When we left off yesterday, we were reading about the righteousness of God being revealed to those who walk by faith, "for the just shall live by faith". In this section Paul tells us the consequences of rejecting this divinely appointed righteousness.
Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;"
I had to ask the question of what the difference is between ungodliness and unrighteousness. The explanation that I found was that "ungodliness" refers to offenses made by man toward God; while "unrighteousness" refers to sins committed by man toward his fellow man. To be ungodly is to be in direct conflict with the nature of God.
The "wrath of God" is God's righteous anger toward man's blatant denial of Him. These men "hold" or suppress "the truth "of who God is. We know the truth is that God is the Creator of all things, and that the only way to salvation is through His Son's blood. So then the people in reference here suppress the knowledge of God and the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus. Before he was stoned and left for dead at Lystra, Paul gave this testimony of how nature itself heralds the power of the Living God as Creator of all: Acts 14:17 "Nevertheless he (speaking of God), left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." Words in parenthesis are mine. If there is no one to testify of God, then nature itself displays His goodness even to the unbeliever; He provides rain and sun for all the earth.
Romans 1:19 "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
The "things which may be known of God" are the obvious signs from Heaven; i.e. the beauty of nature, the vast expanse of space, and the intricate functioning form of the human body just to name a few. God has openly shown man His power and wisdom. Man cannot possibly know all of God's nature, but He has not remained hidden from man either. The evidence of God is all around us if we are wise enough to see it.
These folks have heard the Gospel and the consequences of ignoring it, but continue in ungodly and unrighteous acts. I cannot help but think about the scientist here. They have studied the infinite space, the intricacy of life and the excellency of Heavenly design, but they do not accredit God with any of the glory He deserves. They strive to disprove God or explain Him away as the big bang theory does. Our eyes behold the glory of His creation, and with the heart conviction is made to boldly claim, God IS!
The Godhead consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These three are one, but have different functions. Think of an egg. The egg is in three parts; shell, white, and yolk, but all make up the egg. Each is important, but each has a different function.
Romans 1:21 "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools," "
God's wrath is revealed "because that when they knew God..." so at some point these folks had been enlightened because of the past tense "knew" used here. Did they have a genuine experience with God, or was it only head knowledge that never reached the heart? They did not give God glory, neither were they "thankful" to Him. They became "vain in their imaginations" or within their own thoughts they were puffed up and proud.
Paul states that for this reason "their foolish heart was darkened." 1 Corinthians 1:20 "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
These folks think that they have it all rationally figured out. They are the intellectuals who are too smart to believe the fairytale of Christianity. Nor do they wish to be inferior to anyone or anything; not even the God who gave them breath. I have often heard people say, "Oh, I believe in a supreme being. I just don't think it is the God of the Bible." Some religions need more than one god. They have gods for nature; gods for healing; gods for finances; even gods for death and life. But...our God IS God, there is no need for another. Jesus is the Light, and the human heart without the indwelling of the Spirit is a very dark place indeed.
While "professing themselves to be wise", they have "became fools". The Bible says in Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." And...Psalm 53:1 "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good." And...1 Corinthians 3:18 "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." Worldly wisdom will not get us into Heaven; only by faith in the Son of God can we achieve eternal life.
"Christ the power of God" to overcome our sinful nature, and to impute the righteousness of His blood that covers our sin.
Romans 1:23 "And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."
The fool changes the image of God from "uncorruptible" or incorruptible into that of things that are temporal or earthly. God is eternal and never dies nor decays. An idol is a human's imagination of a god that can neither walk, talk, nor save. Revelation 9:20 "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:"
The only power an idol has is the power the foolish give it! We serve the Living God who is able to hear the prayers of His children, and speaks to the heart of those who are faithful to trust Him. Man was made in His image, but we fool ourselves if we believe we can give God a form. He is Spirit. The Heavens cannot contain Him; nor the human mind constrain Him.
Romans 1:24 "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:"
"Wherefore" or because of their idol worship God "gave them up to uncleanness". This is the first of three mentions of God giving the immoral, ungodly over to judgment. Moral corruption always follows spiritual degradation. The fact that God gave them up does not mean He has granted them permission to continue in their sin, nor does it mean He withdraws His gracious help when/if the sinner repents and turns from their idolatry. God has delivered them over to the natural result of withdrawing from Him. It is not God's grace that allows the sinner to continue in their destructive path, but rather, it is a form of His wrath. The destruction of the flesh is the end result of the "dishonor" they do to "their own bodies".
Romans 1:25 "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
The truth of God is that He is the Creator of their lives, and all of nature. He is the true and Living God. Paul seems to have to pause in the midst of all these descriptions of wickedness and give a shudder. He interjects praise to God by stating that God is "blessed for ever. Amen." The thought of such wickedness seems almost incomprehensible to him.
Romans 1:26 "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."
God will give them up to "vile affections" or sexual sin. The case against homosexuality is clearly seen here. Men leaving women, and being "burned in their lust toward" another man. It is "unseemly" for a man to sexually reject the female body for that of another man. These men are "receiving in themselves that "recompence" or recompense, of their error which was meet" or in other words; there is a price to be paid for their actions. Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of judgment coming upon this behavior. Perhaps AIDS is the modern judgment that has come upon those who maintain this lifestyle.
Romans 1:28 "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"
This is a hard statement. The choice seems to have been made to not "retain God in their knowledge". The knowledge was once there, but man has wanted to have his own way and thereby pushed the conviction they have felt out of their hearts and minds. The lure of their sin was victorious over their flesh. A "reprobate mind" is a corrupt mind bent on only the carnal desires of the flesh. It is fun for a season, but there is a day coming when every knee shall bow before the Living God.
Romans 1:29 "Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
Those who have been given over to the reprobate mind are "filled" with all the heinous intentions imaginable. The sad part is that the people who do these things all the while "knowing the judgment of God" will be their reward for their actions. "Implacable" means unforgiving.
Paul tells us here that not only the perpetrators of the evil deeds will suffer, but also those who "have pleasure in them that do them." If we applaud the actions of these depraved individuals we are as guilty as they. Could this mean that even taking pleasure in movies or activities that show all manner of perversion makes us as guilty as the actual participants? Maybe. Why does the Christian want to be supportive of companies that make their living off of the sin and degradation of others? Does the "death" spoken of here refer to actual physical death, or spiritual death? I do not know, but I am not willing to find out the hard way!
Wow! We are finally at the end of the first chapter; what a wealth of information and warning Paul has for his readers. He has laid out the penalty for these perversions in a no nonsense, straight forward manner. The question is, are we wise enough to listen?