Dr. Bill Peters
Romans Week 6 August 23, 2020
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS NEEDED BY SINFUL MAN
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROVIDED BY GOD
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS RECEIVED THROUGH FAITH
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS EXPERIENCED IN LIFE
B. THE FACT DEMONSTRATED (1:21-2:29)
1. The gross sinner (1 :21-32) -the pagan gentile world.
2. The moralist sinner (2:1-16) -moralizing hypocritical philosophers.
3. The religious sinner (2:17-29) -Jewish and all other religious hypocrites.
1.THE GROSS SINNER (1 :21-32)
In these verses Paul describes the bulk of the Gentile world, showing the process of degeneration and the resultant conduct. What is true of entire civilizations and world communities is also true of the individuals who make up such categories. Therefore, the process that works in society is the product of individual degeneration. There is much instruction here to help us understand the day in which we live. Let us consider these verses under two headings.
a. The process of degeneration (21-23)
b. The product of degeneration (24-32)
b. The product of degeneration (24-32)
"The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all UNGODLINESS and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS" (vs. 18). "Ungodliness" was shown in verses 21-23
to consist of turning FROM God to idols, just as being converted to "godliness" is turning TO God from idols" (1 Thess. 1 :9). "UNRighteousness" is the conduct which characterizes the one who has turned from "the truth" (vs. 18, 25) of the revelation of God. We have just considered "the PROCESS of degeneration", showing the steps or stages by which man moves from the
"knowledge" of God to foolish and degrading idolatry. We are now to see the manner in which the wrath of God is visited on these deliberate degenerates, or "the PRODUCTof degeneration".
Let it be noted: that when men turn from God, Who alone shows, declares, and enables what is right, they engage in every kind of wrong. It has been been said, that it doesn't matter what one believes. This is not so. To turn from God, which is "ungodliness", is to turn to every form of misconduct, which is "unrighteousness". As we shall see, "religious degeneracy is penalized by abandonment to immorality".
The plain teaching of this passage is, that when men abandon God, God abandons men. This divine abandonment is expressed in the ominous phrase "God gave them up" or "over" (vs. 24,26,28). Such abandonment involves the withdrawal of divine restraints on men so that they are given over to the unhindered practice of all wickedness. "It is a judicial abandonment. He withdraws from the wicked the restraints of His providence and grace, and gives them over to the dominion of sin." "He positively withdraws His hand; He ceases to hold the boat as it is dragged by the current of the river." "My Spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3) was the warning which preceded the flood.
God's wrath is manifested both processively and critically. There is the judgment of God proceeding constantly in the miserable fruits which sin produces in the lives of men who have abandoned God. Then there are times of great critical judgment such as the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Jerusalem, and other historical demonstrations of God's holy displeasure. Then there is the ultimate "death", which word carries such terrible implications of judgment in the hereafter.
The operation of "the wrath of God" in history is not a pleasant picture. One writer has said that the "last nine verses in the first chapter of Romans are the most terrible in the Bible. This is the description of mankind abandoned by God and the scene is a frightful one."
Each time the phrase "God gave them up" is used, it is in connection with the fact that such as were so abandoned wanted nothing to do with God. We will consider the section in relation to the three uses of this fearful verdict.
1) "God Gave Them Up" (24,25)
1) "God Gave Them Up" (24,25)
These two verses begin and end by referring to the reason for the divine abandonment of men. It is their "ungodliness". Verse 24 opens with
"Wherefore"; which points back to verses 21-23 where we have the description of man's downward journey from God to idolatry. 'Wherefore God also gave them up." Then verse 25 again tells us why God gave them up.
a) That To Which God Gave Them Up (24)
JBP - "God gave them up - to be the playthings of their own foul desires in dishonouring their own bodies."
NEB - "God has given them up to the vileness of their own desires, and the consequent degradation of their bodies."
Moff. - "So God has given them up, in their heart's lust, to sexual vice, to the dishonouring of their own bodies."
Men had degraded God to the image of "corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (vs. 23). They had done this because they wanted to "go their own way". Their own way was the way of "unrighteousness". When it was evident to God that man had abandoned Him and degraded Him, He withdrew His providential restraints and let sin take its toll on His rebellious creature. The result was, that as man had degraded his God, he now degraded himself.
