What Advantage Does the Jew Have?

Grace For The Journey

In our study of Romans over the last several weeks, we have seen Paul develop his case for the Gospel message.  Remember that the theme of Romans is the Gospel message as Paul states in 1:16,17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.’”  

The Gospel message is about

The righteousness of God

In providing a means of salvation

For sinful man who otherwise

Remains under His just condemnation.

In our examination of the first two chapters of Romans we have already seen God’s righteous condemnation and wrath upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  All men have been given sufficient knowledge of God so that they should seek Him.  God has made Himself evident within man from birth and made Himself evident without to man in creation itself.  The result is that all people are without excuse for not seeking Him (1:20).

The ungodliness and unrighteousness of some is obvious.  Paul describes such people, the immoral unrighteous, in 1:21-32.  

The level of depravity varies

From individual to individual,

But it is a spiral downward

Into greater evil.  

It begins with a simple neglect

To honor God properly and

Descends into a refusal

To even acknowledge Him.

God’s wrath comes upon them by withdrawing His restraining hand and letting them pursue their sinful desires and their consequences.  It begins with giving them over to the lusts, or strong desires, they have for what is impure.  It continues downward into degrading passions in which the emotions caused by the lusts overwhelms common sense and reason and therefore controls.  It ends in depraved minds in which discernment of right and wrong has become twisted.  They condemn what is good as bad and approve what is evil as good.  We live in a society in which this has become common place, but it has shown itself in societies and generations before us.  Isaiah (5:20) pronounced woe on those who did this in his time.

The immoral unrighteous are obvious, but there are also the moral unrighteous.  Paul deals with them in Romans 2:1-16.  They are not as flagrant in their ungodliness and unrighteousness, and they even condemn those who are obviously immoral, yet their very judgement of others condemns them because they do the same things (2:3).  They may not rob a bank, but they take things from work, put in less than a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, and violate copyright.  Stealing is stealing and thieves do not go to heaven.  The may not perjure themselves in a courtroom, but lying even when you are not under oath is still lying, and liars do not go to heaven either (Revelation 20:8).  They may manage to keep their marriages intact and avoid extra-marital affairs, but they have a roving eye and a bent toward pornography.  Jesus is clear in Matthew 5:28 that looking on a woman to lust after her is committing adultery in the heart.  

The bottom line is that though

They are not as bad as those

Who are obviously immoral,

They still commit the same sins

In violation of even their

Own standards of conduct.  

Their own consciences

Condemn them (2:15).

Finally, 2:17-29 covers those who are religious and claim to be righteous because they
supposedly know and seek after God.  Paul uses the Jews as the supreme example of such people.  They had all the advantages.  They had the Law of God revealed to them which they taught to others.  They had the godly heritage of Abraham.  The problem was, they did not keep the law or follow Abraham’s example.  Having the law and keeping the law are two different things.  Having a godly people as ancestors and being godly yourself are two different things.  

What should have been

An advantage to them

Became a curse

That condemned them,

Because they did know better,

But still violated

God’s commandments

And sinned against Him.

This brings us up to our passage for study today in Romans 3:1-8.  Remember that Paul was writing to a mixture of Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome.  Those with a Jewish background would have a logical question at this point which Paul addresses – verse 1, “Then what advantage has the Jew?  Or what is the benefit of circumcision?”  Paul addresses these questions in verses 2-8 and then addresses the final conclusion in verses 9-18.  I faced a bit of a dilemma as I prepared this study because it would make sense to go all the way to verse 18 in this study, but in view of the rising antisemitism around the world and in our own nation, I want to take a little extra time in explaining the advantage and blessing of being Jewish.

I believe we are all aware that the repeating of the pro-Palestinian propaganda in recent weeks by world media sources has resulted in outbreaks of anti-Jewish persecution in various places around the world, particularly in Europe.  The shifting of the U.S. in its policy toward the nation of Israel over the last decade has its foundation in a theological change that will bend and even support current political pressures from the Islamic nations.  As a nation, we were shifting from recognition of the Jewish people as God’s unique chosen people with a promised land and future, to seeing them as just another ethnic group with no more claim to the land than anyone else.

Though there have been many Christians who have been caught up in antisemitism in years past and in the present, there is no Biblical reason for it, in fact, it is quite the opposite.  Christians should be the best friends that even non-Christian Jewish people can have.  We should also be the strongest defenders of the nation of Israel.  That does not mean Israel, right or wrong, but it does mean that we reject the claims of the so called “Palestinians” and support Israel’s right to exist and claim to the land.  More on this later.  Let’s back to Romans.

The Advantage of Being Jewish.

If being Jewish does not prevent a person from being under God’s wrath, then what advantage is there of being Jewish.  If being a partaker of the covenant relationship with God as evidenced by circumcision does not make the person righteous before God, then what advantage could there be to being circumcised?  In fact, given the persecution the Jews have had throughout the centuries, even in ancient times, it would seem that it was a disadvantage to be Jewish.  How much more true is that in our own time.  Paul answers, verse 2, “Great in every respect.  First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.”

No, being born of Jewish heritage

Does not automatically remove a person

From being under God’s wrath.  

And, no, keeping Jewish rituals

Such as circumcision does not

Automatically make a person

Righteous before God.

But nevertheless, being Jewish

Gives many advantages.

The first one that Paul points out is that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

The word “oracles” here is from “logion” which is usually translated as “word.”  In English, “oracles,” often has a connotation of something given through some spirit medium, usually in a pagan, occultic setting.  That certainly is not what is meant here, but rather that . . .

The Jews had “supernaturally received

The words of God from God.”  

The is phrase, “they were entrusted

With the oracles of God” is a

Reference to the entire Old Testament.

How were the Jews entrusted with the “very words of God?”  They did not come through the religious musings of some philosopher or mystical character.  There are many cult groups and false religions around today based on such musings.  They were not getting the supposed revelation about God through some medium who was not to be questioned.  Mormonism, Islam, and other false religions are built on revelations that come from a supposed angel to some particular individual.  Actually, the angels these people got revelations from were fallen angels which we usually refer to as demons.

The “very words of God” came to the Jews through many different people over a wide expanse of time and each of them were to be challenged for they had to meet the Biblical test of a prophet.  The Scriptures clearly warn that along with the true prophets, God was going to allow false prophets to come to test people whether they would follow God or not.  What religion other than ancient Judaism and Christianity can meet the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18:18-22?

Deuteronomy 13 clearly explains that no mercy was to be shown to such a false prophet.  They were to be stoned to death even if it was your own brother, son, daughter, wife you love or closest friend (13:6).  The false gods of the surrounding pagan nations were not to be worshiped by the Jews.

Deuteronomy 18:18 states, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.  You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’  If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.  That prophet has spoken presumptuously.  Do not be afraid of him.”

Under those tests, the founders of the false religions that still exist in our time would have all been slain – Muhammad, who enticed and forced people to worship Allah instead of Yahweh.  Joseph Smith and those who have followed him that call people to worship a God that is not the God of the Bible.  Charles Russell and all the leaders of the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) that have followed him for their many false prophecies.  The list can go on and on.  Though we cannot kill such false prophets in a secular democracy such as ours, we are still to test those who claim to speak for God (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).  Don’t believe someone just because they claim to be a Christian and use the Bible.  There are many false teachers out there that present the doctrine of demons as truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3) and seek to tickle people’s ears with false doctrine and myth (2 Timothy 4:3-4). 

Being those entrusted with the Word of God

Is both a tremendous advantage and responsibility.

John MacArthur appropriately quotes from one of William Cowper’s poems on this point.

They, and they only, amongst all mankind,

received the transcript of the Eternal Mind;

Were trusted with His own engraven laws,

And constituted the guardians of His cause;

Theirs were the prophets, theirs the priestly call,

And theirs, by birth, the Savior of us all.

Paul had already commented on the advantage of this in his statements in chapter 2:17-20.

Because they had the words of God, the children of Israel could know His law and His will.   Because of this, they could be confident in knowing what God demanded and what He wanted which was to result in them being able to be a guide to the blind, a light to those in the darkness, a corrector of the foolish, and a teacher of the immature.  I pointed out in our discussion of this a days ago what each of these meant.  The Gentiles were considered to be blind and in darkness because of their lack of knowledge of God.  

The Jews were privileged with that knowledge

So they could guide the Gentiles

To the light and remove their blindness.  

They had God’s standards, so they could

Be confident in correcting those who

Were foolish back to that standard.

They were to be the instructors of those who

Were still ignorant which would have included

Their own children as they grew up.

God did not entrust the Jews with His words on a whim.  It was done because He had already chosen faithful Abraham and his descendants to be His chosen people.  God made a covenant with Abraham.  The Bible says in Genesis 12:1-3, “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’” The covenant was made unconditionally that Abraham was to go to a certain land where God would make him a great nation, make his name great, and make him a blessing to all people.  

  • In Genesis 13:14-17 God designates the particular land that He will give to Abraham and his descendants.  
  • In Genesis 17:19 Abraham is told that these covenant promises would be passed down through Isaac (not Ishmael).
  • In Genesis 26:4 God confirms this covenant with Isaac.
  • In Genesis 28:13-14 and 35:11 the Lord confirms the covenant will not go through Esau, but through Jacob who is renamed Israel.

Later, the covenant with Israel’s descendants is detailed through Moses on how God wanted them to live and what the blessings would be for obedience and the curses for disobedience.  Prophets then followed who often revealed what God was about to do even as they corrected the people and called them to live according to God’s commands.  

The Jews are God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 10:15)

Who were to be a kingdom of priests

And a holy nation (Exod. 19:5,6), and that is why

His very words were entrusted to them.

1 Peter 2:9 tells us that this responsibility to be priests who proclaim God’s excellencies to all people now belongs to us who are Christians.  However, the Jews are still God’s chosen people and when we get to chapters 9-11 we will see the promises that God will still fulfill to and through them.

The Truth of God’s Promises.

In verses 3-4 Paul moves to the next objection that would have been on the minds of his Jewish readers . . .  

If being of Jewish lineage and keeping

The rituals were not enough,

Then perhaps God was

Not true to His promises.

Paul corrects a common belief among Jews then which still exist even today.  Verses 3-4 state, “What then?  If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?  May it never be!  Rather, let God be found true, though every man [be found] a liar, as it is written, ‘That You might be justified in Your words, And might prevail when You judge.”

Paul’s argument here is simply this.  

The unfaithfulness of individual Jews

To keep the covenant that God

Made with them that results

In them being under God’s wrath

Does not nullify the promises that

God has made to the whole nation.

God’s promises to Israel were usually conditional, and those that were unconditional dealt with the nation as a whole.  There were blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, yet even when curses were being brought against individuals and the even nation, God’s unconditional promises to the nation would still be carried out in the future.  Paul makes this point very clear in chapters 9-11 which we will get to in the future.  The nation of Israel will be saved (11:26), though individuals within the nation will perish under God’s wrath (2:17-29; Zech. 14:2).  Those who hold to the covenant theology position in this area make the same mistake today that the Jews often made then.  

The failure of individuals does not

Nullify God’s promises to the nation.

The church has taken on certain responsibilities that belonged to the Jewish nation, but the church has neither absorbed nor replaced Israel, for God still has plans for His chosen people as a nation.

Whenever there is confusion about what God has said or what He is doing, there is one thing certain.  God is true in all that He says and all that He does even if that means every man is found to be a liar.  In other words . . .

God is the standard of truth,

Not man’s attempt

To understand everything

And put them into nice categories.

God is perfect and His word verifies itself and He is justified by His own judgement.  The judgement of men cannot stand against God.

The Purity of God.

In verses 5-8 Paul moves to the next objection his Jewish readers might have had with what he has taught, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?  (I am speaking in human terms.)  May it never be, for otherwise how will God judge the world?  But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?  And why not [say] (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), ‘Let us do evil that good may come?’ Their condemnation is just.”

Paul has stated that God’s righteousness is shown in the gospel, yet to this point Paul has only pointed out that everyone is ungodly and unrighteous.  Can God be pure if He is glorified by what is impure?  How can the unrighteousness of man demonstrate the righteousness of God?  If this is true, then wouldn’t it be unjust for God to punish sin when that very sin brings Him glory?  This would have sounded like it could be blasphemy to many Jews.

Paul makes a parenthetical statement at the end of verse to make sure his readers know that what he has said here is being spoken of from the point of view of human logic.  In other words, Paul is clarifying that this not what he himself has said or believes, but is rather an argument that was laid against him.  Paul intensifies his disclaimer saying, “May it never be.”  If Paul was speaking, he would have been shouting this.  God neither encourages nor approves sin in order to glorify Himself.  If that were true, then God would be unjust and would have no basis by which to judge the world.

The Old Testament is full of references to God as judge and that He is righteous and just in His judgements.  For example . . .

  • 1 Samuel 2:10, “Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.”
  • Psalm 7:6, “God is a righteous judge.”
  • Psalm 58:11, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely there is a God who judges on earth!”
  • Psalm 67:4, Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprightness.”
  • Psalm 82:2, Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations.”
  • Isaiah 33:22, For the Lord is our judge , The Lord is our lawgiver, The Lord is our king; He will save us (Isa. 33:22).

The Jews understood this very well, and it was obvious that if He condoned sin, then He would not have a basis for true, righteous, fair, just judgement.

Paul was being slandered on this point

Because they did not understand

The Gospel of grace that Paul was preaching.

To them, it seemed as if Paul was saying that they should do evil that good would come of it.  If lying makes the truth of God abound to His glory, then why not lie even more so God’s truthfulness can be exalted even more?  If my sinfulness makes God’s holiness even more apparent, then my sinfulness is good, but if that is true, then how could the liar, the adulterer, the idolater, the covetor, etc. be judged a sinner?  If that is what Paul was teaching, then their condemnation would be just.

However, that is not what Paul was teaching.  He will go on throughout the rest of chapter 3 and the rest of the Book to clarify the Gospel of Grace and God’s righteousness in justifying the sinner.  In short . . .

Paul was anticipating the arguments

He would receive against

The gospel of salvation by God’s grace

Because he has already faced them and

The personal accusations made against him.

These arguments and accusations still exist.  Let’s apply them in the Christian context.

The Jewish legalist rejected Paul’s Gospel of grace because then there would be no advantage in being a Jew, and from their point of view, this would make God a liar that does not keep His promises.   The “Christian” legalist also rejects the Gospel of grace because it would nullify all their work in trying to earn their salvation.  But . . .

They view the Bible and salvation

In the same way as the Jewish legalists did

– Salvation comes through

Obedience to the law,

Keeping the rules,

And being born into a family that

Does this that is a great help.

They correctly understand that God

Would be unjust if He condoned sin,

But they do not understand

They are the religious unrighteous.

Their self-proclaimed righteousness

Is destroyed at the wall of truth

In the fact that they themselves sin.

They know the rules, but

They do not keep them.  

Like a good trial lawyer, they do their best to manipulate the laws to give themselves the illusion of keeping them, but they are in fact guilty.  

They understand correctly that

God will keep His promises,

But they fail to understand

That they do not meet

God’s conditions for salvation.  

God will judge them according

To their very deeds

(2:6; Revelation 20:12)

Which will condemn them

Instead of vindicating them. 

They will be cast into the lake of fire.

There are also the antinomians which means “without law.”  They correctly understand that they are sinners that cannot earn their salvation, but they actually take on the ideas that Paul was falsely accused of proclaiming that God is glorified by their sin.  They reject all Biblical commands, or at least the ones they do not like, saying they are free from the law and can therefore do anything they want.

Paul’s concluding statement in verse 8 applies to them.  The are justly condemned for they make God unjust and cause God’s name to be blasphemed just as surely as the religious unrighteous do.  Their lifestyle often becomes that of the immoral unrighteous or the moral unrighteous at best.  They pervert God’s grace into lasciviousness.  

To continually live in unrepentant sin

Is a clear indication that

The person is not saved.

Genuine salvation is from

Sin to righteousness (Romans 6)

For the purpose of

Becoming holy (Ephesians 2:4),

Conformed to the image

Of Christ (Romans 8:29),

And for the performance

Of the good works God

Has prepared beforehand

(Ephesians 2:10).

Genuine salvation is about

A living, ongoing relationship

With the Sovereign Creator

Of the universe who

Makes us righteous before Him

Through His grace in granting

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s life

To be the substitute payment

For the penalty of our sin.

You can do nothing

To earn this gracious

Gift of salvation,

But once accepted,

You are no longer your own,

Because you have been bought

With the price of His precious blood.

What is the advantage of being a Jew?  

Great in every respect.

  • They have been given the words of God.
  • They are God’s unique chosen people.
  • But those advantages will be of naught unless they follow God’s words with circumcised hearts of love for God (Deuteronomy 10)

What is the advantage of being raised where there is Christian influence whether it is in the home, with other family or friends, or a local church?  

Great in every respect.

  • You have available to you the words of God
  • You have around you those who love God and desire to help you understand those words and walk with God.
  • But those advantages will be of naught unless you personally seek God’s forgiveness for your sins through Jesus Christ and strive to walk with Christ according to His word.

Are you taking advantage of what has been given to you?

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Religious Unrighteous

Grace For The Journey

What is the value of religion?  An interesting, and somewhat disturbing poll was reported in the “National Weekly Edition” of The Washington Times.  It was conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  Some of its results . . .

  • 80% of Americans rank religion as “beneficial;”
  • But 65% also say that religion bears a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of blame for wars and conflicts.
  • 61% believe that children need religious training to grow up morally upright;
  • But half of them argue that belief in God is not necessary for adult morality.
  • 67% said that America is a “Christian nation,” but 75% said that “many religions can lead to eternal life.”

Obviously, Americans are confused about just what Christianity is and the role that religion has played in American society.  That should not be surprising given the often contradictory way that religion, especially Christianity, is portrayed in the public arena. While our President and popular sentiment call for and seek God to bless America, liberal lawyers continue to use our judicial system to keep any reference of Him out of our public schools.  Most charitable institutions have been started because of religious motivations and Sunday church attendance is higher in the U.S. than any other western nation, yet TV and film commonly portray any “Christian” character they might include as either a nerd, a moron, or a psychopath.

At the same time, we continue to hear from our government that Islam means “peace” and holds no responsibility for the terrorism in the U.S., Israel, Sudan, Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. etc. etc.  Here is what you are not hearing . . .

Islam does not mean “peace.”  

It means “submission.”

The beliefs of Islam are at the heart of the terrorist actions and war done in its name, and that is why you do not hear Islamic leaders condemning them.

Instead they blame the U.S., Israel, and whoever else is not Islamic.  I don’t know about you, but I am glad that . . .

God does not decide truth

Based on opinion polls, slanted

News reports, or propaganda.  

I am also glad that God

Has revealed Himself in the Bible

So that you and I can also know

The truth and follow it instead of

Opinion polls, slanted news reports, or propaganda.

There is only one opinion that is important,

And it is not yours or mine . . . It is God’s.

This is true on the subject of religion as it is for any other issue the Bible addresses.  In Romans 2:17-29 Paul addresses the subject of religion and whether it could establish a person in righteousness.

We have already seen in Romans 1 and the first part of Romans 2 that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18).  Paul then proceeds to demonstrate the righteousness of God as revealed in His wrath upon such ungodly and unrighteous men.  God has made Himself evident to men in such ways that all men are without excuse (1:19,20), yet men do not turn to God.  They continue to seek their own way
through life.

Some follow the path of what I call the immoral unrighteous.  Paul describes them and their descent into depravity in 1:21-32.  These are the people who are obviously ungodly and unrighteous.  They think themselves to be wise, but they have become fools (1:22).  They exchange the worship of God for the worship of something He has created (1:23,25).  God judges them by pulling back His restraining hand and giving them over to their sinful desires.  Emotion and desire take control.  As they continue their downward spiral, they involve themselves in increasing debauchery including degrading passions of which homosexuality is an example.  Their actions are against all common reason because of the natural consequences of their sin including all sorts of medical problems and a shortened life span, yet the ungodly continue in their pursuit of fulfilling their passion regardless of the consequence to themselves or others.  The spiral can continue downward to the point that God gives them over to depraved minds that can no longer discern right and wrong.  Their sinful practices are obvious and Paul lists some of them out in 1:29-31.  Though they are still aware that those who practice such things are deserving of death, they not only do them, but give hearty approval to others who practice them (1:32).  These are those who are obviously ungodly and unrighteous.

Next, Paul deals with the group I refer to as the moral unrighteous in 2:1-16.  These are the people who have a moral code and condemn those who practice such flagrant sins as the immoral unrighteous.  The only problem is that they do the same things.  They are just not as flagrant and are better at hiding their sin.  Their hypocrisy condemns them for in condemning those who are flagrantly sinful they establish that they know right from wrong.  When they do the same thing, even if it is to a lesser degree, they condemn themselves.  There is also the matter of their conscience.  While they may not have received the Law of God as had the Jews, yet God did place within their hearts a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong.  When they do wrong in violation of their own conscience, they also condemn themselves.  God is impartial and His judgement will be based on the very sinful actions these people have done.  God is righteous in His wrath upon all the ungodly including the moral unrighteous.  They do not meet God’s standards.  They do not even meet their own.

