Monday, May 27, 2019

Romans Bible Study #5 - "No Partiality With God" - Romans 2 (Video and notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to study #4, click here..

Read Chapter 2

Last week, we covered the last section of chapter 1 in which Paul zeroed in on Gentiles. We saw how that they were without excuse for their rebellion against God. God had put his truth in their hearts, yet they suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. As they rebelled against God, they went down a road to wickedness that kept spiraling down farther and farther into absolute chaos and complete moral decadence.

Just imagine the church members in Rome as they received this letter. Even better, imagine Roman society at large as they procured copies of this. I don’t think that this was read only by Christians, but eventually by large parts of Rome, both Jews and Gentiles. I can imagine the Jews both in and out of the Christian community hearing these words in chapter 1 read. They were probably almost gleeful at Paul’s devastating critique of Gentile society...Then comes chapter 2...Paul turns the tables on these proud Jews...and probably also on the Gentile moralists as well (The Roman Stoics were probably just as appalled as the Roman Jews at the decadent society around them).

Paul in this section will use a commonly-used rhetorical device in his day...the Greek “diatribe.” This was where one would engage in a dialogue an imaginary person. Scholars are divided about whether this first part of the second chapter is addressed to Jews or to Gentile moralists...that is, Gentiles who practiced their own form of law and lived what we would think of as generally moral lives. The Stoics were one of these groups. Personally, I think that Paul is primarily thinking of the Jews throughout this chapter. He comes out in the open in verse 17 and calls them Jews, but I think these are the two categories he had in mind all along...although he had to know that he was touching the “moralistic Gentiles” as well. (One of the reasons I think this is because in both verses 9 and 10 he describes two categories...Jew and Greek. He probably, however, is referring to the moralistic Greeks in verse 14 when he talks about Gentiles who do not have the law but do instinctively the things in the law.)

In this chapter, we’re not going to be going verse by verse as we normally do. That is a good way to study scripture, but the problem with it is that we can “lose the forest for the trees” sometimes when we study at the “micro” level (verse by verse) than at the “macro” level (big picture). We want to really try to understand what Paul was saying to his audience, but then, before we’re done tonight, we want to try to understand how this applies to us in the society in which we live in 2019.

Paul opens up this section by telling those who have been feeling superior to these awful Gentiles that he just finished describing by telling them that when they judge those who have less light than them they are actually condemning themselves. (This sense of “judging” is not talking about only being able to judge between right from wrong, but condemning those who are practicing wrong.) How is it they these people are condemning themselves when they are judging others? When any of us find ourselves feeling morally superior because of what we know, we are saying that we want to be judged at a higher standard. I don’t think that Paul in these opening verses is saying that these Jews were practicing the exact same sins as the Gentiles, but that they were guilty of many sins that they were “sweeping under the rug.” Let’s read some of what Jesus said to some of these same type of people. In this case, he was talking primarily to the Pharisees in Jerusalem, who thought themselves morally superior to everyone else…

Read Matthew 23:2-7;13-15;23-28

What is a hypocrite? It originally referred to Greek actors, who would wear masks and pretend to be someone that they weren’t. Jesus was saying that you have a “righteous mask” that you put on, but underneath that mask is nothing but unrighteousness. Although Paul doesn’t use the word in Romans 2, the idea is there just the same. Here are people who pretend to be morally superior but inside are full of sin. Remember, it was these “morally superior” Pharisees and their accomplices the Saducees who condemned Jesus to a Roman cross. And the scriptures said that they did it because of envy.

Paul says in verse 4 of Romans 2 that the only reasons that you “morally superior” Jews have escaped judgment so far is because of the kindness, tolerance (some versions have forbearance here which I think is better), and patience of God. i.e. if you got what you deserved, you would already be in hell! God’s kindness should be leading you to repent, not to feel smugly safe from God’s wrath.

(I’m going to hold off on talking about verses 5-10 for now. We’ll look at these verses at the end of our talk.)

