name to be more associated with his ministry to the Gentiles.
As we recognized last study, this letter was probably written near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, in most likely A.D. 56, some 30+ years later, and this will serve as a beginning point for tonight’s chapter.
1-7: Paul’s credentials and mission
Paul had been called out from his old life to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. This has some meaning, which we should consider a little.
1: Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
- The very first thing to notice is that Paul is not glorying in what his Jewish counterparts are glorying in. While they loved the greetings of “Rabbi, Rabbi, (meaning teacher or master)” from the crowds, Paul identifies himself instead as a servant of another. The Greek word here is doulos, meaning “slave.” No Rabbi would ever admit that he were a slave of anyone, especially not of Rome, who most preferred to ignore steadfastly.
- The next thing to notice is that the word “as” does not occur in Greek. It is put there by the translators to make for smoother reading for us, and most of the time they are right to do so, just like they are here. However, there are those that will make the point that it actually says that Paul was “called an apostle.” That is correct, but I don’t think it makes any difference to the meaning of the text.
- Then it says that Paul was set apart for the gospel of God. That phrase “set apart” carries the connotation of having been appointed to the task. Who appointed him? Well, God appoints His own spokesmen, and so God appointed Paul to this task – to proclaim the gospel, that is the euaggelon of God. That word means “good tidings,” or good news in our modern language, and it refers to how Jesus came and died in our place on the cross to make a great exchange. We will look at that more when we get to chapter 5 through 8., but the cry of “new lives for old” comes to my mind. He died for us so that we could live for Him.
2: which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
- Now this gospel was not a new thing. “He” promised it beforehand, it says here. Who is He? From the context, this is likely a reference to God the Father, because He promised it through His prophets in the holy Scriptures. What could that mean? How about Isaiah 9:6? “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.”
- What in my view is important here is that God promised the Gospel in the person of His Son, who would enter time and space being born from a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and that His name would be called Immanuel, that is, “God with us.” Those references are just from Isaiah, ONE of those prophets. We will be here for the next decade if we try to look at them all, and me being me, I’ll still manage to miss a few.
3: concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,
- This is even more contextual proof that v.2 is speaking of God the Father, because the promise of the Gospel was the promise of His Son coming to save us. He was born of the genetic line of King David if you want to follow this through from David to Christ (And both Matthew and Luke do, though Matthew follows the legal line of Joseph, and Luke follows the human line of Mary.)
4: who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
- Ever wonder why the resurrection is so hotly contested, even right in front of eyewitnesses? It is because it is the very thing that declared Jesus to be the Son of God with power. Of course, God had declared Him to be His own Son before that with His own voice on at least two occasions – but this is the one that the Scriptures tell us is the declaration that had real power – Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead. Who made the declaration? Well, the Spirit of holiness – that is, the Holy Spirit, who names Him here, kuriov Iesouv cristov – Lord Jesus Christ. The name itself needs to be broken down and explained. First, kurios – Lord, with the connotation of supreme in authority because He is God.
- Second, Jesus, a Greek transliteration of an Old Testament name, Yeshua, or Joshua. It literally means Yahweh is salvation (the Saviour). It was a popular name in Jewish culture, and commemorates Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of Moses that led the people of Israel into the promised land. Is was the name given the Son of God during His incarnation because Joseph obeyed God’s command to him a short time before His birth.
- Finally, Christos, or Christ as we say in English – a translation of the word Messiah in Hebrew, Christ or Christos in Greek, and anointed one in English. It is NOT, as I used to think as a child, God’s last name, although it is His job description. This was a title given to the priests as they ministered in the sanctuary – especially the High Priest. It was also given as a title to the Kings of Israel, described occasionally as “the anointed of the Lord.” It was also a title given to Old Testament Prophets (Including John the Baptist), who were referred to as the anointed of God.
5: through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,
- It is this Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord from the previous verse that has freely given grace and apostleship to Paul, and He has done so with a purpose – so that Paul may bring about “the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His (Christ’s) name’s sake.”
- Obedience here means compliance or submission to the firm persuasion or opinion held about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The root of the word means to listen attentively and then do what was said. This submission would come from the Gentiles, that is non-Jews for the sake of God’s name. Perhaps this is because of His Old Testament promise in Hosea 1:10 that reads, “Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ It will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God.'”