But what about those who have received the Law of God and are doing their best to follow it?  Does God’s wrath extend to them as well?  What about those who are religious?  And specifically, what about the religious Jews who have received God’s law?  No group had received as much information about God as they did.  No group is more religious than they were.  Paul addresses them in 2:17-29 and the principles of what he says here could be applied to any religious person or group.

The Religious Jew.

Verses 17-20 state, “But if you bear the name ‘Jew,’ and rely upon the Law, and boast in God, and know [His] will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth.”

Genetic Heritage – Verse 17.

The term “Jew” is derived from “Judah,” the name of one of Israel’s sons and the tribe that come from him.  It was also the name given to the Southern kingdom that formed after the Hebrew nation split into two kingdoms during the reign of Solomon’s son, Reheboam.  But during and after the Babylonian captivity it came to be the common reference to the whole race that traced its lineage through Jacob, to Isaac, to Abraham. The term “Jew” is a name they proudly wore for it marked this heritage and marked
them as God’s unique and specially chosen people.  The many years of persecution they have endured has never changed that.  It is still an honor.

The problem that developed is that many Jews

Thought that this special relationship

That they had with God as His chosen people

Gave them an automatic pass into heaven.

The fact that they had not fulfilled their purpose in God calling them as His chosen people, which was to proclaim God to all nations and in that way fulfill the promise that the descendants of Abraham would be a blessing to the rest of the world (Exodus 19:6; Genesis 12:3), nor had they lived according to God’s commandments, did not worry them.  They thought God would let them into heaven simply because they were Jews.  This lead to them becoming arrogant, proud and prejudiced.

The ancient prophets had warned them of this many times, but they did not take it to heart.  Moses had warned them that they were to walk with “circumcised hearts” (Deuteronomy 10:16) in obedience to the Lord’s commands or there would be punishment (Deuteronomy 27, 28).  Isaiah (47-48), Jeremiah (7:4-12), Amos (9:10), Micah (3:11-12), Zephaniah (3:11-13), all warned of the foolishness of believing their genetic heritage would protect them in the day of the Lord’s wrath.  The soul that sins, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4) regardless of who the father was.

The Jews have a special relationship with God because they are descendants from Abraham, but that in itself will not save them.  John 1:12-13, makes it clear that salvation is not based in anyway upon genetic heritage, but upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Those in our own time that believe that their heritage will somehow save them, make a very serious error.  

There is no second hand faith in heaven,

So regardless of the faith and piety

Of your parents or grandparents,

That is insufficient to get you to heaven.  

Even if you were born to Christian parents,

You were born as a sinner, not a Christian.

Covenant Heritage – Verse 17.

Another aspect of the Jew’s heritage was that many trusted with a false security in the covenants that God had made with them as a people.  They had God’s Law and boasted in God; yet, none of those covenants, Abrahamic, Mosaic, or Davidic would save them automatically.  The Law required circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:1-14), but circumcision could not save them.  Whatever advantage they gained from the covenants also increased their responsibility.  Certain aspects of the
covenants were unconditional on God’s part, but for the individual, there were conditions by which either blessings or curses would come.  They boasted in God because of their special covenant relationship with Him, but they erred in thinking that this meant God belonged to them.

In certain aspects of Christianity today, there is a view that salvation can be based in a supposed covenant.  This is very similar to the idea of a genetic based salvation, but of shorter inheritance value.  For example, many of those in Reformed traditions believe that the children of believers who die in infancy are saved based in the idea that God has made a covenant with the parents that covers their children.  They do not believe that children of unbelievers are saved.  Some Puritans held that this covenant would extend down two generations and could even skip an ungodly intervening generation.

Roman Catholicism holds to something similar in believing that infant baptism grants salvation to the child.  Supposedly, the faith that the child lacks is replaced by the faith of the church.  But again, people are not born of God by blood or the will of the flesh or by the will of man, but only of God Himself.
Being born to Christian parents and raised in a Christian homes is a great privilege and asset, but it cannot save, and neither can any Christian ritual.  A baptized infant is a wet baby, but not a saved baby.

Religious Instruction – Verses 18-20.

The Jews could also boast in their religious instruction and some thought that their great knowledge of God’s Law would save them.  Paul describes them here as those who “know [His] will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth.”  All these things are good, but they in themselves cannot make a person righteous and save them.

The Law gave the Jews the knowledge of God’s will and even what was most important to Him. This knowledge should have qualified them for their claims in verses 19 & 20, but . . .

Knowledge must be put

Into practice to be of value.

Knowing and doing are two different things. They should have been “guides of the blind.”  This refers to leading those who were ignorant of God’s will, which would have been especially true of the gentiles.  However, when you do not follow what you know, you become “a blind guide leading blind people” which is exactly what Jesus said of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:24-28).  The Jews were to be a light to those who were in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7), but again knowledge without application is like having a candle and no means to get the wick to catch on fire.  The potential is there,
but it is worthless for illuminating the darkness until the wick is burning.  

They should have corrected the foolish, which the Gentiles were considered to be, but how do you correct someone when you are being even more foolish?  They were also to be teachers of the immature which would include both young Jews and Gentile proselytes.  These people needed to know God’s law and will, but what happens when the teacher does not apply the knowledge?  They make the proselyte twice as much of a son of hell as themselves (Matthew 23:15).

They had the Law of Moses

Which was the embodiment

Or appearance of the knowledge

And truth of God to that point in time,

But they did not actually follow what it said.

Paul points out their hypocrisy in verses 21-24.

Religious Hypocrisy – Verses 21-24.

The evidence of this is verses 21-22, “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?  You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?  You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?  You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” 

It is not just that they fell short of

Understanding God’s law themselves,

But even worse, they would not obey

What they did know and they

Would not practice what they preached.

They would teach others, but

They were failing to teach themselves.

It should not surprise us that they, and those who have followed in the same path in our own day, can lecture and impart the truth without following it themselves.  There are many reasons that people might preach, and not all of them are honorable.  Remember that even Satan will disguise Himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Paul gives specific examples.  They correctly taught that it was wrong to steal, and yet they would steal themselves.  The prophets had to rebuke even the national and religious leaders for this on a regular basis.  The Jews were not to charge each other interest or usury (Exodus 22:5), but they often did anyway (Ezekiel 22:12).  They would steal by using false weights and balances (Amos 8:5).  They would seek after dishonest gain (Jeremiah 22:17) and without compassion they would rob and plunder even from widows and orphans (Isaiah 10:2).  They even would dare to rob God by withholding their tithes (Malachi 3:8-9).  This had not changed even in Jesus time, for Jesus accused the religious leaders of the same things – devouring widows’ houses (Mark 12:40), and robbery (Matthew 23:25).

They taught that adultery was wrong and would at times even seek to enforce the Mosaic law concerning it (John 8:3-5).  However, their practice of easy divorce for any reason multiplied divorce in the land – Divorce and remarriage for any cause other than sexual sin multiples adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).

Idolatry is an abomination before God (Deuteronomy 27:15) and so it is right that they abhorred it, yet they themselves robbed temples.  This could be a reference to robbing their own temple in Jerusalem such as in withholding tithes (Malachi 3:8-9) or some other means, but since the reference is to “abhorring idols” being set in contrast to “rob temples” it is probably something else.  One possibility is that in contrast to the Mosaic command to destroy any graven image that came under their control (Deuteronomy 7:25), they were seeking to make a profit from them.  In Acts 19 the town clerk of Ephesus defended Paul and his Jewish associates that they were not robbers of temples or blasphemers of their God.  That suggests that such was practiced enough by Jews that these particular ones had to be defended against the possible charge. Destroying a pagan temple out of obedience to God’s command is one thing, plundering it for personal gain is quite another.  That may be what Paul is referring to here.

The consequence of this religious hypocrisy is stated in verse 23 and 24, “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?  For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ just as it is written.”  The reference here could to be to a number of passages because the name of the Lord had been blasphemed many times because of the disobedience of the people.  David’s sin with Bathsheba gave the enemies of the Lord and occasion to blaspheme the name of God (2 Samuel 12:14).  The multiplied sins which resulted in God’s judgment of both Israel and Judah also caused the name of God to be blasphemed at their deportation (Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:17-23).

All sin is an affront to God and an attack on the holiness of His name because all sin is contrary to the purposes for which God made man.  David understood that all sin was against God.  That is why in his confession of his multiple sins related to his adultery with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:4 that he said it was “against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight.”  However, the sin of those who profess to know God and proclaim His ways to others is even more grievous because it causes
more people to blaspheme Him.

The word “blasphemy” means “to speak reproachfully of or revile or speak evil of God;”  it is to “slander and dishonor the very character of God;” it also encompasses “living in disdain of God’s commands.”  The Jews boasted in the Law of God, but they did not keep it themselves.  The result was that not only were their own actions blasphemous, but it gave reason for the Gentiles to disdain God’s commands.  What reason
would there be for them to heed God and His commands when His people do not do so?  If those who proclaim the name of the Lord do not respect Him, why should anyone else?  If God chastised them for their sins, the Gentiles would turn from God reasoning that if God causes His own people to suffer in such ways, why would they want to serve Him.  If God withheld His chastising, then the Gentiles would claim that either God was not strong enough to control and correct His people, or that He approves of their sin and is therefore evil Himself.  In either case, their sin caused God’s name to be blasphemed.

But don’t think this is a truth just for the Jews.  

In many ways this is even more true

Of those who profess to be Christians.  

We have both greater knowledge of God

Through the New Testament and greater

Resources available to us

Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

When a Christian falls into sin,

Not only is his own testimony damaged,

But the name of our Lord is also stained.  

This is serious and one of the reasons for church discipline.  It begins as an effort to restore a believer who stumbles into sin, but it if the correction is not heeded, it ends with a pronouncement that this person is not a Christian and in that way seeks to reduce the blasphemy against God they have caused.  Never take your own sin or the sin of other believers lightly.

I need to add here that the greater the position of leadership and public exposure a Christian has, the greater the damage caused by his sin.  That is why there are such strict standards and judgments upon those who would be leaders in the church.  All of us can think back to pastors, both obscure and nationally known, that have caused great blasphemy of God through their sins.  That is a reason I am always in need of your prayers on my behalf that I would never cause shame to the name of the Lord.

Outward Verses Inward Religion – Verses 25-29.

For the most part, though there were many exceptions, the ancient Jews and those of Jesus’ time lived an outward religion.  The same is true today of professing Christians. Paul deals with this false ceremonial religion and the true religion of the heart in verse 25-29.  

Circumcision and the Law.

Paul first exposes the true relationship of the ceremonial practice of circumcision and God’s Law.  In Verses 25-27 he says, “For indeed circumcision is of value, if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  If therefore the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  And will not he
who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter [of the Law] and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?”

Circumcision was a ceremonial practice that was to be a sign that the person was in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenant relationship with God.  But as Paul points out, this ceremonial practice is of no value if it is not joined with the practice of God’s law.  If you are a transgressor of the Law, that is, disobedient to God’s commands, then your ceremonial actions are worthless.  Paul even points out that the person who does obey God is in a better position even if they have not had the benefit if the ceremonial actions.

This same principle is still true and it applies to Christianity.  Many Christian sects are heavy with traditions and ceremonies resulting in many people thinking those rituals will save them and give them a relationship with God.  Circumcision never saved any Jew, and Baptism, Communion, or any other church ritual practice has ever saved one Christian.  I hate to admit it, but I have baptized and served communion to people who later demonstrated they were not followers of Christ.  All their baptism did was get them wet, and their partaking of communion gave them no benefit.  In fact, it only increased
their condemnation.  

Ritual is of no benefit unless

It is accompanied by obedience.

Ritual is supposed to be an

Outward sign of an inward reality.

Paul points this out in verses 28,29. 

Circumcision and the Heart.

Verses 28-29 state, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”  Moses had told the people this when he recounted to them the Law of God.  In Deuteronomy 10:12-13 Moses said, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, [and] to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?”  Moses added in verse 16,”Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.”

A true relationship with God

Has never been based

On outward rituals, but

Rather on an inward reality.

Outward religion seeks to keep the rituals and gain the praise of men.  “So and so is such a good person, see how faithful they are at coming and practicing the rituals of our religion.”  God’s law is approached with a defense lawyer’s attitude, “How can I interpret and manipulate this law to my favor so that my client is not guilty.” 

But salvation and life in God is not outward.

It is a matter of the heart that will express

Itself outwardly in obedience to the leading

Of the Spirit of God because of the desire

To please God had have His praise.

You can be religious and still

Be very ungodly and unrighteous.

It all boils down to this?  

Are you religious,

Or

Do you have

A relationship with

The living God?

There is a big difference between the two.  The former is outward and gains the praise of men but causes God to be blasphemed.  The later arises from an inward reality of faith in Jesus that saves from sin and brings praise from God.  Do you have religion or a relationship?  Which do you want?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Moral Unrighteous, Part 2 . . . What About Those Who Have Not Heart The Gospel?

Grace For The Journey

One of the most common questions used by people to deflect the Gospel message is “What about the pagan?”  Though some may be asking this out of a sincere heart, and many may not realize the implications of their question, the question is in actuality a challenge of God’s justice and goodness.  Can God be just and good if He condemns to eternal wrath those who have never heard the Gospel?  The answer, as we shall see today, is “YES.” 

We have already seen this truth in part in yesterday’s study of Romans 1:18-32.  Most people do not have much of a question on this issue if it is confined to the immoral pagan.  Everyone has a standard of conduct of some sort, and those who live in violation of that standard are seen as deserving of some sort of punishment.  For example, it would be the rare individual in America that would not have wanted to see Bin Laden and his band of terrorists punished in some way.  Most Americans would even agree that such terrorists are deserving of severe punishment.  People innately understand that there is right and wrong and those who do wrong should be punished for it.  It has been that way throughout the centuries and so people such as Hitler and his henchmen, Mussolini, General Tojo, Stalin, Chairman Mao, the Khemer Rouges in Cambodia, and those who carry out efforts of “ethnic cleansing,” whether it is in the Balkans or anywhere else, are viewed as deserving punishment for their great crimes against humanity.

Another example – What would you want to see happen to the person that steals your car or breaks into your house and steals all your valuables in order to support their drug habit?  Even if you are a kind soul that would be more interested in seeing them rehabilitated instead of punished, you still want them changed so they do not continue and to whatever degree possible, you would like to receive restitution from them.  Again, everyone has some system of right and wrong, and based on their system they would
advocate punishment of some sort for those who do wrong.


Paul is very straight forward about all who are unrighteous.  He says in Romans 21:18,  “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  While some may claim they were ignorant of God and therefore should not be punished, the plain truth is that God has placed a knowledge of Himself in the heart of all people, and further, He has given clear witness of Himself in all that He has made so that all people are without excuse for their continuation in ungodliness and unrighteousness instead of seeking God out (Romans 1:19,20).  The reality is that though man knows God, they do not honor Him as the Creator or give thanks to Him.  The resulting consequence is that their thoughts become futile and their hearts darkened to understanding (Romans 1:21).  In their pride, they profess to be wise, but in actuality they become fools who exchange the worship of the Creator for the worship of something created (Romans 1:22-23).


The Immoral Unrighteous.

We have already traced the spiral into depravity of the immoral unrighteous in our previous study of the rest Romans 1.  God’s judgement on such people is to pull His restraining hand back and let them go further into their sin and experience sin’s consequences.  For not worshiping Him properly, God gives people over to the “lusts of their hearts to impurity” which results in shameful behavior and dishonoring their own bodies.  As people continue downward in their sinfulness and worship some aspect of creation instead of the creator, God gives people over to their degrading passions.  Their lust and emotions take over control from their minds, and even though consequences of such sin should logically warn them away from such behaviors, they pursue them anyway and reap to themselves the due penalty.  Paul presents homosexuality as a prime example of such a degraded passion.  The horrible medical consequences alone should scare everyone from such debauched behavior, yet the homosexual pursues it anyway.  As people descend even lower to a point at which they will no longer give thought to God in daily life, He gives them over to depraved minds resulting in all sorts of sinful practices.  Paul gives a list of some of the resulting sins in verses 29-31,“being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; [they are] gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”  They can descend even farther into not only doing such things, but approving those who do them.

While it is true that the general decline in morality of our society has resulted in many of these improper practices being accepted or even viewed as good, there are within this list those things that are still understood by all to be immoral.  Even the professional thief believes it is wrong to steal from him, and he will seek vengeance on those who do.  That such immoral people should be judged by God is generally not much of an issue.

The Moral Unrighteous

However, what about those people who do have a high moral code of conduct and would even be considered to be “good” by most people?  They do not have a Bible and have not heard the Gospel, so they do not have the right understanding of God, but they are not sexual perverts, they are giving instead of greedy, they are truthful, careful to protect the reputation of others, humble in an argument, obedient and respectful to their parents, and are trustworthy, loving and merciful.  Would God be good and just to
let His wrath be against such good and moral people?  Would it be right for Him to hold them responsible for their failures when they did the best they could with what knowledge they did have?

What about the poor pagan in a distant land who has not heard the Gospel?

Condemned by Hypocrisy

That is the question that Paul addresses in Romans 2.  We already began our discussion of this yesterday when we examined verses 1-10.  Paul’s argument that God wrath does righteously come upon such people in this section is very simple and is stated in verse 1, “Therefore you are without excuse, every man [of you] who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”  These people may live better lives than those who have been given over to depraved minds.  They condemn those who practice the things listed in Romans 1:29-31 while those with depraved minds approve of them.  Yet their very judgement of those immoral people will result in their own condemnation, for they practice the same things.  They may not be as flagrant or excessive in it, but they still do the same things.

Their greed may not match the robber Barons of a century ago, the junk bond traders of the 80’s or some government official who have an insatiable appetite for more taxes from us, yet, they are also guilty of greed.  Greed is in the desire to hoard for oneself instead of sharing with those who have need.  Greed is in the desire to amass and accumulate wealth at the expense of what God says is actually important.  Greed is in the effort to get more than the other guy in order to feel more important.  Greed often leads to stealing, and stealing is stealing whether it is a large amount or a little.  You
don’t have to rob a bank, break into someone’s house or embezzle to be a thief.  If you take what does not belong to you without permission, it is stealing.  This includes time.  If you cheat on your takes, take things home from work for personal use without permission, or extend your lunch hour beyond the time your employer has set for it, it is stealing.  The condemnation made about a convicted thief is self-condemning because the very judgement rendered on the one who is obviously immoral proves the
knowledge of right and wrong on the issue, and any failure to be perfect on the issue is wrong.

Paul’s point here is that when someone judges another person, they condemn themselves if they are doing the same thing.  They point the finger at another person, but there are three other fingers pointing back at themselves.  Is Paul saying that it is wrong for them to point out the sin of someone else?  No, for even if you fail to recognize the wrong that other people do, you will still have to deal with your own
sin.  The point here is simply . . .

That no one will be able to excuse their sin

Before God because their judgement of others

Demonstrates that they do know right from wrong

And their own actions of wrongdoing, even

If less in degree to others, still condemns them.

God’s judgement rightly falls on all who practice sin, any sin, regardless of how great or small you may personally think it may be.  The sin is against the Creator of the universe, and He is the one that sets the standards, not you or me.

God’s kindness, forbearance and patience should lead all people, including those who think themselves moral, to repentance (verse 4).  Why, simply because God’s expression of these attributes demonstrate how short we fall from His standard.  It also demonstrates God’s desire to reconcile with wayward people instead of punishing them. God’s kindness is expressed in all the various ways He provides for our needs.  God’s forbearance is demonstrated in the fact that He has not brought about your
punishment yet, though you deserve it. His patience is seen in that He continues to wait for your response of repentance to Him.

Paul pointed this out to the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  God created them and in Him, “they lived and moved and had their being,” and though God in the
past had overlooked their ignorance, He was now declaring that all men everywhere should repent (Acts 17:28-30).  But men do not generally respond well to what should be so obvious.  Instead, they are stubborn and hold to their own hypocritical standard of righteousness instead of repenting and seeking out God’s forgiveness.  The result is that they store up for themselves God’s wrath which will break out upon them
in the day of judgement (verse 5). 

God will judge people by the very deeds they have done.  The very thing that most people think they can use to justify themselves before God will be what condemns them.  Most people, including those that profess themselves to be “Christians,” live by the simple idea that if their good works are greater than their bad deeds, then the balance will tip in their favor and God will let them into heaven.  

The truth is that there is no scale of justice.

There is right, and there is wrong,

Both according to God’s standard.

If you do everything right, you

Have only done what is required.

Jesus pointed this out in Luke 17:9 when He stated, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done [only] that which we ought to have done.’”  But as James 2:10 points out, any deed
that is done contrary to God’s standards makes the person guilty.  The better analogy here is that God demands a clean white robe of holiness in order to enter heaven, and it only takes one stain to make your robe dirty and disqualify you.

