Monthly Archives: May 2015

Romans 2:12-16 – By Nature Law

Review:

Last week we tackled what appeared to be clear references to a justification by works taught by Paul.

  • In 2:6 Paul told us that God will “apodidomi” “to each one according to works”.
  • In 2:13 Paul told us that it is “the doers of the law who will be justified”.

 

We saw that there are 2 basic views on how to deal with these texts.

  • (1) Paul teaches and believes in only one kind of justification – justification by faith.
    • Therefore he doesn’t mean what it sounds like he means.
  • (2) Paul teaches and believes in at least two kinds of justification – a present justification by faith and a future justification by works.
    • Therefore he does mean what it sounds like it means.
    • And how it plays out is the rub.

 

An easy way to think of these two views and any hybrid between them is this:

  • View 1 – One Justification with One Basis
    • We are justified solely on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
  • View 2 – Two Justifications with Two Basis’
    • We are presently justified on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
    • We are “future justified” on the basis of our works – the life lived.
  • Hybrid View – Two Justifications with One Basis
    • We are presently justified on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
    • Our good works – possible only through our Union with Christ – “future justify” us because they vindicate Christ’s work as the basis for any justification we might have.

 

Justification, how we are made right with God, is an incredibly important aspect of Paul’s theology.

  • So it is worth your time to read over lasts weeks lesson.

 

 

Intro:

In our text today, Paul shows how the impartiality of God he has been discussing plays out.

  • Specifically, how God can be impartial in judgment given the differences between Jews and Gentiles.
  • Romans 2:11 – “For God shows no partiality”.

 

To do this, it is inevitable that he contend with the law – Sinai – the Mosaic covenant.

  • The law is seen as the thing that sets apart the Jew as God’s favored and privileged people.
  • In other words, the events at Sinai set apart the Jews from all other nations as God’s chosen.
  • At Sinai, the Jew was given the inside track to favor and righteousness.

 

Paul begins his bit on the law with a few generalizations about the law.

  • He then pokes at the bees nest of Jewish privilege.
  • He does this by suggesting that the Gentiles, in fact, do have a law.
  • A law that equally joins them in accountability to God.

 

 

Romans 2:12–16 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

 

Verses 12-13:

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

 

Paul contrasts a couple of different scenarios concerning the law.

  • (1) He speaks about those who are “without the law” (vs. 12) and those who are “under the law” (vs. 12).
  • (2) He speaks about the “hearers of the law” (vs. 13) and the “doers of the law” (vs. 13).

 

We need to know something about this “law”.

  • “When Paul talks about ‘the law’ he means the Jewish law, the Torah, the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai as the way of life for the people redeemed at the Exodus” – N.T. Wright.
  • “The ‘law’ in question is the law of Moses, the body of commandments given by God through Moses to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

First Contrast:

In the first contrast – without/under – Paul is careful to show one important thread that runs through both.

  • The existence of sin.
  • All who have sinned without the law” (vs. 12)
  • All who have sinned under the law” (vs. 12)

 

Whether one is under the law or not (Jewish or Gentile), sin is present.

  • Paul is, to the dismay of the Jew, showing that in spite of their differences with the Gentile, they are the same – both are in sin.

 

Paul also makes clear that in either circumstance – sin w/o law or sin under law – the consequence is the same.

  • Those who sin without the law will perish (vs. 12).
  • Those who sin “under the law” will be judged by the law (vs. 12).

 

To be judged by the law is actually not an advantage.

  • It is to be found wanting.
  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

So the end result of sin lived out in either circumstance is to come under…

  • The three things Paul has been discussing for sometime now.
  • God’s wrath
  • God’s judging righteousness
  • God’s condemnation

 

Now, if being “under the law” doesn’t insulate one from the effects of sin…

  • The obvious question is, “what keeps one from the eternal consequences of sin?
  • Paul’s second contrast answers this question.

 

 

Second Contrast:

In the second contrast – hearers/doers – Paul teaches that what keeps one from the consequences of sin is to be “doers of the law” (vs. 13).

  • To merely be “hearers of the law” (vs. 13) does not make anyone “righteous” (vs. 13).
  • Hearers of the law” are not under God’s saving righteousness.
  • It is only “doers of the law” that are “justified” or righteous (vs. 13).

 

In saying this, Paul blows to pieces the Jewish idea of who is in and who is out.

  • Here is how.

 

The “hearers of the law” are the Jews – those who received God’s law at Sinai.

  • Though this fact accords them some privileges (Paul will speak of them later), it offers no privilege when it comes to achieving righteousness.

 

Why would this be such a shock to the Jew?

“Outside Israel, the sphere of the law, there is no salvation. The Jews who live within the domain of law…often considered themselves virtually assured of salvation” – Douglas Moo.

  • Paul is contradicting this commonly held view.

 

Merely being part of the God’s chosen people – “hearers of the law” – does not a righteous man make.

  • What makes a man justified and righteous is to be “doers of the law” (vs. 13).
  • We dealt with how doing justifies last week.

