In our last lesson, we looked at the opening greeting from Paul to the Romans. In addition to this greeting, Paul gives thanks to them:
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
When Paul says, “first” he is simply saying the first thing he wants to say is that he thanks God through Jesus Christ for them. Also in this verse, there is a pattern we see throughout Scripture which is praying to the Father through Jesus or by His authority because He is our mediator. The Christians in Rome had such a strong faith in the Lord that their faith was talked about throughout the whole world. I don’t think you could say anything better than that to a congregation especially during that time when communication was really slow. I wish every congregation had this kind of faith.
Next, we read:
Romans 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established-- .
Paul wants to be clear about how much he cares for the Christians in Rome, but he also cared about Christians in other places as well. So, he wasn’t playing favorites. Notice, he said God is his witness who he served with his spirit, that is his inner man, and he prays for them often and he also prays that somehow he might be able to visit them in person, but it will have to be according to the will of God. Paul was a prayerful man and he prayed for those in Rome and in other places as well.
Most people love for you to pray for them because it shows that you care. It’s easy to not pray for people and to pray for yourself, but Paul was not that way and we shouldn’t be that way either. Sometimes, things we want to happen the most, don’t for a long time because it wasn’t meant to be at this moment in time.
When our verse says that Paul longed to see them,
this caries the idea of him having a deep desire to come to them. Toward the
end of the letter, he expresses this desire again.
Romans 15:22 For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. 23 But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, 24 whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. 25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.
One of the reasons he wanted to go to them was so that he could impart spiritual gifts to them. Some think this means one of two things. First, it means that Paul wants to lay hands on them and impart miraculous abilities to them. To me this is the most plausible meaning because the miraculous gifts can certainly be used to establish them and keep them sound. Mark points out the purpose of the miraculous gifts in:
Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
So, it makes sense that it is referring to him giving them miraculous gifts. Now, it implied that there were some there who had miraculous gifts, but no apostle had been there as of yet, but there were some of the Romans there on the Day of Pentecost. One thing is certain, anyone who had these miraculous gifts had an apostle lay hands on them at some point, and then they traveled back to Rome.
The second thought is that Paul wanted to come to them and provide them with preaching, teaching, exhortation, etc so as to give them the spiritual benefit that comes from doing these things in person. I really don’t think this is what was meant by imparting spiritual gifts, but I wanted to make you aware that some hold this view.
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me
Paul is looking forward to encouraging the brethren there and to be encouraged by them. Stout wrote:
Paul knows about the reciprocal blessings of Christian fellowship and, although he is an apostle, he is not too proud to acknowledge his need of it. Happy is the modern missionary who goes to another country and culture in the same spirit of receptivity, anxious to receive as well as give, to learn, as well as teach, to be encouraged as well as to encourage! And happy is the congregation who have leaders of the same humble mind. (Stott, 57).
Next, Paul writes:
13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
Paul adds to this idea in Chapter 15 because he basically says that God had him working in different areas and God’s will comes first, but now we can see that his workload is coming to end so he will no longer be hindered from coming to them. When he gets there, he is looking forward to preaching the gospel and helping to convert more lost souls to Christ. When Paul says he is a debtor to these different groups, he is simply saying that it is his obligation to teach the gospel to them all. God doesn’t partiality and neither will he.
Every Christian should have this same mentality because we belong to Christ, and He paid a debt that He didn’t owe for us. As Paul writes:
Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Our next verses express the theme of Paul’s letter.
Romans 1:16 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 for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Paul gives the reason he is willing to preach the gospel to all because he is not ashamed of it, and he knows that it is the power of God to salvation. The Greek word behind ‘power’ is the root word in English that means dynamite. No doubt, the gospel is very powerful as it can change people’s lives.
Moses E. Lard provides an excellent statement concerning the power of the gospel:
"The gospel is called God's power for salvation, because it contains the provisions which he has ordained for this end; and which, if accepted by us will certainly effect it. Salvation is viewed by the apostle as an end and difficult; so much so as to require God's power to accomplish it. The gospel is that power. Not only so; it is God's only power for salvation. Therefore, he who is not saved by the gospel will never be saved at all. For him who rejects the gospel there is no hope. He is lost." (Denton Lectures Romans).
When Paul says it is for those who believe, he is not referring to belief alone, but all that belief includes, which is an obedient faith.
In other places, the N.T. talks about obeying the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17; Rom. 10:16). Since it’s something that we can obey, it means there are commands to follow and not just believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Pioneer preachers summarized the gospel in the following way:
1. Facts to be believed: specifically, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
2. Commands to be obeyed: including faith, repentance, and baptism (Rom. 6:3-6, 17, 18).
3. Promises to be enjoyed: among these, the remissions of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation (see Acts 2:38; Col. 1:21-23; Tit. 1:2). (Truth for Today Commentary Romans p 48).