Revelation 20:12-15 should cause all those who are trusting in their own work to shudder.  These verses state, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one [of them according to their deeds.  And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Are you trusting in your own good deeds

Or the work of Jesus Christ in redeeming

You from your sins through His payment

Of His own life on your behalf?  

If you are trusting your own works,

Your very works will judge and condemn you.


Condemned by Conscience.

Now some at this point might begin to argue that God is not fair and that He gave the Jews an unfair advantage in revealing to them the law.  Paul addresses this in verses 11-16, “For there is no partiality with God.  For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.  For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”  The charge would be unjust because there is no partiality with God.  People are partial for all sorts of reasons, but God is not.  People show favoritism based on either something they want to gain from someone else or some obligation they believe they have toward the other person.  People show partiality based on what they think they can gain from someone else.   There is a degree of this that is expected, such as a salesperson paying more attention to a customer that appears ready and able to purchase than one that is not.  However, the Bible warns Christians about being partial.  James 2:1-6 states, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with [an attitude of] personal favoritism.   For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one
who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?  Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”

God is impartial in part because there is nothing that He could gain from man.  All our deeds of righteousness are as filthy rags before Him who is perfectly holy (Isaiah 64:6).   Is there anything any man could possibly possess that does not already belong to God? No.  Is there anything at all that is more powerful than God by which God could therefore gain for Himself by showing partiality?  Again, no.  People do have a greater obligation toward family members, so there is a proper favoritism that occurs there when it comes to most things.  That is, you are obligated to take care of your families needs before you take care of the needs of others.  As Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”  There is a greater obligation among believers toward other Christians than to non-believers.  Galatians 6:10 tells us “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”  We have a special obligation to other Christians.

While God has a special relationship to His chosen people, the Jews, and to those who are followers of Jesus Christ, His adopted children, and from that position God does show them special favor, the context here, however, is of making judgement.  In this, God is completely impartial.  A human judge would be unjust if he did not carry out the duties of the law even if it meant sentencing a family member.  The same is true for God.  

As already stated, God judges a person based on their actual deeds, and He
gives no favoritism to the Jews, though the basis of their judgement is slightly different because they have been given the law.  Both those who have the law and who do not have the law will be judged accordingly without partiality. 

The charge that God has given the Jews an unfair advantage and is therefore unjust is false because the supposed advantage that God has given them also brings upon them a stricter judgement.  They will be judged according to the law, and the law has much more detail to obey.  The principle given in Luke 12:48 applies here – To whom much has been given, much will be required.

Paul emphasizes this point in verse13 by pointing out that it is not the hearers of the law that are made just before God, but those who are doers of the law.  There is no advantage to hearing the law if you do not obey it.  In fact, for those who disobey it, it becomes a curse for they will be judged by it.  Only those that obey it will receive the blessing.  The apostle James makes a similar statement in James 1:23-25 that applies to those of us who are Christians, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a
doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for [once] he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the [law] of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.”

Never forget that true Christianity is about following

Jesus Christ and being conformed into His image.  

You will not be saved by hearing the Word of God

If you do not follow what it says.  

Belief that does not result in change is only

Intellectual assent and that will not get you to heaven.

Jesus’ declaration about the false teachers in Matthew 7 warns of this.  Though they had even done many things in Jesus name, He will declare to them on the day of judgement, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” 

How then will God judge those without the law?  Paul explains in verses 14,15 that it will be the law of their conscience, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”  Some have taken these verses to mean that since the Gentiles will be judged according to their
conscience, then they might not be condemned if their conscience is clear.  That idea runs into four problems within the text.

First, verse 12 specifically states that, “as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law.”  This is not a statement that those without the law may or may not have sinned.  The only qualifier here about sin is whether they sinned without having the law or having the law. 

Second, verse 12 states directly that they will “perish.”  This verb is in the middle tense meaning that not only will destruction come upon them, but they will be involved in that destruction themselves.  That is in keeping with what Paul has already said in chapter one about the judgement of God in the present which is His giving people over to their sins and letting them reap the natural consequences.  The idea is that God lets them be punished by their own actions rather than directly Himself. There will also be a
day in which He acts directly and will deal out retribution to those who do not know Him and do not obey the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, and they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction shut out from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1;8-9).

Third, as verses 14 & 15 point out, that because they naturally do the things of the law, it demonstrates that God has already put aspects of the law into their conscience by which they will be judged accordingly.  In other words, their conscience establishes a knowledge and standard of law by which they will be judged.

Fourth, their conscience bears witness of their guilt and condemns them.  The standard of conscience of various people will differ from one another, but every conscience will condemn.  Even the sociopath, who has seared his conscience to the degree that he or she can do horrible things without any indication of remorse, still has a conscience and anything done in violation of the conscience will condemn them. In addition, they were not born sociopaths and they did not become that way in a day. All the violations of their conscience that contributed to searing it so severely will also condemn them.

What do I mean by a seared conscience?  Paul speaks of it in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 stating, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, [men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.”  In Ephesians 4:18-19 the same condition is referred to as hardness of heart and “being callous.”  In Titus 1:15 it is referred to as being “defiled.”  The conscience is fickle and people’s conflicting thoughts will both accuse them and defend them.

Humans are very good at self-justification, but the very fact that such a rationalization for justification has to be made is evidence of the guilt already there.  The person with a seared conscience, a hard heart or a callous heart, is someone who has rationalized their actions in the effort to justify themselves for doing what they instinctively know is wrong.  For example, the child who is greatly startled when you catch him stealing from the cookie jar.  You have literally caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, but instead of being contrite and confessing the sin, he begins to make all sorts of excuses and rationalizations, “You didn’t say I could not have one now” . . . “I didn’t get one after lunch, so I am getting it now” . . . “But everyone else got one.”  As we get older, we just develop more excuses to justify what we know we should not have done.  As that goes on long enough, we begin to believe our self-justification and in that way sear our conscience by training it to accept evil.

The conscience is very important.  If you violate it, it will condemn you before God.  If you violate it long enough, it will become seared and evil resulting in a hard and callous heart.  If you are sensitive and train your conscience according to God’s standards, then it will be a helpful guide to living in godliness (1 Timothy 1:5).  Paul sought to maintain a blameless conscience before God and man (Acts 24:16).  We should not do less.

The final conclusion concerning the pagans who do not have the law is that they too are justly under the wrath of God for their sins.  On the day that God judges through Christ Jesus, the secrets of men’s hearts will be exposed and they will be judged accordingly. They will be condemned by their own conscience.  Those who would seek to use the question of “what about the pagan?” as a means to deflect their own response to the gospel, are in a more difficult position.  Because they, like all people who have heard
the Gospel, are now responsible for what they have heard and they will be judged accordingly. 

What is the ramification of all this?

Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

The pagan will perish

Into a Christless eternity.  

They may be good people

According to the standards

Of their society.  

They may even avoid

Some of the more outward

And flagrant actions of sin.  

But they do not

Meet God’s standards.  

They do not even meet their own.  

They have no hope

Unless they hear the

Gospel and respond to it.

You don’t have to go to distant lands to find such people.  A friend of mine related the story that sometime after he and his wife were saved, they got together with some other friends for dinner.  Not long after they arrived, the friends told them that the most wonderful thing had happened to them, they finally heard and understood the Gospel message, that Jesus Christ had paid for their sins through His own death on the cross, and then rose from the dead promising eternal life to all who placed their faith in
Him.  They had done so and now were saved from sin and going to heaven.  My friend said he began to rejoice and then told them that they were also saved and that this was wonderful news.  Their friends then asked how long they had been saved, to which he replied that had been a while.  They then asked him a question that pierced his heart, “How could you have been with us so many times knowing the truth of this Good News and not told us?  We could have gone to hell.”

Those are sobering words even for us.  How many around us remain ignorant and bound for hell because we have remained silent?  Apart from Jesus Christ, all people are condemned.  It is this truth that push us forward in witnessing both here and abroad.

Let me challenge you think beyond what is comfortable.  Every great missionary, well known or obscure, has been compelled to leave the comforts of family and friends to go to distant lands and face all sorts of hardship and tribulation because of the crucial need to bring the hope of the Gospel to those who had never heard.  Is it a lot to ask?  Yes.  It is a lot to give?  Yes.  But what is the value of human souls for whom Jesus Christ has died, but have yet to even hear the story.  They continue lost in their sins and bound for hell.  

This is a personal challenge to every Christian.  

What are you doing

To bring the gospel to others?

Perhaps you need to give some serious thought about missions.  It is vital and needed to give finances so others can go, but does it always have to be others that go.  Why not you?  There are plenty of opportunities, projects short term and career.  It is something for each of us to make a serious matter of prayer.


This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God’s Judgement on Moral Hypocrisy, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

 

One of the more common attacks made by non-Christians against the God of the Bible is that He cannot be good if He condemns those that have never heard the gospel.  They view such people as innocent, and that any God who would condemn such people as evil is not worthy of their worship. 

While it is true that there are many people

Who have never seen a Bible or heard any

Message from it including a clear presentation

Of the Gospel, that does not mean

That such people are innocent.

As we have already seen in our study of Romans 1, there are no innocent people.  God has left a witness of Himself that leaves all people, whether they have access to the Bible or not, without excuse.

We have already seen from our study of Romans 1:18-20 that creation itself is the witness to God’s existence and certain aspects of what He is like.  It is a witness with a broad and clear presentation that reaches all men.  There is a Creator which they need to seek out and worship.

The reality is that men willingly and purposely

Reject the witness of creation because they do not

Want to be responsible to the Creator God that it proclaims.

They suppress the truth in unrighteousness in order to follow the leading of their own thoughts. Men distort the truth of the true God to create a deity or deities that are according to their own thoughts. 

Apart from divine intervention to bring a person

To the knowledge of the truth and faith

In the Lord Jesus Christ, this suppression

Of the truth that God has revealed will

Lead to one of three different paths.

They can begin the slide into utter depravity, or they can turn to moral hypocrisy, or they can become self-righteous in their religion.  We have already studied the slide into utter depravity that Paul charts out in Romans 1:21-32.  Though men knew God, they refuse to glorify Him and give Him thanks as their Creator.  The result being that they become futile in their speculations and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Thinking themselves to be wise according to the standard of their vain theories, they become Biblical fools, because they turn away from the truth of God to that which is false.  God then judges them by removing His restraining hand and letting them follow their own foolishness.  This results in idolatry in all its various forms and their yielding themselves to their desires.   Self-control and thoughtfulness start to give way to blind emotion resulting in impurity and shameful behavior.

The slide downward continues as God judges again by removing His restraining hand even farther back and letting them be controlled by their shameful passions.  Paul presents homosexuality as an example of people given over to their degrading passions.  Sin has its own penalty and homosexuality brings about a horrendous “due penalty of their error.”  You would think that the medical consequences alone would be enough to scare people away from such degrading sin, but their passion drives them on.

The final step into depravity is when people no longer see fit to give God consideration resulting in His judgement of pulling His restraining hand back even farther and giving them over to depraved minds which then lead them into all sorts of improper and immoral behavior including, “unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; [they are] gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.”  The bottom of this pit of depravity is when those who practice these things have seared their conscience to the point that they give hearty approval to others who do the same evil things they are practicing.

It is right at this point that Paul turns to the second group which would see themselves as morally superior since they still condemn such practices.  They are, relatively speaking, morally superior, but just because you are not at the bottom of the pit and as bad as you could be does not mean that you are good.  That would be like the boys that went and played in the mud puddle and then came in and claimed that only the filthiest one among them needed a bath.  Everyone knows that claim will not get by mom and she will give all of them baths.  

There may be levels of being dirty,

But

Being dirty at any level is not being clean.

Paul destroys the argument of the moral unrighteous in Romans 2:1-10, “Therefore you are without excuse, every man [of you] who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same [yourself,] that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?   But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. [There will be] tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The Hypocrite’s Self Condemnation.

Paul repeats the same charge here in 2:1 as he did back in 1:20.  They are “without excuse.” Regardless of their effort to justify themselves, the truth is that they have no excuse for their unrighteous behavior.  God has revealed Himself and they have suppressed the truth of His revelation.  There can be no claim of ignorance.  But now Paul takes up the claim of those who thinks themselves to be moral, and he destroys their argument by showing that they are not moral people.  They are hypocrites who do the very same things for which they criticize immoral people.

Paul points out in verse one that these people were judging the actions of others even while doing the very same thing themselves.  While this is not as bad as the bottom of the pit described in the previous verse in which people doing sinful things give hearty approval to others doing those sinful things, the actions are still sinful and the action of judging others not only reveals the hypocrisy involved, but is also self-condemning.

The particular sins being committed could be any defined by the Scripture, but in that Paul is striving to deal with the case of those who do not have the Bible, then it would be best to understand that Paul is referring to sins that all normal people recognize.  This would include the list that he just gave in 1:29-31, for as Paul comments in verse 32, these were all things these people knew were against the ordinance of God and that the practice of them would bring judgement.  Such is still true around the world.  Except among those people who are so morally depraved that they give hearty approval of those who sin, all people recognize certain things to be wrong.

For example, all societies recognize that things such as stealing, lying, slander, and murder are wrong.  Even in those depraved societies in which these things are commonly practiced there are still penalties set against them, even if it is only to allow the victims or their families to seek revenge.  A mafia family might murder with little conscience, but if one of their own is murdered, they seek revenge.  A band of thieves might steal from you without a second thought about it, but woe to the thief that steals from one of his partners in crime.  A gossip may pass on information without compassion for the one being slandered, but it is a different story if she is the one being gossiped about.  

God has placed in the hearts of people

An innate knowledge that certain things

Are wrong and the very fact that a person

Will judge someone else who does them

Is proof positive that they do

Understand that it is wrong.

These people have a higher standard of morality than those who are obviously immoral, but since
their standard is not God’s standard, they are still unrighteous.  In addition, the fact that they judge the immoral while practicing similar things condemns them.  People often claim to be good because they do not murder, which is good, but it is not God’s standard.  1 John 3:15 tells us that“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  Others think they are good because they have not divorced and managed to stay married, and certainly that is a good thing.  However, any extra-marital affairs they have had, and that includes “looking on a woman to lust after her” (Matthew 5:28), condemns them.  

People do not want to think of themselves as thieves, but you don’t have to steal a $1,000 to be a thief.  Stealing is stealing regardless of the value you place on the item, and taking something that does not belong to you without permission is stealing, and that includes someone’s time. Any lie can make you a liar.  You don’t have to achieve the expertise of any of several well-known politicians to be one.

The point Paul is making is that when someone judges another person, they condemn themselves if they are doing the same thing.  They point the finger at another person, but there are three other fingers pointing back at themselves.  Is Paul saying that it is wrong for them to point out the sin of someone else?  No.  As we shall see later in this passage, even if you fail to recognize the wrong that other people do, you will still have to deal with your own sin.  

The point here is simply no one will be able

To excuse their sin before God because

Their judgement of others demonstrates that

They do know right from wrong and their

Own actions therefore condemn them.

God’s Judgement by Truth.

Men judge one another by the standards they make up for themselves.  These standards are usually inconsistent in the effort to excuse their own sinfulness.  The hypocrisy of it is often fairly obvious to everyone but themselves.  For example, a common idea among those entrapped in legalism is that it is sinful to go to a movie theater – unless it is in a different town where people do not know you.  They would strongly condemn people for seeing a certain film in the theater, yet they will rent the same film on video to see in their own home.  Let’s be honest, if the movie glorifies evil, or blasphemes God, or contains immorality, or entices to evil, and you believe it should not be seen in the theater, then it should not be seen at home either.  But men prefer standards they can manipulate so that they can think of themselves as moral and upright even while doing things that are immoral and unrighteous.  They may be able to fool themselves, but they do not fool God.

Paul points out in verse 2 that it is will not come as a surprise to people that God will judge those that commit such evil as described in 1:29-31.  God is consistent with His own standard and judges by truth.  There is no manipulation in God’s court.  There will be no plea bargaining. There are no lawyers that can circumvent His law.

No Excuse, No Escape.

There is no excuse by which man can justify his sinful deeds and there is no escape from God’s
justice.  In verse 3 Paul asks the rhetorical question whether the supposed moral man really thinks they could pass judgement on others and yet somehow escape God’s judgement on them for doing the same thing?  As ridiculous as it sounds when exposed like this, many people live with that very mindset.  They think that somehow God will overlook in them what even they recognize is sinful in other people.  They do not think that God sees as clearly as they do.  They think that what is inexcusable in other people is excusable in them.  The truth of it is that God sees and understands better than we do so that nothing gets by Him.  The reality is, as already pointed out, that God judges according to truth and not partiality (verse 11).  The only escape from God’s judgement is the salvation offered through faith in Jesus Christ.

Contempt Instead of Repentance.

In verse 4 . . .

Paul exposes the failure of these supposedly moral people.  

They have treated with contempt the riches,

Kindness, forbearance, and patience of God.  

This goodness of God toward them should lead

Them to repentance, instead they take it for granted

And conclude that God will not judge them.

God’s riches and kindness spoken of here refer to the common grace God supplies all His creatures in providing for their needs.  It is God that provides rain, makes the grass grow, and gives food to His creatures (Psalm 104:13-14 147:8-9; Matthew 5:45).  

God’s forbearance and patience here refer to

His delay in bringing about the full weight

Of His wrath against the ungodly.

God is patient because He desires that all

Would come to repentance and not perish

(1 Peter 3:9).

Paul used this same argument on Mars Hill in Acts 17 when he pointed out to the Athenian philosophers that it was God who created them in which, “they lived and moved and had their  being” and that though in the past God had overlooked the times of ignorance, that He was now declaring that all men everywhere should repent (Acts 17:28-30).

This still applies.  God’s goodness towards them should cause even moral hypocrites to turn from their sin.  Instead, they treat God’s goodness with contempt and fail to believe that He will judge them, but as Paul points out in verse 5, they will reap the harvest of their hard hearts.

The Harvest of a Hard Heart.

Verse 5 states, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”  The  word translated “stubbornness” here is also translated as “hardness” for it comes from the Greek word from which we get our word “sclerosis,” as in “arterial sclerosis,” also known as “hardening of the arteries.”  Paul is not talking about
this physical medical condition here, but something spiritual that is much more dangerous.  Remember that “heart” as used in the Bible does not refer to the seat of emotion as we use it, but rather to the seat of the mind and will.  

This is a mind that is no

Longer open to the truth.  

It has become hard in its

Own beliefs and therefore

“Unrepentant” or unwilling to change.

It is not hard to find people like this.  You may find they agree with you on many of the moral issues being debated in our society today.  They will work alongside us to restrain such societal evils as abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, pornography, public immorality, etc., but when the conversation turns their own need for salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ, they become hard and unrepentant.  They claim that they are not really bad because they have not committed what Roman Catholics call the “mortal sins.” They are as good as anyone else since they have only committed the lesser sins common to everyone, therefore they conclude that God will not punish them.  Their hearts are not tender toward the seriousness of all sin in God’s eyes.  They will not consider the holiness of God or the hypocrisy of their position, and so they will not turn.

The tragic truth is that they are storing up God’s wrath upon themselves and there will be a day in which His righteous judgement of them will break forth upon them.  When will that day be?  It will not be in their lifetime on this earth.  God is patient toward them and their contempt for that continues to increase His wrath upon them.  They may well experience God’s wrath exhibited in the natural consequences of their sin, as is explained in Romans 1.  However, “the day of wrath and revelation of God’s righteous judgment” will be the day they stand before the Great White Throne and are condemned
for eternity for their sins against God (Revelation 20:11-15).  And, as verse six points out, the very thing which they think will prevent them from being judged is what will condemns them.

Righteous Recompense.

According to Your Deeds.

Verse 6 says, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds.”  This is a common theme throughout the Bible and one to which most people do not pay much attention or give much serious thought.  The immoral person does not give much consideration to his coming judgement because he has already spiraled so far down into depravity that he has either fashioned for himself a god of his own design that will either accept his immoral deeds or whatever efforts he makes to compensate for them; or the
immoral person has rejected the idea that he has any accountability to God so his deeds, whether good or bad, do not matter.  The moral hypocrite described here in chapter two does not pay much attention to his coming judgment because he thinks his deeds are not as bad as those of other people and therefore God will accept him.

Men set their own standards of righteousness and by them think themselves to be better than they are, but God will judge only by the standards He Himself sets.  The judgement itself will be on the actual deeds the person has done.  That is why the very thing the moral hypocrite thinks will justify him will actually condemn him.  Revelation 20:12-15 should cause all those who are trusting in their own work to shudder, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were
opened; and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, everyone [of them] according to their deeds.  And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

God will render to each one according to the kinds of deeds he has done in life. There will not be a scale to balance good deeds with bad deeds, for any deed that is done contrary to God’s standards makes the person guilty (James 2:10).  

One evil deed out-weighs all the

Good deeds a person has ever done.

The better analogy here is that God demands a clean white robe of holiness in order to enter heaven, and it only takes one stain to make your robe dirty and disqualify you.

Eternal Life for the Godly.