 

The question a Jew might have at this point would simply be:

  • How can a Gentile be a doer of the law?
  • They aren’t even “hearers of the law”.
  • They weren’t the recipients of the law at Sinai.

 

 

Verses 14-16:

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

Paul says that “by nature” (vs. 14) Gentiles can be in effect “doers of the law”.

  • Whatever this “by nature” (vs. 14) stuff is, Paul sees it as “a law to themselves”.
  • Even though they never received the law at Sinai – they are not “hearers of the law”.
  • In other words, Gentiles do have a law so they can be a “doer of the law”.

 

Then expecting a question about this “by nature” stuff, Paul expands on it.

  • He speaks of “the work of the law” (vs. 15).
    • Moo calls this knowledge of the demands of God.
  • He speaks of it being “written on their hearts” (vs. 15).
    • Possible reference to Jeremiah 31.
  • He says that with this “their conscience also bears witness” (vs. 15).
  • And layered in with all of this, “their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (vs. 15).
    • This is accountability to their knowledge of the demands of God.

 

What is Paul talking about with respect to the by nature law of the Gentiles?

  • And is Paul suggesting here that justification is possible outside of the special revelation of Christ?

 

Roger Mohrlang says that Paul is simply trying to say:

  • “[Gentiles] have an intuitive sense of the distinction between right and wrong; in other words, they have a conscience” – Roger Mohrlang.
  • And though it isn’t the law at Sinai, it will often lead them to the same prohibitions.

As Douglas Moo says, Gentiles are without the law but not without law.

 

This means God can fairly and impartially judge them.

  • It does not mean that perfect obedience to their conscience can deliver them from being in Adam.
  • Conscience or no, they are still in Garden Exile and need Christ to lead them out of it.

 

All of these things (vss. 14-15) give insight into how the Gentiles have a “law” by which they are judged.

  • They explain how a Gentile – though not part of Sinai – is not disadvantaged “on that day” of God’s future judgment.
  • Or, for that matter, why the Jew is not at an advantage – not privileged.

 

Wright helpfully frames verses 14-15 as follows:

  • “Surely God’s own people, the Jews, have a head start? Hasn’t God given them his law? Doesn’t that mean they have a far better chance of doing what he wants? Isn’t that unfair on everybody else?” – N.T. Wright.
  • “His answer is No: God will judge everyone according to where they are [the “law” they have], not according to where they are not [Sinai]” – N.T. Wright.

 

And all of these things explain how God’s judgment is impartial.

  • In other words, it is not the differences between Jew and Gentile that make the difference.
  • It is, in fact, what they in have in common that brings it all home.

 

John Piper explains:

“God’s impartiality means that he judges not on the assumption that we all have access to the same amount of truth, but that we all have the truth we need to be held accountable, and that we will be judged by our response to what we do have, not what we don’t have” – John Piper.

 

So all – Jew and Gentile – have all they need to be accountable.

  • And all – Jew and Gentile – will be judged based on what they do have not what they don’t have.
  • The people of Sinai law and the people of the “by nature” law are in the same boat.

 

Importantly, this also means…

  • “Not hearing the Law of Moses will not condemn anyone” because “all human beings have the moral law of God stamped on their hearts” – John Piper.
  • One more reason why all are “without excuse”.

 

 

Addendum:

Are the Gentiles in our text Christians or unbelievers?

 

In other words are they (from Douglas Moo)…

  • (1) “Gentiles who do some part of the law but who are not saved.”
  • (2) “Gentile Christians who fulfill the law by virtue of their relationship to Christ.”

 

I don’t have a clue.

  • Schreiner and Moo favor the first option.
  • However, each recognizes the strengths textually of the second option.

 

N.T. Wright says he goes back and forth between the two, but appears to favor the second option.

Paul may be speaking of “…a new category of Gentiles…being created by the gospel itself, a category of Gentiles who have God’s law written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and who are thus coming to know in a new way what the law requires” – N.T. Wright.

  • Or, “Gentile Christians who manifest the new life of the Spirit by their obedience to the law” – Schreiner.

 

My question is one of context.

  • Paul’s context appears to be future judgment and justification.

 

Why?

  • Paul has already said, “doers of the law who will be justified” (vs. 13).
  • And in verse 16 he tells us he is talking about “on that day when…God judges” (vs. 16).

 

We saw last week that justification and future judgment are Paul’s future justification.

  • And, as we saw, future justification assumes present justification.
    • If there is not present justification, there can be no future one.
  • Therefore it makes since that these Gentiles are Christians – they have presently be justified by faith in Christ.
  • You can’t have a future justification of a non-believer.

 

Whatever the case…

“The main point of the passage, though, is not in doubt, and it is one of great ultimate comfort. The world is not in the hands of blind chance, or of a capricious God who will play favourites and leave everyone feeling the way people do after an unsatisfactory court hearing. True justice—the sort that people long for, plead for, thirst for around the world to this day—true justice will be done, and will be seen and known to be done. God will judge all human secrets through the Messiah, Jesus. That is good news for a world in which true justice is still hard to find” – N.T. Wright.