In verse 12, Paul begins to explain that those who have no law (and here he seems to be referring to the law of Moses) are judged by what we’ll call the law of the conscience. We mentioned this inward law that God has put in all men last week. He describes it in more detail here in chapter 2. Verses 14 and 15 in many versions are in parenthesis. He takes a break from his thought process to tell about this law of the conscience. What he describes sounds a lot like the “New Covenant” law which is written in the hearts of believers. However, this is something different. This is another law written on the heart of every man and woman. It is the “law of the conscience.” It is the law that tells even people who know nothing about the Bible, may have never even heard of the law of Moses, that some things are right and some things are wrong. Every society that has ever been (as far as I know) values selflessness over selfishness. We know instinctively that there is something wrong about living only for ourselves, and something noble about sacrificing ourselves for others. Think of our Medal of Honor winners. Most of the recipients of this honor received it posthumously, as, until recently, about the only way you could receive it was for giving your life for protecting others. Paul in verse 15 tells that this moral law works in even Gentile’s hearts, “alternately accusing or else defending them.” No one, by the way, is saved by this law anymore than anyone is saved by the Jewish law.

Verse 11 is a great summary of this first part of the chapter…”For there is no partiality with God.” Jews and Gentiles are both “without excuse”, as Paul has already said of Gentiles in chapter 1.
In vs. 17-24, Paul comes out in the open and condemns these judgmental Jews, much the same way that Jesus did in Matthew 22. They feel morally superior to these awful Gentiles, but he begins to grill them on the witness stand, layer by layer tearing apart their moral smugness. He winds it up in verse 24 by quoting Isaiah, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” In essence, he’s saying…”you make the Gentiles look good!” You can just see them withering under these accusations.

Vs, 25-29, Paul drills down even deeper, accusing these Jews of taking refuge in their circumcision, that symbol of Judaism giving by God to Abraham. He says to them that if they don’t keep the law, their circumcision is totally worthless. A uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law is more of a Jew than a circumcised Jew who doesn’t keep the law! Verses 28-29 is a summary of the last half of this chapter. Paul says that there is such a thing as a circumcision of the heart. Physical circumcision is a cutting away of the flesh, but it is only a symbol of spiritual circumcision. This is when through the Holy Spirit our carnal nature is cut away. Those who receive this spiritual circumcision are true Jews, whether physically circumcised or not.

Now, I want to re-read vs. 10-15 and talk about these verses a bit…

Does it seem to you that Paul in this section contradicts the whole message of Romans? Remember in 1:16 he proclaims that the gospel message is that salvation is for those who believe. Later in Romans, we will see Paul emphatically declaring that we are not saved by works. Yet, here it says that in the day of judgment he will “render to each person according to His deeds.” What gives?

Let’s talk about the final judgment. First of all, who is judge at the final judgment? Look at John 5:22, where we were a few months ago. Who will be the judge? Jesus Christ. Jump down to vs. 27. Let’s look at one more place...Acts 10. Read vs. 40-42. Who is appointed as judge of the living and the dead? Jesus. Now...who is left out of that judgment? None

There is a very popular idea among evangelicals about the last judgment. I’ve heard a number of Christian songs that popularizes this idea. One of them is a Third Day song from a few years ago called “Trust In Jesus.”

One of these days we all will stand in judgment for
Every single word that we have spoken
One of these days we all will stand before the Lord
Give a reason for everything we've done
And what I've done is...
Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
I trust in Jesus
Blessed Redeemer
My Lord forever
The Holy One, the Holy One

What are you going to do when your time has come
And your life is done and there's nothing you can stand on
What will you have to say at the judgment throne
I already know the only thing that I can say I...
We’ve sung this song here before, but I’ve actually come to believe that it’s unbiblical...though it really sounds good. The idea is that when we get to judgment and the books are open to judge us for what we’ve done, we’ve got a trump card...We’ll say, We’ve trusted in Jesus. And God will say...oh, so you’re exempt! Come on in! A similar image and one that I’ve used myself is that God the Father is the judge and is about to sentence us to hell, but Jesus steps in and says, I’ve paid for this one with my blood. So then, God let’s us into heaven solely based on faith in Christ without respect to anything we’ve ever done.

Let me be clear. There is a certain sense in which this is true. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the next few weeks talking about salvation by faith. We won’t be saved by what we’ve done. We can’t earn salvation. It’s only through the blood of Jesus.