There is also cause here for those who are counting on Jesus Christ to save them from their sins to take pause and consider what their relationship to Him is really like.  Jesus was very clear that there would be those that would profess a false relationship to Him.

An important aspect of our salvation in Jesus

Is that it breaks the power of sin and transfers

Us from Satan’s dominion to Christ’s kingdom.

The true and false followers of Jesus would be

Distinguished from one another by the fruit

Of their lives (Matthew 7:16f; Luke 6:43ff).  

The evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ

Will manifest itself in how we live.

That is one reason Paul warned the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they really were of the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  This is not to say or suggest in any way that people can be saved by their good works, for all the good works of man are filthy before the holy God who created us (Isiah 64:6).  However, it is to say that one of the purposes of our salvation is to work in the good works which God prepared beforehand
(Ephesians 2:20), and if those good works are not present, then there is adequate cause to question the validity of the profession of faith.

Paul states here in verse 7 that what God renders, “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, is eternal life.”  This verse does not suggest that people can somehow earn their salvation, but it . . .

Does mark the qualities that should be

Expected in the true believer in Jesus Christ.

They are in contrast to the qualities in the next verse that characterize those who are ungodly.

The first quality is perseverance or patient endurance.  Becoming a godly person is not instantaneous, but it is a progression of being conformed into the image of Christ through growing in our faith and seeking that which reflects God’s own character.  The glory and honor sought here would primarily be God’s glory and honor since all that a Christian does is to be for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), but there is also in view
here the glory and honor that the Christian receives from God as he walks in faithfulness to Him (John 5:44;  Peter 1:7).  

Immortality is the hope that all true Christians have.  We look forward to when our perishable body is made imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:53) because of our salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.  The idea of eternal life is not so much the length of it, for all humans will exist eternally, but the quality of it because that existence for the Christian will be with God the Father.

Retribution for the Ungodly.

The ungodly, though they may claim themselves to be moral, are actually marked by selfish ambition and a failure to obey the truth.  Instead they obey unrighteousness, and instead of seeking God’s glory and serving Him in humility, they seek to get what they want out of things.  These people are like the false teachers Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:20-23.  Even if they do many good things in Jesus name, what actually marks their life is disobedience to what He has commanded, and you do not make up for disobedience by doing something else you would like to do in hope that God will like it and accept as a substitute.

The consequence for such people is God’s wrath and indignation.  God’s anger burns slowly, but on the day of wrath and His righteous judgement, it will burst out in His indignation against sinners.  That will be a day distress for all who do evil, regardless of their heritage.  Just as the Jews were given the first priority in receiving the gospel, they are also given the first priority in receiving God’s retribution for sin.  They are then followed by the Gentiles.

Glory for the Good.

The contrast to these are the godly who will receive the reward of their good deeds of glory, honor, and peace which they had been looking for in Christ.  Again, this will come without partiality towards any ethnic heritage other than the order it is received. 

There is no excuse for the moral hypocrite. Their judgement of others demonstrates their knowledge of right and wrong which then condemns their own deeds.  The only hope of escaping God’s judgement is faith in Jesus Christ as the One Who was your substitute in receiving the penalty of your sin.  Are you trusting and following Him?  Or are you trusting yourself and your own abilities.  The former saves, the later condemns.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – Unrighteousness in Depraved Mind, Part 5

Grace For The Journey

How utterly sinful can man get?  The answer to that is in Romans 1:28-32, our passage for study today.  The surprising thing about it is that God’s description of utter sinfulness would include many people in our society that receive respect and honor. That is evidence that our society is in great need to hear the Gospel message.

Remember that Paul gives the clearest theological presentation of the gospel of God anywhere in the Scriptures in the book of Romans.  Paul introduces the theme for the book in verses 16 and17 stating, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”

The gospel message is about the righteousness of God, especially in His bringing salvation to those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, you cannot understand this righteousness or what salvation is about unless you first understand what you were saved from.  Paul explains that in chapters 1:18-3:20.  We are saved from sin and God’s righteous wrath upon it.

No Excuse

Some might argue that God would be unjust if He held them responsible for what they did not know.  Paul explains in verses 18-20 that this excuse will not hold up for they did know enough, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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”

Others might argue that they are already good enough to go to heaven, or that their good deeds were more than their bad deeds, so God will let them in.  Paul destroys those arguments too.  He demonstrates the righteousness of God in His condemnation of the unrighteous and that everyone is unrighteous.  Those who are obviously immoral are unrighteous (1:21-32).  Those who think themselves to be moral are also unrighteous because they do not meet God’s standard and they fail to even keep their own (2:1-16).  Those who are religious are also unrighteous because they also fail to meet God’s standard or to keep the one they claim to be following (2:17-29).  The final conclusion is that every person is unrighteous before God.  There is not even one person who seeks God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).

God is righteous in His condemnation of man, but God is also loving, gracious, and merciful; and He has made a way for His justice to be met and for man to be saved from His sin at the same time through faith in Jesus Christ.

The past few weeks we have looked at man’s slide into ever greater sin here in chapter 1.  This is the natural and logical consequence of man’s actions with the truth God has given to him.  As verse 18 points out, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  They willingly and purposely set themselves against the truth God has revealed in order to keep the knowledge of it to a minimum.  Even so, all men are still without excuse because God’s revelation of Himself just in the works of creation alone are so
overwhelming.  They demand that man acknowledge that there is a Creator who should be sought.

But as verse 21 points out, even though man knew God, he refused to honor or give thanks to Him for who He is.  Instead, man sought to understand the world according to his own thoughts, but when truth is shut out, all that is left is futile speculation.  They may be always learning, but they are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:6) because they already excluded the truth from consideration.  As I pointed out in a previous study, that is the fundamental error in evolution and other worldly philosophies.

When a person turns from glorifying God and giving thanks to Him, they are turning from truth to futile speculation.  This is the first step into evil.  If truth no longer controls, it can only get worse, and since people are proud, they profess to be wise in their futile speculations when the truth is that they have become fools.

Idolatry

Now in saying they have turned from the truth, I am not saying that man cannot figure some things out for Himself.  However, since his mind is given over to futile speculations, he will mix what truth he may hold with error.  The idolatry that Paul points out in verse 23 is an example of that.  There is still acknowledgement that there must be something more powerful than man that controls things, but instead of turning to the Creator to glorify Him, they turn to the things God has made and worship them.

I have previously pointed out the absurdity of idolatry. Isaiah 40, 44, and 46 speaks of this.  It is absurd for man to worship something that cannot speak, has to be carried from place to place, and either held in place with chains or carefully made so that it does not fall over.  Yet men pray to this object to deliver them from harm!  They take part of a hunk of wood and burn it to keep warm, part of it they cook their meal over, and part of it they carve into something which they then worship.  It is utter silliness, yet man has commonly done this throughout the ages even into our own time.  This also opens the door for demons to become the source of power in their idolatry which will blind and entrap them even more (1 Corinthians 10:20).

Few people in our society that are involved in such blatant idolatry as was practiced in the ancient world, but idolatry does commonly exist in our society in the form of materialism, the pursuit of fame, and/or power.  Anything you value as more important than God is an idol.

God’s Judgement.

God’s judgement for this is to “give them over.”  

This judgement occurs three times in this chapter and each time it is to something worse . . .

  • In verse 24 it is to the lusts of their hearts in uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies.
  • In verse 26 it is to degrading passions.
  • In verse 28 it is to a depraved mind.

God’s care and protection for usually taken for granted.  However, the truth is that it is God’s restraining hand that keeps people from becoming as evil as they could be.  God’s judgement here is His moving back His restraining hand and yielding to let the person get their own way.  They will then suffer the natural consequences of their own sin.  The purpose would be to let the pain of the results of their sin cause them to turn back, but when they do not turn, the hand is moved farther back and the person is
allowed to fall farther into sin with its consequences.  In short . . .

God judges a person’s sin

By allowing them to become

Even more sinful with its consequences.

Because man does not properly honor and give thanks to God for who He is, man gives his mind to futile speculation.  A result of that is exchanging the glory of God for idols with the consequential judgement of God giving them over to their desires for what is impure.  The natural consequence of this is the shameful and sometimes abusive treatment of their own bodies.  The body becomes a biological entity like an animal. People pursue whatever makes them feel good regardless of whether it is good for
them or not.  They also view other people as pieces of flesh to exploit for their own pleasure.

The spiral continues downward when people exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve what is created instead of the Creator.  God judges again and gives them over to degrading passions.  Evil desires become increasingly controlling which push the person into activities that are degrading, dishonorable, and shameful.  Paul uses homosexuality as the example of this.  A practice that has horrible emotional and physical consequences.

But the spiral downward does not stop there.  Verse 28 states, “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.”  

  • First, they did not honor God properly.
  • Next, they exchanged the worship of God who created them for something created.
  • Now they fail no longer see fit to acknowledge God.

The idea here is that they did not approve of retaining God in their knowledge.  This does not mean that they are atheists, but it does mean that they refuse to consider the true God, for they have replaced Him with their own false god, gods, or futile speculations of Him.

God’s judgement is to pull His hand back and let their minds further degrade.  There is a word play correlation here between their action and God’s judgement of a depraved mind.  William G.T. Shedd comments, “As they did not think it worthwhile (after trial) [to consider God], God gave them over to a worthless mind.”  

The less they considered God,

The less their minds could

Consider what is morally correct.

They still had intellect, but

There is now a judicial blindness

So that they cannot discern the

Revelation of God even in nature.

Jesus speaks of this in John 12:40 when He applies the statement of Isaiah 44 to the Pharisees, “He has blinded their eyes, and He hardened their heart; lest they see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them.”  The rejecting minds become the rejected minds.

Since they now have morally depraved, or reprobate minds, they are inclined to do those things which are improper.  Paul then lists in verses 29-32 many of these improper things.  These are the things that reveal a depraved mind.

Characteristics of a Depraved Mind

The first several of the characteristics and actions Paul describes here in verses 29-32 are of a general nature followed by more specific sins.  It is important to note that a person does not have to have all of these characteristics to demonstrate they have a depraved mind.  One or two is sufficient, but as we go through them you will see that where one characteristic exists, there are usually several others that go along with
it.  It is also important to note that these are descriptions that would characterize the individual.  The Christian is capable of sinning in these areas too, but the Christians’ life will not be characterized by them, and the Christian will be seeking to overcome them.

“Unrighteousness.”  We saw this word earlier in verse 19, and it is the general characteristic that has led the person into their descent into evil.  “Unrighteousness” is a general term for all conduct which is in conflict with the standards God has set.  God’s standards are based on His own character, and so a rejection of them is also a rejection of God, and a rejection of God will necessarily lead to a rejection of His standards.

Those with an unrighteous mind

Will also have unrighteous behavior.

“Wickedness, sexual immorality.”  This is a general term of wrong conduct directed toward others.  When God and His standards are rejected, then conduct towards other people will degenerate into evil.  Paul add in here “porneia” which is sexual immorality.  This is something Paul has already used as examples of what happens when people are given over either to “the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (verse 24) or to “degrading passions” (verse 26).  In rejecting God’s standards for the husband and wife relationship, they descend into perverse and shameful sexual activities.

“Covetousness, greed.” This term is not limited to a quest for money, but is a
general term for the desire to gain for one’s self, usually what others have.  It is the particular sin forbidden in the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17).  Paul equates it with idolatry in Colossians 3:5 because it is a quest to satisfy personal desires in preference to fulfilling God’s will.  Greed is not content with what God provides.

“Evil disposition, maliciousness, evil.”  his term is the antithesis of the “good” which characterizes God.  It is often used as a synonym for “wickedness.”  This word puts the emphasis on the evil disposition of the person and on the actions carrying out that disposition.

“Full of jealousy, envy.”  The terms Paul uses now become more specific.  This is the specific outworking of coveting in specifically wanting what someone else has.  Here, Paul specifically says that they are “full of envy.”  It characterizes them.  The word for “envy” has its root in the idea of “wanting to be first.”   The Bible warns Christians that envy is something that would have characterized us in our foolish state before becoming Christians (Titus 3:3), but that we are to set it aside along with other evils and pursue knowing and walking with Christ (1 Peter 2:1ff).  God is first in all things, but envy replaces Him with self as the priority.

Envy is foolish among Christians because it is based in thinking that other people are not as important than you.  But in Christ, our importance is bound up completely in Him and what we are and what we accomplish is based in how He gifts us and uses us (1 Corinthians 12).  Within the body of Christ, every person is important for we are all part of one another in Him.  If you succeed, then I also succeed as part of the same body.  If I succeed, then you also succeed as part of the same body.  We are all on the same team and it is the team that counts.  Your joy is to be my joy and my joy is to be your joy and likewise our sorrows.  Christians are to consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians2:3), and that removes the basis of envy.

“Murder.”  This is the taking the life of another human without just cause.  It is the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13).  James 4:2 comments on this, “You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder.”  1 John 3:15 equates hatred with murder because that is its basis.  Hatred wants what displeases to be removed from its presence.  Murder makes that removal permanent.  This is the supreme act of selfishness. However, murder is primarily an attack against God for man is made in God’s image
(Genesis 9:5-6) which is why God commanded the death penalty for those that commit murder.

“Strife.”  Strife and murder are closely related because strife is only one step below murder and can easily lead to it.  Again James 4:2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; [so] you commit murder.  And you are envious and cannot obtain; [so] you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.”  Strife is the result of discontentment with what God provides and His justice.  It takes matters into its own hands to forcefully gain what it wants.

Deceit, treachery.”  This is a more subtle way to carry out strife.  Instead of open blows, craftiness and guile are used to get a person to think one thing while actually doing something else.  Deceit freely mixes truth with lies to accomplish its objectives. Deceit is a reject of God’s holiness, honesty, and truth.  Revelation 21:8 is a stern warning for those who practice deceit for it states that the part of all liars will be in the lake that runs with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

“Malice, evil-mindedness, evil disposition.”  This is the outward manifestation of “wickedness.”  It is conscious and intentional wickedness.  It is evil done for the sake of evil.  It is a fitting summary of what is behind our next two words.

“Gossip, whisperers.”  The Bible warn about gossip and instructs us to not associate with them (Proverbs 20:19).  Gossips are quick to hear and tell negative information about others.  The term here means “whisperers,” and that is its main characteristic.  It is quietly spreading information to others that would be embarrassing to say out loud. Whether the information is true or not, this characteristic of whispering shows that gossip is meant to belittle or denigrate the one being talked about.  Christians need to be up front and honest.  If you cannot speak openly about a person, then that is
probably a good indicator that you don’t need to speak about them at all.  If the person is involved in a sin, then go talk with them and help them deal with it.  There is no need to talk with someone else except to get counsel on how to deal with the person in sin. The old adage is true.  If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

“Slander, backbiters.”  Whereas gossip is “whispered,” “slander” is not so secretive.  The idea of the word is “to speak evil against someone, and the speech may well include exaggerations or outright lies.”  It seeks to tear the other person down through scorn, mocking, reviling or false charges.  This is part of the ninth commandment to not bear false witness.  This is the opposite of the commandment to Christians to love even in our speech.  Ephesians 4:29 expresses the manner in which Christians are to speak – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word]
as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to those who hear.”  
Slander and back-biting is common among the unsaved simply because they have rejected God and His standards (James 4:11).  Those who stand in the way of what they want should not be surprised to be slandered.  We who are Christians should expect to be slandered, but our response and behavior must remain godly (Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 3:12; 4:16).

“Haters of God.”  This is a simple compound word combining “God” and “hateful.”  While we might want to reserve this just for the person that defiantly shakes their fist at God, the truth is that this is the general underlying characteristic of the non-Christian.  They willing suppressed the truth God revealed to them because they hate Him and all that characterizes Him because it leaves them guilty.  The Bible says in Romans 8:7, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile toward God.”  They hate His holiness, because it reveals their unholiness.  They hate His goodness because it reveals their evil.  They
hate His justice because it leaves them responsible and condemned.  They hate His sovereignty because it reveals their dependence.  They even hate His grace & mercy because it excludes their own efforts.  The proof of this hatred of God is both the false religions and cults that create gods to man’s own liking, and the blood of Christian martyrs shed throughout the centuries.

“Violent.”  This is stronger than just the attitude suggested by the words used to translate it.  It is a word that characterizes the persecution of Christians as a revolt against God.  It is the outflow of hatred of God towards those that worship and follow Him.  It includes both the insulting mockery, reviling, slander, and contempt that is expressed toward those who follow God, and their physical abuse.

“Arrogance, proud.”  As already stated back in verse 22, though they suppressed the knowledge of God and became futile in their speculations and had their foolish hearts darkened, yet they professed to be wise.  Such is the arrogant pride of the unsaved. Though they do not understand the things of God, they have an inflated opinion of themselves and look down on others.  They are haughty.  Their error is serious because God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

“Boasters.”  This is boasting in the sense of vanity.  It is similar to pride, but not as strong.  As one commentator put it, “the proud are too proud to be vain.”  These are people who make claims beyond their ability.  A good example of this is in James 4:13-17, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are [just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, [you ought] to say, ‘If the Lord wills,
we shall live and also do this or that.’  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to one who knows [the] right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

“Inventers of evil.”  It is not enough that they follow the evilpractices of others, but they create their own too.  They may not be as bad as the people of Noah’s day whose every intent of the thoughts of their hearts were only evil continually (Genesis 6:5), but they are headed in that direction.  The evil they had been practicing no longer satisfies, so they develop new ways to carry out even greater evils.  We can easily identify this trend in our own society as we compare what is openly practiced today with what was practiced in society just 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  Such people exploit what are wonderful new technologies for the purposes of evil.

“Disobedient to parents.”  This is self-explanatory, yet surprises most people that it is included in the list because the current generations have become so accustomed to children being disobedient that they think it is normal.  It is not normal and contrary to
what is even natural.  God takes this sin seriously, so much so it was included as the fifth commandment.  The penalty for flagrant disobedience to parents was death (Exodus 21:15,17).  Parents who do not teach their children to obey them are teaching them to disobey God. 

“Undiscerning, without understanding.”  This same word was used in verse 21 to describe what happens to the state of the heart when God is not properly honored and thanked.  It becomes “darkened” or “without understanding.”  This is not a reflection on their intelligence itself, for they can be extremely smart people, but rather on their ability to understanding the things of God.  To put it bluntly, in the area of morality they are unintelligent.  That is the reason why so many people are accepting of and will even argue for what is very clearly moral evil such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, prostitution, and homosexuality.  Their rejection of God and His standards results in moral stupidity.

“Untrustworthy, disloyal, covenant breakers.”  Because they no longer have a foundation for morality, they do not keep their word.  They break the covenants or contracts they have made. Again we clearly see this in our own society.  A couple of generations ago when Christianity had a greater influence on American society, a man’s word was binding.  In current times with our society turning its back on the God of the Bible, even detailed contracts are hard to enforce.

“Unloving, without affection.”  The word here is the negation of Greek word (“storge”) which speaks of family love. When the relationship with God is not correct, then everything begins a downhill slide and eventually even the natural affection that exists between family members simply because they are family is also disrupted and destroyed.  Again, this has become common in American society as parents and children, brothers and sisters, all turn against each other to gain what they want without consideration of others.  Love is destroyed and replaced with the list of evils Paul has already put forth.

“Unforgiving, without mercy, unmerciful.”  The final characteristic listed shows the complete self-centered nature the person has descended into.  They no longer have compassion on others either in seeking to relieve the distress of others or refraining from causing such distress. 

The Bottom of Evil’s Pit.

Paul brings his description to a conclusion in verse 32 by showing the utter depravity that develops when people abandon God and His standards, “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.”  Paul again points out that ignorance cannot be used as an excuse because people are not ignorant.  

As we will see in chapter two, even without the written revelation of God, man
knows the basic things that God requires.  Man also knows the penalty for breaking them. Man knows this by his own sense of guilt, the divine punishments they had either seen themselves or heard of, and even from their own false superstitions and laws that still taught them these things were wrong.

Those who still have some morality left will still condemn the sins of others, even if they do the same sins themselves.  Such is the case in chapter two.  Those in utter depravity no longer condemn, but actually take pleasure in other people committing those sins. Such was the case in the abominations done in the worship of the pagan gods then. Such is still the case today in false religions, cults and even in elements of our secular society and government.

The consequence of turning from God and His standards is a spiral downward into utter depravity.  Yet, there is still hope for the power of sin is broken in Jesus Christ.  Man can be justified through faith in Jesus Christ and change and live in godliness and righteousness.  Which path are you on?  The spiral up to holiness, or the spiral down into depravity?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – Unrighteousness in Homosexuality. Part 4

Grace For The Journey

 

 

 

 

 

Mention the word, “homosexual,” and a variety of emotions can be evoked.  For those who are positive toward it, homophiles, there is often pride and a sense of a call to win a battle for equal (though actually “special”) rights.  There are also those who are fearful of it, labeled homophobic.  Their fear may drive them to rabid activism against it or to the opposite extreme of shunning those who practice it.  There are others who oppose it, often labeled as homophobic, whose emotions are ones of revulsion and pity.  Then there are those who practice homosexuality.  Their emotions range from boastful pride to shame and guilt.

