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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Are You Eager?


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“So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”
Romans 1:15 KJV

The love Paul felt for God and for other people compelled-obliged-him to preach to the Romans. Though he’d never met them, he felt obligated to God. That means he felt duty-bound to share the gospel so other people could know the love of God, know Jesus, and receive salvation and eternal life. Paul’s response to God’s love was love for Him through obedience and love for people so they could know of God’s love, too.

A very important point comes in this verse. Paul said he was “eager.” The word “eager” comes from a Greek word meaning ready and willing. Readiness is God’s part of the equation; willingness is a person’s side. Paul’s rabbinical training, his love for God and people, and God’s calling on his life made him ready. God gave what he needed to do the task to which He called him. That’s one side of “eager.” The other side of “eager” is willingness. Paul’s attitude and obedience to God’s calling showed him willing to obey Him.


This is eagerness, acknowledging God’s preparation of us for His task and stepping out in faith with obedience to what God calls us.

Lord, please show us Your way and prepare us for the task to which you call us. Help us to be willing to obey Your calling and step out in faith knowing you have prepared us. Amen.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Guilt of Man

Introduction

In the last Bible study from Romans 1:18-23, Paul relayed to the pagans/Gentiles they could not say they did not know God. God reveals Himself in creation and in His active creative presence in the world. Paul said God’s wrath reveals itself against ungodliness and unrighteousness in people for suppressing truth. This truth he spoke of is of God Himself. He explained in verse nineteen, God made Himself evident within them. The Gentiles/pagans knew God in their hearts, but denied His existence even though He made His attributes of eternal power and divinity clearly known. Paul said these people had no excuse for denying God. God is evident in the world. Paul continued in these verses saying these people did not honor God or give Him thanks. They had foolish hearts because of their internal debate; they thought themselves wiser than God. These Gentiles (pagans) chose to follow their own desires and reasoned God out of their minds and hearts. Paul said they chose to follow unrighteous ways by exchanging the glory of God for manmade images of man, birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures-created things-instead of the Source of these things, the Creator-God, perishable rather than eternal. This showed their ultimate foolishness because they worshiped created things instead of the Creator-mortal things instead of immortal God. God gives each person freewill to choose to be in a right relationship with Him or to turn away from Him and follow the reasonings and whims of their own minds and hearts. By exchanging the glory of God for images, Gentiles (pagans) were guilty of worshiping other gods.

With this Bible study, we will consider what comes from foolish and futile reasoning. Paul said God allowed Gentiles (pagans) to follow their own hearts and decisions and reap the results of them. They walked in guilt from creating idols in verse twenty-three. In verses twenty-four through thirty-two, Paul listed the unrighteous actions, thoughts, and words that come from unrighteous decisions and living. He then used them to juxtapose with the righteous decision of living in a relationship with God-honoring, glorifying, and giving thanks to Him. The ungodliness and unrighteousness Paul spoke of affects a person’s body, mind, and spirit. It brings guilt of sins done by one’s body, mind, and spirit.


Verses eighteen through twenty-two explain the foolishness and ignorance of Gentiles (pagans) for turning away from God, who is evident in the world. Verses twenty-three through thirty-two expound on the sins that come from turning away from God and deciding to live without Him. As Paul explained, the pagans/Gentiles had no excuse for ignorance. God makes Himself evident. In the following verses, Paul explained they had no excuse for the guilt of idolatry (heart), sexual sins (body), or sins that come from the mind that adversely affect themselves or other people. Let’s now consider verses twenty-four through thirty-two with the rest of this Bible study.

Guilt of the Heart

Verses eighteen through twenty-three speak about the foolishness and ignorance of pagans/Gentiles for choosing to turn away from God who made Himself clearly evident to all people through creation and His active creative presence. Verses twenty-four and twenty-five give greater meaning to verse twenty-three. Verse twenty-three alluded to idol worship. Paul said in twenty-three, “[they] exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds, and of four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (NASB) Making statues or art of things in creation is not wrong. What you do with those statues and art could be wrong.

In verses twenty-four and twenty-five, Paul said,
Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (NASB)
First, we must note, the word “therefore” expresses an action or thought now because of something earlier. “Therefore” looks backward to look forward properly. Because they loved images of creatures, they worshiped them. “Therefore” since they made idols, God gave them over to run their own lives instead of following Him. He allowed them to follow their own hearts. “Therefore,” they dishonored God and their own bodies. The word “therefore” carries much weight. The two-word verb “gave over” comes from the Greek word paradidomi and means to deliver over, hand over, or abandon. The word “lusts” comes from epithumia and means to focus on a passionate desire. It expresses a passion built on strong feelings or urges. Paul said, God abandoned the Gentiles (pagans, and all people, really) to the passions of their hearts and the result of those passions. The result of passions not based on God is impurity. Impurity means unclean in the Greek language. This uncleanness comes from being sinful, which keeps a person from being right before God. Impurity dishonored and defiled the pagans/Gentiles’ bodies. The pagans'/Gentiles’ worshiping the idols defiled their bodies and showed they dishonored themselves.  Paul spoke of this in Romans 1:26 & 28, too. The pagans/Gentiles dishonored themselves by focusing on the statues with lust. They chose to care more about the statues than about God. This brought shame upon them and made them have lower worth. The impurity of the pagans/Gentiles came from rebelling against God and lusting, desiring with passion. It came from not following Him, but following something else. Paul spoke about lust of the flesh in Ephesians 2:3, too. He said in Ephesians in times past believers had walked in the lust of the flesh by fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind. Believers were children of God’s wrath before they accepted Jesus as their Savior. Each person deserves the penalty for sinning against God. Jesus paid the penalty so we can be in a right relationship with God since He will not be where sin is.


