Lesson 68: "When They Knew God, They Glorified Him Not As God" (Romans 1:21)
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. Welcome to lesson # 68. Alright,, in this lesson we would like to cover Rom. 1:18-32, about 13 verses at the end of Romans chapter one. Remember now, Romans is not an easy book. You need to get the test in front of you. You may have to read this several times to begin to get it embedded into your skull. For some reason, this section is super hard for me. But, let me see if I can give you a little insight before we read. First (by way of review), there is a righteousness (i.e. righteousness of God) that comes by faith, you will remember from our last lesson; revealed through the gospel (v.17); a righteousness of God imputed (Rom. 4:11, Jas. 4:22), i.e. righteousness of God imputed for faith. It's the theme of this book, we said. Secondly, there was a kind of righteousness in the law, you will remember. I'm talking about the law of Moses. We defined the righteousness in the law as doing or conducting one's self as expected. Do you remember that? We covered that in our last lesson. We said the righteousness in the law, and the righteousness of God (a term that occurs first in Rom. 1:17) is not the same. So, don't get them confused. You MUST keep these separated in your mind to understand Paul's point here. Then, in the third place, plug in a new term (or another term) that occurs in v.18; the word is "unrighteousness." Thus, we have two kids of righteousness and, now, Unrighteousness. Have you got it? Whereas the righteousness of God, imputed for faith, will bring life, i.e. "The just shall live by faith" or "The righteous through faith shall live"; [now, look at v.18] "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all...unrighteousness of men." You might think of righteousness as being on the reward side of the coin and unrighteousness as being on the punishment side of the coin.
Before we read, one more thing! After Paul stated his point here in v. 16-17, "The just shall live by faith;" the apostle then began immediately to discuss unrighteousness, i.e. V.lSff is in contrast to v.17. Almost all of the commentators are agreed that in v. 18-32 (the remainder of chapter one) Paul is speaking of the Gentiles; although no specific reference is made to the Gentiles in those verses. Then, the apostle did a transition and began to discuss the unrighteousness of the Jews (ch. 2). Sop, he didn't sight either group; but he began with the Gentiles it would appear. Remember now, the wrath of God is against all unrighteousness. What is unrighteousness? Unrighteousness means injustice or iniquity on the part of man with respect to God. So, this is what Paul is discussing in v. 18-32). The Gentiles first! Let's read! Here we go! Get hour claws into this text! Beginning in v. 18: 'Tor the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness ofmen, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for god hath showed it unto them. 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: 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. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 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: and like wise 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 recompense of their error which was meet. 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; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, with out natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only to the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
Alright, back-up to v.18 and let's get picky. Take a look at the third word from the end of v.18; the word is "truth" T-R-U-T-H. What is truth" We've covered that word before. Truth simply means: reality. That's the way it is! But, when it comes to God; many refuse to accept reality. V. 18 say, "the wrath of God" is i.e. the punishment of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (of what?) ofmen. Apparently, ungodliness and unrighteousness are two words meaning essentially the same thing. Where does God's wrath come from? It is revealed from heaven. To which unrighteous men is God's wrath revealed? Those "who hold the truth in unrighteousness..." (End of v. 18) In other words, a man either accepts the righteousness of God or he rejects it. If he accepts the gospel and trusts in the gospel and develops confidence in the gospel; he has faith, i.e. faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that he died for our sins, that he died on the cross, was buried and arose again the third day, that Jesus is in heave right now. To those who have this confidence (called faith) "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" (v.17) That gives one the power to become a child of God (John 1:12). Obedience and conformity to that faith in the gospel will save. James said, "show me thy faith without thy works, and 1 will show thee my faith by my works." And "faith without works is dead." (James ch. 2). Remember, "The just shall live by faith." But, in contrast "the wrath of God is revealed...against all...unrighteousness ofmen", i.e. men "who hold the truth in unrighteousness." What does it mean to hold the truth in unrighteousness? If we put the two definitions together (truth and unrighteousness); we have men holding or substituting injustice or iniquity for reality. That's another way of saying they have rejected faith in the gospel, i.e. truth. Now, why is it that they reject it? Maybe they just don't know, have never had an opportunity to learn and can't find out! Is that it? Now, if that were the case; they wouldn't be holding the truth in unrighteousness. Would they? Well, focus in v. 19! "Because!" Now "because" means for this reason. So, here's the reason! O.K. for what reason? BECAUSE that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them." Manifest means, very simply, to make known. Next question! How did God show it to them? V. 20, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen..." Now, how is it seen" "Being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal and Godhead..." It's too much here to say that a sufficient knowledge of God and his existence is coded into every facet of nature and man needs nothing more. There are evidences in nature, yes. But, that is not to say it is written on every wall and inscribed at the base of every hair. But, God HAS through his prophets and through Jesus Christ made known ENOUGH to understand the power of God. It requires investigation on our part, yes, Today, there's at least one dusty bible on every coffee table. BUT, who reads it? The gospel is the power of God unto salvation -toWHO? (V.16)"toeveryonethatbelieveth." Later in 10:17, he says "faith cometh by hearing, and by hearing the word of God." Thus, God has always made enough information and knowledge known and available to even the Gentiles for us to find our way spiritually. However, what if one simply refuse to believe or even investigate? That is the implication here, I would infer. The anser is at the end of v.20, "they are without excuse." WHY? V.