Now, these two things seem contradictory but they are not. Salvation comes through the blood of Christ, but the scripture clearly teaches that we will be judged according to what we’ve done with that salvation. Read Matthew 25...the whole chapter when you get a chance. It has two parables and a prophecy. The parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the prophecy of the final judgment. The virgins, the men that were given talents, and finally both the sheep and the goats that stand before God, are all judged according to what they have done with what they’ve been given. (Read Matt. 25:31-40 if time) I’ve looked at every scripture in the Bible about the final judgment. Every one of them says that we will be judged according to our works. Some have tried to find two final judgments in all this, but I can’t find them. (BTW, how can you have two final judgments. One of them can’t be final!) If you can show me, I will publicly apologize.

John Stott may shed some light on all of this for us...
(Referring to this section of Romans 2…)

"Some Christians, however, are immediately up in arms. Has the apostle taken leave of his senses? Does he begin by declaring that salvation is by faith alone (e.g. 1:16f.), and then destroy his own gospel by saying that it is by good works after all? No, Paul is not contradicting himself. What he is affirming is that, although justification is indeed by faith, judgment will be according to works. The reason for this is not hard to find. It is that the day of judgment will be a public occasion. Its purpose will be less to determine God’s judgment than to announce it and to vindicate it. The divine judgment, which is a process of sifting and separating, is going on secretly all the time, as people range themselves for or against Christ, but on the last day its results will be made public. The day of God’s wrath will also be the time when his righteous judgment will be revealed (5b). Such a public occasion, on which a public verdict will be given and a public sentence passed, will require public and verifiable evidence to support them. And the only public evidence available will be our works, what we have done and have been seen to do. The presence or absence of saving faith in our hearts will be disclosed.

Another way of saying this is that Jesus Christ will inspect that fruit of our salvation to see whether we really have received Him as our Lord and Savior. The goats in the parable simply showed no evidence in their lives of saving faith. The sheep did, even though they were quite unconscious of it.

Now, what does all of this have to do with us today? After all, we’re not under the law of Moses now. In this country, we’re not divided by Jews and Gentiles like they were in Paul’s day. Even though we have a large Jewish community (and there certainly is anti-Semitism around), the chief division among Americans is not between we Gentiles and those Jews, is it? But, are we divided today in 2019? We certainly are! How are we divided? Mainly between liberals and conservatives. It’s interesting to me that very few people who describe themselves as liberal or progressive believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. Many of them attend church, although many describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. On the other hand, most people (though certainly not all) who are conservative political are Bible-believing Christians. How well do these two groups get along? Can you see this split in Romans 1 and 2? Look at the section we studied last week. We’ve got people that have no problem sleeping with whoever they want to sleep with. Multiple partners? No problem. Which side of the divide is what is now called LGTBQ community? Liberal/left-wing

Look at chapter 2. Who would you say in our country has “the law of God”? Or a better way to put it, has the greater understanding of the word of God, the Bible. Bible-believing Christians who are overwhelmingly conservative...including me.

What am I getting at? There are many people in our country who are culturally Christian. Many of them hardly ever attend church anymore, but still consider themselves Christian. Some may attend church regularly out of habit, tradition, or because they think it is good for them. They may even give a lot to the church. But they’ve never come to saving faith in Christ. They may have had an experience early in life that they are trusting in now, but there is not any real fruit in their lives. (We each need to examine ourselves frequently and just ask ourselves. At this point in my life, am I trusting in Christ...daily? Remember, we are each held accountable for the light that we’ve been given.) These folks are much like those who Paul was addressing in Romans 2. They hold their nose up at those who are living in darkness and practicing all manner of evil.

What’s the difference in these cultural Christians and those who are the real deal? It’s the condition of the heart. These cultural Christians are every bit as hard-hearted as the Phariseeacal Jews of the 1st century ever were. Bottom line is we will not be judged by what we know but by what we do with what we know.

1 Cor. 8:1 “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (or builds up).” Religious knowledge without love only makes us arrogant. Religious knowledge without love is one of the most dangerous things there is. Again, we will be made accountable for the amount of light that we have. How do you get love? By getting Jesus! By being circumcised in the heart...that love is what produces the fruit. And that is what we will be judged by.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Passing Through the Weeping Valley

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion…”
(Psalm 84:5-7 NKJV)