In verse twenty-five, with the word “for” Paul told the pagans/Gentiles their sin when they turned away from honoring, thanking, and glorifying God. He told them they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Paul told the pagans/Gentiles their blatant denial of God led them to dishonor themselves in God’s eyes. He said, they chose to lust after other gods, things they desired other than God, by making gods out of statues in the shapes of creatures. Instead of acknowledging the truth of God as evidenced in creation, they chose to believe an untruth. With this belief, the pagans/Gentiles worshiped and served the physical images of the untruth they believed. Jeremiah 10:14 speaks about handmade images. He said, “Every man is brutish in his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image; for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.” (NASB) Images people make, idols, have no breath and are imperishable. Only God who created the resources and the model for the image is immortal, divine, and powerful. Paul said this with the end of verse twenty-five when he said only the Creator is blessed forever. He meant only God is truly worthy of praise and will exist for eternity. God is everlasting and worthy of praise, honor, and glory.

God allowed the Gentiles (pagans) to become what they began. They wanted to worship things instead of Him. God allowed them to have freewill. Paul said these people considered themselves wise and followed their own ways. The pagans/Gentiles, he said, did more than make statues. In following their foolish ways, they worshiped the image of the creature, not the Creator. The pagans/Gentiles became impure and dishonored themselves. They exchanged the truth for a lie and worshiped it.

·         Is there something or someone you think about and give more consideration to than holy God?
·         Do you recognize Him in creation and His continuing creative process?
·         Do you hear and feel His conviction in your heart?
·         What do you do when you recognize God and feel convicted? Do you turn your back on Him refusing to give Him credence? Or, do you turn toward Him, ask forgiveness, and do what He says?

Guilt of the Body

With verses twenty-six and twenty-seven, Paul explained how the pagans'/Gentiles’ decisions to worship manmade idols and follow their own desires affected their bodies and lives. In verses twenty-four and twenty-five, he said their lusts made them impure and dishonored (defiled) them. The pagans/Gentiles worshiped things other than God and by doing so made themselves as high or higher than God in their lives, in their minds and hearts. When a person chooses to do what he/she wants in the face of doing what is right according to God that person makes him or herself his or her own god. Paul said in these verses, by choosing to follow their own ways, making their own decisions and being their own god, this rebellion caused impurity. With verses twenty-four and twenty-five, the impurity of the heart came from worshiping creature rather than Creator. This impurity in worship can lead to impurity in the body and mind of a person.

In verses twenty-six and twenty-seven, the impurity from worshiping self-that person’s decisions-affects the body. Paul said in these verses,
For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (NASB)
The phrase “for this reason” refers back to what went before like the word “therefore.” “For this reason,” the pagans'/Gentiles’ worshiping self over God, God allowed them to experience the consequences of making themselves their own gods. He allowed them freedom of choice and to experience the results of those choices. Basically, God took His hands off (“gave them over”) the pagans/Gentiles and let the natural result occur. He delivered them to their own control. The natural result was the pagans/Gentiles dishonored and defiled themselves. God gave them control of their own decisions and gave them over to their degrading passions. The passions of the pagans/Gentiles were uncontrolled; they did whatever came to their minds. Their passions (“lusts” of verse twenty-four) controlled them. Even the pagans/Gentiles could not control themselves when they allowed their lusts-desires or great passions-to lead them.

Paul explained the results to the body of allowing the lusts of the mind and heart. He explained these degrading passions for men and women that caused impurity. Paul said their women exchanged the natural function for the unnatural, what is against nature. That may seem vague until you understand the words in this verse and read verse twenty-seven which Paul hinged with verse twenty-six. The word “exchanged” comes from the Greek word metallasso and means to change or transform. The word “function” comes from the Greek word chresis, a feminine noun used to speak of the sexual use or intercourse of a woman. This means the woman who made herself her own god and chose not to follow God transformed the natural function of sexual intercourse for herself to an unnatural one, one contrary to nature the way God made it. What is the natural function? Let’s consider what Paul said in verse twenty-seven.

Paul said in verse twenty-seven, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts.” (NASB) In this verse, Paul stated the women in verse twenty-six were inflamed (burned in their lust) for women and had sexual intercourse with other women instead of with men. He said men did the same with other men. Paul said these desires are unnatural; they were indecent. The word “unnatural” Paul used comes from the Greek word that means contrary to the order of nature. Women transformed or altered the natural function of sexual intercourse. Men abandoned (aphiemi)-sent away or released-the natural function of sexual intercourse with women. They removed it from their minds and chose to follow their own desires. Instead of doing that for which God created male and female bodies, to join man and woman, the Gentile men and women abandoned it and burned in desire (orexis-inflamed with a strong lust and longing) for a person of the same sex. Paul applied this to the women of verse twenty-six and the men of verse twenty-seven.

