For God to be good and have a relationship with us based on mutual love, He had to give humanity a choice. So, God created our species in His Image, made us perfect (knowing only good), and provided everything needed to succeed including perfect direction (and what to avoid). Then He gave us liberty; the ability to choose what to do. At the point of decision, Adam chose to disobey God because his heart’s strongest momentary desire did not value God’s command above what he wanted; then he acted reaping the consequences of spiritual separation from God. This is idolatry; a human being placing their desire above their Creator’s desire.
If God commands a human being to do something, they have the ability to do it.
As such, Adam initially had the wherewithal to obey God and reject the option being presented to him.
When Adam died spiritually, all of his descendants inherited spiritual death; we lost the capability to (1) be morally perfect and (2) seek God without being regenerated. This is the problem within the human condition; the species is corrupted and we no longer have the moral ability to obey consistently.
God’s requirement to be holy (set apart from evil) did not change; it never has. It could not change or He would not be who He says He is. God is unchanging, always righteous and just. Because He is also all-knowing, He foresaw Adam’s choice; and, because He is merciful, He made various provisions for humanity’s fallenness through the ages.
God had initiated a legal requirement by which a corrupted human being could be reconciled to Him and become holy. This requirement has always been faith.
- ” But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
- “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4 to 10 NKJV)
Now that’s grace! Faith is not faith unless it results in obedience (James 2:20 and 26), and all believers grow in obedience from faith to faith, from day to day, from glory to glory. It is only by God’s grace that we can have enduring faith.
- “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil (or spiritual blindness) is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2nd Corinthians 3:16 to 18 New International Version)
In studying Romans chapter 1, I see that God is absolutely righteous in keeping His Word to separate fallen, unholy humans from Himself and from the redeemed! I also see that God is entirely gracious in saving some; and, He invites us to participate in the process based on our heart’s desires. I see that He is incredibly loving by paying the debt for all of humanity through the sacrifice of His own Son who willingly died for us.
God created a plan to allow humans to freely love Him while progressively purging our ability to be idolatrous. His wisdom far exceeds my ability. He is God and I am not.
All humans have a propensity to sin based on the strongest momentary personal desire. That is the struggle. Overcoming impulses that seem undeniable at the time. As we live and interact, our desires change being influenced by our intellect, senses, and information. Praise God, that He deposits His Holy Spirit within the redeemed to help us choose rightly each moment. And if we choose incorrectly, the Holy Spirit trains the regenerated to submit to His leading by crucifying the idolatrous tendency (the old nature).
- “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2nd Timothy 2:11 to 13).
- “… the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” (2nd Thessalonians 3:3)
Here is the outline from my study or meditation notes on Romans chapter 1:
- First, I’ll give a summarized Background covering verses 1 through 15.
- Secondly, I’ll look deeply into verses 16 to 25 which is the meat of my study today, the Main Thing.
- Thirdly, I’ll conclude with a sobering reality from verses 28 to 32 as the Conclusion (and there is hope).
Have you ever noticed that Romans was not written to a specific formally established church in Rome? I really value the Scriptural definition of a church (the ekklēsía).
This Greek word “ekklēsía” is a compound word that combines “a calling out from” and “a gathering to”. In the New Testament, it means the members of the body of Christ whether on earth or in heaven. So, we see the church is comprised of believers who have been called out of darkness and are in Christ and His light (whether dead or alive physically; and, are entirely and eternally alive spiritually). As such the church is not made of bricks and mortar (or a physical building). The church is a construct of regenerated human beings at various stages of sanctification (or summits of being made holy, being set apart, being perfected).
This is of great comfort to me on so many different levels.
- “The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2).
- “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1 to 2).
- “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1st Peter 2:9 to 10).
- “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ..” (1st Peter 1:2)
- “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Glory to God!
A good way to study this is to research “ekklēsia” (Strong’s G1577) and read the passages of Scripture where the word is used noting what it is, and is not. For example, you can refer to 1st Corinthians 14:23.
Paul did not start the church in Rome; rather, there were numerous house churches founded by believers who were called out by the Holy Spirit through hearing the Word. It is safe to say, the formation of the Roman church grew from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost upon the converted Roman visitors (refer to Acts 2:10) specifically because the apostles had not ventured to Rome at the time this letter was written. Some of the home church leaders are named in Romans 16.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul mentioned twice that he was hindered from coming to see them (Romans 1:13 and 15:22). Paul explained that his call was to announce Christ to the Gentile nations where they had not yet heard the Gospel (Romans 15:20 to 21 and Isaiah 52:15).