I love the Psalms. I love the way that David and others talk to God, and how God responds to the Psalmists. In the Psalms, you get all the spectrum of life, as men rejoice, weep, struggle, doubt, and ultimately overcome all fears. When I’m in a struggle, I find it of great help to find someone who has faced the same struggle, and yet was able to overcome. This is the legacy left us by the Psalmists. The Psalms are beautiful. The Psalms are gritty. The Psalms are real.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 84. This is a beautiful picture of Jewish pilgrims heading to Jerusalem to celebrate a feast. Yet, it is much more than that. I see in this Psalm a picture of each of us making our way to the Heavenly Jerusalem (See Hebrews 12:22). It’s a picture of our travels through this life. In the first part of this psalm, this unnamed psalmist (all we know of him is that he was of the “Sons of Korah,” who were temple musicians), he describes his longing to be in the place where God dwells, which in those days, was the temple in Jerusalem. He even expresses envy for the birds that make their homes in the nooks and crannies of the temple grounds.

In verse five, he turns to those who are making their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the many feasts prescribed in the Torah. He says that the man (or is generic here) is blessed who finds his strength in the Lord. He says about these pilgrims, that their hearts are set on pilgrimage. In other words, wherever they find themselves along the way, whether a joyous place or a rough one, it is really of no consequence, because it is not their home. Their home is up ahead in the City of God. They are determined to get there...and nothing will stop them! What a lesson for us as we travel this road to the Celestial City! If our hearts are set on pilgrimage...if we are determined to make it, no matter what obstacles, nothing will deter us! This world is not our home. We are just passing through.

Verse six is peculiar. “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring…” What is the “Valley of Baca?” Baca has two meaning...It was a specific kind of tree, probably a Balsam. But it also meant “weeping” (as the Balsam tree was a type of “weeping tree” similar to our “weeping” willow). So, the Valley of Baca was the Weeping Valley. What is this Weeping Valley? For those of us who have been on the road to the Heavenly Jerusalem for very long, we know very well what this “Valley of Weeping” is, though we may have never heard the term before. I wish I could characterize the Christian life as being one of victory upon succeeded by joy. Yet, though there are great victories and “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” this walk with God is not a tearless journey. Jesus Himself said as He neared the cross…”In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). The Valley of Baca is something none of us have escaped.

What Weeping Valleys have you encountered as you have made your way through this world? Sickness, divorce, or death of those near and dear to you may have led you into dark nights of your soul. You might have encountered struggles with finance, struggles with relationships, or struggles with unsaved family members. Sometimes, for many of us, it seems like one Valley of Baca is succeeded by another, with little break in between. Heartache may seem at times to be your closest companion.

For some of us, though there may or may not have been these outward troubles, yet we find the greatest struggles are in our own souls. We want to serve God and to please Him. Yet, we have to say, as Paul did in Romans 7…

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…” (Romans 7: 18, 19)

There are times for us when God seems so near. We could almost reach out and touch Him. Then again, we have other times, when our testimony is not so encouraging. We’ve come to the Weeping Valley. He is distant. We know by faith that He is near...but we can’t find Him like we could in the past. Sometimes these “Valleys of Baca” may last a few weeks...and few months...even a few years.

My mind takes me back here to an old hymn we sang when I was growing up. It was written by John Newton, the former slave ship captain who became a Christian and wrote “Amazing Grace.”

How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see
Sweet prospects sweet birds
and sweet flow'rs, Have all lost their
sweetness to me

The mid-summer sun shines but dim
The fields strive in vain to look gay
But when I am happy in Him
December's as pleasant as May

John Newton certainly knew what the Valley of Baca was.

In a later verse he describes the former times He had with Christ…

Content with beholding His face,
My all to His pleasure resigned,
No changes of seasons or place
Would make any change in my mind.
While blest with a sense of His love,
A palace a toy would appear;
And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there.

Prisons would palaces prove...if Jesus would dwell with me there. When you’ve tasted the sweet wine of God’s presence, nothing else will do!

Yet, for each of us, God has called us to walk through the Valley of Weeping. I’m convinced that it is the same place that, in Psalm 23, David calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” It wasn’t literally death that David was walking through...but it felt like it!

Notice also in verse six of the 84th Psalm, the writer says, “Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings.” This “Son of Korah” says that when we walk through the Weeping Valley, we don’t just have to grit our teeth and get through it, we can, even in such a place, find “streams in the desert” (see Isaiah 35:6 KJV). In whatever valley we find ourselves in, we can discover springs of water. Actually, notice the wording of the Psalm…”they make it a spring.” This tells me that, whatever struggle we find ourselves in, we have the power within us, through the Holy Spirit, to “make it a spring.” How is that possible?