I have no fear of homosexuality or those who are practicing it.  I am not homophobic, though I oppose it and am extremely concerned about both the medical ramifications of it, the political agenda some of the radical groups have set, and the spiritual condition of those involved in it.  I do have a sense of pity and revulsion.  Revulsion because the
behavior and practice is so contrary to God’s Word.  Pity because of the depth of sin these souls have slid into and the consequences of that sin.  

But the real question is not

How we personally feel,

But what God says

In the Scriptures about it.  

We are to align ourselves with that.

I have been collecting material on homosexuality for many years.  When I pulled my research file, I noticed that it was next to my “homicide” file.  As we shall see later in this study, that is fitting because not only is there a higher than should be incident of homicide victims being homosexuals, but the practice itself is extremely destructive.  It is in a sense self-homicidal, and it certainly keeps the soul of the individual “dead in trespasses and sin.”  

Paul warned about this in Romans 1:26-27.  Paul does not bring this up as an attack on those who practice homosexuality, but rather it is simply an illustration of the downward spiral of sin that occurs when people turn from the God that created them and seek to build their lives by their own wisdom.

Remember that the book of Romans is the clearest theological presentation of the Gospel anywhere in the Bible.  Paul introduces the theme for the book in verses 16 and 17 stating, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.’”

The Gospel message is about the righteousness of God, especially in His bringing about salvation for those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, you cannot understand this righteousness, or what salvation is, unless you first understand what you were saved from.  Paul explains that in chapters 1:18-3:20.  

We are saved from sin

And

God’s righteous wrath upon it.

No Excuse.

Some might argue that they were ignorant of God and so not responsible.  Paul explains in verses 18-20 that God has made Himself known and revealed Himself so clearly in creation that they are without excuse.  Others might argue that they are already good enough to make into heaven.  Paul destroys those arguments in these first three chapters demonstrating that all people, the immoral, the moral, and the
religious, fail to meet God’s standards and are unrighteous before Him.  There is not even one person who seeks God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).  God is righteous in His condemnation of man, but God is also loving, gracious, and merciful, and He has made a way for His justice to be met and for man to be saved from His sin at the same time through faith in Jesus Christ.

Here in chapter one Paul details the slide of man into ever greater sin.  This is the natural and logical consequence of man’s actions with the truth God has given to him. As Paul pointed out in verse 18, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  They willingly and purposely set themselves against the truth God has revealed.  And as verse 21 points out, even though man knew God, he refused to honor or give
thanks to Him for who He is.  Instead, man sought to understand the world according to his own thoughts, and shut out the truth, resulting in futile speculation.  They may always be learning, but they are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:6) because they already excluded the truth from consideration.  That is, remember, the fundamental error in evolution and other worldly philosophies.

When a person turns from glorifying God and giving thanks to Him, they are turning from truth to futile speculation.  This is the first step into evil, and it only gets worse from there.  

If truth no longer controls,

It can only degenerate.

Since people are proud, they profess to be wise in their futile speculations when the truth is that they have become fools.

Idolatry.

Now in saying they have turned from the truth, I am not saying they have turned from every vestige of truth.  Man can figure some things out for Himself, but since his mind is given over to futile speculations, he will mix what truth he may hold with error.  The idolatry that Paul pointed out in verse 23 is an example of that. They still acknowledge that there must be a something more powerful than man that controls things, but instead of turning to the Creator to glorify Him, they turn to the things God has made and worship them.

I pointed out the absurdity of idolatry in yesterday’s study.  Isaiah speaks of this in Isaiah 40, 44, and 46.  It is absurd for man to worship something that cannot speak, has to be carried from place to place, and either held in place with chains or carefully made so that it does not fall over.  Yet, men pray to this object to deliver them from harm.   They take part of a log and burn it to keep warm, part of it they cook their meal over, and part of it they carve into something which they then worship.  It is utter silliness, yet
man has commonly done this throughout the ages even into our own time.  What is even more scary about this is that demons can then become the source of power in idolatry to blind and entrap man even more (1 Corinthians 10:20).

There are relatively few people in our society that are involved in such blatant idolatry. Idolatry in our society usually takes the form of materialism, fame, comfort, convenience, entertainment, and power.  

Anything you value

As more important

Than God

Is an idol.

God’s Judgement.

God’s judgement for this is to is “to give them over.”  

This judgement occurs three times

In this chapter and each time

It is to something worse.

In verse 24 it is to the lusts of their hearts in uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies in them.  We usually take God’s care and protection for granted, however the truth is that it is God’s restraining hand that keeps people from becoming as evil as we could be.  God judges here by moving back His restraining hand and yielding to let the person get their own way.  They will then suffer the natural consequences of their own sin. The purpose would be to let the pain of sin that results from their foolishness cause them to turn back, but when they do not turn, the hand is moved father back and the
person is allowed to fall farther into sin with its consequences.  In short . . .

God judges a person’s sin

By allowing them to become

Even more sinful

With its consequences.

Because man does not properly honor and give thanks to God for who He is, his speculations become futile. This results in exchanging the glory of God for idols with the consequential judgement of God in giving them over to their desires for what is impure. The natural consequence of that is the shameful and sometimes abusive treatment of their own bodies.  The body becomes a biological entity like an animal.  People pursue whatever makes them feel good regardless of whether it is good for them or not.  They also then view other people as pieces of flesh to exploit for their own pleasure.

The spiral continues downward in verse 23 when people exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve what is created instead of the Creator.  The sense of worship here is “giving reverential awe.”  They give greater honor to what God has made than God Himself.  A quick way to see how much a person is affected by this is to compare how much of their time and finances are given to the worship and service of God with whatever else they value in life – hobbies, non-essential material goods, hedonistic pleasure, fame, power, etc.

This false worship pushes the spiral further downward.  The person may still acknowledge that God exists, but their lives revolve around themselves instead of Him. They may even seek to worship Him, but it will be according to their own designs, instead of God’s commands.  God’s judgement comes upon them in verses 26 and 27. “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 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.”

God’s restraining hand is pulled back further so that they are not only set loose to “the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (verse 24), but now also to degrading passions.  We saw the verb form for the word “degrading” back in verse 24.  It is that which is “dishonorable, disgraceful, shameful.”  The word “passion” here is similar to “lust” inverse 24, except in this context, it is worse.  “Lust” is the broadest of the Greek words for “desire” and may be used for good or bad.  Here in verse 24 it is in a negative sense, but in 1 Timothy 3:1 it is used in a good sense of the work an elder desires to do. “Passion” is not as broad and denotes “evil desire,” chiefly, however, “as a condition of the soul rather than in active operation; ungovernable desire.”  There is less control over the desire for it is a condition of the soul.  It is easy to see that this is another step downward into evil.

The homosexuality and lesbianism described in verses 26 and 27 is an example of the degree these degrading passions will take the individual.  It is important to note that the descent into evil that Paul describes here does not mean that every person will first become an idolater, then practice homosexuality, and then all the things described in verses 29-32.

The descent is in the evil heart

That first will not honor God

Resulting in the person becoming

Futile in their speculation

And darkening their hearts.

This results in arrogant foolishness

Of which idolatry is an example.  

God gives them over to

The desires of their hearts

For what is impure.

A consequence of their actions

Will be the dishonoring

Of their bodies.

Man continues the descent down by giving his worship and service to what has been created instead of the Creator.  God then further gives them over to their desires, except now the desires rise out of the soul.  They are stronger and less controllable even though they lead to that which is degrading.  Again, the homosexuality Paul
speaks of in verse 26 and 27 is just an example of this difficult, if not impossible, to control passion that degrades.

Homosexuality

Perversion Among Women

Paul states that “their females exchanged the natural function for that which is contrary to nature.”  Paul does not even give these women the dignity of the normal Greek word for “women.”  He instead uses a word that just means “female.”  The term “function” was commonly used for sexual intimacy and in this context could refer to nothing other than that.  

Their practice is against God’s design,

But it should not be surprising that

Those who turn from God would

Also turn from His design.

Homosexual activists claim their

Practice is natural for them,

Yet even a cursory understanding

Of biology demonstrates that

It is contrary to what is natural.

Perhaps Paul placed the women first because it is especially illustrative of his point. Women are generally more reluctant to become involved in sexual immorality or perversion.  Charles Hodge commented on this, “Paul first refers to the degradation of females among the heathen, because they are always the last to be affected in the decay of morals, and their corruption is therefore proof that all virtue is lost.”

Perversion Among Men.

In verse 27 Paul states that it was “in the same way also the males abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”  Again we find that Paul will not give these men even the dignity of either of the normal words for “man,” but instead uses a word that just means “male.”  Paul is more descriptive about these males.  Their passion is further described here as a burning desire, an inflamed craving.  It is a lust that has been set on fire that seeks the object of gratification in order to make it it’s own.  It is a consuming passion, but the object of the passion is a perversion that is indecent.  Paul is reserved in his description of the shameful practice of these males with one another, but there is no question as to what he is referring to.

Consequences.

Their moral error brings back upon themselves the penalty due them.  The consequences are two-fold . . . 1) There is the inflamed cravings that are continue to push for more.  A study some years ago by Bell and Weinberg found that only 10% of homosexuals could be classified as relatively monogamous or relatively less promiscuous.  28% of white male homosexuals reported having 1,000 homosexual partners.  17% had fewer than 50 partners.  79% reported that more than half of their sexual partners were strangers.  Homosexual men average between 10 and 110 different partners per year with some having 300 or more per year.

The emotional turmoil from this is tremendous.  The tragedy of unstable and broken relationships is repeated over and over again.  That will often develop great insecurities in the person.  A constant question becomes “does the other person like me?”  One male homosexual I counseled for a period of over a year was constantly in turmoil over that question.  When he began to feel that he was not liked (based not on truth, but his belief that no one could really like him – evidence of the guilt he was living with), or when he felt insecure he would search out a quick homosexual encounter to gain a sense of being loved even it was for only a matter of a few hours.

There are also the physical consequences.  The practice of homosexuality brings upon those participating the due penalty of their sin.  What I am about to bring before you is not for the purpose of being sensational in the least.  It is for the purpose of us understanding the risks of homosexual practice.  I am not going to describe their methods of trying to satisfy their degraded cravings.  There is no need to describe the details of their debauchery in a Christian Bible study.  As Paul said in Ephesians 5:12, It is disgraceful to even speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”  I will only say that a  significant percentage of their practices include acts that directly cause bodily harm, and the majority involve themselves in practices that involve direct exposure do intestinal diseases in addition to sexually transmitted diseases.  A smaller but significant percentage of homosexuals are involved in practices of sadism, masochism, and/or violation of minors.

Rather than sensationalism, let me just give you some hard facts about disease incidence within the homosexual population.  The high incidence of each of these diseases is directly related to their sexual practices.

Hepatitis A: The U.S. Center for Disease Control reported (Jan-Jun 2011) the following figures of Hepatitis A percentages of homosexuals among all cases.  These are huge figures when it is kept in mind that the homosexual population is only perhaps 1.5-2% of the total population. Denver – 29%; New York City – 66%; San Francisco – 50%; Toronto – 56%; Montreal – 42%; Melbourne – 26%.

Hepatitis B: Between 50-75% of homosexual males have had Hepatitis B. 5-10% are chronic carriers.  The national average is only 0.1%.  Ninety per cent of homosexually active men demonstrate chronic or recurrent viral infections with herpesvirus, cytomegalovirus or hepatitis B.

Gay bowel Syndrome, Certain enteric parasites are collectively called, “Gay Bowel Syndrome”” because of their frequency in the homosexual population.

Sexual transmitted diseases. Reports issued in 1989, 1999 & 2009 show that between 70% & 78% of homosexuals reported having a sexually transmitted disease.

Intestinal parasites (worms, flukes, ameba) ranged from 39% – 59%.

AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was originally known as GRIDS – Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome – until the homosexual community protested. GRIDS would still be a good name for it.  U.S. Center for Disease Control figures for 2009 for all cases are: 61% homosexual males; 21% I.V. drug users; 7% male IV; drug users who are also homosexual or bisexual; 5% heterosexuals; 3% other; 2% Blood transfusion with HIV infected blood; 1% persons with hemophilia.  The percentage of the total being homosexual males drops over the years as that population is killed off
by the disease.  As of 2012, 83% of U.S. AIDS in caucasians were homosexuals. Percentages of those infected can only be assumed because of laws restricting testing and tracing.  This is the only politically protected disease that has ever existed.  No wonder it is the only pathogen to have ever circle the globe in just 1/3 of a
generation.

Would not even basic compassion compel us to warn people of the risks of homosexual behavior?  Yet, I am sure that there will be those who will hear or read this and accuse me of “gay bashing.”

God’s Historical Responses

The Bible is clear in its response to homosexuality.  Yes, there are those that seek to twist the Scriptures and claim that the Bible is only against promiscuity and not homosexuality.  But people strive to make the Bible say many things which it does not and which are not true.

Genesis 19:4-11 – This is the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the previous chapter the Angel of the Lord and two angels told Abraham that Sodom would be destroyed because the outcry was great and “their sin exceedingly grave.”  When the two angels arrive in Sodom, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, takes them into his home.  In verses 4 & 5 we learn that it was not long before men of Sodom come and demand that Lot bring the “men” out so that they might “know” them.

The homophile position is that they just wanted to get acquainted with the two men (angels) that were with Lot.  They claim the sin of Sodom was improper hospitality. However, the meaning of this word “know” is always determined by its context.  For example, it is used in Genesis 4:1 where it states, “Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth …”  I think you can figure out what that means.  I think any reasonable person can also figure out the intentions of these men which Lot called “wicked” in verse 7.  Especially in light of the fact that Lot even offered his two daughters who had not “kown” men in an effort to appease them.  In addition, the actions of these men who “wearied themselves trying to find the door” even after the angels had blinded them reveals these to be people driven by sinful lust, not people who just did not know how to properly get acquainted with visitors.

Judges 19,20 – Records a similar incident and a similar claim by homophile interpreters saying that the men of Gibeath just wanted to “know” in the sense of “get acquainted with” the visitor to their city (19:23).  But again, the immediate context destroys such a notion in that the host tells them not to “act so wickedly” and to “not commit tis act of folly” (19:23).  “Folly” denotes an “insensibility to the claims of God or man.”  Thus an act done in disregard of God’s standards.  Second, the host offered to them his virgin daughter and his concubine to be “ravished” by them and “do whatever [they] wished”
(19:24).  The offer was turned down, so the visitor gave them his concubine, whom they killed in their getting to “know” her (verses 25-28).  Again, any reasonable person can figure out these are men driven by degraded passion, not the desire to get acquainted with a stranger.

Leviticus 18:22 – Is very direct in stating God’s command – “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”  Homophiles such as John Boswell of Yale University want to equate this just with homosexuality that occurs in the worship of Molech in the previous verse.  His exegesis is more than seriously flawed, but even if his point were granted, what then about Leviticus 20:13?  It has no context of Molech worship and reads, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.”

We could add to this New Testament verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-10 which also speak of homosexual practice as abominable sin.  God’s view of it is already clear.  It is a horrible sin which is a graphic example of those who have turned from God resulting in His giving them over to their “degrading passions.”

Responding To Homosexuality

How do we respond?  First and foremost, recognize that this is not a political battle though there are political ramifications.  It is a spiritual battle.  It is a battle between good and evil, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  Our goal is simply to be faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In doing so, we will be involved in our society and be involved in political battles, but whether we win or lose those battles in unimportant in comparison to being faithful servants of Jesus Christ.

How should the Lord’s servants in respond to homosexuality.

#1 – Pray.

A) For homosexuals to be convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin and come to repentance.

B) For those in authority to be convicted of the sinfulness of the practice and the have moral courage to do what is right before God, regardless of political expediency.

#2 – Proclaim the truth.

A) Speaking the truth in love we enter into the public dialogue on homosexuality and proclaim the Scriptures.  We should never shy away from the subject when it comes up. People may not want to hear what God has to say, but we are commanded to proclaim His word to all people.  This would include not only social conversations but also the public forum such as letters to the editor, guest columns, speaking engagements, political forums.

B) Tell homosexuals the hope of the Gospel.  Their sin can be forgiven and their bondage to it can be broken.

C) Let your government representatives know your beliefs concerning the various issue surrounding homosexuality.  They may not want to hear it.  They may disagree with you, but they need to know that God will hold them accountable for what they do.

D) Be supportive of those standing against the homosexual agenda

#3 – Personally minister.

A) Do not shy away from a person because you find out they are homosexual.  They need a true friend and you can be it.  However, keep in mind that a true friend helps a friend overcome sin.  There will be toleration of sin as you work with the person, but there is never acceptance of sin.

B) Be involved in a ministry to homosexuals.  That can be done either through one of many established ministries (You can get more information through Exodus International) or simply by seeking them out, befriending them, and sharing Christ with them. In special need would be those that have developed AIDS.  Helping at a Hospice or AIDS clinic can put you in contact with an individual who is ready to hear of God’s love.

Pray for the Lord to lead you to the person He wants you to minister too.

#4 – Portray Hope

1 Corinthians6 tells of many sins that once characterized the Corinthian Christians including homosexuality and other sexual perversions, but they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the Lord Jesus Christ.  At one point in time our lives where characterized by our sin, but after Christ comes into our lives we are characterized by Him.  Our particular sins may have been different than the homosexuals, but we were in the same state.  Dead in our trespasses and sin until God in by His grace saved us. There is hope by faith in Jesus Christ.  That is the message we are to give both in word and by our lives.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – Unrighteousness in Idolatry, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

Yesterday we began to answer the question, “Where do evil men come from?”  The answer is that because of sin nature we inherited from Adam, all people begin life with a bent toward evil.  Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we were all “born dead in our trespasses and sin.”  This confirms that we have a sin nature with our own acts of rebellion against God.  We break the laws He has given us and do not keep His commandments.

Why then are some people more sinful than others?  Two reasons: 1) People tend to define sin according to our own standards, so what is judged as sinful may not actually be any more sinful than what they themselves are doing.  Paul will address this moral hypocrisy in Romans 2 when he deals with the moral unrighteous and the religious unrighteous; 2) There is a descent into depravity, and some people have simply descended farther down into it.  This descent is most clearly seen in the immoral
unrighteous which is the focus of our current study in Romans 1.

Romans 1:16-25 set the context for our study today, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.’  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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.   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.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, 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.  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.  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.”

Paul is writing to a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome with his desire is to come to them in person and bring a ministry of the Word, but until he can, he presents to them a clear presentation of the Gospel and its ramifications so that they might understand it better themselves and then proclaim these truths to others.  

Romans is by far the most clear

Theological presentation

Of the Gospel of God

In all of Scripture.

Paul begins his presentation with a declaration of his own response to the Gospel.  Paul was not ashamed of the it.  He was afraid at times, but he would not hide the truth from others regardless of what personal consequences it brought upon himself.  Paul understood what the Gospel is and what it does.  It is the power of God unto the salvation of all who are believing without regard to ethnic heritage, and it
displays the righteousness of God in His justification of those who believe in Jesus Christ.  The righteous live by faith.

But the gospel cannot be comprehended without a clear understanding of the natural state of mankind being under God’s righteous condemnation.  That is why Paul begins his explanation of the Gospel by proving that all men are unrighteous before God.  This includes the immoral unrighteous (1:19-32), the moral unrighteous (2:1-16), and the religious unrighteous (2:17-29).  None are righteous, nor are there any that seek God on their own initiative (Romans 3:10-12).  Everyone in the world are guilty before God and He is righteous in His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.  

The point of Paul’s discussion will be

That apart from Jesus Christ,

There is no hope for man.

The natural course of man is to suppress the truth that God has revealed.  God has placed a certain knowledge of Himself within the hearts of all men and He has displayed certain aspects of His attributes in what He has made in creation.  We looked at this in the last couple of blogs.  

  • The power of God is displayed in the various natural phenomena.  
  • His immensity is displayed in the size of the universe.  
  • His goodness is manifested in His provision for all life.
  • His justice is seen in the evidence of His wrath.
  • His precision, intelligence, and complexity is displayed in such things as the precision of the universe, the design of life and the structure of DNA.

What God has created is more than enough evidence, yet man willingly suppresses the knowledge God has given to him and displayed in everything He has created so that men are left without excuse for their refusal to seek Him.  This is an important point we need to understand clearly.  

The evidence is overwhelming,

But man purposely ignores the evidence.

The consequences of suppressing the truth

Is fully the responsibility of man.

God is fully justified in His condemnation

Of ungodly and unrighteous man.

Paul describes the descent of man into depravity here in chapter 1.  We examined the first step in this descent yesterday.  

What is that first step?  

Verse 21 tells us –

It is when man turns away

From what he already knows

About God and does not honor

And give thanks to God

For Who He is as the Creator.

Man should glorify God with thanksgiving, but instead he turns away from the truth.  This brings on the second step. 

The musings of man

In his own mind

Apart from the truth.