Considered for a moment how our LORD may temporarily hinder His child from doing something that is in His will but is for an appointed time and purpose. I remember being frustrated about not making progress in an area that I believed to be the will of God. I now see that God’s timing is part of His will. Part of my growth was being willing to wait and understand what I needed to develop or accomplish during the “seed maturation” time; and for God to prepare the environment and others. As I reflect on my life, I am so thankful for the doors He closed, and for the times He temporarily slowed me. His plan is always the best!
In the case of the Romans, God’s plan was to return the Pentecost converts to Rome as a testimony of their drastic transformed lives. I love before and after pictures! How marvellous that our LORD had a plan to redeem people from every nation and He does it as He sees fit. He proclaimed it in the very beginning (Genesis 3:15 and 21), He proclaimed it to Abraham (Genesis 12:3, Genesis 18:18, and Galatians 3:8), and He has consistently reinforced his proclamation of grace throughout the entire counsel of Scripture:
- “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26 to 29).
- “But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” (Revelation 5:5 to 9).
As I study the Word of God, there are two central themes that inspire my heart to well up in praise and adoration for God’s sovereignty, holiness, eternality, and righteousness which is that He is:
- (1) The Creator, and
- (2) my Redeemer.
In all of this, He is good; full of grace and mercy!
Within the first 2 chapters of Genesis, one can read the account of the six-day creation where our triune God originated the heavens and earth and all that is in them. Then the remainder of Scripture is about the redemption of His creation that will conclude at His appointed time. After which that which causes sin (and those who support it) will be contained in an interminable place away from God’s goodness and His subjects.
The children of God will assume their eternal roles of giving God glory through worship and assignments. In the end, it seems to me that God gives each person over to what their hearts truly desire. If you are a regenerated child of God, try to conceive what eternity will be like for you.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider that the Godhead redeemed me to spend eternity enjoying Him, being free from the presence of evil, and fulfilling the work He has designed for me in extending His goodness throughout the cosmos. I gladly sing of His worthiness. There was never any other human being who could have accomplished the Godhead’s plan of redemption; only Jesus, the Christ, fulfilled the prophecies concerning His birth, death, burial, and resurrection.
Praise God! LORD Jesus, I thank you! Holy Spirit please tell me more about my LORD; more about my Creator and Saviour! Please flood my soul with the awareness of who the Father is, of who the Son is, of who the Holy Spirit is, and of the unity that is in You as One Deity in three persons. Give me glimpses that I can grasp of how I will partake in Your blessedness eternally! For as it is written:
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
- In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him.” (Ephesians 1:3 to 10).
I just get so excited when I consider what He has done for His church! Now, let’s return our focus to the letter to the Romans.
Because Paul was called to share the good news of God’s grace to the Gentile nations who had not heard yet, the letter had to be delivered by Phoebe who was a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae (near Corinth) while she was on business in Rome (refer to Romans 16:1 to 2). These home churches were primarily Gentile; however, there were also Jewish converts native to Rome who came under the tutelage of Paul in Corinth before eventually returning to Rome. An example of this is Aquila and his wife Priscilla who met Paul at Corinth and then travelled with Paul to Ephesus for a time. (Refer to Acts 18:1 to 11 to study the account of Aquila).
One might wonder why I am highlighting this when reviewing the 1st chapter of Romans. You see, for some time I had not meditated on the fact that this letter was written for individual believers. It was not sent to a group organized or founded by the Apostles. The church in Rome was initiated by the Holy Spirit working in redeemed saints who longed to fellowship together. They found strength and unity with the common bond of Christ despite living in a very pagan culture.
The Holy Spirit’s work in the believer’s life brought them together in house churches as they shared their faith. At this point, Peter was in Babylon as mentioned in 1st Peter 5:13. (1st Peter was written around 64 AD and Romans 1 was written between 51 and 57 AD). Also, note that Peter’s calling was primarily to the Jews and Paul’s was to the Gentiles (although Paul longed for the Jews to accept Christ and made concerted efforts to preach in Synagogues before expanding to those who were outside of Judaism).
All of the religious actions of organized religion were not present, AND God’s precious Holy Spirit and believers were.