One Old Testament example of a man who did exactly that is found in 1 Samuel 30. David has been running from wicked King Saul for almost a decade. He’s gone from one “Valley of Baca” to another. Though anointed as king by Samuel in his youth, that experience must have seen distant to him now. He is head of a renegade bunch that called themselves “David’s Mighty Men.” In this instance, David and his men, as they are chasing their enemies the Amalekites, come to their home base at Ziklag. David and his men had left their families there for safety. Yet, when they topped the hill at Ziklag, all they could see was ruin and destruction below. The enemy had attacked their home base and carried off their family members! Verse four tells us their response:

Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.”

Without a doubt, David had come upon Weeping Valley. Unfortunately, it only got worse from there. David’s men, in their distress, irrationally spoke of stoning their leader. David was no more responsible for the calamity than any of his men, but the men in their grief were not thinking soberly...they were acting out of emotion.

Yet, at the close of verse six of 1 Samuel 30, we find David’s response…

...But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God…” (KJV)

Here is where David found his “streams in the desert.” He had made a spring in the Valley of Weeping. He didn’t look around at the devastation he saw. Nor did he look to his friends around him, who were hardly being friends to him at the time. He looked up to God...and found encouragement. There are sometimes in our lives, when all seems lost, that we must “encourage ourselves in the Lord.”

I wonder how David did this? What encouragement could he find in the Lord that day when nothing
around him was encouraging? Perhaps, he might have looked back to another valley, when he was just a boy. It was the valley where he met Goliath...with only a sling and a stone. No one...NO ONE...gave him any chance against the Giant of Gath. You probably know the story. God gave David the victory...and the giant’s head was removed from his body. Maybe David also thought of the many times that God had delivered him from the half-mad King Saul. Whatever the case, David looked back and found courage to go forward.

When David encouraged himself in the Lord, he began to act not out of fear but out of faith. The remainder of the story is one of victory upon victory. Read it for yourself. David asks God, “Shall I overtake them?” (Notice, he doesn’t ask God, shall I crawl in a corner and console myself? We need to be asking the right question!) God’s encouraging answer was “Pursue for you shall surely overtake them and WITHOUT FAIL recover all.” (1 Samuel 30:8) And, that’s exactly what happened. After encouraging himself in the Lord, David encourages his men with God’s word, and they march off and recover all. Not one of their loved ones perished at the hands of Amelek.

Perhaps, that is why in verse seven of Psalm 84, it says that these men and women who make the valley of Baca a spring “go from strength to strength.” When we walk through our valleys of Baca, encouraging ourselves in the Lord as we contemplate God’s past mercies, we go from our puny human strength to God’s amazing heavenly strength. Strength to strength. Faith to faith (see Romans 1:17). Every Weeping Valley that we walk through gives us strength to take the next hill. Later on, in the psalm, we are told the reason for such encouragement as we find even in the Valley of Baca”

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11)

What encouragement there is in this verse! The Lord, who is our sun and shield, has promised to give us grace for every Valley of Baca that we walk through. Ultimately, he will give us glory...eternal glory. He will not withhold one good thing from us, here or in eternity, when we walk uprightly before Him. This doesn’t mean that we have to do everything perfectly. It just means that we obey Him, that we follow Him as best we know how. In the end, everyone who is on the road to our Heavenly Jerusalem...and who stays on the road...will, as it says in verse seven, appear before God in Zion.

If you find yourself in Weeping Valley today, be encouraged! If you are in a struggle, keep struggling! (As my pastor has said, many times, “Strugglers make it!) If your strength is in Jesus, He has promised you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1). Weeping may indeed endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30:5)

I'd like to invite each of you to follow us as we study Paul's Epistle to Romans here on this blog...I believe you'll be encouraged! Each blog post includes a video of the lesson, plus my notes, so that you can follow along if you wish.  To access Lesson #1, click here.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Romans Bible Study #4 - "Without Excuse" - Romans 1:18 - 32 (Video and notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the previous lesson, click here..

We are beginning a section tonight that begins with Romans 1:18 and will extend all the way to Romans 3:20. This section is Paul’s indictment of all mankind, both Jew and Gentile. Before we can really grasp the beauty of the light of Christ in salvation, we have to examine the dark backdrop behind that light. Before we can be saved, we have to understand our great need for salvation. This is what this section is all about.

