Tag Archives: righteousness of God

Righteousness through Faith

Last time we met we talked about God’s faithfulness

We discovered that God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are

We talked about the fact that God has not failed in any way – Some might look at the Jews and conclude that God has failed them – God has not failed them, rather, they have failed God

We talked about the fact that it is impossible for God to fail anyone, because in His very nature He is faithful – In fact “faithfulness” is His name

He cannot help but being faithful – It’s who He is – He is “YHWH, YHWH” the One “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

This is His “name” Exodus 34:5

We also discovered that there are no innocent people before God

The Apostle Paul tells us that all are guilty – He tells us that everyone has broken God’s law – Even the Jews – Even himself

He tells his readers that “none are righteous” – Not even the chosen people of God – Not even him

In effect, what Paul does from chapter 1:1 to chapter 3:20 is communicate that all are guilty before God and have no excuse

They have no excuse because they either have the General Revelation and the conscience, or they have the Law – Or they have both

Remember what Paul says about the Gentiles in chapter 1?

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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 Romans 1:19-20

Then in chapter 2 He says this regarding the Jews, “You have no excuse” because you judge those that don’t have the Law, but break it yourselves

And then in chapter 3 He says, “Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” Romans 3:19

In other words, “You Jews are guilty, the law says you are guilty, in fact, it says that all are guilty”

Well, all this leads to what we will look at today, and that is the good news

We have spent the better part of three chapters talking about the bad news, and now we get to hear the good news – Aren’t you glad?

Romans 3:20-31

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. 

What I want us to consider tonight is this

Is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?

Well, let’s find out

Paul says in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight” Romans 3:20

Okay, I guess that settles it! We can go home now!

I mean, this is pretty straightforward, right?

Paul says that “No human will be justified by God by keeping the law”

But this is still bad news, and we want to get to the good news, so lets get into the Word, and let the Word get into us

Again, Paul says, in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin Romans 3:20

So, that is why no human will be justified by keeping the law, because with the law comes knowledge of sin

What do you mean?

The Scriptures teach that the law is good, its perfect, its right, but we cannot keep it – And because we cannot keep it, we are guilty

You see, God’s standard is perfection, if you want to get to heaven by keeping the law, then you have to keep every single part of it – You have to be perfect

How many of you are perfect?

The psalmist tells us in Psalm 19 that, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” Psalm 19:7-9

Question is, “If God’s law is perfect, if it is right, if it is pure, if it is true, and righteous then why are we talking as if it’s bad?

It’s not bad – We are the ones that are bad!

You see, the law is God’s standard, and He expects us to meet His standard – But we don’t, do we?

We fall short of it

You see, the law is like a mirror, when we look into it, it reveals who we are – We are seen as dirty, messed up, and broken, but it’s not the mirror that is dirty, messed up and broken, it’s us! – The mirror is just a reflection of who we are

Often times we will look into the law, see our  messed up reflection, but then conclude that that is not really us – We don’t believe the mirror! – We conclude that the mirror is bad, that the mirror is broken!

No, the mirror is not bad! – The mirror is perfect, its right, its true – We are the ones that are not right, not perfect, not true

So, through the law comes knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20

So, there is no way we can become right with God by keeping the law, because none of us can keep it fully – We are broken, we are messed up

But here comes the good news

21 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested [made known] apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:21-22

In other words, God, seeing that we fall short of His perfect law made a way for us to keep it – He made a way for us to be right with Him – And this way is “apart” from the law

So what is it?

It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” Romans 3:22

You notice what Paul says?

He says it’s not through keeping the law, but it’s “through faith”

Faith is the vehicle to righteousness, not the law

The law is only designed to show us our need for faith – Our need for Jesus

So, is it better to keep the Law, or is it better to have faith?

I think the Scriptures are telling us that it is better to have faith – But I think they are telling us even more than this – They are telling us that faith is the only way to be righteous before God

Verse 22 says, “For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift” Romans 3:22-24

How much is “all?”