Not only do these acts cast aside the natural ways God created men and women to fit together for procreation and pleasure, it goes against God’s laws. They are “indecent deeds” according to Paul. These “indecent acts” (aschemosune) mean they are shameless and improper behavior that fails to fulfill the needed purpose. In Leviticus 18:22, God told the Israelites through Moses, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (NASB) Later in Leviticus 20:13a, God said, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act.” (NASB). In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul continued this thought when he wrote to the people of Corinth. He said, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither shall the fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” (NASB) The words “abomination” and “detestable” come from the same Hebrew word meaning disgusting, wicked, unclean, and unrighteous. “Unrighteous” comes from the word adikos and means sinful, not right with God. Fornicator, adulterer, effeminate, and homosexual deal with unlawful sexual intercourse, male with male, male with a woman who is another man’s wife, female with female. These sexual relations occurred contrary to God’s laws and the way He made all things, natural laws. They occur because people decide to be their own gods and allow their passions to lead them into unnatural actions, actions against nature. Unnatural sexual relations was a consequence of pagans/Gentiles following the lusts of their own hearts when misusing the freewill God gave them.

For these indecent deeds, sin affects their bodies, Paul continued in verse twenty-seven. He said they “received back in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” Basically, Paul said they got what they deserved, the reward for their actions of going against the nature of things and God’s laws. The error of the pagans/Gentiles is wandering and roaming into sin. The people followed their lusts and did what they wanted to do. They had sexual intercourse in unnatural ways and against God’s laws, the God Who is evident in creation and His continuing creative process. Pagans/Gentiles understood God is real. They understood the natural created purpose for their bodies, but they allowed their desires and strong passions to take control and be their gods. They exchanged the natural for the unnatural. The consequence of any sin against God and His created natural process is the matching reward. For sin, the matching reward is judgment/punishment. For good deeds, the reward is blessing. For each person, the reward for sexual sin is separation from God just like all sins. God’s love and righteousness demands unrighteousness, such as sexual sin, receive punishment to alter the course of the person’s life and cause him or her to turn and look toward God. He does this because He wants to bring the person into a right relationship with Him. Sometimes the reward for sexual sins is disease or death. Other times it can be turmoil within one’s mind and heart. God decides each sinner’s judgment based on his or her sin and depth of rebellion against Him and His laws.

God’s plan allows each person to have freewill. Depending on whether a person uses that freewill to follow God or become overcome with his or her passions and desires, determines the reward the person receives from Him. For those who want to worship idols and make themselves their own god, God gives them over to the lusts of their hearts. Those lusts make the pagans/Gentiles impure. They end up dishonoring their bodies and becoming impure when they alter the natural sexual function of their bodies for the unnatural, when they choose sexual relations with someone of the same sex instead of the way God created them-men with women. Because of these sins in the body that came from making their own decisions and being their own gods, their bodies receive the penalty for these indecent acts/sins. When a person sins against the natural order of things as God created them, sin enters the mix and changes things making it “not good” as compared to God calling it “good” when He created it. This sin causes disease, guilt, confusion, and despair, the natural just result/reward for/from the sin. Sin results from turning the natural into unnatural. When something changes the natural way God made things, it becomes unnatural; it makes “good” into “not good.” Sin in the body causes unnatural things to occur in the body. Sin causes unpleasant rewards in the body when people use their bodies in unnatural ways.

·         Have you chosen to be your own god and make your own decisions despite what God told you?
·         Have you received God’s judgment yet on those decisions? What happened?
·         Were the results of choosing to go your own way and not God’s way positive?
·         Have you ever felt the pull of lust in your body? Did you give in to it?
·         If you did not give in to lust, how did you overcome it and why?
·         God gives each believer strength to overcome temptation? We must call on Him.
 No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. [1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)]

Guilt of the Mind

Paul tied this to verse twenty-three where he said they “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man.” Remember, this means they made themselves and their desires their gods instead of God almighty. In the first two sections, Paul said “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts” (vs. 24) and “God gave them over to degrading passions” (vs. 26). Because the pagans/Gentiles made themselves and their desires their gods, Paul added, “God gave them over to a depraved mind” (vs. 28).  Becoming one’s own god affects one’s heart, body, and mind. Consider Romans 1:28-32,
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (NASB)
This list is lengthy. At first glance, we recognize some of these sins are against God alone and others are against people primarily and secondarily against God and His laws. Paul began by saying they, the Gentiles (pagans), did not see fit. This two-word verb comes from the Greek word dokimazo and means to examine and approve. “Acknowledge” comes from the Greek word epignosis, which means to possess or have the precise correct knowledge of ethical and divine things. The pagans/Gentiles did not approve and possess the correct knowledge of God. They did not live by and act on things in the way God said was right. These pagans debated within themselves and chose to follow their own ways. With each action or decision we make, God acts or decides something. Here, because the pagans/Gentiles did not acknowledge God any longer, but followed their own desires, God gave them over (paradidomi), He delivered or committed them, to a depraved mind. This statement is like verse twenty-four where God gave them over to their lusts. Before, the people wanted to follow their passions and God gave them over to their lusts. Here they refused to acknowledge (a mental action) God and He gave them over to depraved minds. Paul meant the pagans/Gentiles considered God and decided He was unnecessary in their lives. The word “depraved” comes from the Greek word adokios and means failing the test, unapproved, and counterfeit. The words Paul used here contrast “see fit” with “unfit” or “depraved.” The latter means the mind is no longer properly functioning and perceiving God. The person estranges him or herself from God and his or her ideas or speculations have displaced the perception of God. 

God allowed the pagans/Gentiles to follow their own thoughts and receive the results of them-ideas, words, and actions that fail God’s standards. The pagans'/Gentiles’ thoughts would lead them to do improper things. Their sins against society are also sins against God. For Paul, the mind has a crucial part to play in conduct. Jesus said this same thing. Matthew and Mark recorded what He said in Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:15. Matthew 15:11 records Jesus as having said, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” (NASB) What the heart intends and what the mind plans is what a person says or does. To choose to do any of the vices/sins listed in the next verses requires choosing not to do what God considers right.