Francis Schaeffer stated that “until recently, the book of Romans was studied in American law schools to teach students the art of presenting an argument.” This was especially true of the section that we are about to begin tonight. Paul is like an attorney arguing before the bar against a defendant. Who is the defendant? Well, we’re going to find’s us!

Read Romans 1:18 - 32

Connection between Romans 1:17 and Romans 1:18
Vs. 17 - the righteousness of God is revealed through the gospel
Vs. 18 - the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness

What is the “wrath of God?” (SLIDE)
John Stott - "The wrath of almost totally different from human anger. It does not mean that God loses his temper, flies into a rage, or is ever malicious, spiteful or vindictive. The alternative to ‘wrath’ is not ‘love’ but ‘neutrality’ in the moral conflict. And God is not neutral. On the contrary, his wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it."

So God’s wrath is His holy hostility to evil. Notice that the text does not say that it will one day be revealed, but it is revealed. While we do know from elsewhere in scripture that there will be a final day of God’s wrath, this indicates an ongoing revelation of God’s wrath.

What is God’s wrath revealed against? “All ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…
The Greek word translated “ungodliness” has to do with hostility “against God.” The Greek word translated “unrighteousness” has to do with injustice or unrighteousness of heart and life “against men.” So God has hostility to those who are hostile to him and to His creation...that is, mankind. Why is he hostile to them? Because they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”


Stott…”It is not just that they do wrong, though they know better. It is that they have made a decision... to live for themselves, rather than for God and others, and therefore deliberately stifle any truth which challenges their self-centeredness.”

This naturally brings up the question...what truth is it that men (and here he seems to mean all men) suppress? You can’t suppress something that you don’t have in the first place, can you?

This is explained in vs. 19. 20.
Before we get into these verses, let’s talk about revelation. There is such a thing as “gospel revelation.” That’s what Paul was talking about in vs. 16 and 17. The gospel through the Holy Spirit reveals to us “the righteousness of God.” Obviously that’s not the kind of revelation he’s talking about in vs. 19 and 20. Here he is talking to us about “general revelation.” That is, this is that which is revealed to all mankind. Notice in verse 19 it says it is “evident within them” and verse 20 “His invisible attributes...have been clearly seen.” i.e. they have been revealed.

Vs. 19 tells us that there are certain things that are known about God that all men know innately. It is evident to them. It is within them. This is why, no matter how isolated a culture, you will find men worship some kind of higher power. There is an innate knowledge of God in men...not a saving knowledge, but a knowledge that we simply couldn’t have gotten here on our own. Men have a conscience. Though marred by sin, there is a sense of right and wrong, of justice and injustice in all men. Man did not create man. I remember reading the autobiography of a missionary of John Paton, a missionary to the islands of the South Pacific. He went to an island that had been isolated for 1800 years from the gospel. No white man had ever been there. Yet, he found me worshipping all kinds of strange gods. They have an innate knowledge of God.

Vs. 20 tells us of another kind of general revelation that works together with the human conscience. This verse tells us that since the world was created, God’s invisible attributes...have been clearly seen by men. How can men see God’s invisible attributes? They can see them and understand them (although imperfectly) through what God has made. All of creation testifies to the existence of a Creator. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands…”

Looking into a telescope (from “The Case for A Creator” by Lee Strobel)
One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is fine-tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.

The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bull's-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than 30 physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life.

"If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence," said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O'Keefe of NASA. "It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."

Now...let’s look through a microscope (also from The Case for a Creator)
The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body's one hundred trillion cells contain a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.

On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that's complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or function such as books and computer code, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence.

"Information is the hallmark of a mind," Meyer said. "And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that's far greater than our own — a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who's amazingly creative."

So, what do men do with such overwhelming evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature? As we have already noted, they suppress the truth...both the truth in their own consciences and the truth in creation. Yet, because of this general revelation which is available to all men, vs. 20 says that “they are without excuse.”

This tells me that there is sufficient revelation available both within men and in the creation around men to acknowledge God. I don’t believe that there has ever been nor ever will be a man or woman who sincerely sought after God that did not find Him, however imperfect their knowledge might be. It doesn’t mean that they know all about God. Certainly, anyone before Christ would have had no opportunity to know the full light of the knowledge of the gospel. No one will ever go to hell because they had no opportunity. No one will ever stand before God at the day of judgement and be able to say, “I never had a chance to know You.”

