Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Righteousness & Wrath of God Revealed
Why is there evil in the world? How can a loving God condemn anyone to hell? Does God condemn me when I do wrong? How can I be a Christian and yet still sin? How do law and faith work together? Where do I find help and hope? What happens to the Jews after they rejected Jesus? How am I supposed to act as a Christian? Is government evil? How do I recognize evil in our midst?
Such heavy questions - questions that we lie awake at night wondering about. They are deep questions, but essential questions. Answering them can make the difference between belief and unbelief, and can shape our eternity. They can also shape our day to day life. All of these questions are answered in Paul's letter to the Christians in Rome.
Thus we begin a study of what may be the most famous letter in the New Testament. It contains the plan for salvation - known as the Romans Road. And in it, the Apostle Paul clearly articulates why God is justified in pouring our His wrath on a sinful world.
1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-
To understand Romans we need to understand a little about the apostle Paul. Interestingly, though he wrote much of the New Testament, we know very little about him. He was born Saul in the Roman city of Tarsus. Tarsus was located on the southern coastal side of modern day Turkey. Saul, who had Jewish parents, was a Roman citizen and was educated as a Pharisee in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. He hated the church and sought to destroy all of its members until Jesus Himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Paul turned his life over to Christ.
At that time Jesus told Paul that he would be used as a light to the gentiles. When Paul came to Christ he didn't turn his brain off. In fact he used his considerable skills and education to prove the existence of God and the truth of the gospel. This is something we can do too.
Paul was from a diverse cultural background, possessed great knowledge, was highly educated, and had a deep desire to do God's will, even if it brought him into danger. Paul was an apostle, even though he was not one of the original disciples. Paul traveled around the Mediterranean world spreading the gospel - but at the time of this writing, he had not visited Rome, even though he had friends there. At the end of his life he would visit, and die in Rome - but this letter is part introduction, part instruction, and part exhortation to a church in a city where the gospel had already spread. Look what Paul says about that gospel.
2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5
So, the gospel, or "good news" was promised, then performed by Jesus who is both God and man. He is descended from King David through His mother Mary - He is a man to this day - even though He is also fully God - the 2nd person of the trinity. How was He declared to be God - by the resurrection. This is what sets Jesus apart from any other religious leader - He died and came back to declare ultimate truth to us. So what does that mean to us?
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
This is the purpose that Jesus called Paul to, and that He called us to saying "Go and make disciples." Paul also talks about the fact that this God/Man Jesus called you personally to in His family. Isn't that wonderful?
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I like that - you can't have peace until you have God's grace. So after greeting them, Paul digs right in to the four main points of this chapter: The Strength of Faith, The Power of the Gospel, The Wrath & Righteousness of God, and the Consequences for Rejecting God's Call.
The Strength of Faith
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
Wow - wouldn't that be cool if someone could say that about the faith in this church - in your life? What would people say about you if asked to describe the kind of person you are? How would someone describe our church? Just something to think about. I pray that people would view us as a place that is safe, nurturing, and loving - yet truthful and bold in proclaiming the gospel and our love for Jesus.
It's interesting too because Paul wrote this letter while in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians, as you may know, had many problems - I wonder if Paul was rejoicing that this church had strong faith.
9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
Paul had not been to Rome yet, but that didn't stop him from praying. We too should pray for other churches, other ministries, missionaries, and others who are separated by geography, but not by the Spirit.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
Paul's desire to come to Rome, the capital of the empire, was not to get a tour of the sights - but to see the believers and give something to them. But he also says that he and they will be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. Did you know that no matter how mature a person is in the Lord, even if you are a baby Christian you can encourage them with your faith.
The more mature person might have a wonderful insight into the fellowship of suffering that he or she can impart, or the comfort they have received in trials - but the young believer can share their new found joy at reading John 3:16 and it can have just as much impact on the more mature believer.
13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
This is neat - notice Paul planned "many times" to come to them but was prevented. Now we might assume that the Apostle Paul has a direct line to heaven - he just clicks his little cell phone walkie talkie and God tells him the next step. This wasn't so. Paul planned and the Lord changed his plans.
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
It is good to plan, to pray, to consider what you'd like to do - but if it doesn't happen, don't berate yourself saying "Oh, I didn't hear God right." No - plan, and then let God determine the steps. Paul got to Rome - not when he planned, or how he planned - and God will do through you what He wills, it just may not happen the way we planned it, and that's okay.
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
Again, Paul's calling to the gentiles - notice how he mentions them first - most of the members of this church were gentile. And, no, I don't think Paul was making a joke about the wisdom or foolishness of the Jews - but saying "I'll preach to anyone - whether they have a double doctorate or are the town jester.
So now we see the second major section of this chapter.
The Power of the Gospel
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
Verse 16 should be on your "must memorize" list. First - Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. I think sometimes when we say we are a Christian we kind of smother the words because today's pluralistic society frowns upon anyone who makes a declaration of faith in Jesus. So why is Paul not ashamed? Because there is a power in the gospel that transcends just the mere words.