6: among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
- Remember, this is being written to believers in Rome, so Paul is ready to identify them as the “called of Jesus Christ.” What does this mean? The Greek word here is kletos, which means appointed or invited of Jesus Christ. Who does He invite? According to John 17:6 which reads, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word,” these are the people that God chose from before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1) to give to His Son as a gift out of the world.
- Many people today seem to have a great deal of difficulty accepting this truth in Scripture. Ignorantly, they call it the “limited atonement” part of Calvin’s TULIP. Calvin didn’t come up with this idea, friends. It is right here in this text, and you can argue about what it all means, but Paul said it, and so did Jesus, Peter, John, the writer of Hebrews, and all the other writers of the New Testament. I once heard a fellow say that the New Testament was written by a bunch of raving Calvinists. That isn’t exactly accurate, because the New Testament is where Calvin got His doctrine. And these collective “five petals of the tulip” gave rise to what are called the Doctrines of Grace as an answer to the Dutch Remonstrants under the theologian Arminius and his false teaching. Let me ask – will all men be saved? Of course not. We would find it difficult to announce to the world that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Bin-Laden, and like men were redeemed in the last fractions of a second of their lives. Calvinism is so much more than just quips made from the Doctrines of Grace. Perhaps this is a conversation for another time. At any rate, the biblical term for these believers is “elect.”
7: to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Here is the address line – to all who are beloved of God in Rome, “called saints.” Paul is making a couple of things clear in his choice of phrasing. The first of these things is that there are those who are beloved of God in Rome. Think about the day in which Paul lived. It is AD 56. Nero is Caesar in Rome. And yet, God has His witnesses there to give glory to His name and do His will, not Nero’s. These people are called saints. It needs to be clearly explained here that “saint” is translated from the Greek word hagion. It simply means, “holy one.” This is something that could be said of any believer, and is in fact the most common way of referring to a believer in the New Testament. Also, please notice that the word “as” or “to be” in some translations are in italics, signifying that it does not appear in Greek. They are not called to be saints, they are simply called “saints,” that is, God’s holy ones. We should be referring to other fellow believers this way.
- What does Paul pronounce to these saints in Rome? Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Note here how the Father and the Son here are mentioned at the same time, inferring some level of equality without stating it.
8-17: Paul’s longing to preach the Gospel
After giving his own credentials and their source, Paul begins to speak of his real desire – to share the Gospel in Rome on the way to Spain so that he can – what else – share the Gospel there. Think about what he had gone through on the road outside of Damascus. He was in the desert, in the bright noonday sun. I have never seen that desert sun, but I’m told that it is very bright, among the brightest ever. Suddenly, there was light all around him that was even brighter – and that light coalesced into the form of our Lord Jesus Christ, now in full heavenly glory, the bright light of the world himself, asking why Saul was persecuting Him – not the church – Him, personally. A reminder that He and the Church are one, and anytime anyone hurts the members individually of the church, it is a personal attack against the Son of God Himself. And in those few moments where he and his companions are overwhelmed, Saul is taken up to the third heaven and shown what God had in store for his life. We don’t know what he saw exactly, but it isn’t hard to imagine how he felt. My guess is that he felt like Isaiah when he saw the Lord in the temple – he felt completely undone. He gets up from that experience blind, and just wondering how God was going to do any of it – all the while giving thanks that He has seen the Lord and lived! A fellow named Ananias comes and says he knows who Saul is – and then prays for him, and scales fall from his eyes and he can once again see. Wouldn’t you want to tell people about that encounter? How merciful this living God was to a very persecutor of the church? I would! This helps us to place Paul into context for the next section of the text. Let’s continue.
8: First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
- First I thank MY God. In my personal devotions, I am currently in 1 Samuel, and this is a stark contrast to how the man Saul was likely named after referred to Yahweh God. In 1 Samuel 15, the chapter where the kingship of Israel is stripped away from Saul, he refers to the Lord in a most troubling way to Samuel in verse 30, where the prophet Samuel had just told Saul of God’s decision concerning the king’s office. It seems clear to me that Saul somehow, even as king, didn’t get it. Verse 30 reads, “Then he said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.”” Did you catch that? The Lord YOUR God, from the lips of Saul. Saul’s god was apparently not Samuel’s God, and we know that Samuel’s God was Yahweh. I suspect that Saul’s god was himself and his legacy, or possibly his own self-image and what other people thought of him. It was not so with Paul. He knew his Lord and his God, just as we can, if we will turn to Him. Who was that God?