When the truth is abandoned, then there is no option left except vain speculations which in turn will invariably lead to a foolish and darkened heart.  In saying that the truth is abandoned, it does not mean that there is not some truth in some of the ideas that man comes up with, but when truth is mixed with error, then the result can only be error.  If you mix a color in with white paint, you no longer have white paint.  If you mix poison in pure water, the water is now poisonous.  

Truth plus error equals error.  

Man is not immediately

As bad as he can get,

But because he has turned

Away from the truth,

He will continue to get worse

And has no hope of improving

Without divine intervention.

The third step down for man is becoming proud about his own futile speculations. Professing to be wise, man becomes a fool.  The degree of his foolishness is directly related to the degree that he has suppressed the truth.  Paul illustrates the utter foolishness of man that was common in his own time in verse 23.  They exchanged the proper glory that belong to God who is incorruptible, that is, God cannot degrade or perish, for the glorification of images of creatures God created.  Creature that do corrupt, degrade, and perish.

Why The Concern For Idolatry?

Idolatry is a very serious matter no matter what form it takes.  We do not live in a society in which the blatant worship of such images as described here is practiced, yet, there is pagan idolatry in our society and the secular versions are rampant.  Paul pointed out specific types of creatures whose images where made and worshiped in ancient world. These idols included those made to look like a man in some form, those made to look like birds, those made to look like four footed animals, and those made to look like “creeping things.”  The Greek word here is the root for what we translate as “the study of reptile” (herptology), but the idea here included all those animals that “creeped” as
opposed to those animals that “walked on four legs.”  It is often translated as serpent.

The Greek and Roman gods were portrayed in idols that were of human form – Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, etc.  Somewhere a mixture of the worship man and animal came into practice, such as Pan.  The Egyptian pantheon of gods were represented with human torsos and human or animal heads.  Ra had the head of a hawk. Hathor, the goddess of love and laughter, was given the head of a cow.  Anubis had the head of a jackal.  Mut was vulture headed.  Thoth was ibis headed and Sobek had the head of a crocodile.  The same was true of the Canaanite deities.  Dagon was half man and half fish.  Amulets made in the image of various animals would be used to represent the various deities.

The idols themselves were nothing.  The prophets often mocked those who worshiped idols because of the very apparent silliness of it.  In Isaiah 40:18-26 the prophet questions them, “To whom then will you liken God?  Or what likeness will you compare with Him?  [As for] the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith [fashions] chains of silver.  He who is too impoverished for [such] an offering selects a tree that does not rot; He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?  It is He who sits above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.  He [it is] who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.  Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.  ‘To whom then will you liken Me That I should be [his] equal?’ says the Holy One.”

In short, God is mocking them.  Their idols have to be stabilized with chains or carefully made so they do not fall over.  What kind of god is that compared to the living God?  In Isaiah 46:5-7 the prophet adds, “To whom would you liken Me, snd make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?   Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it [into] a god; they bow down, indeed they worship it.  They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; they set it in its place and it stands [there.]  It does not move from its place.  Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; it cannot deliver him from his distress.”

In other words, you expect your gods to deliver you, yet they are idols with so little power that they have to be carried from place to place.  How then can they be compared to the living God who is so powerful that He knows even the end from the beginning. 

The most direct passage on the foolishness of idol worship is Isaiah 44:9-20, “Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame.  Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit?  Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men.  Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame.  The man shapes iron into a cutting tool, and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers, and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary.  [Another] shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk.  He works it with planes, and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house.  Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak, and raises [it] for himself among the trees of the forest.  He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.  Then it becomes [something] for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread.  He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image, and falls down before it.  Half of it he burns in the fire; over [this] half he eats meat as he roasts a roast, and is satisfied.  He also warms himself and says, ‘Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.’  But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image.  He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for Yu are my god.’  They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.  And no one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat [it.]  Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!’  He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’”

The idolater who did understand the outward appearance of utter silliness in what they were doing could counter that they were not worshiping the idol itself, but what the idol represented.  That may be true enough, but what did the idol represent?  It could only represent one of two things.  First, as Paul points out here, it is an image that expresses the thoughts, desires, and purposes of the man.  They have given themselves over to their own futile speculation with the result being idolatry.  Man’s pride moves him to trust in himself rather than in the God that created him.  Man’s idols are really expression of self-worship.  That is, the worship of what man himself concluded from his own reason instead of what God has revealed.

However, there is another aspect of idolatry that is dangerous.  Since man ends up worshiping according to his own understanding instead of God’s revelation, he opens himself up to be further blinded by the demonic.  Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 10:20 that the gentile sacrifice to their idols was actually a sacrifice to demons.  What begins as man’s worship of what he has concluded from his own futile speculations becomes empowered by the demonic which further chains him to his foolishness.  Is there power in animism, idolatry, and the various forms of witchcraft?  The answer is yes.  There is demonic power, and it is extremely dangerous for the non-Christian.  But for those of us who are saved, we need not be afraid of it, because “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  We need not fear the devil, his demonic host, or those that are controlled by them.  All the believer needs to do is submit to God and resist the devil, and the devil will flee from us (James 4:7).

We must be careful at this point to understand that idolatry exists in our own society just as much as it did in the ancient world even if it is not as blatant as it was then or still is in other parts of the world.  There are those who have idols in their homes here in America.  The combination of the arrival of so many people from various nations from around the globe at a pace in which they are not assimilated into American culture plus the rise of multi-culturalism in which all cultures are considered to be equal, has resulted in it not being such a rare event to go to someone’s home in which there is an altar for the worship of some deity.  There could be a statue there, or it might just be a picture of some sort, but in either case it is blatant idolatry.  Just as is the worship of movie stars, musicians, athletes, sporting events, jobs, and other things that we make our “god.”

There are also those that are pantheists who worship nature.  The Gia, or Mother-Earth, movement is part of this.  You may not find them bowing before a tree, or praying to a wolf to help them with their problems, but they treat plants, animals, and rocks with the reverence that belongs to deity, for they believe that they all contain god.  That is the heart of idolatry, as Paul states in verse 25, whether there is an image or not.  They exchange the truth for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

The heart of idolatry

Is not the idol itself,

But the turning away

From the truth

To embrace a lie.

It is turning from the Creator

To what has been created.

The word for “worship” in verse 25 is a different word from “honor” in verse 21.  “Honor” means to “glorify, magnify, and praise.” “Worship” means to “give reverential awe” or “honor religiously.”  Paul also adds here the concept of serving the created thing. “Serving” here is “religious service.”  We get our word “liturgy” from this word.  In blatant idolatry the idol represents a god who is glorified and praised.  There would also be a proscribed manner in which the idol was to be served.  In secular idolatry, there is no deity per se to praise, but there are many things that substitute for God which are given reverential awe and honored with life spent in service to it or them.

How else does such idolatry exhibit itself in our society?  An obvious one is worship of evolution by many scientists.  They would argue that they do not worship it, for they claim to be scientists.  But they do give the idea reverential awe, honor it religiously, and spend their lives promoting it.  Their world view is controlled by it, and to it all other ideas must submit, regardless of the actual facts.  For them, evolution is a religion, not a scientific hypothesis (evolution does not qualify as a theory by definition since it is
not testable). 

For others, it is wealth.  They would not say they worship money, but they give reverential awe to wealth and give greater honor to those who possess it, while seeking wealth out for themselves as their greatest quest in life.

Other forms of materialism certainly follow in the same category as wealth.  It could be something other than money and stock portfolios, but the bottom line is that there is something that they honor and spend their life on it a religious manner.  As one man described it, “Idols exist today in many garages – Mustangs, Impalas, Sting Rays, Eagles, Cougars, Jaguars, etc.”  Others treat their homes or some collection in the same way.  The line has been crossed into materialistic idolatry any time the acquisition
or maintenance of the thing is more important to you than the active service of God.  

A simple way to assess this

Is to compare the time and

Finances you spend on them

As opposed to your

Worship and service of God.

The same can be said for other modern idols such as fame and power.  They are not material, but the quest for them is religious with some folks.  Their lives center on gaining fame or power.  Many of the athletes do their best to compete at something they enjoy, but there are others in which their sport has become their god, and being the best at it is everything to them.  In only a few years, their aging bodies will no longer allow them to compete.  What then of their god and their purpose in life?  But perhaps the
same can be said of some sports fans whose lives seem to revolve around some team. Again, a simple test to see if an interest or a hobby has become a god is to compare the amount of time and finances you spend on it compared to your worship and service of God.

The apostle John closes his first epistle with the proclamation, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life,” and then the warning, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  This ending seems a bit strange, especially since 1 John is largely written to correct gnostic ideas that were already rising within the church, until you understand
that there are many different forms of idolatries.  

The heart of the problem

With all of them is that

They are given the

Reverence and service

That properly belongs to God.

They exchange the truth for a lie.

What Is The Consequence Of idolatry?  

In verse 25, Paul points back again at this reverence and service to idols to explain God’s action of judgement in verse 24.  Man exchanged the glory of the incorruptible
God for the images of corruptible things.  Man exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things instead of the blessed, eternal Creator.  God’s judgement upon men is to give them over to the lusts of their hearts in uncleanness to the dishonoring of their bodies in them.

Three times in the chapter the same judgement is given, though each time it is to something worse . . . 1) God gives them over to the “lusts of their hearts” Verse 26); 2) In verse 26, God gives the over to “degrading passions;”  3) In verse 28, God gives them over to “a depraved mind.”

We tend to take God’s care and protection of us for granted even though if He removed it, we would all be destroyed, for in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).  The truth of it is that it is God’s restraining hand that keeps us from becoming as evil as we could be.  This is God in judgement moving back His restraining hand and yielding to let the person get their own way.  This is not a total abandonment, for it is done in stages. The desire is that the pain that comes as a result of their foolishness will cause them to turn, but when they do not turn, the hand is moved father back and the person is allowed to fall farther into sin with its consequences.

At this level of descent into evil, God gives the person over to the “lusts of their hearts to impurity.”  Several Bibles translate this in a narrow sense of sexual immorality, but the word is not so narrow.  It means “to be unclean or impure.”  We think of “heart” as the seat of emotion, but the Greeks and Hebrews used “heart” as a reference to the seat of mind and will.  Though the word for “lust” here is often associated with sexual immorality, it really only means “strong desire.”  God is letting them pursue their strong desires that exist in their minds to do things that are unclean.  This would include sexual immorality, but it would also include all that would be impure and unholy.  The consequences of impurity shows itself in the dishonor of the body.  If you eat impure food, you get sick.  If you abuse drugs, your body suffers.  If you are sexually immoral, you sin against your own body (1 Corinthians 6:18) and risk many diseases as well as suffer emotional trauma.  But impurity leads not just to physical consequences, for Paul states here that the consequence is “dishonoring.”  The body will be treated shamefully, without honor.  The shameful treatment of the human body is something our society has become accustomed to.  We have gotten use to the shameful exposure of the human body in film, television, books, magazines, billboards, and in public.  Some people flaunt and expose themselves because they are proud of how they look.  They want to be noticed by others, without even being aware that it is to their own shame. Others do it for money or fame.  Still others, like the woman in Proverbs 7, do it to entice the naive into greater sin.  The consequences of it multiply as people become hardened and then treat each other as pieces of flesh to be exploited for personal gain instead of as humans made in the image of God.  Prostitution and pornography are not victimless crimes for they lead to all sorts of physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse.  There are also the children who are the victims of abortion as the adults seek to escape from the consequences of their sin.

As I stated yesterday, the manner in which men treat one another will be in direct accordance with how they view God.  Those that honor God and give thanks to Him will treat other humans with dignity and respect because man is made in the image of God. Those who will not honor God or give Him thanks, but give reverence to and serve what is created, will dishonor, exploit and abuse other humans because they believe that there is nothing special about man and there is no judge to hold them accountable.

But there is a Creator and He is a judge who will hold all men accountable.  He is righteous in His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, even when it is revealed in abandoning man to his own sinfulness and its consequences.  Man is under His just condemnation.  The Good News is that God has also provided a means of salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.

Those of you walking in faith with Jesus Christ have a wonderful message to proclaim. There is salvation from sin and its consequences through faith in Jesus Christ.  Those of you who are not walking with Jesus are on a path that leads ever downward into depravity.  You don’t have to continue on that path another day.  Talk with someone who has a personal walk with Jesus and let them introduce you to life in Jesus
Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – The First Step Into Evil, Part 2

 

Grace For The Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do evil people come from?  That is a theological question that actually has many societal ramifications.  How we respond to those who do evil will be based on our understanding of the cause of their evil.  For example, in our own nation there is a continuing debate on this question, but by and large, secular society operates off a philosophy that believes that people are innately good and that the corrupting influence came upon the individual from without.  The ramification then is that people are not really responsible for the crimes they commit.  The perpetrator of the crime is also viewed as a victim.  In compassion, we desire to help all victims, so have renamed our penal institutions as “correctional facilities” instead of jails.  

A jail is a place where you either

Await trial for judgement and

Consequential punishment for evil committed,

Or where such punishment takes place.  

Correctional facilities seek

To rehabilitate the criminal.

There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to rehabilitate a criminal.  In fact, all of us would agree that as long as justice was also satisfied, then such an effort would be a good thing.  However, if you do not understand why the person is bent toward evil, then you cannot rehabilitate them.  If you believe evil is caused by poverty and lack of education, as many in our society do, then giving the person material comforts and enabling them to finish high school and even college should result in the person becoming good.  Such are some of the efforts in our correctional facilities.  However, the efforts have not worked, and reincarcerations remains high.  The FBI statistic is that 74% of all of those released from prison for all types of crime are back in prison within four years.  Why?  

Because the cause of the problem is not dealt with.  

In effect, current methods make our

Correctional facilities “criminal universities.”  

They come out healthy and educated

Without a change in their bent toward evil.

Where then does this bent to evil come from?  Why do people generally become worse instead of better?  Is there hope?  Paul addresses those questions in the book of Romans.

The theme of the book of Romans is the righteousness of God demonstrated in the Gospel.  Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel of God because of what it is and what it presents.  It is the power of God unto the salvation of everyone who is believing regardless of national or ethnic heritage, and it presents the righteousness of God in both His relationship and actions towards those who are believing (1:17) and those who are not believing (1:18).  God is righteous in granting men salvation from their sins and sins’ consequences on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  God is also righteous in His wrath against those who are not believing, for in their ungodliness and unrighteousness they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Why are people evil?  

Because of sin.  

Both the inherited sin

Of Adam that results

In being born dead in

Trespasses and sin

(Ephesians 2:1)

And their own actions of sin

That confirm their sinful nature.

God’s judgement of sin will be based on the individuals own sinful deeds (Revelation 20:12).  The Bible points out that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) without exception (Romans 3:10-12).

Is there hope?  Yes.  

There is hope in God’s grace and mercy

That is extended in Jesus Christ

To those who place their faith in Him.

That is the Good News of the Gospel.

But the Good News cannot be understood unless the bad news is understood first.  That is why Paul begins a very thorough discussion of man’s sinfulness starting in Romans 1:18 after his opening remarks in verses 16 & 17.  

To be saved . . .

Man must first recognize

That he has a serious and

Eternally fatal sin problem

Which can only be solved

Through faith in Jesus Christ.

If he does not

Turn to Jesus Christ,

Then he will continue

His descent into evil.

Turn again to Romans 1. We will read verses 16-23 to set the context for our study today, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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.  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.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, 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.”

God’s wrath is revealed from heaven by His various decrees issued from Him on His throne resulting in actions taken against all the ungodly and unrighteous.  God has in the past and in the present demonstrated His wrath in all sorts of natural phenomena as well as the actions of men and angels.  However . . .

Its most common demonstration

Is in the consequences of sin as

God removes His restraining hand

From those who refuse to

Worship Him properly or

Follow the commands He has given.

We begin looking at these consequences in our study today of verses 21-23.

God is righteous in His wrath against the ungodly and unrighteous for they have rejected both Him and His standards for their own, and they have willingly suppressed the truth God has revealed to them.  Those who claim God is unjust in His punishment of so called “innocent” people only show their ignorance and risk their own condemnation for judging God.  There are no “innocent” people.  God has placed enough knowledge of Himself in the heart of every human and made enough of Himself evident in what He has made in the Creation that all excuses are stripped away.  We went over some of these evidences from Creation that reveal the power and character of God yesterday.

All men know innately and by the evidence around enough about the power and character of God that they should seek Him.  But they do not.  Instead, they purposely suppress the truth so that they do not have to seek Him (they are ungodly) or follow His commands (they are unrighteous).

In verses 19 and 20 Paul described

The source of and nature of

The truth they were suppressing.  

In verses 21-23 Paul begins

His description of the manner

In which they suppressed the truth.  

This is the first step into evil.

He more the truth is suppressed,

Then the greater the evil that will result.

The first phrase of verse 21 re-emphasizes the truth of verse 20.  Those who do not believe are without excuse because they are those who knew God.  The evidence was within them and all around them, but they ignored it.  This was not a passive action (the verb is an active participle).  They actively suppress the truth in their refusal to honor God for Who He is or give Him thanks.

This is the first step into evil.  

The basis for evil is not found

In how humans treat one another

But in how they treat God.

Evil is that which is opposite of God.

It is that which is in contradiction

To His person and standards.  

Man’s evil treatment of other humans

And other things is directly related

To his refusal to honor

God and give Him thanks.

That may seem strange to some, but only because their thoughts are usually so far away from God and the proper relationship to God they should have.  

People are innately selfish and view

The world revolving around themselves.  

The truth is that we should be viewing

The universe revolving around God and

See ourselves as simply one of His many

Creatures who exists for His purposes.

To “honor” (doxadzo) God is “to glorify Him, magnify Him, and praise Him.”  To not honor God is to dishonor Him.  But please note that this lack of honor is not total dishonor, but rather a refusal to honor Him for Who He is as the God who has revealed Himself to man as the Creator.  

What Paul says here covers every kind of dishonor

Ranging from a simple lack of proper decorum

In approaching God to outright disdain for Him.

Can you sin and honor God at the same time?  No, because when you sin, you dishonor God.  Sin means to “miss the mark.”  Sin is that which does not meet God’s standards.  To the degree in which you honor God in every part of your life (which is impossible but should be our desire and goal), you will not sin.  Can you give true thanksgiving to God and still sin?  No, for thanksgiving requires us to have genuine gratefulness to God for all things, not just the ones that fit our own self-centered desires. We sin because we do not get what we want and seek to gain it in some way other than how God wants us to gain it.  The greater our thankfulness, then the greater our honor of God and the less we sin.

Do you want material things?  You cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).  God’s desire is for you to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and He promises to take care of our material needs (Matthew 6:33).  God does not want us seeking after the riches of this world, but wants us to be content even if it is just food and covering (1 Timothy 6:7-10).  A person who is truly thankful for what they have is also someone content with what they have.

Do you want a close, personal relationship with someone who truly understands you and accepts you?  The only one you can actually have that with is Jesus Christ.  In every other relationship you have two sinners who will be opposed to each other at different points and will certainly disappoint each other at times.  The only way two people can get along with each other and be thankful is to learn to deal with each other through being reflections of God’s love to one another.  You cannot be content with your relationships until you submit yourself to God’s purposes in them and fulfilling the roles He has established for you.  A person has learned this lesson when they can thank God even for the people in their lives who are irritating.

Do you want fame?  1 Peter 5:5-6 tells us “. . . and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  The godly thank God regardless of how much attention they receive.  They leave fame in God’s hands.  Their desire is God’s glory and not their own (John 3:30).  It is the ungodly that pursue fame, and they do not give thanks.

Do you want power?  In the world, power is expressed through authority and lording your position over subordinates.  That is not the way it is in God’s kingdom.  Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 20:26, “but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” The person who honors God is thankful for their position, whatever it may be, for they recognize it is up to God to place them where He wants them, both within the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and within the world (Daniel 5:21).

All sin is primarily against God.  David recognized this in Psalm 51 when confessing his sins concerning Bathsheba he said in verses 3-4, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”  Even a cursory study of 2 Samuel 11 reveals that there were at least 8 different sins he committed in the incident including lying, adultery, and murder, yet in Psalm 51 he recognizes that all the sin was primarily against God.

Lying is either an unwillingness to accept the just outcome of the truth or a lack of trust that God can protect you in the truth.  In either case, God is not honored or given thanks.  Adultery is primarily a refusal to be content with the situation God has given you so that you seek to satisfy your own physical cravings in a way that dishonors Him. There is never a godly reason to give thanks for adultery.

Murder is a direct assault on the image of God.  While most people do not think of that when they commit murder, for they generally see it as a direct assault on someone they want to eliminate from their lives, it is nevertheless true.  God commanded capital punishment for murder in Genesis 9:6 saying, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”

God deserves our honor and our thanksgiving

For no other reason than Who He

Is as the creator of all things.

The display of His power and attributes

In creation only magnify the need

To honor Him and give Him thanks.

His revelation of Himself

In the Scriptures

Further magnify that need.

Paul points out that God is righteous in His wrath against the ungodly and unrighteous.