This tells me traditions are fine and some people find comfort in them, but the Holy Spirit moves as He wills (with or without human traditions). God is not present because of tradition. He is present by His will with those who diligently seek Him.
- “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24 to 31).
Here is a key point: When God calls you to something, it is Him who anoints you to accomplish it.
Paul referred to the Roman believers (of mixed descent) as “called to be saints of God” (refer to Romans 1:7). They were declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus Christ and it had nothing to do with human works or hierarchy. Now that ought to be encouraging for someone!
To summarize my background for the context of this first chapter, please consider the following points.
- Number 1: Paul was very educated in Hebrew and Greek languages; and, in the culture of Rome and Greece. Notice both Greek and Hebrew salutations are used by Paul. To the Gentiles, it is grace (Charis) and to the Jews peace (Shalom).
- Number 2: Paul praises the Roman church for their testimony. He states that the known world had seen the difference of the Roman believers’ faith to the degree that it was spoken of broadly. (Refer to Romans 1:8).
- I wonder whether people can say that of us as individuals. Do non-believers note the difference in our worldview, conversation, and behaviour to the degree that they talk among themselves about it? And, while we would want any talk of believers to be positive, we know that this may not be the case when belief systems are diametrically opposed. As would be the case with the Roman church and the Roman culture.
- Number 3: Despite Paul’s desire to be with the Romans, God’s will prevented him from visiting them until the appointed time which happened to be his trial which brought him before kings. (Refer to Romans 1:10, 13, Romans 15:22, Acts 9:15, Acts 28:16)
- Number 4: Paul was passionate about developing believers. It wasn’t just about having them converted, but becoming disciples; not just from the initial work of salvation, but the sanctification of saints. He wanted to impart spiritual gifts and disciple them (Refer to Romans 1:11 to 13).
- Number 5: Paul wanted to see the harvest and to be strengthened by fellow believers. Consider this for a moment. The Roman empire was seeking to assimilate and crush non-compliance and it had been trampling over the Jewish culture. Paul was a Jew. Imagine being eager to preach to a culture that was violent to your people over ideological views. Notice that anyone who did not speak Greek at that time was considered a “barbarian”, and anyone who did not worship the emperor or the pagan gods was in opposition to the culture. Paul had a passion for the Gentiles because he understood it was God’s purpose for him. In a way, he considered the evangelization of the Gentiles part of the reason he was born, and as such, he felt indebted to them. (Refer to Romans 1:14 to 15).
THE MAIN THING:
Having concluded the context in which this letter was written, let’s move on to the passage of study I am focusing on which is Romans 1:16 to 32. It is my prayer that you will be able to celebrate God’s righteousness and His grace as witnessed in the message:
- “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17).
In studying this Scripture, one has to contemplate how is it possible that God’s righteousness is revealed in a believer’s faith. So, let us read the context for this verse.
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:16 to 25).
Here we see that the Gospel of God (to which Paul was set apart) was the saving message that God fulfilled the promise of the Messiah (Jesus, the Christ) to reconcile humanity to Himself exactly as the prophets had foretold by the Holy Spirit (Romans 1: 1 to 2). Paul explained to the Corinthians the Gospel this way:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you (unless you believed in vain). For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: (1) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and (2) that He was buried, and that (3) He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and (4) that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. (These eyewitness accounts were prior to His ascension). And (5) Then last of all He was seen by me also (Paul), as by one born out of due time.” (This was the ascended Christ who was still very alive and aware of what was happening on earth).
- Please refer to 1st Corinthians 15:1 to 8 noting my inserted explanatory words in parenthesis.
In the Old Testament Scripture, God had said to His prophet:
- “…Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:2 to 4).
We understand that by hearing and believing God’s good news as the truth, a person is saved. Whether or not such a person fully comprehends all of the Godhead’s works is not essential to salvation. What is imperative is that a person understands that they need to be saved from the righteous wrath of God and that God paid the price of sin to redeem people from the penalty of death through Jesus Christ who is alive today. It is written:
- “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23; and,
- “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9 and 10).
When Paul told the Romans that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, he understood that people would think that the simplicity of this message and the actuality of a One (being fully Human and fully God) rising from the dead was absurd. Elsewhere he wrote:
- “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1st Corinthians 1:18 to 21).