"Uncleanness" as used by Paul elsewhere indicates that he is speaking of "sexual vice" or "aberrations". It is significant that violation of the divine ordinance concerning sex relationships precipitated the two great historic demonstrations of divine judgment as recorded in scripture - the flood. and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The wide prevalence of sexual vice has also marked the decay and destruction of civilizations and nations as recorded in profane historical accounts.
b) Why God Gave Them Up (25)
NEB - "Because they have bartered away the true God for a false
one, and have offered reverence and worship to created things instead of to the Creator, who is blessed forever; amen."
.JBP..: "These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie, paying homage and giving service to the creature instead of to the Creator, who alone is worthy to be worshipped for ever and ever, amen."
Again and again Paui strikes this note! Men are degraded because they have degraded God. To rule out God is to destroy self.
The interesting thing here is that men are spoken of as worshippers. They realize that one should have SOME religious attitude. But they have replaced the true God with gods of their own making, which gods will permit and condone their unrighteousness. In the Old Testament, idols were referred to as "falsehoods" (Jer. 13:25; 16:19). Their religion is a deception which supports them in their degeneration and blinds them to the fact that they are under the judgment of divine abandonment. "Ephraim is joined to idols: LET HIM ALONE." (Hos. 4:17).
2) "God Gave Them Up" (26,27)
JBP - "God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions."
NEB..- "God gave them up to shameful passions."
In verse 24, Paul had stated that God had given men up to "uncleanness", and we pointed out that the word meant "sexual abberations" or "vice". in the other writings of Paul. He now points out, that such uncleanness not only has to do with heterosexual sins such as fornication and adultery, but also "the homosexual abomination". When God gives men up to these things it is a sign of an impending crisis judgment. The present "sex revolution" may well be a fulfilment of the principle here expounded. If anyone thinks Paul's description of the conditions of the Gentile
world is overstated he need only consult the writings of the secular authors of those times. "Dark as the picture here drawn is, it is not so dark as that presented by the most distinguished Greek and Latin authors of their own countrymen." And we might add, that those who are describing the present day in which we live in much that is being currently written, are confirming the accuracy of the Pauline picture of abandoned men.
Again at the end of verse 27 we find Paul putting his finger on the reason for this unspeakable condition, where he says that these "unclean" people are "receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet". To deliberately turn from God is to invite Divine abandonment. Such abandonment permits the uncontrolled indulgence in every form of self-destructive lust. Thus the terrible harvest of degradation, sorrow, and social spoilation is a just "recompense". God is not arbi· trary in His judgment. The judgment of God is "according to truth" as we shall learn later (2:2).
3) "God Gave Them Over" (28-32)
JBP • "He allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds." NEB• "He has given them up to their own depraved reason."
Once more Paul refers to man's "ungodliness". Remember, these two :always go together. Men wallow in the filth of unrighteousness because they turn from the purity of "godliness".
The reason "God gave them over to a reprobate mind" was that "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge", or as Phillips says, "they considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God". They "did not think it worth the trouble to retain the knowledge of God. They considered religion as useless, and supposed they could live without God." "The idea is that they did not think God worthy to be kept in their knowledge. They had come to such a high opinion of themselves that they had a low opinion of God."
They thought God wasn't worthy of remembering. God in turn manifested His judgment by "giving them up to their own depraved reasoning". "A reprobate mind" is "a mind that is rejected because deemed worthless, a mind abandoned or rejected of God and therefore not fit for any activity worthy of approbation or esteem". What a terrible judgment!
The result of this abandonment was that they "do those things which are not convenient". They "break all rules of conduct" (NEB) and "perform unmentionable deeds" (JBP). Then follows a list of such "unmentionable deeds" as characterize abandoned men and an abandoned society. There are other sins mentioned in other parts of Paul's writings, so this does not include all, however, "it is the most formidable list of sins to be found in the Word of God". Let us briefly look at each.
a) "Unrighteousness" - "Injustice, wrong, iniquity, falsehood, deceitfulness."
b) "Wickedness"• "Evil disposition of mind, mischief, malignity."
c) "Covetousness"• "To take advantage of another's simpleness, to overreach, to defraud."
d) "Maliciousness''• "Ill will, malice, malignity, a desire to injure."
e) "Full of Envy"• "To feel displeasure and ill will at the superiority of another in happiness, success, reputation, or the possession of anything desirable; to regard with discontent another's possession of some superior advantage which one would like to have for oneself."
f) "Murder"• "The unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another."
g) "Debate" - "Strife."
h) "Deceit" - "This word in the Greek means 'fish bait' and by extension came to mean to lure, to ensnare, to beguile."
i) "Malignity" - "Evil disposition, bad character."
j) "Whisperers" - "Secret slanderers."