They made their first step into the

Downward spiral of evil

By suppressing the truth

He has revealed to them in Creation

Resulting in their refusal to honor

Him properly as God or to give thanks. 

The result of this refusal to honor God

Comes immediately in their

Effort to find some substitute.

The human mind is seldom content with unanswered questions, but desires to understand and explain things, if at all possible.  Man likes to speculate, but when such speculation is done with the truth already eliminated and shut out from the possibilities, then all speculation becomes foolish conjecture.  That is what happens here.  Ungodly man suppresses the truth and refuses to honor God for Who He has revealed Himself to be.  The result is futile speculation.

The mind that gives itself to vain conjecture will result in a heart that becomes foolish and darkened which in turn leads to sinful actions.  This same idea is expressed in other passages.  In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul admonishes the Christians to no longer walk as the Gentiles in the “futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to
sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
 

A sinful mind results

In a sinful heart which

Results in sinful actions.

Peter reminded his readers that they were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ from the futile way of life they had inherited from their forefathers (1 Peter. 1:18,19).  In 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul describes the truth of the gospel was his weapon for “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Paul will give detailed examples of the increasing foolishness and sinful actions in the remainder of the chapter.  In verse 22 he points out their arrogance, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”  The idea of a “fool”  here and “foolish heart” in verse 21 is the Biblical concept of a fool described in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  The degree of foolishness is related to the degree that they do not acknowledge God.  People do not jump to the utter foolishness of atheism without first going through the steps Paul speaks of here in Romans 1 –

  • They first suppress the truth.
  • Next, they will not honor God properly.
  • Next, in their futile speculation, they find something else to be a substitute God.

Only then will they descend into no longer acknowledging God.  Futile speculation
results in a foolish heart and when neither are corrected, they result in a fool.  Keep in mind that people are practical atheists, living as if God does not exist or that He does not or will not judge them, before they become professing atheists.  Many professing Christians live as if God will not carry out His judgements.  They are practical atheists and that is why their lifestyles differ very little from professing atheists.

The amazing thing about fools is how arrogant they can be in their foolishness.  They profess, or claim to be wise even though the truth is the opposite.  This does not mean they are not intelligent.  Many fools are extremely intelligent.  In fact, it is their intelligence that often hinders them because they believe themselves to be so smart that if they cannot understand something, it must not be true, and since they cannot understand God by their own reasoning, then He must not be true.  This is the basis for the plethora of religions, cults, and philosophies that exist today.  

They are all efforts,

Some made by

Very intelligent people,

To explain things

Apart from the true God.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  It is not many wise or noble according to the world that come to the truth, but rather those the world considers foolish and simple (1 Corinthians 1:20-30).

In verse 23, Paul gives an example common to his age of this foolishness.  They “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.”  They descended into idolatry.  In that time, it was the blatant idolatry that included the idols themselves that represented the conclusions of their foolish thinking.  I am going to expand on idolatry tomorrow since Paul speaks of it again in verse 25.  For now, just consider the foolishness of the idea of exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of a corruptible thing.

We would all have to agree that is stupid to claim that the qualities that belong to one thing actually belong to something that is the opposite.  What would you say to someone that tried to enter his dump truck into the Indy 500 race?  Probably the same thing you would say to the guy who brought his Indy 500 racer to the gravel pit and wanted to haul gravel in it.  What about the 7′ 6″ athlete who wanted to be a horse jockey, or the 4′ 2″ guy who wanted to try out for the NBA?  What would you call someone that wanted to swap a 8,000 sq ft mansion overlooking the Hudson River for 500 sq ft cabin located in a Florida swamp?  Would you exchange 10 lbs of gold bullion for 10 lbs of copper pennies?  The items in these examples had something in common with each other, but the qualities of the items were extremely different.  The sack of gold and the sack of pennies each weighed 10 pounds, but they were completely different in value.

So it is with the glory of

The incorruptible God

Verses everything else,

Yet men will exchange

The proper worship of God

In order to worship something else.

Paul sets the two in contrast by referring to God’s glory as “incorruptible” and the exchanged image as “corruptible.”  They are opposite each other.  The idea of incorruptible and corruptible is in reference to God as Creator contrasted with His creatures.  God is immortal.  Man and all creatures are mortal.  God is not perishable. Man and all creatures are perishable.  God is not subject to decay.  Man and all creatures, indeed, all of creation, is subject to decay.  As verse 25 states, man exchanges the worship of the Creator for the worship of that which is created.  In the case here, it is not even the created things itself, but only its image.  A representation of the created thing.  It is a stupid thing to do, yet it is the common response of man.  While the blatant forms of idolatry that Paul speaks of here are not as common in our own society, idolatry does exist in many forms in our society.  We will look at some of those tomorrow.  For today I want stress that . . .

This first step into evil is in

The suppressing of truth and

Replacing it with the foolish

Speculations of men.

It can result in blatant idolatry,

But it also results in

All sorts of philosophies

And false religions.

Paul will deal with some of those in specific in Chapter 2.

I have already pointed out Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 10:5 about, “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” through the proclamation of the truth.  God is not impressed with those wise according to the things of this world, so we should not either.  1 Corinthians 3:19 tells us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”   Such vain speculations are also dangerous, so Paul also gave several warnings.  In Colossians 2:8 he warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20-21, “Guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly [and] empty chatter [and] the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”

Sadly, there are many who have a simple faith that fails when tested.  For whatever reason, they profess faith in Jesus, but there are doubts, often hidden, that are brought to the surface when the foolish speculations of men are presented.  The result is that many turn away from faith to skepticism and the wisdom of men when they finally hear something that they think gives credibility to their doubts.  It is not that we need to fear the philosophies of men, but we do need to be prepared and on guard to deal with them and present the truth.

For example, liberal theologians have done their best to destroy faith in the God of the Bible by their claims that the Bible cannot be trusted and God is different than what the Bible presents.  Their arguments can sound pretty good until you remember that the wisdom they are presenting is simply their own speculations, and when closely examined their conjectures prove to be silly.  We should not believe people simply because they have a Th.D. or Ph.D.  An academic degree denotes academic ability, not
necessarily wisdom.

Liberal theologians tell us Genesis 1 is a story, an analogy, a myth, or has hidden time gaps in it.  Yet, even a cursory examination of the text finds that the time-period of a day is defined in the text as a sequence of a period of light and dark.  They ignore the text and seek to destroy its meaning because their own speculations give greater weight to the musings of science philosophers who reject God than they do to God Himself.  The real reason for their speculations is that the god they worship is not powerful enough to create everything in six solar days.  However, the God of the Bible is.

Liberal theologians deny that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel because the prophecies in it are too detailed for someone to have written before the events happened.  Therefore, someone else wrote Daniel hundreds of years later after the events had taken place. The real reason for their foolish speculations is that the god they worship does not know the end from the beginning.  The God of the Bible does (Isaiah 46:10) and so can reveal it in prophecy before it happens.

Even though the evidence is against them, liberal theologians find all sorts of ways to try and deny the crucifixion, death, burial, and subsequent bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The real reason for their speculations is that their god is not have the power or character to pay for our sins and conquer death.  The God of the Bible does, and His promise is eternal life to all those believing in Christ.

Those who do not honor God

For who He claims to be

And give thanks to Him

Become futile in their thoughts

Resulting in foolish hearts

That are darkened.  

They profess to be wise,

But they have become fools.

To answer my question at the beginning of the sermon . . .

Evil people are simply those

With evil minds and hearts

That put their thoughts

And desires into action.

The first step into evil

Is a refusal to honor

God as God and

Give Him thanks.

What direction are you stepping?

Man may be born dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) with their minds blinded by the devil so that they might not see the light of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4), but man does not have to stay that way.  You can change direction and step into the light. God has revealed Himself and all who will turn from their sin to faith in Jesus Christ will be saved.  The Holy Spirit can then renew our minds so that we have the wisdom from above instead of the wisdom of this world.  Christian, be sure you are walking in God’s wisdom and not mans.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – Without Excuse, Part 1

Grace For The Journey 

  A question that non-Christians have often posed, and that even many Christians are sometime uncomfortable with, is the nature of the character of God in His relationship to the non-believer.  The Bible is very clear that God will judge the non-believer, but the question is one of whether that is fair or not.  Can God be good and righteous if He judges the non-Christian for His sin, especially in light of the doctrine of election as expressed in such verses as John 6:44 (“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him”) and Ephesians 1:4 (“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him”).  If man cannot be saved unless God elects or chooses that individual, then is it fair for Him to judge those whom He has not so chosen?  Paul will address this specific question in Romans 9, but he actually lays the foundation for answering that question and others right here in the beginning of his presentation of the Gospel message in Romans 1.

 

Paul is writing to a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome expressing his desire to come and bring to them his apostolic ministry in proclaiming the Gospel of God.  He expects there will be great benefit to them and to himself if he could do so. They all would be strengthened in their faith as well as new people brought to faith in Christ.  Paul then begins his explanation of the gospel and its ramifications to them.  

The book of Romans is often called

Paul’s Gospel tract, for it is

The clearest and most detailed

Presentation of the Gospel in Scripture.

Those who write tracts would do well to follow its pattern.

Paul begins his presentation of the gospel in 1:16 with his personal statement that he was not ashamed of the Gospel because of what it is – It is the power of God unto the salvation of everyone who is believing regardless of ethnic heritage; and what it presents – The righteousness of God in both His relationship and actions towards those who are believing (1:17) and those who are not (1:18).  In other words . . .

The benefit of the gospel message is man’s salvation,

But the message itself is really about

God’s righteousness in how He deals with man.

God is righteous in granting men salvation from their sins and sins’ consequences on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  God is also righteous in His wrath against those who are not believing, for in their ungodliness and unrighteousness they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

This was the point of yesterday’s blog.  God’s wrath is revealed from heaven by His various decrees issued by Him from His throne resulting in actions taken against all the ungodly and unrighteous.  God has in the past and in the present demonstrated His wrath in all sorts of natural phenomena such as storms, fire, famine, earthquakes, and such as well as the actions of men and angels.  However, His most common demonstration is in the consequences of sin as God removes His restraining hand from those who refuse to worship Him properly or follow the commands He has given.  The rest of Romans 1 will describe the working of this aspect of His wrath.

Remember that “ungodly” means “to be without the proper reverence for God and a proper response to God.”  It is the opposite of “godly” which comes from a root meaning “good worship.”  Ungodliness invariably results in false worship of either the true God or a false god, for man will worship something even if it is only himself and his own thoughts.  “Unrighteous” is that which “does not conform to what is right.”  It is the opposite of loving and obeying the truth (Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6), and so it is the opposite of the character of God.  It includes deeds of violating God’s law and His standards of justice.

“Ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” are closely related

In that neither will follow God’s commands,

But the ”ungodly” is more directed

Against the person of God

And “unrighteous” against the

Standards of character and conduct

Which flow from God’s character.  

The “ungodly” reject the true God

For one they define for themselves,

And the “unrighteous” reject God’s standards

In order live by standards of their own making.

”Ungodliness” always leads to “unrighteousness”

Because a person who is not following God

Will not follow His commands and

Can never be right with Him.

Paul further defines the “ungodly” and “unrighteous” as those who are ”suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”  To “suppress” is to “hold down or restrain.”  All the “ungodly” and “unrighteous” stand against the truth “to keep it from progressing.”  This suppression may range from blatant open denial to a subtle mixing the truth with error, but in any case, it is a holding back of the truth.  In verses 19- 21 Paul explains God’s revelation of truth which they suppress and thus leave themselves without excuse when facing God’s righteous wrath.

Verses 18-21 state, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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.  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.”

God’s Manifestation.

The word “manifest” or “reveal” comes from a root meaning “to shine or bring to light” and thus “to make visible, evident, or known.”  There is a certain amount of knowledge of God that all men have been given. 

This is not knowledge that

God has given passively,

As in a book that is available,

But the knowledge is only

Gained by those who read it.  

This is knowledge of Himself

That God has actively given to all people.  

It is given as something both

Innate and as something He has actively

Manifested, revealed, and made evident to all.

No one is born an atheist.  It takes hard work to train a person to be an atheist.  You have to convince them to think contrary to what is natural to them and opposite of what even a cursory understanding of the world around them causes them to conclude.  Every child naturally acknowledges that there is something much bigger and more powerful than themselves.  Even after the hard work which is done in our public school systems to try to convince students that there is no God, the vast majority still believe that there is.  The quick resurgence of religion in the former USSR after 70 years of atheistic communism is further evidence of this truth.  And of the relatively few that do claim to be atheists, most of these will call out to God when they find themselves in serious trouble.  There is a lot of truth to the old adage that “there are no atheists in a foxhole.”

The knowledge that God exists

Is inherent to the human soul.

Children also quickly figure out that everything around them had to have been made by someone.  You can amaze a child by a slight of hand trick and pull a rabbit out of a hat, but the curiosity of the child is going to cause them to try and figure out how the rabbit got in there.  Even if they conclude that it was “magic,” they understand that somebody or something had to make the rabbit and put it in the hat.  It did not happen by accident. There must be a creator.

Paul points out that very fact in verse 19.  It is what God has made in the creation that manifests knowledge of God to all people.  God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and so is not visible to man, but some of His attributes are understood through what God has made in creation.  

Please note that this does not mean

That a complete knowledge of God

Can be known through creation,

But certain things are revealed

About Him in all that He made in creation.

Paul specifically points out God’s eternal power and nature are “clearly perceived” so that men are without excuse.

God’s Power.

God’s power is clearly manifested in creation.  Many verses point to things that happen in nature as evidence of God’s power.  Quite a few of these were pointed out yesterday when we looked as example of God’s wrath being demonstrated.  We can also add to these things what we have learned from our own investigations into nature.  Let’s look at a few examples . . .

Psalm 19:1-6, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.   Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.  Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

The “heavens” in verse 1 refers to the celestial heavens – space – and to the throne of God; while “expanse” refers to the atmospheric heavens.  Both space and the atmosphere declare the power of God.

Out of the atmospheric heavens come demonstrations of God’s power in weather.  The most extreme example of rain is Genesis 7:11; 8:2.  When during Noah’s flood the “windows of heaven opened” bringing judgement and then after forty days the “rain from heaven was restrained” in God’s mercy.  All of us have experienced or at least seen pictures of strong rain storms.  Here were it gets colder, we have also seen this it is frozen form of snow.  Another frozen form of rain, hail, is also an example.  Severe hail was one of the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 9-10) and in Joshua 10 God sent large hailstones that destroyed much of the army Joshua was fighting against.  Thunder and lightning are often mentioned in the Bible as signs of God’s power.  The thunder and lightning on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19) made the people tremble in fear of God.  Job cried out, “But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26:14).  We have all experienced strong thunderstorms.  God uses wind in all sorts of ways.  He used wind to part the Red Sea for Moses and the children of Israel (Exodus 14:21) and bring quail for food while they were in the wilderness (Numbers 11:31).  God also used wind as a means of judgement in bringing the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:13) and famine (Hosea 13:15).  Strong winds are used to break rocks into pieces (1 King 19:11).  Psalm 104:4 speaks of God making the “winds His messengers.”  Snow, hail, frost, ice, stormy wind, fire, thunder, and clouds all fulfill God’s word (Psalm 147).  God’s power is seen in the various weather phenomena that exist in the atmospheric heavens.

Modern research into these things measure and quantify the power displayed.  For example, at any time, 2,000 thunderstorms are occurring around the world, producing lightning that strikes upon earth up to 100 times every second.  There are some 20 million cloud to ground lightning strikes in the continental U.S. every year with another estimated 100 – 200 million cloud to cloud strikes.  Within the lightning bolt the air is superheated to temperatures exceeding 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, many times hotter than the surface of Sun.  Typically, lightning travels 10 miles or less.  However, lightning has been observed to travel 20 miles or more, often extending up to 10 miles away from the cloud that formed the lightning. Tornadoes can be spawned by severe thunderstorms with wind speed estimates ranging from 75 to over 300 miles an hour.  The funnels may range from only a few yards to a mile at its base.

According to the NOAA/AMOL, estimates of the energy released in a hurricane are tremendous.  For an average hurricane of sustained winds of 90 mph and a width of 46 miles, the kinetic energy to generate the winds is about 1.5 X 1012 Watts, or about half of the total world-wide electrical energy generating capacity.  But this is small in comparison to the amount of energy released in cloud and rain formation.  The estimate for this for the same storm is 6.0 X 1014 Watts or 200 times the total world-wide electrical energy generating capacity.  The kinetic energy goes up with the windspeed cubed, so a Category 5 hurricane with wind speed three times as fast would be 9 times as much not counting the greater diameter of the storm.

Isn’t that amazing? 

The atmospheric heavens

Reveal something

Of God’s power!

Then there is also the celestial heavens – space.  The power of God displayed in it is mind boggling.  David exclaimed in Psalm 8, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him?  And the son of man, that You care for him?”  Our Sun is a fairly typical star.  It has a diameter of about 1.4 million km.  The Sun’s surface temperature is about 10,000ºF and its Corona (its “atmosphere”) is about 1.8 millionºF with its core temperature estimated at 27 millionºF.  A single solar flare can release as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT in just a few minutes.  There are billions of stars, and many of them are much larger than our Sun.  The celestial heavens also declare God’s power!

This does not even get into other aspects of creation that show God’s power such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

God’s Divine Nature.

But creation also shows us something of God’s divine nature.  For example, God’s goodness is seen in His provision for all life.  

  • Psalm 136:24 tells us that God gives food to all flesh because His lovingkindness is everlasting.  
  • Psalm 147 says that God gives food to the animals both great and small in due season and they are satisfied with good.
  • The same Psalm says He also gives rain to the earth and causes the grass to grow.  
  • In Matthew 6 Jesus pointed out God’s provision for the birds of the air as proof of God’s care for His creation and for man.  Jesus also pointed out in the same passage God’s beautiful array of the lilies of the field which are so short lived.  All the beautiful things in the world, flowers, plants, animals, minerals, jewels, and dazzling vistas all show that God loves beauty.

God is also immense and eternal.  To go back to some of the evidence from the celestial heavens, we quickly are overwhelmed with the size of creation.  When we start measuring distances between plants and suns, we quickly come up with numbers which we cannot really comprehend.

Consider the following figures . . . 

Actual Miles and Travel Time From Earth To Planets In Our Galaxy:

Travel time = 34,000 mph 2X speed of Space Shuttle

Mercury    – 36 million miles away … 44 days travel time.

Venus      – 67.2 million miles away … 82.3 days travel time.

Mars         – 155 million miles away … 190 days travel time.

Jupiter      – 483.3 million miles away … 1 year, 227 days travel time.

Saturn      – 887.4 million miles away … 3 years travel time.

Uranus     – 1,783 million miles away … 6 years travel time.

Neptune  – 2,795 million miles away … 9 years, 140 days travel time.

Pluto         – 3,726 million miles away … 12 ½ years travel time.

Distance Of Other Galaxies From Earth:

Travel time = Must be measured in “light years” … Light is the fastest-moving item in the universe.  It travels at an incredible 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second.  That’s very fast. If you could travel at the speed of light, you would be able to circle the Earth’s equator about 7.5 times in just one second!  A light-second is the distance light travels in one second, or 7.5 times the distance around Earth’s equator.  A light-year is the distance light travels in one year.  How far is that?  Multiply the number of seconds in one year by the number of miles or kilometers that light travels in one second, and one light-year is about 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

Barnard’s Galaxy             – 1.63 million light years away.

Phoenix Dwarf Galaxy     – 1.44 million light years away.

The Andromena Galaxy   – 2.5 million light-years away.

Proxima Centauri              – 4.25 light years away.

Alpha Centauri A & B       – 4,35 light years away.

God is also precise, because in this vastness of the solar system, man can calculate the precise movements of the heavenly bodies so that he can land a space craft within 10 feet of a pre-designated spot.  He can thread the solar system with space probes like Jupiter I and II and pass through the rings of Saturn without hitting the planet.  This is vastness and precision of God’s divine nature.  We could also spend much time looking at the microscopic world or the biological world and we would find the same precision and complexity.  

This mighty Creator is

Worthy of our worship.

There is one other attribute of God that is exhibited in creation.  God is also a God who will judge.  This is not so much in the things that were created, but in how they were rearranged by the global flood of Noah’s time.  Even without the book of Genesis, the cataclysmic events that have scarred the earth demonstrate that there is an all-powerful Being who judges and whose wrath is to be feared.

Man Is Without Excuse.

The result of all this is that man is without excuse . . .  

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate

To man that there is an all-powerful Creator

Who needs to be sought out.

God made the knowledge of Himself

Evident both within man and in creation

In all that has been made.  

The problem is not in the evidence.  

It is in man.  Man is sinful by nature

And simply refuses to seek out God.

All men are “ungodly” and “unrighteous” and therefore suppress the truth given to them. They reject God and His commands to one degree or another.  Paul points this out in Romans 3:10-12 in his quote from Psalm 14. “There is none righteous, not even one;  there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

God is righteous in His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  He is just in His punishment of sin.  He has made the truth evident, but man has rejected what has been revealed in order to create for himself a god and standards of living according to his own liking.