“All” means all – It means everybody! – That means Jew and Gentile, past, present, and future – Just what Paul has been communicating through these three chapters

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

Paul is saying that there is no way around this – God has a standard and we all fall short of it – We all fail – We all don’t measure up

We all took the test, and we all got an “F”

But God made a way for us to retake the test, and this time we will get an “A”  – But we have to be willing to take the test

What is the test?

It is to believe in what God did for us, and accept it

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:23-24

So, we are justified [declared not guilty] by God’s grace as a gift

What do you do to receive a gift?

Physically, all you do is stretch out your hand and take it

But like all gifts, you will not appreciate it unless you want it, unless you desire it, unless it is valuable to you

You have to want the gift – This means that in your heart you are longing for what the giver is offering you – It has to be your most precious treasure – And then it will be given to you, and you will receive it with joy

You ask, “How does this all work?”

How can God give me eternal life when I broke His laws – When I am guilty?

How can He let me into heaven, when I am a sinner?

Well, the Bible teaches that God paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine, and for all humanity

Again, let’s read verse 23

23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

What in the world is “propitiation?”

Well, it simply means “to win or regain the favor of” or to “atone”

In fact the NIV uses this word “atonement” here

And what it means is that it’s a “covering”, or a “covering of mercy”

So, you could say that God put forward Jesus as a “mercy covering” over our sins

How did He do this?

He did it through the “blood” of Jesus

You see, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, the Bible teaches that God put all the sins of the world, past, present, and future onto Christ – And then punished Christ

2Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” 2Corinthians 5:21

Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” Galatians 3:13

Do you realize what this is saying?

It’s saying that the price that was paid by Jesus on our behalf was Him being forsaken by His Father, and punished for things He didn’t commit – Jesus was innocent, yet He chose to carry our sins and die for them

Why did He do it?

He did it because He loves us – God loves us with an everlasting love – Jesus loves us with an everlasting love

This is the gospel – This is the good news!

And this is the “gift” that is to be received by “faith” – The “gift” is the gospel

And it is a gift of “grace”

What is grace?

“Grace” simply means getting something we don’t deserve – It’s God’s unearned favor

So, salvation and eternal life, is not found by doing good things, it is found in the gift of God that we don’t deserve, but God offers it to us anyway

How do we receive it?

We receive it by “faith”

“Faith” simply means trust

It comes down to trust – Do we trust this? Do we trust God? Do we trust the Scriptures?

If you do, then what’s holding you back?

Well, Paul concludes this chapter by saying, 27 “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:27-28

In other words, “If we are saved by what we believe, and not on what we do, then how can we brag, how could we boast? We can’t, there’s nothing to boast about! We don’t deserve this, but it’s given to us anyway!”

“What becomes of our boasting… by what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” Romans 3:27

You see, faith is the means by which we are made right with God, not good works

“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:28

In other words, there is nothing you can do to please God apart from faith – Not even keeping the law

We are declared “not guilty” before God on the basis of our faith, and not on the basis of our good works

What does that mean?

It means that if I devote my whole life to doing good things, yet reject Christ, I have nothing before God

Our good works only mean something to God if they are done through faith

Because if they are not done through faith, they are being done through effort

And if they are being done through effort it means that we are trying to work our way to heaven – We are trying to earn our way to heaven – And we just discovered that this is impossible – Because God’s standard is perfection, and we all fall short of perfection

That is why our salvation has to rely on faith – There is no other way

Well, Paul finishes this chapter with asking the question, “What about the law? Does this mean that the law is ‘overthrown,’ that we don’t need it?”

He answers with “By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law” Romans 3:31

But this will be for another day

Link to Translations


The Faithful One

The last time we met we asked the question, “Is it better to hear and not do, or is it better to do and not hear?”