- God the Father, whom Paul thanked through the Lord Jesus Christ, and he thanked God for them all in Rome. Why? Because the faith so dearly held by those even of Caesar’s household was being proclaimed by His people throughout the known world! For an evangelist like Paul (and I personally begin to feel this way myself), such news would be among the best news of all.
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,
- And this God of Paul it seems will act as witness as to how often he prays for these Roman believers, even though he has never met them. Think about that for a moment. We can pray for people we have never met, can we not? Of course we can! We do it on a regular basis in our Monday Prayer meetings in the parlour at 7 p.m.
- Paul also tells how he serves this God – in his spirit – he does so by the preaching of the gospel of His Son. There are a couple of things that need to be said – first, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ is a spiritual act of WORSHIP, my friends. When we share Christ, we are doing more than speaking words. We are making a spiritual introduction of the King of the Universe to a sinner that he loves and died for, and that is not a small thing.
- Second, what is this gospel? You may recall that the Greek word euaggelion means glad tidings or good news, and it is that Jesus, God the Son, became a man for the specific purpose of dying for YOUR personal sins. He lived a perfect life so that He could take out place in death, and that WE could take HIS place in life if we would believe that it was all for us! God was so pleased with Jesus’ own sacrifice that He raised His own Son from the grave (see v.4). This resurrection shows that not only was the price paid enough to pay for all our sins, but that He had also set His believing people free from the power of sin in their lives. He has restored our will and desire to serve God, even though we are sinners. Simul justus et peccator, justified and sinner at the same time.
10: always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
- I love this. Paul is still in the same sentence as the last verse. His constant prayers show that he was seeking the will of God in the timing of his arrival (and thought he may not have known it, the means) in Rome. It was not really an easy trip, and Paul had to learn that God was the one who was sovereign, not Paul. More on that in Romans 7.
11: For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;
- Paul’s reasoning? He wanted to impart some spiritual gift to the Roman believers. He wanted to make sure of their faith in Christ, and he likely knew by now about the Jewish believers being confused about how the Law was completed in Christ, and now it was not to be followed because of religious duty, but instead because of a free choice to please Jesus who rescued us from sin. That is what Paul, in my theological opinion, wanted to see 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.
- What Paul says here is that he wants to encourage them while they in turn encourage him. I love this, and it is a true demonstration of koinonia-style fellowship. We do that around here as often as we can, and that’s a good thing.
13: I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
- It is easy to understand the reasons Paul wanted to go and do the work in Rome. It was the capital city of the known world at that time. He was appointed by God as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Rome had the most access to Gentiles of any other place, being the seat of Government. It was a perfect hub of sorts for the gospel to move forward. If he wanted fruit, it was the place to be – from Rome, he could influence the whole world.
- Balance this against the will of a sovereign God, who not only has a perfect will that He will see accomplished, but a perfect timetable to accomplish it all in His own way. Otherwise, how do you explain verses like Acts 16:6 which reads, “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia…” It is God the Holy Spirit that did the forbidding here, because He has a timetable of when, where, by whom…like that.
- We are limited to 4 dimensions of the currently theorized 11 that mathematicians tell us are theoretically there. That means if we want to see something done, we have to go there at a certain time, to a certain place in 3 dimensions and perform it. God is in detailed control of the universe. If we are a little early, He will delay us until the conditions He has predetermined are right for whatever He needs done, and He will use that delay to His glory anyway. Or do you think that for such a God that has control of time and space as He does that there is a single subatomic particle out of place for Him? If you believe that, your God is too small, according to Job.
14: I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
- Paul is just telling us that really he is preaching the gospel because he feels it as an obligation to all the gentiles. Greeks and non-Greeks, from wise to foolish – that pretty much covers everyone.
15: So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
- So let’s get started, already!
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.