Paul gave an extensive list of these thoughts that result in improper actions. Notice the actions are against God and people. These coincide with the ten commandments. These vices break into three lists-crimes against society/community, crimes against individuals, and the final list of six dispositions of pride and six vices related to the destruction of human affection and sentiment. Let’s consider these thoughts and actions now by looking at their definitions.

1.      Filled with all unrighteousness – This is the opposite of justice and is a violation of God’s standards. It encompasses all sins and brings God’s divine disapproval and judgment. It leads us to consider Paul’s use of unrighteous in verse eighteen and that all unrighteousness brings God’s wrath. Each of the vices listed below shows man as forgetting or turning away from the recognition that God is Creator and he or she is creature, not God.
2.      Wickedness – This word comes from the Greek word poneria, which means pain-ridden evil or pain that results from wickedness/evil. This is evil that inflicts or results in pain for another person.
3.      Greed – This word comes from the Greek word pleonexia and means the desire for more things or lusting after a great number of temporal things beyond what God considers is eternally best. It means not being content with what God gives you, but choosing to be discontent and wanting more, even to the detriment of someone who needs it.
4.      Evil – This word comes from the Greek word kakia. It means malice, vicious disposition, and wicked.
5.      Full of envy – These words come from the Greek word phthonos and means a strong feeling that sours because of sin’s influence. It means being glad when someone has misfortune or pain. It is spiteful and grudging.
6.      Murder – This means the intentional killing of a person.
7.      Strife – This word comes from eris and means a readiness to quarrel or having a contentious spirit.
8.      Deceit – This word comes from dolos and means using bait to allure or hook people, especially vulnerable people, like those in emotional pain or insecurity.
9.      Malice – This word comes from kakoetheia and means evil-mindedness, malevolence, and malignity. It is a malicious disposition that fosters and grooms evil habits and shows itself in deceit.
10.  Gossips – This word comes from psithuristes and means a whisperer, secret slanderer, or backstabber. It is one who secretly destroys another person’s character.
11.  Slanderers – This word comes from katalalos and means back-biting, and defamer-one who speaks against another.
12.  Haters of God – This comes from theostuges meaning hating/abhoring God. Abhoring means more than ignoring God. It means to turn away from Him in all the parts of one’s life. It is total rebellion and denial. This word is only found in Romans 1:30 and nowhere else in the Bible.
13.  Insolent – This word comes from the word hubristes, which means to damage others by lashing out with a nasty spirit. The person who is insolent delights in doing wrong and hurting other people with words and actions.
14.  Arrogant – This word comes from huperephanos and means showing one’s self above others.
15.  Boastful – This word comes from alazon and means a wandering vagrant boasting to anyone foolish enough to take him seriously. This is a person claiming things he cannot really do and who must keep moving to new listeners because people learn the truth about him.
16.  Inventors of evil – This phrase combines two words and means one who plans or discovers ways to do evil/malice.
17.  Disobedient to parents – This describes a person who cannot be persuaded to obey his or her parents.
18.  Without understanding – This comes from asunetos and means unwise, unintelligent, undiscerning, and foolish because he or she cannot understand.
19.  Untrustworthy – This word comes from asunthetos and means being untrue or unfaithful to an agreement, sometimes intentionally so.
20.  Unloving – This word comes from astorgos and means being without affection or love.
21.  Unmerciful – This word comes from aneleemon and means without pity, mercy, or compassion.

After understanding these vices/sin, we must realize Paul did not mean the sins at the top of the list are worse than those later in the list. They each speak to the wider conventional morality. Each of these twenty-one vices is against God and His wrath comes upon those who do them. They lead us to the climax of verse thirty-two showing the wrath of God is justified because of human sin. The people knew of God through created things and through His active creative presence. They realized His divinity and power, still they turned their backs on Him. Paul said, “Although they know the ordinance of God.” God’s moral law is part of creation. He writes it in the consciences of all people. God gave it in His Laws. Each person can know what is right and what is unrighteous through them. In this chapter, Paul taught about knowing God and his moral laws through creation and God’s continuing active presence in creation.  He said Gentiles (pagans) know those who sin against God’s moral laws are worthy of receiving His wrath, a permanent separation from God. These people continued to sin and understood they broke God’s moral laws. They sinned regularly so that when their sins were put on a balance scale of righteousness and judgment, the balance dropped and God had to mete out judgment to correct the balance. Gentiles (pagans) know (epignosko) God’s moral laws in verse thirty-two. This “knowing” recalled the knowing of God in verse twenty-one through what can be known about Him because He made it evident to them, as verse nineteen says.

Because the Gentiles (pagans) can know God and have known God because of creation and His active creative presence in the world, they are not exempt from judgment. They know God’s moral laws, and He holds them accountable to His moral laws, just like the Jews will be because of having the moral law in their written codes of law from God and Gentile-background believers will be because of having the conscience of God within themselves. Each person sins and will be accountable for those sins. Each person needs salvation from his or her sins to be in God’s presence forever and not to have to pay the penalty for sins-death. The list of sins/vices Paul gave in verses twenty-nine through thirty-one are each worthy of God’s judgment. No one sin is worse than the other. Each sin separates a person from God and causes him or her to be due the reward coming from God’s judgment-death. Even the applauding or approval of such sins deserves God’s judgment and penalty. No one escapes God’s judgment-neither Jew, Greek, or pagan. Because God is righteous, justice must happen. Jesus came to fulfill this law. That is the point Paul will get to during the study of the rest of this book.