We considered the situation that the Jews faced at the time of Paul’s writing

We talked about the fact that Gentiles who did not have the Law, were doing what the Law required – But the Jews (who had the Law) were not doing what the Law required

We considered the role of the “heart” in all this

We said that the “heart” is made up of three things, 1. The Mind, The Will, and The Emotions

We concluded that the heart is the “control center” of the person’s whole being

Every thought we think, every decision we make, and every emotion we feel comes from the “heart”

The Bible tells us that the “heart” is the “inner self” of a person – It is the actual (real) person – The body is just the vehicle that carries the real person

We also talked about the role of the conscience

The fact that the conscience was given to us as a compass – It is the part of us that tells us what is right and what is wrong – What is okay to do, and what is not okay to do

It is the built in moral compass that helps us live a right life

Together, the heart and the conscience give us a powerful tool to live in this world and make right decisions, the most important of which is Jesus Christ – How will we use the “heart” and the “conscience” when it comes to the Son of God?

Will we believe and choose to live for Him, or will we not believe and choose to live for ourselves?

This is the big question, and the question that will determine our eternal destiny

So, today we will begin to study chapter 3, and see what the Lord has for us in this section

Now remember, Paul has been making the case that the Jews are not better off than the Gentiles – Just because they are of the lineage of Abraham and God’s chosen people does not make them exempt from making right decisions

Romans 3:1-20

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11  no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13  “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16  in their paths are ruin and misery,
17  and the way of peace they have not known.”
18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

What I want us to consider tonight is this:

Is God Unfaithful?

Is God unfair, is He unjust, does He choose people and then forget them? Has He chosen the Jews and now forsaken them?

To this I will say absolutely not!

But let’s see what the Word says

Paul begins and says, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Romans 3:1-3

Paul is asking a hypothetical question here

And in light of what he has already presented in the preceding chapter (i.e. the guilt of the Jews) he is now asking what advantage is there in being a Jew (if all Jews are guilty)

In other words, if Jews are guilty the same way that Gentiles are guilty, then is there any advantage in being a Jew? – What’s the point, why do all the things that Jews are supposed to do (circumcision, sacrifices, feast days, kosher meals etc.)

Well, Paul answers this question and says, “much in every way”

In other words, “Yes, of course there is an advantage!”

“To begin with” he says, we have been “entrusted with the oracles of God” – We have been given the privilege of being the people to whom God has spoken – He has given us His Word (We need to remember that when Paul was writing this letter there was no such thing as the “New Testament”

It was being written, but it was not yet complete – The Jews on the other hand had the Old Testament in their possession for thousands of years

They had the Law of God, the Word of God, the Oracles of God

But Paul asks the question, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” Romans 3:3

In other words, If God chose these people, if He chose to reveal Himself to them in His Word, and they are still “unfaithful” (unbelieving) then does that mean that God has failed?

Remember, the Jews had rejected Christ

Paul answers and says, “By no means!” “Absolutely not!” “No way!” – God has not failed!

“By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” Romans 3:4

This is a quote from Psalm 51, if you remember Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance from the heart of David, after he murdered Uriah and took his wife as his own

What Paul is saying is, God is never wrong, He is always true, He is always faithful – No matter what we do, God never breaks His promises

We’ve all heard the saying, “If God feels distant, it’s not Him that moved, but us”

God is faithful all the time

Did you know that God Himself says He is faithful – We read it all over the Bible, and all of the Bible is God’s Word – But did you know that there is a specific passage of Scripture that God Himself (audibly) speaks and tells us who He is? – In fact He tells us that this is His name!

Exodus 34:5-7 says, 5 “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there (i.e. Moses), and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7

This is a huge verse, because it is God’s self-disclosure of Himself

So, God is saying, “Pay attention, this is very important!”

You see, back in those days, they did not have highlighters, they did not italicize, or underline, (they did not even use exclamation marks!), but the way they communicated that something is really important is by repeating it

So, in this passage, God is telling Moses who He is, and He says, “YHWH, YHWH!” (The Lord, the Lord!)

Another way of saying, “This is who I am!!!”

This is also the most quoted passage of the Bible by the Bible – The prophets, the kings, and the apostles continually quote this passage to declare to the people who God is

So, God is always faithful, He tells us He is – In fact it is His name – His name is faithful

So, Paul is saying here in Romans that God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are

And this raises another question, (now hang in with me),  If God is always faithful, and we are unfaithful, does that mean that we should be unfaithful so that God will be more faithful?”