- Because I am not ashamed of the gospel. You know, fairly early in my walk with the Lord, I learned to value this. John MacArthur’s GTY broadcast every week opens with a question based on this verse – “Why are we so ashamed of the Gospel?” The meaning of his question is more about why do we who claim the name of Jesus NOT share it wherever and whenever and with whoever we can? After all, He died so we could be His servants and deliver His message. Instead, man gets a hold of His church and we get sidetracked with social justice, fighting poverty, and other such activities. But it is the GOSPEL that SAVES, beloved. As God’s people, we should care about justice – but justice with an adjective usually involves some kind of agenda from an anti-God source. Poverty should be dealt with mercifully by believers – every chance we get – but Jesus said that the poor would always be with us, and that tells me that we won’t ever “win” that “war” against poverty. Why is this important? Because money cannot save us. You cannot solve money problems by throwing more money after the problem. Jesus saves, and Him alone.
- Why? Because Jesus’ atoning substitutionary sacrifice is the only thing that can pay for our sins. For those who will believe, it is the power of God that results in salvation without any distinction or partiality. For those that will not believe, they will carom headlong down the path of destruction until they die and are forever stuck in that place, or God in His mercy diverts their course again toward that glorious gospel and grants them the faith to believe.
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.”
- How is this possible? Well, from faith to faith, which as it turns out is a word game of sorts, something that means “in complete faith.” How do we know? Because the “righteous will live by faith!” That is what the gospel is all about – coming to God in faith that He will acknowledge and honour and save the one that is putting his faith, that firm opinion or persuasion about God and His Son’s death on the Cross, into a condition of trust in God, wherein it will cause us to follow Him.
18-32: Paul details the depravity of humankind
After detailing his felt obligation to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone, Paul begins to detail why this Gospel is necessary for everyone, which he begins with v.18. This is the doctrine in Scripture called Radical Depravity. This doctrine states not so much that man is totally depraved (you may recognize that Total Depravity fits the TULIP acrostic of so-called Calvinism (really just a response to heretic protesters called Remonstrants by the Dutch Reformed in the 16th century, and put together by an international committee called the Canons of Dort)). I am not satisfied that the more well-known acrostic really catches the real meaning and expression of the doctrine. Man is not so much totally depraved and rotten to the core. What we are is radically depraved – that every aspect of our being is touched by and tainted by sin. This is not so much depth as breadth of what is affected in my thinking. And because of that breadth of sinful corruption in some way (everyone seems to be affected in different ways), God’s wrath is coming to destroy all the works of unrighteousness.
18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
- I mentioned last week in our overview that wrath is a characteristic or attribute of God. Being made in His image, we can even understand the desire for it, but because that image was broken when we sinned, we see and understand it imperfectly. God is not emotional, and His emotions do not rule His exercise of His attributes. God’s application of His wrath will bring Him glory in some way as it punishes sin once and for all.
- Many preachers gloss over or hide (suppress) the idea of the wrath of God because their view of God is that of the great big teddy bear in the sky that just wants to love everybody. I am reminded of that Warner Brothers Dog and his pet – the dog wanted to love him, and hug him, and squeeze him, and call him George. Remember? Friends, God is not like that. Yes, God is Love – the very personification of it – but God is also Wrath, and it will be expressed.
- That wrath is revealed from HEAVEN. Last week, I referred obtusely to a global cult with reference to this. That cult is the Roman Catholic Church, and they name Wrath one of the Seven Deadly Sins. A “deadly sin” is a sin that is so bad that in performing an act of it will kill the saving grace that this cult believes builds up over a lifetime of good works and adherence to the sacraments. In fact it is an attribute of God, as we have seen. Paul says that wrath IS – present tense – revealed from heaven.
- That wrath will come to punish and correct all ungodliness and unrighteousness in men who will express it by trying to suppress the truth so that they can do wrong things and not have their consciences bother them.
19: because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
- There is more to the sentence than just v.18 it seems. The reason for that wrath of God being revealed from its source (God in Heaven) is because they try (again present tense, beloved) to suppress the truth that deep down they really DO know about God. Ask yourself this – if an atheist doesn’t believe God, then why do they react so strongly when the conversation turns to Christianity? You would think that if there really was no God, this wouldn’t matter to them in the least, right? No, it is because they know there is one and that He is not pleased with them because they are not turning from their sin after the invitation to do so was made. It is EVIDENT to them, because God MADE it evident to them, and they are SUPPRESSING it wrongly so they can do the sin they want to do.
