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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bill Peters

Week 5 8/16/2020 Ern Baxter's Exposition on Romans via Dr. Bill Peters

Updated: Aug 23, 2020






Paul has showed thus far that men become righteous through the gospel. The alter­native to "the gift of righteousness" (5:17) is "the wrath of God" which is "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness". Nor do men have any excuse for their un­

righteousness, but are guilty of deliberately turning from light and choosing


At this point we are shown the process of degeneration in unrighteous men. He

will conclude this section by telling us that "all have sinned" and that "there is

none righteous, no,not one". The Gentiles have sinned against the revelation of

creation, and the Jews have sinned against the light of revelation.

As we view the inspired description of the degeneration of men up to, and in­

cluding Paul's day, we are considering a process that is true at all times in all men who choose unrighteousness instead of "the truth". Sin is basically man "turn­

ing to his own way" (Isa. 53:6). When man chooses his own course of conduct as opposed to what God wills for him, that is sin! That choice of conduct may mani­fest itself in different ways, but it doesn't alter the fact that it is sin. So, in this

section Paul refers to three kinds of sinners. Remember, all of these are "going

their own way" even though manifesting their independence differently. The

three kinds are:

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)

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a. The Process of Degeneration (21-23)

1) Irreverence -"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God."

JBP • "They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such."

In considering the history of mankind, Paul states that men started out with a knowledge of God. The filth and corruption which has characterized the conduct of men (apart of course from thos􀀧 who have been changed by the grace of God) is the result of devolution and not evolution. "Scripture ever represents the human race as having fallen and becoming degraded; not as having risen gradually to any intelligent conceptions of God at all." Originally men knew God as they "clearly saw" and "understood by the things that are made, his eternal power and divinity". God has given man the capacity to "actually possess an intelligible revelation of the divine existence and perfections".

The first step on the downward road was, and is, IRREVERENCE. They refused to give Him the place in their thinking and conduct which He, as the Creator should have from His rational creatures. The very fact that their innate knowledge of His existence caused them to provide for themselves substitutes for true worship, indi­cates that there was no question in their minds that there was a God. However, because of their choosing their "own way" they withheld from God the kind of love, devotion, and obedience which was His right "as God". Men know there is a God. They will en­gage in certain religious practices to show that they believe in a God. But they will not glorify Him as the God who has revealed Himself to men and has required that they respond to Him in accord with that revelation.

2) Ingratitude - "Neither were thankful."

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1 :17). It is a short step from irreverence to ingratitude. When there is failure to glorify God for what He􀁒 there follows an absence of gratitude for what He DOES.

Paul found the remnants of the original knowledge of God among the heathen when he visited Athens and discovered an alter inscribed "TO THE UNKNOWN GOD". He proceeded to tell them Who

this God was, and in so doing, reminded them that the "God that made the world and all things therein," also "GIVETH TO ALL

LI FE, and breath, and ALL THINGS" (Acts 17). The one true God is the Giver of "every good gift". When the "Known" God is "unknown" then every form of greed, avarice, and self-congratula­tion replaces a proper gratitude to God. You manifest your regard for a person when you ref use to express gratitude for a favor done.

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3) Irresponsibility • "Became vain in their imaginations."

Berk. - "Indulged in their useless speculations."

"The mind of man is never a religious vacuum; if there is the ab­sence of the true, there is always the presence of the false." Having turned from God in irreverence and ingratitude men became irrespon­sible in their thoughts about God, and indulged in speculative reasonings. They indulged in "worthless speculation about God". The word "imaginations" or "reasonings", as the margin renders

it, "is always taken by the writers of the New Testament in an un­favorable sense; it denotes THE UNREGULATED ACTIVITY OF THE UNDERSTANDING, IN THE SERVICE OF A CORRUPT HEART."

It is interesting to note, that even when men refuse God their devo­tion and gratitude, they cannot refrain from thinking about Him and formulating their own baseless theories as to His nature and conduct. "Once we abandon obedience to the true God we begin to SUBSTITUTE OURSELVES FOR GOD. The history of philoso­phy is that man became the measure of things rather than God the measure of things. Today man judges God on the basis of his own concepts rather than judging himself according to the revealed con­cepts. With the increase of our knowledge, men today say that

they can have nothing to do with the justice of the God of the Old Testament, with a miracle working God of the New or with the atoning God of the Lord Jesus Christ. They, in turn, create their own conception of God and fall down and WORSHIP IT, which

is nothing else than idolatry."

4) Ignorance - "Their foolish heart was darkened."

Berk. • "Their stupid minds were all in the dark."

Moff. • "Till their ignorant minds grew dark."

The word "heart" when used in the Bible figuratively, denotes

"the center of the soul's life, of the will, of thought and of emotion". So we see the process of devolution and degeneration. Man turns from God "as God"; refuses to acknowledge Him as the Giver of life and "all things"; to cover his disobedience and try to quiet the voice of conscience he engages in silly evasive speculations about the God he knows exists; and now must pay the awful penalty - LIFE IN THE DARKNESS OF DAMNING IGNORANCE! "It is not merely intellectual darkness or ignorance which the apostle describes in this verse, but THE WHOLE MORAL STATE."

A further sobering point must be here observed. The words "was darkened" indicate that this terrible ignorance is not only the result of the human acts of disobedience, but also involves a form of divine penalty.

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5) Inanity - "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."

BP - "Behind a facade of "wisdom" they became just fools."

NEB• "They boast of their wisdom, but they have made fools of themselves."

The word "philosopher" means literally "lover of wisdom". It can have a good sense for there is "a wisdom which is from above" and all who love such, are philosophers in the best sense. This is not what Paul has in mind here. The irreverent, ungrateful, irresponsible, ignorant men referred to by Paul, had formulated their own theories of life and God, and in the light of divine truth had "made fools of themselves". Their "wisdom" is not wisdom at all. It is baseless speculation springing from disobedient hearts and having no connection whatsoever with the truth about God as revealed in nature, providence, conscience, the Scriptures, or the Lord Jesus Christ. The nature of such inanity is seen in the con­duct of these "fools" in the next verse.

6) Idolatry - "Changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image."

JBP - "Exchange the glory of the immortal God for an

imitation image."

This does not mean of course, that men have changed the glory of God. That is unchangeable. Rather, they exchanged the true object of wor­ship, "the glory of the uncorruptible God" for "an image". They have reached the ultimate. God has been replaced. "Corruptible man" whose "breath is in his nostrils", and who is 􀁨ut a heartbeat from death, puts himself in the place of the "uncorruptible God". "Fools", to be sure! What Paul refers to could be seen in his day. The Greeks had their man worship in Appello. "Birds" were worshipped in Rome where the eagle was deified, and the ibis and the hawk were objects of worship in Egypt. "Fourfooted beasts" received the adoration of the Egyptians among others, and Philo says that "the whole land of Egypt was covered with temples and groves dedicated to dogs,wolves, lions, land and water animals, crocodiles, birds, etc". In modern times, Mahatmi Ghandi said, "Hinduism's worship of the cow, is, in my opinion, its unique contribution to the EVOLUTION OF HUMANITARIANISM. It is a practical application of the belief in the sacredness of life." The reptile in Assyria and the crocodile in Egypt fulfill Paul's reference to "creeping things".

What a terrible picture of the process of human degeneration. Men are indeed "fools" who turn from the glory and goodness of God to wallow in the mire of their self-imposed ignorance and insolent idolatry. The verses we are to consider next describe the moral filth which accompanies such degeneracy and the necessary intervention of God to judge His re­bellious creature. "Man made gods in his own image, and it was soon seen, that the image had become that of a beast."

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