That’s right! This simple and miraculous belief or act of faith is God’s power to save. Do I completely understand how regeneration occurs? No. But I know (that I know, that I know) it is the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s heart that quickens the received Word of God for regeneration (for rebirth to newness of spiritual life). I am forever thankful! Our faith is not self-originating; rather it is the grace and goodness of God that leads a human to repent and trust Him.
- “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” (Titus 3:4 to 6).
- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. … “Therefore, I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:44 and 65).
- “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:28 to 29).
- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).
The Divine, the Deity, the Godhead, has manifested God’s character to us and our response should acknowledge His grace.
The Psalmist who was aware of the LORD’s forgiveness wrote:
- “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5).
The only requirement of salvation is to place your faith, trust, or confidence in God’s provision of the atoning redemptive sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is to take God at His Word and rely on it. Yet, many willfully choose to accept unbelief as their way. Since the LORD promised to not reject anyone who would truly seek to know Him, then unbelief is not only a condition of human nature from birth, it becomes a preference. Now you may disagree with me, but please consider what Jesus said:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16 to 19).
Sin is pleasurable until its consequences catch up with people. Perhaps that is why so many seek the LORD when they come to the end of themselves, are suffering and unable to solve their problems, or realize the futility of life without God. Sometimes it is at this point that they respond positively to the revelation that God has given. Please note, not responding is a negative response. It is a refusal to give God glory. It is better to accept the manifestation of God without continuing too far down the broad path to hell.
So, how does saving a human being reveal God’s righteousness? Shouldn’t righteousness punish crimes against God and others?
In my study of this chapter, I came across some information about Martin Luther who was challenged by the same question. It certainly would be right to allow humanity to reap the outcomes of their actions. As I understand it, Martin Luther was struggling with this passage of Scripture:
- In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me speedily; be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me. … Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. … Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me for Your mercies’ sake.” (Psalm 31:1 to 3, 5, and 16).
Martin Luther said, “Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which (through grace and sheer mercy) God justifies us through faith.”
As I reflect on the full counsel of Scripture, I see that God has revealed His nature to us. The LORD God is holy and good. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, ever-present, all-knowing, gracious, just, loving, merciful, righteous, self-existing, sovereign, unchanging, above creation, and involved with His creation.
Since He is immutable, He must be all of Himself at all times. He has to be loving, merciful, and gracious at the same time as being holy, righteous, involved, and all-knowing (etcetera). So, my wonderful, merciful Saviour as the Sovereign Creator set the terms by which He could pardon a person; and, He consistently and righteously applies the judgment.
The just will live by faith and the unjust will die because of sin which is the manifestation of unbelief.
But it is not that the person is just (or upright) on their own. NO!
- “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10 to 11).
- “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, “thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21 to 22).
The truth is, God handles the believing sinner as though they had not ever sinned and provided a full pardon. This person is declared justified by God’s verdict based on God’s righteous requirement of faith; and, saving faith is the heart’s conviction and total reliance on the Messiah’s victory as the means by which we are reconciled to God. So, through faith we demonstrate God’s righteousness because God’s righteousness is His application of His justice. He keeps His Word or Laws perfectly at all times. He set the terms of salvation, paid the price, revealed the truth to us, and our part was to receive Him by faith. Then He re-creates us in Christ Jesus. It is written:
- “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2nd Corinthians 5:21).
We are not worthy.
Praise God, Jesus Christ is worthy and we are in Him and our sins are covered by the blood of the Lamb. As it is written:
- “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;” (Romans 4:7).
So, then what of those who did not believe the Gospel, or haven’t heard about it?
These questions are difficult because we are just growing in the knowledge of God’s character. We would prefer an abundance of grace and limited justice (that is until someone has angered us to the point of wanting to be avenged). Because of a human’s propensity to imagine God based on our own corrupt image (or even something lesser) we often equate the wrath of God to human anger which has impure motives. Please exercise caution here. Whether we are serving a false god or our flawed conception of God, we become like the one we serve. Child of God, it is crucial that we obtain the image of God from Scripture. When we do not understand, pray and study more rather than lean on our own limited understanding.
- “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:3 to 7).
Did you notice I chose an Old Testament verse? You see, the Gospel of God has always been based on faith. Without going into the details of faith in the different dispensations, I will just point to three believers who lived in Old Testament times who were mentioned in the New Testament. As it is written:
- “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. … By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. … By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,” (Hebrews 11:1, 7 to 8, and 24 to 25).