This is how Paul says it, 5 “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” Romans 3:5-8

In other words, “If my sin causes God’s grace to be more graceful why not sin all the more?”

Is this a good question?

I think this is a good example of man’s perverted logic

Just because God is always faithful, does not mean that humans should incite His faithfulness with unfaithfulness (or incite His goodness by doing evil)

Paul answers this irrational statement to say, “Their condemnation is just” – If you sin for sin’s sake, you will die – In fact it shows that you are not a believer

So, God is always faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are

Well, Paul goes on, and he re-states the same question as before, “What then? Are we Jews any better off?”Romans 3:9

Then he answers with, “No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks (i.e. Gentiles), are under sin” Romans 3:9

 

Then he quotes a bunch of verses to prove his point

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” Romans 3:10-12 (quoted from Ps. 14:1-3 and 53:1-3)

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive” Romans 3:13a (quoted from Ps. 5:9)

“The venom of asps is under their lips” Romans 3:13b (quoted from Ps. 140:3)

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness” Romans 3:14 (quoted from Ps. 10:7)

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known” Romans 3:15-16 (quoted from Is. 59:7-8)

Then he ends with, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” Romans 3:18 (quoted from Ps. 36:1)

Question is, why does Paul quote all these Old Testament verses?

He quotes them to communicate to the Jews that they are not as righteous as they think they are

This is their Book, these are their Scriptures, and these Scriptures are telling them that they are guilty before God

Again, the Jews thought they were okay with God, simply because they were Jews

And Paul is telling them that they are not – In fact they are just like the rest of mankind

They are broken, they don’t seek for God, they’re deceptive, they speak curses, they murder, they don’t know the way of peace, and they don’t fear God

Paul is making the claim that they are not what they think they are – He knows this, he was one of them

You know the story, Paul’s name was not always “Paul,” but was “Saul” – And he was a persecutor of God’s people

Listen to his testimony:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way (i.e. Christians) to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’” Acts 22:3-8

I believe, that in this moment, Paul finally realized how broken and messed up he was – He thought he was doing the will of God by killing people in the name of God!

You see, Paul (Saul) was being unfaithful, but God was being faithful

No matter how unfaithful humanity becomes, God will always be faithful

If God makes a promise, He fulfills it – If He says He is going to do something, He does it – If He says something will happen, it happens – Why? Because it’s who He is

He is “YHWH, YHWH” the One “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6

At the end of Paul’s life, when he is locked up in prison and waiting to be executed, he writes these words to his disciple and friend Timothy

“If we have died with Him (i.e. Jesus), we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself” 2Timothy 2:11-13

You see, what Paul is saying is, “We get want we want, we reap what we sow, but even if we are faithless toward Christ (God) Christ will never be faithless toward us”

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t get what’s coming to us

If we are unfaithful toward God, we will get what we deserve, but God remains faithful

Again, if God feels distant, it’s not Him that moved, but us

Well, Paul concludes this section with these words, 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20

In other words, there is no excuse for anyone – Not the Jew and not the Gentile, all are guilty before God

But there is good news, God made a way for us to be acquitted, He has paid our fine, He has taken our punishment – He has made a way for us to be faithful – This includes the Jewish people

But that is for another day, see you next time

Link to Translations


Suppressing the Truth

The last time we met we talked about obedience – We learned that obedience does not come naturally to us, but rather is learned. Willful Obedience

We learned that there is something in our human nature that wants to rebel against obedience, and against authority.

If someone tells me not to do something, my first inclination will be to do it!

This is what the Bible calls the sinful nature

It’s in our nature to rebel – We can’t help it – It’s who we are – It’s a part of our DNA

But even though by nature we are disobedient, God still calls us to obedience

How do we do this if our bodies won’t let us?

