It has been quite a long while since I have written a blog post about the book of Romans, my independent learning project. Actually, it has been so long that I had to hop onto my blog and check out my last post to see where I had left off. As I was reminded, here at the Joyous Life of Jess we are still at the start of this book. So this week I will be covering Romans 1:16-32 which will be the final installment of the first chapter. Then we will dig into chapter two! In my personal studies, however, I am further in. Right now I am sifting through chapter six. We might not get there before the semester is out, but I encourage you all to read the entire book. Paul’s messages are so, so important! That reminds me, before we dive in lets again establish the hermeneutics (remember that dinner party word?) for Romans. The author is Paul, he is writing to the Jews and Greeks of the Roman church, and the purpose is what we will be starting off with today. Without further ado…
“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 for faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:16-17). This is the purpose verse for the entire book of Romans, which means it explains why Paul wrote what he did. The gospel is at the center of this letter, and really it is at the center of the entire bible. Paul believes that Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Paul’s entire Christian life was spent honoring God’s commandment to spread the gospel, and it is no different with the church at Rome. He does this not only because everyone needs to hear the gospel, whether they are saved or not, but because it brings glory to God, showing his righteousness. Through the gospel, we are made righteous like him, which is what Romans is all about.
After laying the foundation for this book, Paul immediately brings up the consequences of what happens to those who are not living by faith and sticks with it through the end of the chapter. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18). Notice Paul’s use of the word “all” here. EVERYONE deserves God’s wrath, including you and I. We are all dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking, stupid sinners (more on that in chapter three) and as a result we are separated from God on our own, deserving nothing but the pits of hell. Through the gospel, God has called us to be near Him once more. We are made clean, allowed to be righteous in the faith that He has given to us.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20). What Paul is insinuating here is that people in and around the Roman church have been putting their trust in idols rather than God, despite the fact He is very much known to them. Paul is urging the Jews and Greeks to not fall prey to these false teachings, or else they too will be turning against God without excuse. I’ve mentioned before, but I color code my bible. All attributes of God are underlined in brown. Here Paul refers to God’s eternal power and divine nature, both of which He has had since before the foundation of the world and we have known since being created in the world. This shows that He alone should be worshiped.
Paul continues to refer to the people who are betraying God. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:21-23). Again, these people are idolaters. They turned away from God, and instead lavished praise upon mere mortal things. I won’t do this often, but there is direct application here. When many people think idols, they think of other “gods”. However, idols can be anything we let ourselves become too attached to. Idols can be celebrities and pets, they can be careers and families. Anything that takes the place of God, even if it seems harmless, is an idol. Our full trust, love, and devotion should be in God every second of every day. God’s sacrifice in Jesus is the only thing that can save us; anything else will lead to our demise.
The next eight verses in my bible are all underlined in orange, because they show God’s sovereignty. The three chunks go together, but I will break them down. “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom 1:24-25). Clear as day, this shows the process of election. For a refresher, this is the concept that God decides who will or will not be saved, and there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Here, God chose to further separate these people from Him. They lived in constant sin because God let them. That might be difficult to wrap your head around, but it is the truth. Everything God does is according to His will for His glory, and with these people it is no different.
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26-27). This is a difficult passage, especially when applying it to today’s society. Yes, homosexuality is a sin. However, so is lying, cheating, stealing, and everything else that goes against God. Homosexuality is no worse nor no better than any other sin. ALL sin makes us deserve an eternity in hell. But, the most glorious word in the bible, these sins can all be forgiven through Jesus. In these verses, God gave these specific people up to their depraved ways, which included more sins in addition to engaging in homosexuality. Does that mean all homosexuals are condemned to the judgment God passed on them? As Paul would say, by no means! God had a purpose for it, just as He also has a purpose for saving countless others from these sins. No one is beyond the hand of God, but only those He chose before the foundation of the world will ever be in it. Hence the orange, God is in complete control.
He finishes the chapter like this, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom 1:28-32). If I had to describe this passage in one word it would be despair because this horrible list is what each and every human is, again including you and I. We need to know that, or else God wouldn’t have had Paul write it. Our only hope is in Jesus.
This was a heavy section, but one that is important to hear. Often we fall into traps thinking that our sin isn’t too bad, or that it is okay to support the sins of others because that’s what the world tells us. This is false. So, so false. The only truth we can rely on is that of God’s word, which is why it is so important to take the time to study it. It might initially upset you (because we are sinners), but God’s love surpasses all. This week as you go about your lives remember one thing from these verses; you might be worse than you ever knew but Jesus is far greater than you could ever imagine.