2 Peter 3 comments about this suppression of truth that is so blatant and prevalent in our own society.  In verses 3-8, the Bible says, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with [their] mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For [ever] since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God [the] heavens existed long ago and [the] earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”  Verse 4 is a good statement of the premise of evolution which holds that everything continues just as it always has.  It is called the principle of uniformitarianism, and it purposely ignores and suppresses all the evidence of God’s judgement on the world in Noah’s flood.

I could very easily spend many weeks showing all this evidence to you and the foolishness of even the idea of evolution.  I have done so in the past and there are plenty of books in the library for those who would like to study this area in depth.  Some of these evidences would include the massive amounts of sedimentary rock covering the world which in places is thousands of feet deep; the large scale water deposited fossil grave yards; geologic unconformities; recent examples and experiments that prove rapid fossilization, rapid catastrophic erosion (Mt. St. Helens which explains the formation of the Grand Canyon), and rapid formation of oil; fossils, especially trees, that transverse multiple layers of sedimentary rock; the evidence for the rapid formation of the polar ice caps; the evidence of widespread volcanic activity during a single ice age.

These don’t even begin to get into all the evidence for a young earth that is measure in thousands of years and not billions or even millions.  The properties of physics limit the age of the earth drastically from the evolutionary model.  These would include degradation of the earth’s rotational speed; the rate of heat loss by the Earth; and the decay of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Evolutionists claim that creationists cannot be true scientists, but the truth is exactly the opposite.  We are not afraid of looking at all the evidence including those that do not fit our current hypotheses.  Neither are we afraid of stating our premises and philosophical underpinnings and call them that.  A serious look at evolution from the hard sciences can only conclude that it is a fairy tale for grown-ups who refuse to believe the truth.

The problem men have is not with the evidence,

For the evidence is present and shouting out the truth.  

The problem is with the hearts of men.  

They do not want to be accountable to a God

Who has judged in the past for fear

He will judge again in the future

Just as He has said He would.

Ungodly and unrighteous men suppresses the truth.  This is why so many insist on limiting what God can do and how He can do it.  Do you really think it would be any problem for God to create the world in six, twenty-four hour days just as Genesis 1 describes?  Are the miracles described in the Bible too difficult for God to do as described?  Again, the problem is not in the evidence, it is in man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness that refuses to believe.

Is it fair for God to choose and draw some men to belief and salvation while judging those who do not?  In actuality, it is not fair.  It is merciful and gracious.  If God was fair, all men would be condemned.  

Never ask God to be fair

Because you would not like it if He was.  

Ask Him to be loving, merciful, and gracious.

What is demonstrated in the Gospel is the righteousness of God.  He is righteous in justifying the sinner based on faith in Jesus Christ.  He is righteous for bringing His wrath to bear on the ungodly and unrighteous who suppress the truth He has revealed. The evidence is there, and it is active and compelling, but men refuse it and turn away from it because that is their desire.  Men are saved because of God’s actions, but they are judged because of their own.

The evidence is in . . . What have you done with it?  If you already are one of the ones believing in Jesus Christ, then thank God for your salvation and tell others about Him.  If you are not yet believing, then be warned you are currently under God’s wrath, but you do not have to stay there.  Humble yourself before Him, turn from your sins to Him and ask Him for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  Be like the publican in Luke 18:9-14 who would not even lift up his eyes, but beat his breast and cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Jesus said this man went home justified.  So can you.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Wrath of God

Grace For The Journey

In preparation for our study on Romans 1:18, I tried to find a hymn that would match the subject of this verse, which deals with the wrath of God. vI was a bit surprised to find out that there are only four songs in our hymn book that make reference to God’s wrath or anger at all, and only two of those were in the context of being saved from His wrath. Only two songs spoke of the condemnation of sinners, while no hymn spoke of God’s judgement, and only one referenced Him as judge.  Clearly, as evident in one of the latest and more popular hymnals, God’s declared response to sin is not a popular subject.

That is not surprising in itself, for people in general would rather hear about good things than bad things that might affect them personally.  It is surprising though when taken in the context that the message of the gospel is one that includes salvation from God’s wrath upon sin.  That is a wonderful thing to sing about, as . . .

  • Rock of Ages” does in its lyric, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”  
  • The second verse of the Hymn, “My Hope is in the Lord,” proclaims, “No merit of my own His anger to suppress, My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.”
  • The first stanza of “My Savior’s Love” stands amazed that Jesus would love one who was a “sinner, condemned, unclean.”  
  • As wonderful as the thought is, only the hymn, “And Can It Be?” gives voice to the joy that “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him is mine!”

Those themes were more common in worship a century ago.

Typical gospel tracts of our day prefer to speak of God’s love and having a wonderful life in Jesus.  Sin is usually dealt within a generic sense that everyone does it and it is bad for you.  Getting specific about the sin of the individual and its consequence in eternal punishment is not a popular theme even among Christians.  There is even a movement within evangelical Christianity to discount the reality of an eternal hell.  As much as we might prefer only the good news and to refrain from speaking of what is
negative . . .

We do not have the right

To alter or even change

The emphasis of God’s

Message, And the message

Of God’s Gospel

Includes His wrath.

Remember . . .

That the Gospel of God

Is the theme of

Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

He stated that clearly in the opening verses and in expressing his personal desire to go to Rome.  Paul was “eager to preach the gospel” to those who were in Rome.  Starting in 1:16, which we examined last week, Paul begins his presentation of the gospel message with a few succinct statements which will then be followed by an extensive contrast and explanation of all the particulars of the message and its ramifications.

The Righteousness of God

Let’s begin our study today by looking at verses 16-21, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  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.   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.”

The important point to note is that

The gospel message is about

The righteousness of God. 

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel

Because of both what the gospel

Can do and what it reveals.

The gospel is the power of God

For salvation for all who are believing.

As pointed out yesterday, such deliverance from sin, rescue from sin’s consequences, and preservation from it, requires it to be the work of God, for man is completely inadequate to correct his sin problem or in any way earn the righteousness needed to be restored to a relationship with God.  Man is born dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) and will stay that way unless God does something.  

The Gospel message is that

God has done something.

The Gospel message is about the righteousness of God revealed in providing the payment for man’s sin Himself through Jesus Christ, that sinner might be justified and made righteous through faith in Him.   Again, this is not done through any kind of work or human effort, but through simple faith (agreeing with and responding to the truth about) God’s character, actions, and promises.  That is why the righteous will live by faith.  They trust God.

The word “for” in first 18 links the concept of the righteousness of God in relation to those who believe in verse 17 to His righteousness described here in His contrasting relationship to those who do not believe.  If those who believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for salvation from sin are made righteous, that reveals the righteousness of God. 

Those who do not believe are ungodly and unrighteous and Paul points out that God’s wrath abides upon them.  Paul shows the unrighteousness of all people who do not live by faith in Christ from chapter 1:18 through chapter 3:20.  The rest of chapter 1 deals with the immoral unrighteous.  Chapter 2 deals with the moral unrighteous and the religious unrighteous, with chapter 3 concluding that there are “none righteous, not even one.”  Through the rest of the book, Paul will be explaining in detail God’s righteousness in how a person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ as well as explaining the ramifications of that belief.

God’s righteous is demonstrated in His just punishment of the unrighteous for their sin for they are responsible for it.  The general statement is that the ungodly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  The proof in verse 19 and 20 is that God has revealed enough of Himself in creation to warrant man’s seeking after God so that all men are without excuse for their failure to do so.  Paul shows in each of the sections that follow dealing with the immoral unrighteous, the moral unrighteous, and the religious unrighteous how each group suppressed that truth and the resulting consequences.  We will dig into each of those in the coming days. Today we will concentrate just on this opening verse.

The Reality God’s Wrath.

Our tendency to want to disassociate God from wrath and anger is not just because of our own aversion to it, but also because a desire to not attribute to God something we perceive as bad.  In a sense, we want God to be better than He is.  However, God is the definition of all that is good, so if there is a problem here, it is in our understanding of wrath and anger as necessarily bad things.

God’s wrath and anger against sin is described with many words and examples in the Old Testament translated as “wrath,’ “anger,” and “fury,” with the underlying Hebrew words meaning such things as “snorting,” “hot,” “burning,” “overflowing,” and “quaking.”   His wrath is described as “burning anger”(Exodus 15:7), “smoke from His nostrils” and “fire from His mouth” (Psalm 18:18).  It can be expressed in pestilence, blood, torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone (Ezekiel 38:22).  

Because of such descriptions of

God’s wrath in the Old Testament,

There have been those who teach

That the God of the Old Testament

Is different from the God of Love

(1 John 4:8) of the New Testament.

However, God’s wrath is also seen in the New Testament.

Consider that . . .

  • John the Baptist and Jesus’ initial message was to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  
  • John the Baptist charged the Pharisees and Sadducees with hypocrisy and cried out against them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” and then warned them to “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8).  
  • Jesus warned that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  
  • Jesus also warned that the gospel message was a stone that would break into pieces anyone who fell upon it, and it would scatter like dust anyone it fell upon (Matthew 21:44). 
  • Jesus also warned of the judgement resulting in the guilty being cast into outer darkness where there would be much weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).
  • Jesus also often warned of hell (11 Gospel references) as a place where the worm does not die and there is unquenchable fire (Mark 9:47-48).  
  • The Bible warns us that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).  
  • The book of Revelation is descriptive prophecy of God’s wrath still to come. The description in Revelation 19 of Jesus’ return is not meek and mild.  He returns on a white horse, clothed in a robe dipped in blood with a sharp sword proceeding from His mouth smiting the nations.  That is a picture of wrath.

God is the same in both the Old and New Testament, and wrath is an “essential and inalienable trait” of God.

Our problem is not that God is wrathful,

But our attributing that

Wrath with human qualities.

Human wrath and anger are generally understood as something that boils up and over in violent and often irrational action.  It is as stupid, if not more so, to strike a wall in anger as it is to hit or scream at your opponent, especially if it is a family member whom you profess to love.  Yet, human anger does that.  Anger is a strong emotion, and it often gets the best of us.  The Bible warns us that in James 1:19-20, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  The emotion of anger itself is not the problem, but it is our unrighteous reaction to it.  That is why Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity.”

God’s wrath is not like man’s wrath.  Yes, God has emotion and anger is an emotion, but . . .

God is always in control of His actions.

Even when God’s wrath breaks out,

It is never the uncontrolled, irrational

Eruptions of actions that mark man.

God is and has already demonstrated

Great patience and longsuffering

With all men. His actions are

Thoughtful and in keeping

With holiness and justice.

When Jesus came into the Temple and found it to be a market place where thievery was taking place instead of a place of prayer, He did not “lose His temper.”  He was rather, filled with the righteousness indignation of affronted holiness and He cleared out the scoundrels forcibly (Matthew 21).  If Jesus had lost His temper, well, you can only imagine what the power of God would be like if it was released in uncontrolled fury.

The particular word translated “wrath” here, “orge,” as used in the New Testament in relationship to God is “God’s displeasure at evil, His passionate resistance to every will which is set against Him, and His judicial attack upon them.”  

God’s wrath does not exist by itself.  

It is part of His nature as

Are all His other attributes.

God is wrathful because

Of these other attributes.

God’s love does not

Exclude His wrath,

But rather it

Is the opposite,

For it demands it.

Does love tolerate evil against itself and those it extends too?  Of course not.  Love resists all attempts to harm those it extends to.  What do you do when someone or something tries to harm your wife, husband, or children?  

God’s goodness also demands His wrath.  

Goodness does not overlook evil

But rather resists it, seeks to

Change it. and pursues justice.

God is just, and He would be unjust if He did not bring about judicial consequences on those who do evil.  Could God be considered loving, good, and just if the end the unrepentant sinner and the saint were the same?  For example, compare Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, the men who crashed the planes on September 11 compared to the apostles and Christians.  

God is righteous, but

He would be unrighteous

If He was not

Displeased by evil.  

God is sovereign,

But His sovereignty

Would be in question

If He did not subdue

Those who resist His will.

Consider finally that the greatness of God’s grace and mercy is revealed in the greatness of His wrath.  The contrast between the punishment you deserve and the blessings you receive is that greatness.

The Revelation of God’s Wrath.

Paul says here in Romans 1:18 that God’s wrath is “revealed from heaven.”  The sense of heaven here is not the physical location, as in lightning coming down from the sky to strike the sinner, though that does happen, it is heaven in the sense of the origin of God’s wrath.  Heaven is the throne of God (Matthew 5:34) from which God issues His decrees to be carried out (Job 1; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1).  The distinction here is that God does not have to carry out His wrath personally, but that He directs His wrath to be carried out, and He can do that in several different ways.

We have already mentioned weather phenomena as a revelation of God’s wrath.  In Exodus 9, in the seventh plague upon Egypt, God sends thunder, lightning, and hail as judgement upon them.  God has used wind as both a blessing (Exodus 14:21) or a curse (Isaiah 48:7).  God sent rain for forty days and broke up the fountains of the deep when He poured out His wrath on the antediluvian world (Genesis 7).  He has also withheld rain in a drought as part of His wrath (Haggai 1:10-11).

God’s wrath has been revealed in other phenomena as well including fire and brimstone as rain (Sodom & Gomorrah – Genesis 19), barrenness (Genesis 20:18, water turning into blood (Exodus 7), ), various diseases (boils – Exodus 9, inexplicable darkness (Exodus 10), insect plagues (Gnats – Exodus 8, Locusts – Exodus 10, ), other animals (frogs – Exodus 8, fire (Nadab and Abihu – Leviticus 10:2, snakes – Numbers 21, the earth splitting open and swallowing Korah and those with him in rebellion (Numbers 26:10), famine (Deuteronomy 32:24), lions – 2 Kings 17:25), other  earthquakes (Isaiah 29:6), tumors – 1 Samuel 5:6, leprosy – 2 Kings 5:27),

God also uses men to carry out His wrath.  When the nations surrounding Israel attacked and suppressed Israel, it was generally recognized as part of God’s wrath. God used nations such as the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Assyria, and Babylon to punish Israel for turning away from Him, just as they had been warned (Deuteronomy 28).

God also uses angels.  The Lord used “the destroyer” to stride dead the first born in the first Passover (Exodus 12) and those that grumbled in the wilderness wanderings (1 Corinthians 10:10).  It was an angel of the Lord that brought the pestilence that killed 70,000 at David’s census (2 Samuel 24) and an angel of the Lord that struck down 185,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37).  Revelation states that it will be angels that will blow the trumpets and pour out the bowls of God’s wrath.  God also uses evil angels including Satan as instruments of His wrath.  The Lord used a deceiving spirit to bring about the death of Ahab (1 Kings 22), and sent an evil spirit to cause Abimelech and the men of Shechem to destroy each other in response to their murder of Jerubbaal’s seventy sons (Judges 9).  Satan will be used to deceive the nations and gather them together for a final battle after which he and his followers will be thrown into the lake of fire and then the Great White Throne judgement takes place (Revelations 20).

A final way in which God reveals His wrath has been alluded to – it is in the natural consequences of sin.  Failure to live according to God’s commands and following those who are evil results in negative consequences.  God does not have to directly intervene in some way to bring about His wrath, He can also do so by staying His hand and letting the consequences of sin flow.  God’s judgement of Ephraim was that he was joined to idols and to “leave him alone” (Hosea 4:17).  Jesus’ judgement on the Pharisees was the same.  They were blind guides of the blind and to “let them alone” (Matthew 15:14). Paul will demonstrate this truth throughout the rest of Romans 1.  God “gave them over” (verses 24, 26, 28) to the sin that was in their hearts, and that sin will bring its own punishment (cf. Psalm 81:12).  To be abandoned by God and left to your sin is a horrible and hopeless state.

In our scientific age, people want to explain away weather phenomena and other natural phenomena as just the way nature works.  However, God still does use these things, as well as the actions of men and angels, to reveal His wrath in our own time.  For all that Television gets wrong, at least the History Channel’s series, “The Wrath of God,” is properly named.  The most common revelation of God’s wrath, though, is still this latter way of simply allowing the consequences of sin to come upon those who commit them.

The Recipients of God’s Wrath.

Who are the targets of God’s wrath?  The examples already given have shown it, but Paul is very definitive here.  God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness, the ones suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”

Ungodliness and unrighteousness

Are not two separate groups,

But the twin characteristics

Of those who suppress

The truth in righteousness.

They are both ungodly and unrighteous.  “Ungodly” means “to be without reverence for God and a relationship with God.”  This is not in the sense of irreligious, but rather in acting in dispute or defiance of God’s demands.  The particular word is thought to have its origin in the negation of the word which means “to worship,” so it is a negation of worship.  It is the opposite of godliness, which is the conjunction of “good and worship.”  Ungodliness invariably leads to false worship, not no worship, because man will worship something even if it is only himself and thoughts.  Paul will deal with such false worship over the next couple of chapters.

The characteristics of ungodliness are seen in the passages in which the word is used. In 1 Timothy 1:9-10, the ungodly are listed alongside the lawless, the rebellious, sinners, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, immoral men, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else “is contrary to sound teaching.”  In 2 Timothy 2:16, “worldly and empty chatter” are listed as things that “will increase (lead to) more ungodliness.”  2 Peter 5 describes the pre-flood world as “ungodly.”  Other passages describing that period show that the people had evil hearts (Genesis 6:5), but that basically, they were just living their lives without much thought of God’s commands or warnings (Matthew 24:28).  A time that in many ways is much like our own.  Peter and Jude both warn that there will be such ungodly people in the last days and that judgement by fire awaits them (Jude 14-18; 2 Peter 3:7).

“Unrighteous” s also translated as “evil doer, iniquity and wickedness.” It is the opposite of “be or do right.”  It is that which does not conform to what is right.  It is the opposite of loving and obeying the truth (Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6) and so is the opposite of the character of God.  It includes behavior which violate the law and justice.

“Ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” are closely related

In that neither will follow God’s commands,

But “ungodly” is more directed

Against the person of God

And “unrighteous” against

The standards of character and

Conduct which flow from God’s character.  

The “ungodly” want to make

Up a god for themselves,

And the “unrighteous” want to

Live by their own standards.

Ungodliness always leads

To unrighteousness because

A person who is not following

God will not follow His commands.

An important point to note here is that . . .

God’s wrath is against all who

Are ungodly and unrighteous.

God does not have a list

Of acceptable and unacceptable sin.

To Him, all sin is sin and

Is deserving of His wrath.

As James points out,

Failing in one area

Of God’s law makes

You guilty of all.

Any violation against

His person or

His standards brings

His condemnation.  

Through the next couple of chapters, Paul will show that . . .

All people have violated God’s commands

And are therefore unrighteous and condemned.  

You might do better than others, but

The standard is perfection, and no one meets it.

It is like trying to swim across the Atlantic ocean.  Most will not make it very far, a few might make it out of the sight of land, and a very few even 30 or 40 miles, but the distance is so far, there is no hope of anyone swimming it.

The Righteousness of God’s Wrath.

There are those that will attack God as unfair and unjust to set standards so high that no person can meet them and then to bring His wrath to bear upon them.  However, as Paul points out here, man is completely responsible for is own failure and incurring God’s wrath for it is against those “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  This is a present active participle verb which means “this is an on-going action these people are doing in the present time.”  Paul explains further this suppression of the truth in verses 19-32 and we will expand on that throughout the rest of this week.  

The point here is simply this . . .

God made the knowledge of evident to them,

But they have suppressed that

Knowledge of God in their unrighteous.  

They do not desire to live

By God’s standards, so they

Also reject the knowledge of Him.

God has promised that those who seek Him will find Him when they search with all their heart (Jeremiah29:13), but the plain fact is that no one does that on their own (John 1:10-11; 3:19-21; Romans 3:10-12).  People love their sin too much.  

It is this very fact that reveals God’s righteousness

In both His wrath on the ungodly and the salvation

He grants on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no hope.  There will only be God’s just and righteous wrath.  But in Jesus Christ, there is hope even for the ungodly and unrighteous, for it was for such people Christ died.  The Bible says in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  The Bible further explains in Titus 3:3-7, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and [His] love for mankind appeared,  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.”

Man cannot earn salvation,

For his ungodliness and

Unrighteousness condemn him,

But he can receive it as a gift

Of God’s grace through faith

In Jesus Christ who took

The wrath of God upon Himself

In paying the penalty of our sin

That we, the unrighteous, might be

Made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 521). 

What man could not and

Would not do for Himself,

God, in His righteousness,

Has done through Jesus.

If you are not saved, then be warned that God’s wrath abides upon you and its final expression will be judgement at the Great White Throne and eternal separation from God in Hell.  It is time to quit suppressing the truth God has given you.  Turn from your sin to Him and place your faith in Jesus Christ as the substituted payment and begin your walk with Him.

If you are saved, then praise God for it, for you did not earn it yourself.  And be sure that you are telling others what God has done for you, and in so doing, also declaring His righteousness.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”