The Bible says we do it by faith – Verse 5 says, “We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith” Romans 1:5

So, obedience comes through faith

Last time we met we talked about how God wants our obedience, not because we have to, but because we want to

We will talk more about this in the weeks ahead

But for now (since we’re starting the book of Romans) I would like to talk a little about how a letter is usually structured

If I was to structure a letter, how would I do it?

Well, usually the way a letter is structured is, the author tells us what he wants to tell us, then he tells it, then he tells it again

Thesis (main point), Body (talking about main point),  Conclusion (summary of the main point)

In other words, Paul would say, “I’m going to tell you what I want to tell you (thesis), then I’ll tell it (body), then I will tell it again (conclusion)”

And this is exactly what Paul does in his letter to the Romans

And what he wants to tell them and us is (his thesis) found in chapter 1:16

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 for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

So, Paul is telling us that this is what he wants to discuss in this letter – The fact that God’s righteousness is not found in doing good things, but rather is found in faith through the person of Jesus Christ

In other words, “We don’t become right in the eyes of God by doing good things, but by believing in His Son Jesus Christ”

In a nutshell this is the message of Romans

Paul is saying that justification is by faith alone

So, from here Paul shifts gears and begins to write about human nature and why we will never be able to be justified in God’s sight by being good people

He begins with the depravity of man

Just so you know, the depravity of man simply means that we have been corrupted – It means that we are broken and can’t fix ourselves

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23

 

What I want us to consider tonight is this:

Is the wrath of God unjust?

This is a hard passage to read because it paints God as an angry God,a violent God, unmerciful, and unjust

Why would a good God send his creatures to hell?

This is a question that has been asked from the beginning of time no doubt

So what Paul wants to do is settle this question and help his readers understand who they are and what they have done to the Almighty God – Their Creator

He begins by saying, that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” Romans 1:18

The key words here are “suppress the truth”

The point that Paul is making is that all of creation, all of humanity knows that God exists and that they owe their allegiance to Him, but they do not do it – This is what the Bible calls sin and what Paul refers to as “suppressing the truth”

They know the truth that God created all things, they know the truth that they should live their lives in humble submission to Him but they don’t – They rebel against this truth – They suppress it

Think about this – What do we do when we “suppress” something?

When I think of this, I think of something that wants to come out of something but I don’t let it

It’s like when I look up into the night sky and I see all the stars shining it causes something in me to come out – It causes me to want to say, “God you’re amazing, look at what you’ve done!”

But if I “suppress” that inclination, that truth, and instead say, “No, there is no God, this is all just a cosmic accident” – What I’m doing is “suppressing the truth” – I am rejecting that which is plain to me

Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day it pours out speech, and night to night it reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” Psalm 19:1-4

In other words, the creation speaks for itself – The creation screams of God’s glory

And when we “suppress” God’s glory, when we “suppress” that which is plain to us, that which speaks for itself, what we’re doing is rejecting God

We’re rejecting the One who created us, the One who created all that we see – We reject the One who gives us life, a sound mind, a functional body, air to breathe, food to eat, and a mind to think

This is why this is so important and the reason why Paul begins his letter with it – Because when we “suppress the truth” what we’re doing is rejecting God

It’s kind of like this…

Suppose you are in a fine restaurant and you order a dish – You’re food arrives, you eat it, you enjoy all the flavors that it brings, it satisfies your hunger, it causes you to be glad, you’re content, you’re satisfied – It was the best meal you had ever had!

And then you leave, and you don’t even for a moment acknowledge the one who prepared the meal for you, the one who took the time to cut the vegetables, cut the meat, and add the spices

You see, the meal points to the one who made it, but all you do is enjoy what has been made for you and not even thank the one who created it

But in addition to not thanking him you don’t even think of him! – The thought of where the meal comes from didn’t even enter your mind – You simply enjoyed what the chef created for you, and then left

This is how it is when we breathe God’s air, eat His food, use the body that he gave us and not even thank Him for one of them, and not even think of Him in the process

This is what Paul is saying when he says that God’s wrath is being “revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness” of men, who “suppress the truth”

God’s wrath comes as a result of enjoying all that He has made, and not giving thanks to Him

Listen to what the text says,

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 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. 21 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. Romans 1:18-21

Paul is stating here that all of humanity, every single human being that ever lived and is living today knows that there is a God

But what do they do?