- The word for “suppress” in Greek is interesting also – it is katecho, literally meaning to hold down. The picture that invokes for me is somebody holding someone (usually themselves) willfully under water as they fight to come out of the water and breathe. So – they are trying to kill their consciences in order to not have to think about being accountable to this creator God. But they have a big problem here…
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.
- The only one they can blind to the truth is themselves. All of God’s invisible attributes have been clearly seen and know since the creation of the world. Ditto on His eternal power and His divine nature. The Greek word for “clearly seen” literally means “to behold fully,” and figuratively is used as “distinctly apprehend.” They both know who God is and what He has done as well as understand what that all means. They suppress this knowledge, again – and therefore, says Paul, these individuals have ZERO excuse.
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.
- Here is Paul’s reasoning – BECAUSE they knew God and the truth about Him BUT DID NOT HONOUR HIM AS GOD or even just be thankful for what He gave them, they became [literally] wicked in their speculations [literally discussions, considerations, debates, imagination, reasoning, thoughts], and their foolish [lit. “without understanding”] heart became obscured. Did you get that? Because they denied the truth of God, their ability to see the truth and make good decisions morally became obscured.
22: Professing to be wise, they became fools,
- We all know people like this. My dad used to call them “blowhards.” They thought they really knew – but even a casual observer could see the flaw in their reasoning. My own term for them is a little elevated, but less generous – “self-blinded guides.” They could see perfectly, but blinded themselves so as to better guide the other blind fools and so together run off into the ditch. (See Matt. 15:14, Luke 6:39 if you think I’m being harsh – those are PUBLIC words of Jesus.)
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.
- Because they felt like they were wise, remember, not only did they become fools, they became self-blinded guides and began to actually teach others their nonsense! They first changed the glory of the incorruptible God to images of their own choosing and making. What were those? The image of man. Man became God. That’s an old lie, isn’t it. It comes right from Genesis 3:5 – “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
- The image of birds – think Ra, the ancient god of the sun, or of his son Horus. Both had birdlike characteristics. Again, this is nothing new.
- Four-footed animals – How about the golden calf that Israel produced with the help of Aaron? This was not the only one through history, either. These beast-gods with four feet were often worshiped for strength, but never for their intelligence, I suspect.
- Crawling creatures – that’s the ancient-times word for arthropoda – Insects, spiders, other stuff that crawls around in the dirt, mollusks, snails, worms, and the like. From ancient Egyptian religion (dung beetles, known as Scarabs, a part of their scientific classification) to Islam, where the honeybee is the only creature that speaks directly to their god Allah (Surat an-Nahl [the Bee] 68, 69), insects are employed in all religions except Christianity as objects of worship or veneration. Christians should view them a bit differently – John the Baptist ate wild locusts dipped in honey – and from everything I hear, they’re quite tasty. Or Chocolate-covered ants, which sounds to me like the ants are add-ons and the excuse to consume chocolate – as if I needed an excuse, right?
- The Scriptures are very plain – none of these are gods – these are all the vain imaginings of their own human creators. I say with Jeremiah in Jer. 16:20, “Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods!” All of these are vain human imaginings – and this kind of reasoning is reflected in institutions of higher learning even today. Look at that list again. Man – hominid evolution, birds – avian evolution (including dinosaurs, though I think that must be wrong, in that they say birds come from lizards), four-footed beasts – quadruped evolution, and crawling things – invertabrate evolution, especially insects. These are the four basic areas of the advancement of the evolution mythology. Now there’s some food for thought. And doing this has consequences.
24: Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
- Doctor R. C. Sproul always liked to point out the very next word when it occurs – the word “therefore.” This word, he would say, draws a conclusion from all relevant material that has come before it. I like to say that also. All this god-exchanging behaviour has the consequence of God letting them follow their stupidity by letting them go after what they really want, that is, the lusts of their hearts. People, given the chance, if they have not become Christians, will revert to this position, and worse, they will call it enlightenment.