·         Have you ever done any of these vices? Be honest with yourself.
·         Have you ever considered yourself better than someone because you didn’t murder someone or hurt someone? No sin is greater than another. Each sin is wrong and requires God’s justice to make it right.
·         What came to your attention as you studied this list? Do you need to seek God’s forgiveness and renew your relationship with Him?
·         Every person sins. Paul stated, “All have sinned fallen short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) We have to recognize our sin and our need for cleansing. We must seek God and repent. Then He will hear and cleanse you, renewing your relationship with Him.

Recap

Every person who ever lived sinned. It occurs because we are not God and, therefore, are not righteous. God gives freewill to all people. Paul said no one was exempt from knowing God and His moral laws, not even the pagans who had never heard about God. God can be known through creation and His continuing creative process. When a person chooses to be his/her own god and go his/her separate way away from God, He gives him/her over to the depravity of his/her heart, body, and mind. This depravity leads to idolatry, sexual sins, and decisions that lead to the vices listed in verses twenty-nine through thirty-one. Being one’s own god leads to sin-moral failure-and separation from God.

When we sin, we deliberately turn away from God and His ways to do what we want. We rationalize within ourselves that we know better or we want what we want no matter what. This stance makes us consider ourselves as our own god. Yet we are human, mortal, and fallible. We are not almighty and eternal God. When we sin, we deserve judgment. God gives rewards for good and evil behavior. That is His judgment. For evil that remains unconfessed and uncleansed, judgment is death-eternal separation from God. Judgment can also be separation from God while alive on earth until recognition of sin and repentance occurs. God’s righteousness requires justice. Lest we think we have not really sinned, saying, I just took $1 or R5, Paul reminded the pagans/Gentiles no sin is a small sin. They are all sins and they each separate you from God requiring judgment.  Those who practice sin and those who approve and applaud it are worthy of death, Paul said.


Relevance and Conclusion

This should make you stop and think. What are you thinking? Did you think of a sin in deed or thought? That’s recognition of sin and any sin is sin against God. What you do with it now that you recognize it is up to you. You can act like you are hiding it and go on with life, but it’s not really hidden. You will face it again in your conscience and in God’s presence. Paul said in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) Conversely, you can confess it to God (turning toward God) and repent of it (turning away from evil). John said in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (NASB)

God made it possible for each of us to be cleansed-saved- from our sins. He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to live in human form, to be tempted as we are tempted, yet to remain sinless, and then to die a sinner’s death of crucifixion as the penalty-the judgment-for our sins. God did this because He loves us and wants to be in a right relationship with each of us. He does not want us to be separated from Him. God gives each person freewill to choose for him/herself who he/she will follow, Him or his/her own desires. God did not leave us to wallow in our sin and die because of our sins. Paul explained in Ephesians 2:4-6,
But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
 Today is your day to choose. Will you choose to follow God or continue to follow your own desires and sin?
Admit your sins to God and repent.

By faith, accept Jesus, the Son of God, as your Savior.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Evidence of God and Foolishness of Man

Introduction

In the first three Bible studies about Paul’s letter to the Romans, we learned the history, politics, culture, and religious background of the people to whom Paul wrote this letter. They were Jewish-background and Gentile-background believers in Jesus Christ who lived in Rome during times of persecution from the emperors. Besides this, we studied Paul’s opening passages of this letter to the Roman believers. He identified himself and his credentials, gave a general understanding of the gospel, prayed for God’s grace and peace over them, and thanked God for testimony of the Romans’ faith in action and for the encouragement he would get when he met and lived among them. The final part of the opening to Paul’s letter gives the thematic statement of the letter-the righteousness of God.

With this fourth Bible study from the book of Romans, Paul taught the Romans about the need for righteousness among each person. He carried this idea further by showing the universal need for salvation by teaching about God’s revelation of Himself (the evidence for God) to pagans/Gentiles, Gentile-background Christians and God-worshippers, and the Jews and Jewish-background believers.  In this and the next Bible study, Paul taught the Gentiles about their guilt and need for justification. 

With Romans two through three, Paul taught the Jewish-background believers the same lessons as he did the Gentile-background believers. In future Bible studies, we will learn in chapter four, Paul compared the righteousness of the Gentiles and Jews with Abraham’s. Later, in chapter five, he explained how God justifies each person, Jews and Gentiles. Remember, justification means God declares a person as righteous and made right with Him. This justification comes by God’s declaring righteous those people who accept Christ. God credits or assigns Christ’s righteousness to each person who receives Christ. Paul said in Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (NASB) He described justification best in Romans 3:21-26. Paul said in this passage, people who believe in Jesus Christ are “justified as a gift by His (God’s) grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul specifically taught about the sinfulness of pagans/Gentiles and their need for justification. He explained how, though they had not heard about God, they could know of Him and were, therefore, also guilty of sin and liable to God’s judgment of them. This Bible study will help us to realize God revealed Himself through general revelation in creation and through His creative presence. It will also help us understand the basis of the Gentile’s guilt. This will lead us to our Bible study next week where we will learn of the results of their guilt.

