For an introduction to this series, click here.
July 2, 2007
Okay, here we go. I'm really not sure exactly when Paul wrote Romans, but this is probably the pinnacle of his epistles.
Paul opens with a typical opening for him. He opens with his name and his favorite title, "a servant of Christ Jesus called to be an apostle." (1:1) We will probably delve into Paul's openings later in his epistles.
He mentions that he wants to go to Rome but has not been there yet. This means this is likely the only of Paul's epistles he wrote to a person or group he had never met yet. I'm not really sure how significant that is, but it is interesting.
I can't let this pass without commenting, since this is an important theme in the New Testament. Verses 16 and 17 are very familiar: "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.'" This is one of about four times Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in the New Testament. The main theme of this chapter, and of the first part of Romans, is the righteousness of God. Paul says here that God's righteousness is revealed to those who live by faith.
The most significant portion of this epistle is the last section. There was a time that parts of this chapter were not read publicly in church or even in polite company because of the subject matter. But in today's society it is a powerful warning against the rampant sins of our age.
Note how in this chapter it is a willful denial of the truth that leads to ruin. We will see this over and over again in this chapter. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (1:18) "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 reptiles." (1:21-23) God gives man opportunities to know him, and verse 20 tells us that all men are without excuse because all of creation testifies of God's power and deity. But man comes up with other explanations for these testimonies about God. Always has. Don't think that the idea of evolution is the first time man has tried to explain God away. This has been happening all through history.
Note the progression here. They knew God, but they did not acknowledge Him. They willfully ignored the facts about God they saw in nature and that they heard proclaimed by His teachers. Now notice what happens: "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. 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. 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." (1:24-31, ESV)
We can see how this has happened in our society and in other societies around the world. Man ignores God. When he ignores God, he comes up with other explanations for the world and what he sees around him. When he begins to believe those explanations he comes up with, he begins to realize that since he has explained God away, there is no need to feel obligated to obey Him or any other moral code. So he does whatever feels good. It doesn't necessarily happen to one man or even in a generation, but that is the progression, and it is the reason for all the sin in our world today. Man has forgotten God. When man successfully removes God from his thinking, he becomes a really smart animal, and does things not even animals do for his own pleasure and thrills.