Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Walking through Romans PT 4: Romans 1: 16 – 2: 8

Walking through Romans
Romans 1: 16 – 2: 8

16. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
17. for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

I was told recently by someone who thought themselves rather wise in the Scripture that Paul was only writing to Gentile believers in Rome. I pointed out to him it was written to Jew and to Gentile and in a way as we go through Romans you will see the first 9 chapters are mostly to the Jew, and that is what we see here.

Paul was a task theologian. Many try to make Romans a book or of endless truth and I am not saying these things are not contained within the book, but that was in no way the focus of Paul.

We have seen that this is
1. A letter of introduction to the Church n Rome as Paul had not been there yet.
2. A missionary letter as Paul hoped to go to Rome and wanted support for those in Rome
3. A letter to clear up “rumors” that had spread about him.
4. A letter to bring an end to the division between the Jewish believers and Gentiles believer that lived in Rome

So, that is where we are now… points 3 and 4. Paul sets this up with verses 16 and 17, The Gospel has the Power to save for everyone who believes. Notice not some, but to everyone. Some believed that since the God had chose the Israelite, given the Law through a Jew, made promises to the Jews and the Messiah had come through the Jews that one must naturally convert to become a Jew to be a true follower of Jesus. It seems reasonable and logical; Yet, Gods ways are not our ways and God had made promises, as we will see later in the book that those who did not seek will find Him.

The main point of Romans is summed up with the phrase: “"The righteous will live by faith." As we have already covered.

We are now on to a rather long portion of Scripture that if one does not take in one huge chunk, one will come out with only part of the story and in that, will have a rather improper view of God.

The phrase “everyone who believes” is one that if over looked, will also cause one to accept strange doctrines and will cause one to justify scripture to fit his pet doctrines.

Paul never heard of Calvin, Luther, Armius, or any other of the great Reformers. He is cup of the Fountain in which God revealed to us through this gospel that is first to the Jew then to the Gentile. Paul was called to preach to the Gentile and as he did this would first teach at the temple, the most often be tossed out. Then he would go to the market or where mostly women would gather to wash clothes or gather water. There he would also teach and be invited to stay at their house, thus in that way many house churches started.

18. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19. since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
23. and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
25. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
26. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
27. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
29. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
30. slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
31. they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

This passage needs great care for context as one reads through it as with most of Paul’s writings. Peter states of Paul I “Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3: 15 - 16), so Peter even states that some things are hard to grasp and this is from another Apostle and one who walked physically with Jesus in His time on earth.

The “wrath of God” portion, is sadly so misused and the point is so often missed… in fact if not taken as intend becomes a passage of condemnation only and not of a promise of redemption. Some have turned this into the anti homosexual passage, and though that sin is mentioned these people often miss that so are “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” and are “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful” and Paul states, “they invent ways of doing evil” and as if it is the worst of all Paul states, “they disobey their parents”, which seems strangely out of place in a list of murderers and such.

What most miss is this is not just a list of “sins God hate” for God hates all sin… and that is why Jesus who knew no sin, became sin… and so sin itself died on the Cross. No, it is not a passage of “sins” but it is much more. For the Jewish believers laid these accusations at the feet of the gentiles. It was common thought that the gentile was not worthy and the Jew, especially those who believed in Messiah Jesus, was now even greater than all. The Jew in general had disdain for the gentile and as one reads in Acts the saga unfolds and Peter argues with God whether what God has made clean is clean or not! We find in this passage Paul stating that yes “these” people, without saying “gentile” deserve wrath… and the Jew hearing this letter would be going, “AMEN PAUL PREACH IT BROTHER ISRAELITE!” and yes those who do such things do deserve the wrath…

Yet, we will come to the blow of the “velvet hammer” as N.T Wright calls it soon. There is more that is missed in this passage.

The issue is not these sins; it is at least two matters that are often overlooked.

1. God has revealed Himself to all through creation.
2. Having made His Glory clear, men thought better to worship creation.
3. Man’s wrong thinking lead to wrong worship.

God has created Himself I His creation, and man can see the Glory of God. As I grew up I was fascinated with the Beartooth Mountains and I still am. To me it is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I feel close to God in those mountains. I think someone has to be blind not to see God there, yet many just see it as a pretty place to camp, fish and hike and in a sense worship nature. In this we find that man who was the greatest of all God’s creation, has lowered himself below lesser created things and bow low to worship… man has worshiped the creation instead of the Creator. Man knew God yet chose his own way of thinking, he exchanged the Truth for a lie and forsook God’s Glory to worship created things. Instead of acknowledging their error even though they could see it they not only did it more, but encouraged others to do likewise.

Now, still the Jew would be going, “Yes, those Gentiles those “others” are wicked and deserve their due punishment… and thank God I am not like them.” Yet, there is more as Paul is not done here as some seem to teach or think as we must finish the thought that Paul started… and I Chapter 10 we see Paul not strikes the blow of the “velvet hammer”:

Romans 2: 1-11

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be God "will give to
each person according to what he has done."
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
For God does not show favoritism.”

You see so many stop before chapter 10, and miss the punch line, as Paul now gets to the meat of what he was getting to. “You, therefore, have no excuse you who pass judgment on someone else”… To judge another as the Jewish believers were doing and they themselves also did those very things, made them just like the Gentiles.

God’s judgment is based on truth. For He is Truth itself… and man suffers from “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Other versions state “You, O man..” and in the Greek we find it to be “mankind”… Paul set the Jewish believers up… and then showed them that “those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.

God does not play favorites… and being a Jew does not give one any better standing than being a Gentile… in fact we will see later that it may mean more judgment the more one knows… yet we will also see that in turning to God it will take more humility and in that more Grace will come to those who think themselves wise in their own eyes and later find they are not…

Even as a Christian, to think we are “better” than those who are not, we miss the point Paul is making… to judge others by our own standard of “goodness” or “righteousness” we will find that we are only their equal… or worse in need of more Grace as we miss the kindness of God toward us and to them… in that to show God’s goodness and kindness, to show His mercy and Grace, His tolerance and patience’s to others… we minister to others all this so that they will see God’s kindness and come to repentance. Otherwise “you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance.” There is not place for prideful arrogance toward others and those who deem themselves greater than others will become less and are in danger of storing up the wrath of God against them…

Again, many get this all backwards, they stop and the end of chapter 1 and think themselves better… and in that find only their own judgment… Remember in verse 17 we read of true righteousness is revealed by God through the Gospel:
“…a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."” It is through this same kindness from God, we receive Grace, and respond in faith, we are to recognize that this same faith that we are saved through sustains us… It is not our faith in the sense that we on our own merit bring it out of ourselves, for even faith itself is a gift to us from God… so this same faith that saved us, sustains us form first to last… by Grace and Mercy… to the Glory of God!


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