- They follow the lusts of their hearts into what Paul here calls impurity, in Greek, akatharsia, meaning uncleanness, literal impurity. Why?
- So that their bodies [literally soma, the body] would be dishonoured [to render infamous, and by extension to mistreat, despise, dishonour, contemn (to treat or regard with contempt) among them. You know, a look at world religions can confirm this. In all world religions except Christianity, the body is considered evil or is an obstacle to enlightenment. Christianity tells us that the regenerated will someday have a new body that will reflect the glory of God, which some have called our resurrection body. Whatever it is called, it will be glorified, and be like the Lord Jesus. We should take care of our bodies like we would any other stewardship, and that’s kind of convicting for me. I’m a diabetic heart patient, and I have to do a great deal of maintenance on mine every day. I don’t always do it, as you can plainly see. The weight issue for example – it may have come from a medical issue, but I’ve kept a lot of it. Sure, I used to weigh 270 pounds – but I’m still 235 – and I used to be 210. I don’t exercise enough, and I view it as a problem. Sure, I have pain issues and arthritis, and a back that has had to have a partial discectomy – but Jesus went to the cross for me. Should I not try to take better care of myself so I can be a more effective servant for Him? But my point here is that they would consider their own bodies worthless. Today’s big scientific drive? To get rid of our bodies and keep our consciousness in a better-constructed vessel. I think that’s a lie, personally, and so would Paul. Next verse.
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. Amen.
- See? And this is literally exchanging the truth of God for “THE lie.” What lie? I suppose the lie that they would want more than they want God. Today, it takes a very convincing form – the transfer of consciousness into another and better constructed vessel is known as “singularity.” How do they justify the research into this stupidity? By telling us the lie that “it is the next step in our evolution.”
- In making the focus the evolution of man rather than the worship of God, they are worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. Paul, being who he is, cannot help but speak, even in this vile description of how radical is our own depravity, a doxology in praise to our God, the Creator, the King of the Universe, who is blessed for the ages of the ages, or “forever.”
26: For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
- In exchanging the truth of God for the lie of our own imagination, we garner to ourselves even more consequences. God will allow us to pursue “degrading passions.” That could be translated “disgraceful affections,” for the record. The King James uses the phrase, “vile affections.” Just the affections are vile and sinful! Again, Paul being who he is, begins to give examples.
- Women changed the natural function [physical employment, specifically sexual intercourse by the usage here] for unnatural things. That is kind of non-specific, but it does mean “along side” or “in place of what is natural.” Use your imagination – or better, don’t because Paul is about to explain further.
27: and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
- Men also “abandoned the natural function of the woman.” Given our lexicographic research at this point, there is only one way to understand this, beloved. Men stopped having (or even desiring) sex with women. Instead, this verse tells us that they “burned in their desire toward one another.” Given we are talking about sexual intercourse here, it means that they wanted instead to specifically have sexual intercourse with other men. Lest you think I’m being disgusting, I’m going to point out that this is the Apostle Paul explaining this. Look here. He says, “…men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Paul has explained that men having sexual intercourse with men is 1) an indecent act, 2) an act that has consequences, and 3) an error, though he does not tell us what kind – because it should be obvious.
- This is where people will start accusing me of being “homophobic.” Friends, I am not homophobic. I do not fear homosexuality or homosexuals. I have friends that practice it. I also have friends that are car thieves. They all know where I stand on their sins, and I preach the gospel, whereby they can be saved from the wrath of God because of their sinning. Does that make me a thiefophobe? Of course not. But I cannot stand by in good conscience while a person destroys themselves by their sin when I know there is a better way, can I? How would that be loving, as Jesus loved me, while I was still a sinner? And today, I know that I could be held to some false account by a fake standard of “tolerance” because I hold these opinions. But if I pretended to believe otherwise or failed to speak the truth in love to sinners, then I would be a liar, and supremely unloving. Friends, if you saw a person heading for a cliff where the fall would destroy them, wouldn’t you try to stop them?