How did these Old Testament saints have faith? How did Moses know what sin was before the law? They knew. They also had a healthy fear or reverence of God and His righteousness.
You see, as good as we want to be, our “good falls short” of the glory of God. God’s wrath is not evil, it is actually righteousness and it gives people what is deserved. God’s wrath gives them over to their desires which has frightening outcomes but it does not come without warning. We need the LORD to give us His desires. The truth is that God has revealed Himself to everyone.
It is written:
- “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world… ” (Psalm 19:1 to 4).
Let us consider what God has revealed about Himself and the means by which He does so:
- He displays Himself as the Creator (all-powerful, eternal, self-existing, sovereign, outside creation but involved with it). He did this by fashioning humanity with spiritual, physical, and intellectual senses to experience His existence when interacting with nature (Romans 1:20; Ephesians 3:9). We recognize the order and design that can not be random. Scientifically, the study of physics and biology also points to intelligent design. Then spiritually, even within a human being’s experience, the heart longs to fulfill its purpose and wants there to be something more and bigger than oneself.
- He presents His goodness and love by sending Christ to teach us the truth and explain how to fulfill God’s righteous requirement of faith (John 1:17; John 3:16; Titus 2:11 to 12). For those who repent and follow Him, He provides the Holy Spirit as a comforter, teacher, sanctifier, and guarantee (2nd Corinthians 1:22; 2nd Corinthians 5:5; and Ephesians 1:14).
- He shows us He is gracious and merciful by offering fallen humans reconciliation to Himself through sacrificing His beloved Son as payment (1st John 1:9; Romans 1:16; Romans 3:24 to 31). God would be righteous in giving us what we deserve, but He demonstrates mercy in forgiving us, and grace in giving us what we did not merit. He is righteous by justifying those who would fulfill the requirement of faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4). The payment was for all humans, the requirement of faith is individually fulfilled allowing human will.
- He reveals to us that He is eternal, above creation while involved with it, and all-knowing by the design and execution of His plan of the ages (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-25; Ephesians 1:10; the Psalms, Revelation chapters 21 through 22). His wonderful plan was laid out from the foundation of the world and disclosed in various dispensations of time, foretelling the end from the beginning (1st Corinthians 2:7; 1st Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26; Hebrews 9:26).
- He provides evidence that He is sovereign, eternal, above creation, all-knowing, ever-present, and unchanging through historic and prophetic facts surrounding the Gospel of Christ (Luke 24:44; 1st Corinthians 15:1 to 23). Only the everlasting Ruler of the universe who transcends space and time could foretell the future, have it published in Scripture, and still ensure His plans could not be thwarted by opposition! For more information on historical facts that were prophesied, you can reference the “Choices” tab of DesiringFruitfullness.ca.
- He proves to us He is loving and faithful by the supernatural spreading of the Gospel worldwide to all nations after Christ’s resurrection to this very day. (Matthew 28:19 to 20; Mark 16:15 to 20; Luke 24:41; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:18 to 29; 1st Corinthians 1:21; and Hebrews 2:1 to 4). This loving God looks after His Word to perform it. He is faithful to ensure His Word is declared to offer the chance of redemption to all who will repent. He has also ensured Old and New Testament Scripture have been preserved.
- He explains He is righteous, and just by His righteous wrath evident in humanity experiencing consequences of their actions including fear, increased entanglement or bondage to sin, and willful depraved thinking (Roman 1:18 to 32). God gives people over to what they want. He shines the light in creation, through Scripture, in dreams, in our consciences, and by angels whether heavenly or earthly. If people want to submit to the LORD, He will work with them to increase their appetite for His WORD and His Ways leading them to repentance. If people prefer to rebel and seek their sinful desires, He gives them over to their own desires.
- He demonstrates He is self-existent and just by the provision of destiny for the rebels in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41 and 46; Revelation 14:9 to 11; and Revelation 20:10 to 15) and for the overcoming redeemed in eternity reconciled to Him in a new heaven and earth (Revelation 5:10; Revelation chapters 21 to 22). Only the self-existent who is not reliant on any other source for origin and sustainment can create a destiny for all of creation.
- He is Holy because there is no other like Him. He is set apart, triune and perfectly united, and completely worthy of all praise.
- “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come… You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:8 and 11).