Yet, the evidence is that the overwhelming majority of men down through the ages have rejected God. They have “suppressed the truth” that resides even down in their very souls. Vs. 21 - 23 describes how this happens. From here to the end of the chapter we see a downward spiral. Once men reject God, there is nowhere to go but down. Vs. 21 tells us that though they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but instead they became futile in their speculations (“their thinking became futile” NIV) and “their foolish heart was darkened.” (Futile here means “to make empty, vain, foolish.”) Verse 22 goes on to say that though “professing to be wise, they became fools.” (AMP “professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves.”) So it was then, so it is now. Men today have become more adept than the ancients at making fools of themselves. Anyone that says that man made himself...that man came from a fool!

Vs. 23 shows us the results of the rejection of God. Notice the word “exchanged.” This is going to be used by Paul to describe each step downward in this de-evolutionary process. Because men hate God, they “exchange” His glory for images. Images of men, birds, beasts, and reptiles. So, when man rejects God, the first thing he does is find a replacement for God. This is where most of the world’s religions have come from. We want an alternative to the true God, man says, so he worships something other than God. Worship is inbuilt in men. It is something he has to do. Every man and every woman worships something. Bob Dylan wrote the song, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.” How true that is! Man makes a terrible bargain when he trades true worship for idol worship...yet he does it all the time.

But, you might say, we don’t worship idols today! We don’t worship birds, animals, and crawling creatures like Paul described that men did in that day. Well, some men still do. However, in our sophisticated 21st century society, we have “evolved” from that, haven’t we? Actually, all we’ve done is found other things to worship. Here is a very abbreviated list of things that we worship today...entertainment, sports, movie stars, nature, food, family, sex...No, we don’t worship birds and four-footed animals...we worship things like Cardinals, Cubs, Colts, and Pacers (whatever that is!). But, we don’t worship those things, you might say! We don’t bow down to them! Well, whatever you spend your time on the most, whatever you think about when you don’t have to think about anything...that’s what you worship. Worship means “worth-ship”. Whatever you attribute worth to above God is what you worship.

Notice that in verse 23 he says that we exchange the “incorruptible God” for these corruptible idols. The inevitable result of man-made religion is that we become corrupted. Verse 24 describes the next step downward. “God gave them over” (we’re going to see that phrase repeated several times as we continue downward) “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” Once we turn from God, God lets us get what we want. Yet “gives us over”. The original means “to give into the hands of another.” This is certainly not God’s perfect will...but it is something He permits. If we want to wallow in the pigpen, He will let us.

Vs. 25 has another exchange to explain why God gives us over to the lusts of our own heart. We exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the creature instead of the Creator. This gets to the bottom of this idolatry. All idolatry is ultimately man worship. We become our own gods!

C.H. Dodd:

God’s judgment on the people’s idolatry was to give them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity. The history of the world confirms that idolatry tends to immorality. A false image of God leads to a false understanding of sex...Illicit sex degrades people’s humanness; sex in marriage, as God intended, ennobles it.

Listen to how vs. 24-25 sound in “The Message”

So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

What is this pigpen that he’s talking about. When he says in verse 24 “God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to impurity,” he is talking about sexual impurity. Each one of these steps I have seen in this country in my own lifetime. This began to happen about 50 years the late 60’s and early 70’s. Young people began to throw off all restraint. “God is dead” and “if it feels good, do it” walked hand in hand. Since then, sexual promiscuity has become “baked in” to our society. What was once considered “shacking up” is now no big deal. In our society, you can live with someone of the opposite sex without marriage, having babies with them, and be considered an honorable member of society...even be an upstanding church member in many churches. It used to be called “fornication.” We don’t use that word anymore. It just seems too harsh. Instead of husband or wife, we now have companions. Divorce rates doubled between 1965 and 1980, then leveled off and eventually went down some. Why did they go down? Not because people had began to embrace the values of the Bible! It was because people just stopped getting married. What was then wrong is now right. What was down is now up...or so they say.