Evidence of God

Paul’s thematic statement of Romans in 1:16-17 carries over to later verses. He compared the righteousness of God to the unrighteousness of humanity, both Jew and Gentile. In verses eighteen through twenty, Paul did not allow the Gentiles to hold on to the excuse that they did not know God. He explained to them even though they were not Jews, they had no excuse because God revealed Himself to all people. Paul said in verses eighteen through twenty, 1:18-20

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (NASB)

With the first word, “for,” Paul began this sentence just like he did with verses sixteen and seventeen. Each of these verses explain why he said what he did in verse fifteen. Paul said in verse fifteen he was eager to preach the gospel to the people in Rome. He next told the readers and listeners of this letter three reasons he eagerly wanted to preach the gospel to them. In verse sixteen, Paul said he was eager because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to anyone who believes. With verse seventeen, he said the gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith. Finally, with verse eighteen, Paul said he eagerly wanted to preach the gospel because “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (NASB)

Paul’s start of verse eighteen gave the third reason he preached the gospel. With this one statement, he spoke about two things. Paul meant God’s righteousness reveals His wrath against unrighteousness, too. God’s righteousness/holiness requires judgment of unrighteousness/unholiness. Since the gospel reveals God’s righteousness, it reveals God’s wrath, too. God is the standard of righteousness and Paul ensured each person understood he or she was not righteous/holy. The commonality between God’s wrath and His righteousness is His love. Because He loves, He provided a way for people to become righteous. Because God loves, He shows righteous anger and disciplines people to remind them He is God, and to turn them around to return to Him. The other point this statement makes is Paul could not keep to himself the gospel of God. He cared so much for these people, he eagerly sought to tell the gospel to everyone. Because Paul’s heart came from God’s heart when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and anointed him to be His apostle, Paul cared deeply for the lost who had never heard the gospel. He wanted no one to miss hearing about the gospel and then receive God’s wrath because of their sins. Paul eagerly preached the gospel because of his love for them. He wanted everyone to experience God’s love and grace.

Let’s look closer at the words in verse eighteen. We must understand them well to understand Paul’s message in the rest of this letter. In our world, people do not consider wrath or anger a positive thing. God’s wrath is righteous indignation. Because he cannot sin, His anger is righteous. His cause is to restore peace and balance to life. It is not a prideful anger like from what people often base their anger. God’s angry at sin and sinners because sin separates people from Him. He wants nothing to separate people from Him because He loves each person. God desires to have a right relationship with each person. This desire for a relationship with each person is the reason for the gospel of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross in our place and His resurrection. God provided the sin sacrifice so each person could be in a right relationship with Him. His wrath is righteous and seeks to draw us to Himself because it is based on His love. God’s wrath comes on a person when he or she is not justified to Him through Christ, when he or she is unrighteous. Paul said Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath [of God] through Him.”

For what does God’s anger come on people? Paul told the Romans in verse eighteen. God’s wrath comes because of ungodliness and unrighteousness. The word “ungodliness” seems self-explanatory. Acting, thinking, speaking, and being unlike God. “Ungodliness” comes from the Greek word asebeia and means to lack respect and show impiety, irreverence, and wickedness in thought and deed. It means to turn your back on God and become your own god. Asebeia means refusing to give honor where it is due, a refusing to accept God’s existence and His authority over all life and creation. The word “unrighteousness” comes from the Greek word adikia and means injustice and violating God’s standards. Because ungodliness is attitude against and unacceptance of God, unrighteousness is acting upon the unacceptance of God, acting out. Ungodliness is against God and unrighteousness is against other people, but also against God’s standards of living, the Law. These two words correspond to the Ten Commandments-the first four commandments against God and the next six against other people.

Besides God’s wrath being on the ungodly and unrighteous, Paul said it came against those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. “Suppress” comes from the Greek word katecho and means to bind, restrain, arrest, or detain. The people upon whom God’s wrath would come were irreverent and dishonored God. They acted out against God and His laws regarding Him and other people, and they restrained the truth. They kept it from being shared or providing a way of life. This means their ungodliness resulted in unrighteousness affecting other people because they would not share or allow the sharing of the truth of God-His reality, righteousness, love, and grace. These sinful people kept other people from living godly and righteous lives because of the way they lived and the laws they enacted and enforced. This reminds us of the prophets of Baal, Molech, Asherah, and the other gods some Israelites followed in the Old Testament. They led people away from God by not teaching about Him and leading them not to follow His laws.

Paul went further to say, even though people may have kept others from knowing about God, God made Himself evident to all humanity. No one has an excuse for not believing in God. In verse nineteen, Paul explained why-because of creation/nature. He said, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” (NASB) The original Greek translation says, “Because the known of God manifest is among them God indeed to them has revealed [it]” (Interlinear Bible) Paul said, God’s attributes are evident and can be known through what He has revealed. The word “known” used here comes from the Greek word gnostos, an adjective, and means literally “because-through”. It expresses and emphasizes experiential knowing from personal experience. Paul said they knew God already. This knowledge came through something evident to each person because God makes it evident, clearly visible to them. This knowing is not the natural theology of reason where God is evident in the design in nature. Instead, He is the God who is a Presence active in the created order now. God did not just make the world and step back letting us see evidence of Him from what He created. He creates and keeps on creating and maintaining the world. We see and can know God personally because of His revealing Himself by and through His creative working.