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." What happened? When they learned, even the first little iota about God, they refused to obey and they refused to respect God or obey God and they refused the information that was manifested to them. Why would any of us do that? Conceit and foolishness! Paul explained it in v.22: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools..." They refused to do it god's way! They preferred to worship images or idols (v.23), "made like to corruptible man, and to birds...four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Isn't it funny? Every man wants his own idol and his own god (little "g"). Today, it's church building with a 35 foot steeple. Big organizations that give glory to men. Go to the church of YOUR choice! Have you heard it? The almighty dollar and material things are what's important. If you reject God on his terms; then the next step is to become self sufficient. Momma! Me do it! If a mess can be made out of it; man can do it! It's pretty easy to become vain in our imaginations, too (v.21). When we reject God and put our trust in ourselves and in material things; it isn't long until our foolish heart is darkened (end of v.21). Man ought to have a choice! It's my body! Have you been through all that rhetoric? What comes next? Homosexuality is a choice of life styles. We have our rights! God wants me to do it my way! A lot of those foolish hearts have been darkened in this old world. I'm going to let you read v.24-25-26-27. If you don't understand that; just turn on your TV set! Almost every program and almost every sponsor is polluted with this idea. Even the wildest Gentiles in Rome (of Paul's day) would probably be embarrassed by most of our TV programs and all the flaunted homosexuality in America today. OH! I was born that way! If you are a homosexual; let me tell you this: you learned it! And #2, you didn't learn it from that which was manifest from God (v. 19-20). You better think it through again! God didn't say: do it your way. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all [how many is that?, all] ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (v.18). Yes, but I'm an exception! How foolish and how conceited can we be? Yes, but Bro. Horsley, homosexuals ought to have a right to their own belief..Why shouldn't we accept them? They are God's children too. Don't be deluded my friend! V. 24 says plainly; "God...gave them up!" And if God gave up the homosexuals in the Roman empire; don't you be deluded about today. Who did God give up? Those "who change the truth of God into a lie..." (V.25). Paul couldn't say it plainer, if he was right here, right now. They will "receive in themselves that recompense of their error which is meet." (End of v.27). The Old English word "meet" means appropriate. If you don't understand that; read v.18 again. Some in our day are trying to take homosexuality out of the closet as they say. They want to make it acceptable and therefore respectable or take the sin out of it. But, the old apostle hit the nail on the head in v.28,, "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge." How does God react to that? "God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient..." Read that again! Not convenient? Let me translate! It's convenient in Satan's department; but, not acceptable to God. I think it might be a little hard to get a homosexual church of that, too. That just took them out of v.l 7 and put them into the jurisdiction of v.18. Look at it close. The punishment of God is revealed against ALL unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
Then, down in v.29, the apostle took the time to list a few words that fit in that same department of unrighteousness. That list strings all the way down through v.31. I suppose it would take about two sessions for us to dissect and define all those words; but, since I trust you, I'm going to leave it with you. So, get out your dictionary and do it up right. While you are here, you might want to compare this list to Paul's catalog on the works ofthe flesh; beginning back in Galatians 5:19. As a matter of fact, you'll find some ofthe same terms there. Take the time to increase your word power like they do it in Readers Digest. You'll want to recognize these terms from henceforth for ever; because, Paul said (v.32), "they which commit such things are worthy of death..." That means spiritual death. There's a four letter word that, pronounced: "hell." And that takes us back to that "wrath of God' business back up in v.18. Over in the Galatian list, Paul ended his list, you'll remember, "and such like." We said that means (in effect) he left a few fill-in-the-blanks. Here in Romans 1:32, he said, "they which commit such things..." So, I think you get the idea: Paul's list is suggestive and not exhaustive.
Now, before I park this microphone; let's do a little review. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles wrote to "all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints..." (v.7). This letter is to the saints (or Christians) that resided in Rome, the capital of the empire. Paul planned to visit them. It was Paul's first visit to Rome. He said hi v. 15, "I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." In v.l6, Paul began to elaborate upon that gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Pal said he was not ashamed of that gospel and that gospel was/is the power of God to be saved; i.e. if you believe or have faith in Jesus Christ, God's Son. Through that gospel of God's power; the righteousness of God is revealed. That righteousness of God is imputed by faith. Our faith is accounted as righteousness of God from one degree of faith to higher and higher degrees of faith. Or to say it more simply and through a quote from the O.T., Paul said: "The just shall live by faith." The "just" of course, are those that have the righteousness of God imputed to them by their faith. They shall "live", i.e. be saved. Then abruptly, in v.18, the apostle turned the coin over and began to discuss those who hold the truth in unrighteousness. God's wrath is revealed from heaven against them. Anyone can know God's will, develop saving faith and escape the wrath of God; if they will thank God, glorify God and lean His will and not depend upon their own wisdom and allow their foolish hearts to be darkened (v.21-22). When a man ignores his duties to God and depends upon his own wisdom; he soon drifts into uncleanness, homosexuality, covetousness and commits "such things" as occur in Paul's list, v.28-31.
I hope you're enjoying your study in Romans. Take the time to read and re-read. Plow deep! It's a great store house of spiritual food. Don't forget your word study. Other translations use different words. We'll begin Rom. Ch.2 in our next lesson. Have a good day.