- People often think when I speak on this subject that I’m just making stuff up, or that I’m adhering to a legalistic Old Testament ethic. I’m not. The subject of what is a Biblical view of sexual intercourse is dealt with in Scripture. Homosexual behaviour in the Bible is out-of-bounds and according to God’s Law, illegal. You know what though? Heterosexual behaviour can also be illegal under God’s law. How about sex before marriage? The Bible calls that “fornication,” and people are judged by God for it. How about sex while married to someone who is not your spouse? Scripture calls that behaviour “adultery,” and it has severe penalties associated with it. I’m not just picking on the Homosexuals here. I’m picking on everybody!
- I also need to point something out here. Homosexuality, or rather the acceptance or adoption of it in a nation is not a sign of impending judgement. In the context of what Paul has said here, it is the actual judgement in itself. When a society “normalizes” homosexuality or its precursor “same-sex attraction” (which Paul in the verse immediately previous calls “degrading passions” or “vile affections”), you can just know that nation has come under the judgement of God. And it is the same with any national sin, be it ethnic identity (often mistaken for patriotism) or redistribution of wealth (using the tax system to steal from the rich and reallocate that money to the so-called poor that the government likes, not the working poor that actually may deserve the help). Moving along.
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,
- We have returned to the main reasoning line here that Paul gave examples for from verse 25. I know this is a bit of a restatement, but it was so Paul could explain and give those helpful examples. The point he is making here is that because these people would no longer acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved [reprobate] mind; that is, their thought patterns are uniquely and wholly rejected by God. And when God essentially abandons you to your sinful self because you won’t acknowledge Him, you will automatically follow your current and sinful programming and do those things which are not proper.
29: being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
- As is so often the case that we have seen with Paul, he lists off those behaviours that are not proper. Note: Paul says these things fill us if we are living in our old sinful condition, by the way. These may be seen as fruit, by the way, that the real Christian should be trying to avoid.
- Unrighteousness – injustice, moral wrongness – iniquity, unjust, wrong.
- Wickedness – depravity – specifically malice; plots or conspiratorial thinking or participation
- Greed – avarice – fraudulency, extortion; covetousness (the condition of never being satisfied or content with what you have)
- Envy – ill will, detraction, spite
- Murder – to slay – murder, slaughter; lit., a person or persons, fig., a person’s or persons’ character
- Strife – quarrel, wrangling; contention, debate, empty argument, variance, a contrary nature
- Deceit – to deliberately mislead or decoy; to use wiles to mislead or distract, guile, subtility
- Malice – bad character; mischievousness, malignity
- Gossip – a secret calumniator; whisperer, one who makes deliberate false and malicious statements about; slander, libel, defame (-ation)
30: slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
- More list – Slanderers – backbiters; to be talkative against (what makes this different from slander is that sometimes the statements could be true – it’s only slander if it is a lie)
- Haters of God – This phrase is a dual meaning! It can mean a hater of God, and it can also mean hateful to God.
- Insolent – insulter; maltreater, despiteful, injurious
- Arrogant – haughty; proud
- Boastful – a braggart
- Inventors of evil – contriver of worthlessness or depravity
- Disobedient to parents – not regular teenage behaviour, but rather doing the opposite of what you want all the time, not just when you tell them either
31: without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
- Conclusion of the list – Without understanding – wickedly unintelligent
- Untrustworthy – treacherous; covenant breaker
- Unloving – without natural affection (KJV); hard-hearted toward kindred
- Unmerciful – one who neither gives nor displays mercy
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.
- Now, let there be no mistake about people who are like this. They KNOW what God wants from them, and understand what is right and what is wrong. They understand that those who do things like what Paul just listed over the last three to six verses deserve death. I know that sounds hard, but Romans 6:23a says that the wages of sin is death, so it is justified here. They know these behaviours are wrong – AND THEY DO THEM ANYWAY, making them on top of everything else, hypocrites.
- If that wasn’t already enough to hypocritically do these things that they know are wrong, they also cheer on others who will also hypocritically do these things and encourage them in active disobedience against our sovereign God.
I think you will agree that this catalogues the depravity of the human heart pretty well. Paul is not finished making his point, either, but we will have to see the rest next week, because the rest starts in chapter 2! That’s chapter 1. What I can say is that we clearly need a saviour. As we went through these here this evening, as I was speaking, I was convicted by a ton of stuff, and that means I still have work to do. You should see the same thing – we are not finished until we get home, beloved.
Next week, chapter 2!