How did God make Himself evident even to non-Jews? Paul explained in verse twenty the evidence of God for each person. He said, since time began when God created the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity were seen clearly. Paul explained that from before the creation when time began, God showed Himself. This word “creation” comes from the word ktisis and means created out of nothing-ex nihilo. Ktisis is always a divine creating. From before He created anything, God purposed to show Himself- His attributes of power and divinity, through what He created. He purposed before He created humanity that each person knows Him and be in a relationship with Him because of His love. That explains God’s wrath against sin. Sin separates people from Him, from being in a right relationship with Him. With this comes the other thread of thought from verse twenty. Since God purposed to show Himself to humanity through creation, He realized people would sin and need to see Him readily. The logic follows that God also made a way from the beginning of creation to bring people back to a right relationship with Him since His purpose was to be in a relationship with them.



What He revealed to people through creation and His continuing creative presence was not a simple trick, but to show His grandeur and power. Paul said this when he used the word dunamis. Dunamis is a great power. From it comes our words dynamite and dynamo. God’s great power would show His mighty and marvelous ways, ways which people could never achieve in their own strength and could not explain away. The other attribute God revealed in creation, Paul said, was His divine nature. Each person God ever created can know Him experientially (gnostos). From living in His created world watching Him create and maintain it, this God of the world and creation must be divine. Paul said, it is this God who would could be “clearly seen.” This verb is third person singular meaning each person can “clearly see,” as from above when the perspective gives total sight, that God is all-powerful and divine. God is real and should cause awe, reverence, and faith in Him because He was visible in what He made and is visible in His creative acts still. Acts 14:17 and 17:24 say God left a witness with the rain, fruitful seasons, and the world because He is the Lord of heaven and earth and not kept in temple made by hands. Job 12:7-9 said the beasts and fowls will tell you who made them. Psalm 19:1 said the heavens declare the glory of God. Jeremiah 5:21-22 says God tells the people He is the one who places the sand as a boundary for the sea. God made Himself evident in creation and in His continuing creative presence in the world.

Paul ended this section stating God is evident because of and through His creative presence so people are without excuse. For this reason, Paul said, their argument against God or about not knowing Him has no rationale. “Without excuse” comes from the Greek word anapologetos. Anapologetos literally means “not arguable.” Paul said the pagans/Gentiles’ argument about not knowing God lacked a defense. The pagans/Gentiles could not excuse themselves from believing in God by saying they did not know about Him. God can be evidenced, seen and experienced, by and through creation, a creation that continues as He creates and re-creates daily. God is known still today like the Israelites knew God in the Old Testament and Christians knew Him in the New Testament.

No one can raise his or her hands and shrug saying he or she did not know about God just so they can excuse their wrongdoing and irreverence. Paul, the apologist and apostle of Christ, explained to them and to us in detail how we are not guiltless. Each of us sins and God jealously wants us to be in an eternal relationship with Him. He is angry about our sin and wants us to be in a right relationship with Him. His love for us causes His anger, His wrath. God’s love for every person caused Him to provide a way for each person to return to a right relationship with Him. That way is through Jesus Christ.

Before Paul arrived at this point in his teaching to the Gentiles, after explaining each person could know God by and through creation, he showed the foolishness of humanity. Let’s consider a few relevant questions for ourselves before we continue with verses twenty-one through twenty-three.

·         Do you realize you have done wrong things and are not righteous?
·         Have you wondered and been in awe of the power of waterfalls and storms and the miracle of rainbows and birth? Have you recognized it as God’s hand in the world?
·         Do you praise God and give Him honor for what you see and experience in the world?
·         Do you reason away the evidence of God and refuse to believe God exists?


The Foolishness of Humanity

Once again, Paul begins his verse with the word “for,” which means we need to relate it to his earlier statement. Verse nineteen is the statement to which this “for” refers. In verse nineteen, Paul said God made the truth of Himself evident to humanity. In verse twenty, he explained God made evident His invisible attributes of power and divinity through creation and His creative presence in the world. With verse twenty-one, Paul relayed the foolishness of humanity to think they could reason God away and dishonor Him. He said in verses twenty-one through twenty-three,

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (NASB)

In verse twenty-one, Paul used a different word for “know” than he did in verse nineteen. In verse nineteen the word for “known” came from the Greek word gnostos, an adjective. Gnostos means in that verse that which may be known of God or the knowable God active in the physical universe. God made Himself knowable to humanity by and through His creation and in His continuing creative presence. The word “knew” in verse twenty-one comes from the Greek word ginosko. Ginosko comes from the same root word as gnostos and means to come to know, recognize, or to understand through personal experience-experiential knowing. In the past tense, it often means to realize with definiteness the things relating to the one, true God and Christ, in contrast with the multi-god worship of the pagans/Gentiles, their polytheism. Paul said, “for though they knew God,” which means they knew God personally because of His active presence in creation and accepted Him truly as the one, true God.

When faced with this reality of God, a person can choose to acknowledge God then walk away as if He makes no difference in his or her life or the person can accept the reality of God, and worship and obey Him. Walking away from God after knowing of Him as the active presence in creation means denying Him, disobeying Him, and making one’s self one’s own god. Paul said that in the rest of this verse. He said, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” The “honor” Paul spoke of comes from doxazo and has the same root as the word “doxology.” Paul said people did not glorify, honor, or thank God as if He was God. They acted as if He was merely mortal and could ignore or heed Him. People did not acknowledge God’s grace, power, and divinity. When faced with the reality of God, one of two decisions must come from that encounter. The person can deny God-His power and divinity-or can accept Him and glorify, honor, and thank Him with his or her words, actions, and thoughts.