When Paul says, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. he is not saying that Jews are more important than Gentiles, but that the Jews being God chosen people under the old covenant were presented the gospel first. For example, the limited commission was only to the Jews (Matt. 10:5-6), and Peter preached to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). When Paul began preaching he went to the Jewish synagogues first (Acts 18:4-6). However, the gospel was never intended to be only for the Jew, "but also to the Greek." Paul teaches that God shows no partiality (Rom. 2:11). While the gospel began being proclaimed in Jerusalem, it would then proceed to be proclaimed throughout Samaria, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). So, the gospel is for everyone.
Paul wrote in verse 17:
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
The righteousness of God can be found in the powerful gospel. However, consider what brother Garland Elkins writes about our verse:
"The word `righteousness' in this text has to do with the fact that through obedience to the gospel we are brought into a state of righteousness, i.e., we have been forgiven, and the Lord treats us as if we had never sinned (Heb. 8:12) ... We attain this state of righteousness not through our own goodness but through justification, and that justification is had on account of our faith, a faith which obeys God. The gospel is God's power to save because in it is revealed a justification which comes about because we have believed the record and have thus obeyed the gospel" (John 20:30-31; Rom. 1:16-17).
You and I are made righteous by obeying and living by the gospel thanks to Jesus. There are different ideas about the phrase “revealed from faith to faith.”
Some have suggested that the best explanation is likely that the righteousness of God is revealed from "the faith," the revelation of the Old Testament, unto "the faith" revealed in the New Testament. Deaver rejects such an explanation on the grounds that "the gospel is revealed by inspiration, not by faith." He argues that it means that "the righteousness which God desires to be in our lives is the result of faith and that this plan for producing righteousness causes faith." (Denton Lectures).
Regardless of how you interpret this phrase, both views teach that the just shall live by faith. Once again, this is not faith alone, but by an obedient faith. Paul later tells us that we must repent (Rom. 2:4), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10) and to be baptized (Romans 6), which is more than just believing.
Next, Paul is going to change gears. He has established the power of the gospel, and now he is going to tell us why man desperately needs the gospel.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Paul already established that Jew and Gentile can be saved through the gospel, but starting in verse 18 through Roman 3:20, Paul is going to show that both Jew and Gentile are lost until they obey the gospel. However, for the rest of this chapter, Paul specifically has Gentiles in mind.
God hate’s sin and since He is a just God, He will punish the sinner. These Gentiles excelled in unrighteousness, but they were without excuse because creation itself was one proof that God existed. While many atheists today want to explain away our complex solar system and every living thing happening by some random chance, there is no way such complexity could come from a random chance. So, God’s creation does indeed show that there is a God. As the Psalmist declared:
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
The Gentiles had more than just creation, if they really wanted to seek out God, they could have learned about Him from the prophets of old.
Deaver expresses so well why the Gentiles were without excuse:
"They had and they knew (or could have and could have known) what he wanted them to have and know. God was manifested (His hatred of sin, His power, His justice) even to the Gentiles through Noah. The descendants of Noah who turned to idolatry first had to disregard or reject their knowledge of God. God was manifested through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. By the Exodus, God was manifested to the Egyptians as well as the Israelites. The stories of God's dealing with Israel were known far and wide (cf. Josh. 2:10-14). The Assyrians were reminded of God through Jonah. The Israelites at one time were scattered throughout the kingdom of Assyria. This would spread knowledge of Jehovah. The Babylonian Captivity resulted in spreading and emphasizing knowledge of the one true God. Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus all made decrees and proclamations regarding Jehovah. Jewish synagogues, in which were emphasized the knowledge of the one true God, were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Melchizedek, Jethro, Job, Balaam, and others, taught the one true God among the Gentiles." (Denton Lectureship).
The main point is that these Gentiles and man today have access to the knowledge of God. So, pleading ignorance is not going to work as an excuse on the judgment day.
Acts 17:30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,
2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
People can say that all the people who are ignorant of the Bible will be saved, but God’s Word says differently. Besides, we would be doing a great disservice to those ignorant of the Bible if we made them be lost by teaching them the truth. The only cure that will keep one from facing the wrath of God is obeying the gospel.
Paul continues his thought in:
Romans 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
The Gentiles had known about God in the past, but they suppressed that knowledge and did not glorify God nor were they thankful for Him. Instead, they allowed their hearts to be darkened. Instead of worshipping God, they created idols that looked like man and other animals. They thought they were so wise, but they just made themselves into fools by worshiping things that cannot offer them any hope or salvation.