They “suppress” it – They shove it down – They remove it from their mind

21 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. Romans 1:21

 

My question is, “What are we supposed to do?”

What did Jesus teach us to do?

Mark 12:30 says, 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

But do we do this? I think not

You see, when we continually “suppress the truth” what eventually happens is that we become fools and our hearts become dark – And our thinking becomes pointless, it becomes hollow and empty – And then we begin to do other things that are pointless, hollow, and empty

In the text, the pointless things the people did could be found in the next verse, Paul writes, 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:22-23

What Paul is saying is that in rejecting God, the people became fools and began to worship wood and stone instead of God – The One who created the wood and the stone

“Their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” Romans 1:21-22

So what did God do?

Verse 24 says, “[He] gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”

This is a scary verse, because it tells us that if someone continually suppresses the truth, if they continually shove down what they know to be true, eventually God will give them up to what they want – And what they want is folly – What they want is to bow down to wood and to stone – What they want is contrary to nature – What they want is to be fools

So, eventually God gives them up to it

Why?

   25 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. Romans 1:25

The judgment of God falls on those who continually “suppress the truth” and                   exchange the glory of God for idols

What does that mean?

    An idol is anything that takes the place of God

An idol is anything that        

becomes more important than God – An idol is something that we love more than God

Idols are not only ancient false gods that we read of in the Bible, idols are an everyday temptation for us as we live in the 21st century

Anything that I am devoted to above God is my idol

Whether that is my favorite sports team, my career, my business, my family, or even my child – Anything that I am devoted to above God has become my idol – It has become my god – It is what I worship

And what Paul is saying is that if we continually “suppress the truth,” continually reject God, eventually God will let us have what we want – And what we want is our idols – We want to worship sports, worship a career, worship a business – Eventually what we do is we begin to worship ourselves

And it only gets worse, verse 28 says, 28 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Romans 1:28-31

And the list goes on, the point being that when you reject God – When you exchange the truth of God for a lie what you do is you start down a road that leads you to all the places you would not go otherwise

But you don’t see it, you’re blind to it because you’ve exchanged wisdom for folly, righteousness for unrighteousness, good for evil – To you folly is wisdom, unrighteousness is righteousness, evil is good!

This person’s mind has become “debased” – It has been corrupted

So, why does Paul begin his letter this way?

He begins it this way to communicate to his readers that all of humanity is guilty of this to one degree or another – All of humanity has chosen its own way – All of humanity has “suppressed the truth” to some degree – All of humanity has rejected God

What Paul is doing is building his case against the belief that we are okay if we do good things – We’re not okay! – What he is trying to do is communicate to his audience that all of humanity has chosen the wrong road – And the only way we can get on the right road is by Jesus Christ – By putting our faith in the One who took the right road from the beginning

Well, I asked a question earlier, I asked, “Is the wrath of God unjust?”

What do you think, is it?

Or you may be asking, “Why is it just?” “How could it be just?”

It’s just because, like a child willfully rebels against you, so we too willfully rebel against God – We willfully shake our fists at God and yell, commanding Him to leave us alone – And so when we do that long enough He gives us what we want – Sadly, it ends in our destruction

But this is why Christ came – He came to save us from all that we could not save ourselves from – We broke the law, He kept it – We shook our fists at God, He praised God – We chose our own road (the selfish road), He chose the selfless road – We step on others for our gain, He allowed Himself to be stepped on for our gain – We expect to be served, He served – We will do anything to save our life, He willingly gave up His life

You see, Jesus is the answer to all this – He is the answer to all your questions

He is what your longing for – He is the One who will give you purpose – He is the One who will give you life

You see, God poured out His wrath on Christ, so that you don’t have to face it

Question is, do you accept Him, – Will you let Him in – Will you open the door of your heart to Him – Will you acknowledge your need for Him – Will you accept what He offers you – Will you do what your heart is telling you to do right now?

Translations


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