The power is this: that even God could not save us unrighteously - you know, just bend the rules - no, He did it by sending His Son to die in our place. That's how God forgives our sins, by placing them on Jesus. Make no mistake - there is a penalty of death for sin, the question is, who is going to pay it, you or Jesus for you?
And this rightness comes by faith - placing your trust and belief in what God did for you. It's not something we can earn either at the start or at the end. All of us must live by faith - it's not blind faith, but revealed faith as God is revealed through what Jesus has done.
This is important because everyone is on the same footing - no one can exist with God unless he is pure. Man is not pure because of sin - sin that at its core is rebellion against God. So here is the third section of this chapter:
The Wrath & Righteousness of God
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
So even as we see the righteousness of God revealed in forgiveness through Jesus, we also see the wrath of God against those who would suppress this truth. And we see this rampant in our society today. People do it under the guise of socially accepted positions but it is godlessness, which denies a relationship with God, and wickedness, which encourages sin against our fellow man.
Abortion is called "choice," sexual immorality is called "free expression," or "diversity," greed is called "industriousness," and atheism is called "evolution." People try to hide God and hide from God, but they really can't.
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
A lot of people would argue against this last statement. They would say that God is not plainly seen at all - that He in fact, does not exist at all. I used to be in that camp, but not anymore.
God has made Himself plain in two ways - inside the heart of man, and in the creation of God.
In the heart of all of God makes His character clear through our conscience - that innate sense of right and wrong. People in every single culture have a conscience. Now we can ignore than conscience - and if we do the Bible tells us that our conscience becomes "seared" and it is unable to inform us with guilt when we do something wrong. But for most of us lying is wrong, stealing is wrong, murder is wrong - and God uses the conscience in every person to show them they are guilty of sin - of not living up to the pure character of God.
God also shows Himself plainly through the creation. Now today, of course, many scientists tell us that what we see around us evolved slowly over a great period of time. Despite decades of this kind of teaching, however, something like 95% of us still believe a Creator who made everything.
Psalm 19:14 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world"
You just can't take a good look at creation without realizing that a powerful person must have been behind it. A rainbow in its glory, fish in the sea, the mighty volcano. We also see cause and effect in the creation around us. If you drink lead, you'll be poisoned, if you jump out of an airplane without a parachute you will die. This teaches us that the soul who sins will surely die.
The creation's voice has been muted and distorted - but not by God, by us.
Romans 8:20-21 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
So both inside and outside we see the existence and righteousness of God plainly visible. But even with this, many ignore or deny it.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
This is what happens when we fight our own conscience - that place in us that tell us that there is a God and we are not Him. This is the mistake that Lucifer made when as a chief among God's angels he decided that he was more important than God. His fall has affected every single one of us as his influence led to our rebellion against God - a rebellion that creeps into all of our hearts.
The question is, will we fight that guilt or give in to our need for God? For those who fight even their thought processes become "futile." The word there can also mean "idolatrous." Idolatry is anything that stands in place of God. If we become more important than God then it is idolatry. Paul says "their foolish hearts were darkened."
Can you get wisdom about God from people who are in rebellion against Him? No. These claim wisdom, but instead they are fools - worshiping themselves as the captain of their own lives - their wisdom capable of understanding how everything works. Physicists are constantly looking for the "universal theory." That explanation of how everything works. I'll tell you - the answer is not one they want to hear. The answer is that Jesus Christ holds this universe together - and one day He's going to let it all fly.
Man worships himself, and he worships nature - in ancient days he created all sorts of idols in the shapes of animals. Today we worship nature, and we worship man as the pinnacle of nature. Don't get me wrong - we need to be good stewards of the earth and of animals (that's actually Scriptural) but when we put nature in place of God, we become foolish.
So even as man gave up on God, so God gives up on them.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.
The Consequences of Rejecting the Call of God
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Don't tell me that the Bible doesn't speak to homosexuality as a sin. This couldn't be more plain.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
God only let them do what they wanted to do. The funny thing is - we were all at one point or another in this camp to one degree or another. It doesn't matter how big or small a sinner you are - sin is sin and you cannot exist in God's presence if you have sin in your life.
But interestingly, God lets those who really want to, sin even more - even though they know in their hearts that what they are doing is deserving of death. And not only that - but they approve of those who practice the same things. I see that in our world today - not only is sin tolerated, it is encouraged, and those of us who say "this isn't right" are ridiculed.
So let's go over this again - God has revealed His character in the heart of man and in creation. For those who reject Him, He allows them to become more and more sinful - but make no mistake, the sentence of death will be carried out. And what is that sentence? Permanent total separation from God - and with that comes total isolation, total darkness, total pain.
But there is hope - there is a power in the gospel that can cut through all those layers of hardness like a hot knife through butter. So tell the good news - speak about the gift of life that Jesus Christ gave by taking the death penalty on Himself that we deserved.
What should we take away from Romans 1?
1. Be a faith sentinel - love God so it shows
2. Be a prayer sender - lift up others to God often
3. Be a God-directed believer - don't let changes upset you
4. Rely on the power of the gospel to reach into hearts - not on your own abilities