Many are exactly the same today.
As John Stott observed, "To exchange the worship of the living God for the modern obsession with wealth, fame and power is equally foolish and equally blameworthy."
Next, we read:
Romans 1:24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
GOD will never take our freewill from us. So, those who choose to leave God or to live a life of sin, God will allow them to do it. These Gentiles were allowing the lust in their hearts to run rampant, and they would dishonor their bodies. Like many before them, they didn’t want the truth, so they exchanged it for a lie and worshipped these manmade idols instead of their Creator.
Verse 26 says he gave them up to vile passions, and they did things that were against nature and was unnatural because women were having relations with other women and men were with men. Paul said this was shamefully, yet many today to call themselves gay Christians and think God will be pleased with them. Well, these verses we just read, make it clear that homosexuality will never be accepted by God, and Paul tells us in another place that people living in such sin will not make it into heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
The later part verse 27 says: and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. While these men and women live in sin, they will find out that when you go against nature many times it has bad results. Sexual disease happens 200 times more with homosexuals. So, God will allow people to ruin their lives and shorten their lives if they so desire. Of course, in the end if they keep living in sin, they will suffer the greatest penalty, which eternity in hell.
In verse 28, we learn that the Gentiles didn’t want to retain the knowledge of God because they want to do their own thing. As I already said, God will allow it to happen.
Paul continues in:
Romans 1:29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul gives us a list of 23 different accusations against the Gentiles and their sinful behavior. Of course, this is not a complete list, but the things listed show how many different sins these Gentiles were involved in. Very quickly, let’s examine these 23 accusations by briefly defining what they mean.
Unrighteousness – Means they lives their lives focused on sin rather than being right with God.
Sexual immorality- Comes from the generic Greek word porneia, which includes all forms sexual sin.
Wickedness – Is a general term that includes all that is evil and harmful.
Covetousness – Means they were greedy and always wanted more.
Maliciousness – They were evil and had no problem committing evil acts against other.
Full of envy – They are full of resentment toward those who were prospering in life.
Murder - They had no problem killing others.
Strife – They argued and fought to cause contention.
Deceit – They deceive people to get their way.
Evil-mindedness – They had an evil character, and their thoughts are centered on evil things.
Whispers – Means they gossip in secret.
Backbiters – They have no problem slandering others in public.
Haters of God – They hated God and His way.
Violent – This is one who is overbearing and enjoys hurting others whether verbally or physically just for the fun of it.
Proud – One who thinks that he is better than everyone else.
Boasters – Related to our previous word, but means they would boast about things they have done, whether they be true or not.
Inventors of evil things – They were never satisfied with the known evils of the day, so they would come up with new ways to be evil. Sad indeed.
Disobedient to parents – The children did not respect their parents, and why should they since their parents didn’t respect or obey anything either.
Undiscerning – Means they are void of understanding when it comes to using their brains to follow God’s way.
Untrustworthy – They would not keep their word. As the saying goes, you could trust them about as far as you could throw them.
Unloving – Without natural affection like you would normally see between a parent and child.
Unforgiving – They would not forgive people or be satisfied with any agreement. They are unwilling to change their minds. This particular word is only found in the KJV and NKJV and is not used by the other translations.
Unmerciful – They would should no mercy.
Finally, after this list of sins, Paul says:
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
It is true that they had turned their backs on God, and they made themselves ignorant of His ways, but they still knew in some sense that the things they were doing were wrong and knew that there would be a punishment for those sins, but they didn’t care.
There are some different thoughts about what Paul means by deserving death. The most popular view is that it means physical death or physical punishment for these sins. Others think it might mean how these sins point to spiritual death. Either way, these Gentiles didn’t allow the fear of physical or spiritual death keep them from living in sin. They approved of anyone who did the same.
While Paul was pointing these things out about the Gentiles of his day, this sounds a lot like the people in our nation right now. While all of these sins are running rampant in our nation, homosexuality has been center stage for a while now. Think about it, homosexual marriage in now legal in a nation that was built upon the principles found in God’s Word. Though around 4% of America claim to be homosexual, another poll says that around 60% of Americans approve of homosexual marriage. If that number is true, it is sad because that would mean 60% of the people in our nation approve of a sin that God says will keep you out of heaven. Then we could add abortion to this as well because it’s murder. The list could go on, but we can clearly see that Paul message could have been to our nation as well.
I hope this lesson has shown you why it’s so important that we continue to preach the gospel message because our nation needs to hear it and turn from their sins. I also, hope you seen why would should never be ashamed of the truth, and I hope we never forget how powerful God’s message really is. For those who will listen, it will change their lives forever and rescue them from spending eternity in hell.