Romans 1 explains that humanity is without excuse regardless if they had heard the gospel because God has revealed Himself to all in many ways. By humanity understanding that there is a holy sovereign God who holds us accountable for our actions and that our actions are innately selfish and wicked, we are confronted with a choice. Many choose to suppress the truth. They would rather lie to themselves because it helps them enjoy sin without feeling guilty. It is like refusing to find out that they are wrong, willful blindness. The chapter is speaking about all of humanity from the fall of man to now. The condition of humanity without regeneration is physically alive and spiritually dead.
This also applies to any person who claims to have Scriptural and theological knowledge but fails to apply it as a way of life. Man is guilty of:
- Suppressing God’s truth (Romans 1:18) and twisting its meaning
- Ignoring God’s revelation (Romans 1:19 to 20); and,
- Perverting God’s glory (Romans 1: 21 to 23).
You see, everyone needs God’s righteousness because no human being other than the God-Man Jesus Christ could obey the law perfectly. Scripture says in James 2:10 that if you broke one law, you are guilty of breaking the whole law. As such, none of us is good enough to approach God, and all of us are worthy of the penalty of death. But God is righteous in responding to faith (as the righteous requirement for salvation) to declare us just. This justification is a positional standing or an office. A believer grows in this office and as such progressively God’s righteousness is fulfilled in us through the Holy Spirit with our participation. God’s righteousness is:
- Past tense: the moment that justification is imputed to those who believe (or the just declaration is made);
- Present tense: imparted progressively in regeneration and sanctification through submission to the Holy Spirit and the Word (which always agree); and,
- Future tense: culminates in glorification when our “standing of justified” and “state of being sanctified” become identical (which will not happen in this body).
As it is written:
- “… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1st Corinthians 15:50 to 54).
Romans 1 ends with a very sobering message. Scripture provides a list of sins that are symptomatic of a debased mind which is a result of willfully relinquishing the correct knowledge of God. Those abandoning what God has revealed about Himself are (1) deprived of the protection of God; and, (2) delivered up to follow their own unqualified minds which leads to slavery to lasciviousness.
When we look at some of the itemized unfitting behaviours, it includes covetousness, maliciousness, envy, strife, deceit, boasters, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unforgiving among other things. In today’s society, these things are often accepted as natural tendencies and excused. Sometimes we thank God for His mercy on a person who is continuing in their sin; now I wonder if it is actually His judgment that is permitting a sinful person to persist in wayward thinking and actions that result in self-destruction.
You see, Romans 1:25 states that those who are continuing in the practice of sin have exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. What is the lie? It is that we can be like God and create our own rules; it is idolatry where we are our own gods as the serpent said in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5).
How many times did I allow myself to enjoy a movie, a joke, or a book that was filled with sinful thoughts? I gave myself permission because I was not the one originating the thoughts, or it was just fiction, or I didn’t actually do a bad deed. The truth is anyone approving of sin or finding enjoyment in it is also guilty of unrighteousness (Romans 1:32). If I know people who are sinning, I no longer can be a bystander. I am compelled to share the Gospel or leave the situation. Yes, Jesus ate with sinners AND He told them to repent and sin no more.
If I love the LORD and am guided by His Spirit, I must love what He loves and hate what He hates. (Proverbs 8:13). He hates all sin and is willing to forgive all who will believe in Him.
When I reflect on my past, I think it was His grace that did not leave me in the mire of my depravity and illuminated my mind to see His goodness. It was His mercy that allowed me to repent. His generation of faith in my heart through His Word sustains me from faith to faith and from glory to glory.
God’s righteousness means that He must judge and reward according to what is right. And in His goodness, He will remove the presence of sin (and all those who love it) from those who are justified by faith. This also means that those who have been faithful to Him will share in Christ’s inheritance and rule and reign with Him.
It’s amazing that those who believe God’s gospel of justification through faith in Jesus Christ live in all freedom here on earth and for all eternity in His presence. In His presence, there is only goodness. For those who know Him, our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude so our response is to give Him glory!
- “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1st Peter 1:13 to 19).
God’s justice is not about equity, it is about righteousness. He does not evaluate us on scales or a comparison curve. He has one requirement of faith; and, when this requirement is met, there is fruit in increasing abundance. Thank God for His righteous requirement of faith and for His grace that offers it.
All Scripture in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.
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