Romans: Salvation for All: Those Nasty Gentile Sinners

christ_and_the_sinnerAll Have Sinned

Romans 1:18-3:20

Let’s face it, and I don’t like to admit I am wrong and really dislike saying it, but, I am a sinner. After all, I serve God, and thus I would love to say I am perfect and keep the commandments of God. But the truth is, and you all know it, I am a sinner. It hurts, but it is true, I am a sinner.

Paul salutation gives me hope that the rest of the letter will shine favorable upon me and all that suffer under the curse of sin. It is also great news to anyone living in Rome that Paul the great evangelist desires to come to Rome himself and that he desires to impart upon each of us some spiritual gifts so that we may be established that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

It is clear by the opening that Paul has often desired to visit Rome, but had always been hindered. But Paul is now ready, anxious to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome.

Then he reminded the Romans, as he did the Galatians “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written “the just shall live by faith.”

Those Nasty Gentile Sinners (Romans 1:18-32)

This all sounds well and good, but in verse 18 Paul drops a bomb shell upon the readers and listeners of his letter to the Romans. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”

They key to understanding the transition is the word for. For links the gospel presentation of verses 16 and 17 to the next couple of chapters and their discussion of sin. The word for implies that we need the powerful gospel of salvation because of the depth of human sin.

Thus, in verse 18 we come to the first great transition in the book of Romans. The apostle is now ready for the first segment of his formal argument, which runs from Romans 1:18-32 the focal point of his treatment of sin is the Gentiles, who do not have God’s special revelation in the Scriptures as do the Jews. The second stage runs from Romans 2:1-19, which outlines the principles of judgment and the guilt of the Jews and churchly types. The final stage appears in Romans 3:9-20, in which the apostle demonstrates that all people (both Jews and Gentiles) are guilty before God. That conclusion he summarizes in verse 23 with its proclamation that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Paul utilizes that truth to indicate the universal human need for God’s justification by grace through faith on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross in verses 21-26. While Romans 1:18-3:20 provides God’s diagnosis of the sin problem, the rest of the letter deals with the cure.

The first phrase that jumps off the page in Romans 1:18 is “wrath of God.” Some people have a great deal of difficulty with that idea. They conjure up a furious God made in their own image, as one who is a fit of emotion lashes out in anger.

But this is not the biblical picture of divine wrath. Sin and its results are the only things in the Bible that arose God’s wrath. God will someday put an end to the ongoing suffering that has resulted from sin. The good news of Romans is that Christ has born the penalty of God’s judgement on sin for all who believe in Him (Romans 3:21-26; John 3:36).

Having said those things about God’s wrath in general, it is important to note that divine wrath in the Bible comes in two flavors. The one reflected in Romans 1 is that God lets judgement flow out of the natural consequences of wrongdoing. That perspective appears in verse 24, 26 and 28, which indicate that “God gave them up to” their choice of sin and its results.

But the natural consequence or passive aspect of wrath is not the full story. Someday God will put an end to the problem of sin and suffering through His active wrath. His active wrath shows up in Romans 2:5, 6 when it speaks to “the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed” against sin and the misery it causes.

Romans’ 1:19-21 raises another issue vital to Paul’s presentation. Put briefly, the apostle needs to make clear the basis of God’s condemnation and Judgement for those who do not know God’s revealed will in Scripture. To put it another way, why should people be subject to Grad’s wrath (verse 18) if they are ignorant of His way?

Paul’s answer is to the point. They are “without excuse” since from the “the creation of the world’ his eternal power and deity” have been evident to all people (verse 20). That is, even people who don’t have the Bible have some word from God, some knowledge of who He is and what He stands for. In the previous verse Paul noted that “what can be known about God is plain to them” (verse 19). Of course, not everything about God and morality can be deduced from nature. But the apostle is clear that people can at least understand that a powerful deity is behind the created world.

Here is an important point, since Paul in this section of Romans is demonstrating that Gentiles, in their relative ignorance, were still responsible for rebelling against what they knew about God and goodness through what they saw in and experienced in their conscience. Their real problem he penned in verse 18, was that they preferred “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” (KJV), or “wickedness,” to what they did know about God and goodness.

In verse 21-23 Paul presents the results of sin in a series of six downward consequences. First, rejecting God darkens people’s hearts and they become fools even as they proclaim their wisdom. Having given up a belief in the only true God, the world has endured a series of philosophic speculations that have led it tonto the nooks and crannies of darkness and futility.

A second result of rejecting God and prominent example of the foolishness of verse 22 is idolatry. Isaiah captures the foolishness of idolatry when he speaks of kindling a fire with part of a tree and making a God to worship with the rest of it. (Isaiah 45:15-170. Now as twenty-first century people we have seen the foolishness of idolatry. Or have we? What do we put our trust in? Our things? Our beauty? Our wisdom?

A third consequence of rejecting God, Paul claims, is that God gives blatant sinners over to their “sinful desire,” “shameful lusts,” and “depraved mind” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28; NIV). At first sight, it seems quite unlike God. Does God abandon people to evil? The key to understanding the phrase “gave them over” seems to be in such words as sinful desires.” Paul is using a word that “Makes men do nameless and shameless things. It is kind of insanity which makes a man do things he would never have done if this desire had not taken away his sense of honor and prudence and decency.

At the bottom of the issue is the fact that God allows us to make wrong choices and do hurtful things. But He doesn’t rescue us from their harmful consequences.

Why? Because He hates sinners? No, because He loves them and wants them to wake up to their need of His salvation.

Step four on the downward path of those who reject God is the massive list of perversions, dysfunctional attitudes, and behaviors in verses 26-31. Running all the way from unnatural sex (which the apostle probably viewed in the light of the general revelation of verses 18-21 related to the obvious fats of human sexual anatomy) through the most comprehensive list of specified sins in the New Testament, Paul wants to show what happens to people when they leave God out of their lives. One of the grim facts of life is that sin gives birth to sin. Once a person or a society sets out on the path of sin, it become easier and easier to practice evil. In fact, they soon come to view evil as normal.

The fifth step on the plunging course of sin is that it leads to death. And the last downward step in the dreary journey running from verse 21 through verse 32 is the fact that some not only do evil things but “approve” of such actions by others (verse 32b). The New English bible captures the forcefulness of Paul’s idea when it translates the phrase as “they actually applaud such practices.” Here we find the lowest of the low points on the scale of sin.

Published by The Bible In Your Hand

Hi, I am Pastor Lester Bentley, a devoted husband, father, and Pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. I am committed to the great gospel commission as stated in Matthew 28:19, 20.

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