What does Paul say is the next step to this “downward spiral” of society. Look at vs. 26-27. God “gives them over” again...this time to homosexual lifestyles. Notice again that word “exchanged” in verse 26. Their “women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural.” Men had their own exchange, abandoning the natural function of a woman and buring with desire for one another. Wow! How politically incorrect was Paul!

(Reading this, it is almost as if some architects of society read Romans 1 and decided to use this as a blueprint for the way they would take society!)

So, Paul says, after sexual promiscuity spirals upwards and the sanctity of marriage spirals downward, the homosexual lifestyle with then become front and center. Isn’t that exactly what we see happening in our society...and even around the world?

Every part of our society...except the evangelical church...has conspired to make what was once abhorrent to be celebrated. Homosexuality has been for millennia considered deviant behavior. That is because it is. I just have to be blunt here. Male bodies were not biologically designed to have sexual intercourse with male bodies. Nor are female bodies designed to have intercourse with female bodies. That isn’t a homophobic statement. It’s just biology. When you do something that is against nature, their are bound to be consequences, and that is certainly the case.

National Institute of Health:
LGBT youth are more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors leading to an increased incidence of STDs. The rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV are twice as higher (sic) in sexually minority youth, as in heterosexual men [11]. According to the Dane County Youth Assessment Surveys (2008-2009), multiple factors accounted for unsafe sexual behaviors in LGBT youth including earlier age of sexual encounter, increased number of known and anonymous sexual partners, lack of education on safe sex practices, ineffective use of condoms, and testing and perception of STDs acquisition...The Center for Disease Control and Prevention data in 2014 showed that gay and bisexual men accounted for 83% of the new diagnoses of HIV among males, aged 13 years and older. The gay men were also at an increased risk of various cancers including prostate, testicular, anal, and colon, which might be related to limited culturally sensitive screening services…

At the end of vs. 27, Paul states that those who persist in such behavior receive “in their own persons the due penalty of their errors.” Is Paul saying that God punishes gays with AIDS and other diseases. No, he is not. He is just saying that when you do something against nature, their are natural consequences. (BTW...This is true for heterosexual as well as homosexual activity. People who have sex within the confines of marriage don’t have to worry about STD’s and such like). This is also true of abusing our bodies by eating too much food or the wrong food. Does God punish people who eat too much with a far greater chance of diabetes than others? Does God punish smokers with lung cancer? No, when we do things that are harmful to the body, we must expect that the chances of having something bad happen in our body is much greater! I some homophobic pastor railing against homosexuals? No I am not. I love all people, including homosexual, lesbians, and transgender, or whatever categories they might have now. You should love them as well. I also love people who are promiscuous, who are obese, who are boastful, who are covetous, who are arrogant...Yet, that does not mean that I or you can condone behavior that is outside God’s perfect will.

Speaking of transgender, I noticed that about a week after the famous Supreme Court Obergefell decision in 2015 which required states to legalize homosexual “marriages”, we became inundated with articles and profiles about “transgendered” people. And it hasn’t let up since then. Now, anyone who feels like someone of the opposite sex should be considered the opposite sex...even if that someone is 3 years old!
(Slide of church sign)

(Charlize Theron 3-year-old son “transitioning” to a boy is now 7...talked to Dennis Prager about.)

(Read from this morning...about Canadian Court ruling that parents can’t stop 14-year-old girl from taking male hormones. Parent would be guilty of “family violence” for calling her a girl or referring to her by her female name!)

This is heading our way at breakneck speed. Sadly enough, many people who call themselves Christians actively embrace this entire agenda, and actively try to chance conservative, Bible-believing Christians minds about this through all kinds of clever techniques.

(Read from article 4-29-19 USA Today by Oliver Thomas, retired Baptist pastor)

So, what happens next? Paul tells us in the last several verses of chapter 1. Because they do not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God “gave them over to a depraved mind.” The floodgates open as Paul lists all kinds of debased practices that flow out of man’s rejection of God. They are not only unrighteous, wicked, and greedy, but filled with those things. In the middle of this list is one thing that really sums it up...they are haters of God. Haven’t we seen this? Those who hate God and those who worship God are rapidly becoming a dominant force in our society. I would put those like this Baptist minister in this category. Not only do they do know that these things are against God and still do them, but they also “give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

(Article about “Minister” in Colorado who melted down virginity rings to make statue of female sex organ and awarded to Gloria Steinem).

Romans 1: 28-32 (Message)
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

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