Instead of honoring and thanking God, Paul said people “became futile in their speculations and their foolish hearts became darkened.” (vs. 21) The word “futile” comes from the Greek word meaning vain, foolish, or perverted in one’s mind. Paul meant people considered their own back and forth (debated) speculations and reasonings as having more value than the obvious evidence for and of God in and through creation and His continual creative presence. When someone thinks they know more than all-knowing (omniscient) God who created him or her, that is vanity and foolishness. A prideful person thinks he or she knows more than the One who created a thing or that person. Paul wrote about this foolishness in Ephesians 4:17b-18 when he said, “Walk no longer just as the Gentile also walk, in the futility of their minds, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (NASB) This foolishness that denies the divinity and power of God after having seen and experienced it comes because of pride, ignorance/foolishness, and a hardened heart. This foolishness of which Paul spoke came from not putting facts together and being unwise. The people who had foolish hearts chose their own vain ways and kept the light of God from convincing them of His reality. The person obscured God’s light and did not focus on God’s sovereign action, but on his or her own desires.

Paul continued describing this person with a foolish heart. He said in verse twenty-two the person professed to have wisdom. He/she attested he/she was wiser than the conviction God placed in his/her heart of His power, divinity, and grace. By setting aside the wisdom of God for human reasoning, Paul said he/she became a fool. He spoke plainly here. The word “fool” comes from moraino, which means taint or make useless. Paul said this person made him/herself foolish-useless-with this untrue and unfounded reasoning. He said something similar in 1 Corinthians 1:20 when he said, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this age?” (NASB) Jeremiah reiterated this in Jeremiah 10:14. He said, “Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge. Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; for his molten images are deceitful, and there is not breath in them.” (NASB) Whatever people make that means more to them than God and upon which they put more reliance than God shows their foolishness and their darkened hearts. Paul said in this verse while professing themselves wise, these unrighteous and ungodly people became fools and showed their stupidity and foolishness.

In verse twenty-three, Paul said, these ungodly and unrighteous people who knew (ginosko) God, but did not honor Him as God or give Him thanks, in their professing their own wisdom and becoming fools, “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Instead of worshiping and thanking the God revealed in creation and active in creating, these people, in their reasoning and speculation, turned their backs on Him and worshiped created things. They chose to worship the creature, not the Creator. Though they recognized God as incorruptible, that is immortal and imperishable, ungodly and unrighteous people chose to worship an image, something perishable that reflects its Source-Creator God. These people turned their backs on Him and worshiped man-hewn images of man, birds, animals, and reptiles (serpents). Luke spoke about man-made images to worship in Acts 17:29. He said, “We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by art and thought of man.” (NASB) God told Moses to relay to people His message about this in Deuteronomy 4:15-18 when they did not see an image of Him on Mount Horeb, yet wanted to worship one. He said,

So watch yourselves carefully since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in water below the earth. (NASB)

·         Do you recognize God with your life or debate His existence and turn away from Him?
·         Is there an idol you worship instead of the one, true God?
·         Do you give your job, your house or car, or your family more priority than God?
·         Do you care more about what you can do or make with your hands than giving honor, glory, and thanks to the Creator who made you and all that you work with in your creating?


 Recap

Paul explained to the pagans/Gentiles of Rome no excuse exists for denying the reality of God and knowing Him in a way that honors and glorifies Him through righteous and godly living and worship. God’s righteousness means His wrath will come upon those who are ungodly and unrighteous because He loves each of His created people and wants a relationship with them. Reasoning and rationalizing God’s existence, His might, and His divinity is foolishness and stupidity, Paul said. Why worship man-made idols in the shape of created things. Instead, worship the One who created all things and continues to be active in the world. Don’t worship the images of the creation, but instead, the Creator.


Relevance and Conclusion

God realized from the beginning of time humanity would gravitate toward worshiping what they could see even though people could recognize Him through creation and His continuing creative presence in the world. Still, Paul made sure pagans/Gentiles understood they were without excuse for turning away from God. He made sure they realized their guilt because of their sins that separated them from God. By writing this letter to Christians in Rome, Jewish- and Gentile-background believers, and God-worshipers, he said they were each guilty and without excuse. Paul would highlight even more the Jews guilt because they had the Law from God (chapters 2-3). Evidence for God exists in creation and in the world God made and re-makes. People who strive to deny His existence so they do not have to face their own sin and guilt chase folly. Even Gentile are without excuse. God is present in the world. His presence as Creator comes as general revelation of His existence.

Each person must decide to recognize the one, true God-Yahweh, the I Am who was, is, and will always be. He is evident in the world. David declared this in Psalm 19:1 when he wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (NASB) We each must decide to acknowledge Him and be in a relationship with Him. God made a relationship with Him possible providing our justification by His Son’s, Jesus Christ’s, death on the cross. Christ’s death declares us righteous because He was the perfect sacrifice for sins because He did not sin. Each person must decide for him or herself if he or she will go beyond recognizing God in the world and acknowledge Him (confess) and accept His gift of righteousness so he or she can be in a righteous and eternal relationship with Him.

What will you do? Will you recognize God and turn your back on Him or will you acknowledge Him as God and accept the grace He offers of righteousness through the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ?

Consider this verse by Paul-

 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in hope of the glory of God. [Romans 5:1, (NASB)]
Do you have this peace?

You can have it today, now, if you accept Jesus as Lord and ask for His forgiveness for your sins.

You can listen to this song declaring the existence of God by Hillsongs. Just click on the title below.

All Heaven Declares