 

Romans 2:12-13 – Doers Are Justified

Romans 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

 

Look at that again!

  • “the doers of the law who will be justified” (vs. 13).
  • This is Paul’s first use in Romans of justify.
  • And he uses it in context of works.

 

 

Paul and Justification:

We know Paul teaches justification comes by faith and not by works.

  • Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • In Romans, justification is huge theme for Paul.

 

What is justification by faith?

  • If you remember, justification by faith is how God’s righteousness (another of Paul’s major themes) is made ours.
  • By faith in Christ we are imputed with a righteousness alien to us.
    • The righteousness of Christ.
  • A righteousness by which we are given a new status in God’s law court.
  • N.T. Wright says simply justification is how we are “declared to be in the right”.

 

Yet, in spite of teaching justification by faith, Paul keeps busting out this apparent justification by works language.

  • He seems determined to appeal to the legalist and moralist in us all.

 

Last week Paul said God will reward eternal life to those who do good works.

  • He will render to each one according to his works” – Romans 2:6.

 

Today he says that the “doers of the law” are justified and righteous.

  • But that is not all!

 

Later in Romans he will say:

  • Romans 14:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

And look at what he says in other letters:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Ephesians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) — 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

 

Then how about this text:

  • Revelation 20:12–13 (ESV) — 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

 

So what’s the deal?

  • Is Paul contradicting himself?
  • Are we missing something?
  • Are there different kinds of justification?

 

We are going to look at two views on what Paul means with his justification by works language.

 

View 1:

Many suggest that what Paul must being doing is stating a theoretical/theological possibility.

  • Paul is stating in the abstract that perfect “doers of the law” will be justified.

 

But, he knows full well that this type of obedience is impossible.

“Paul would not have thought for a moment that such people could actually live the kind of sinless, holy life which a total keeping of the law would produce” – N.T. Wright.

  • In other words, he believes it to be true, but knows that it is not possible.

 

The inability to perfectly obey is not new to Paul.

  • Psalm 143:2 (ESV) — 2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

 

So why would he say something he knows can’t happen anyway?

  • The reason Paul puts forward this theoretical possibility of being justified by works is…
  • To setup the need for his Gospel of Jesus Christ for both Jew and Gentile.
  • We need to obey the law, but we can’t, so we need someone who can in our stead.

 

After all, the logic goes, Paul will say in Romans 3:

  • Romans 3:23–24 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

 

And in Romans 4:

  • Romans 4:2–5 (ESV) — 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

 

Both of these texts point to Jesus.

  • Justification only comes through being united to Christ by faith.

 

N.T. Wright sums up this view:

Some “have suggested that maybe he is setting it up as a theoretical possibility which he will then show to be, in fact, impossible. They envisage him saying, in effect, ‘In theory, God would like to be able to judge people according to how they behave, but since in fact nobody would pass that test he has introduced a different scheme’” – N.T. Wright.

  • The different scheme is of course, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

This approach makes sense.

  • The idea that Paul is using justification through works language to point to our need for Christ seems to work.

 

 

View 2:

However, there are those that say this approach flattens out Paul’s teaching.

  • How so?

 

Some think Paul’s view of justification is larger than just justification by faith.

  • In fact, attempts to frame his justification by works language as view 1 does is to miss out on some important distinctions Paul is making in justification.
  • There is more than one kind of justification.

 

N.T. Wright will help us here.

“The contrast between judgment according to works and justification by faith is not between a system God might have liked to operate and a system he has chosen to operate instead. It is the contrast between the future judgment, which will indeed be in accordance with works, and the present anticipation of that verdict, which is simply…on the basis of faith” – N.T. Wright.

 

Did you catch that?

  • The idea behind this view is that Paul is teaching two kinds of justification.
  • Present justification – justification by faith.
  • Future justification – the future judgment according to works.

 

Present justification is justification by faith.

  • “Those who believe in Jesus as the risen Lord of the world are declared already, on the basis of that faith, to belong to God’s people. They are already marked out as the people whose sins are forgiven” – N.T. Wright.
  • Just as Paul teaches in many places, we have been imputed with Jesus’ alien righteousness and have a new status – right now.

 

But, in our text today, the context is future judgment.

  • God’s eschatological wrath to come.
  • on that day…God judges” (vs. 16).

 

Therefore Paul is speaking of a different kind of justification – future justification.

  • And “the future judgment will take place on the basis of the entire life a person has led” – N.T. Wright.
  • It is a judgment based on our works.

 

Even Douglas Moo says:

“Paul might then be thinking here not of the entry into salvation [present] but of the ultimate vindication at the last judgment [future]” – Douglas Moo.

 

Wright describes Paul’s future justification in terms of a final courtroom scene:

“Within the lawcourt setting, ‘justify’ is what the judge does at the end of the trial [final judgment]: he declares that one party in the lawsuit is ‘in the right’. The case [their life lived] has gone their way. The judge has found in their favour” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright says that Paul’s future justification has three parts:

  • (1) Judicial – Though Paul clearly speaks of a now justification in Christ, he and the Bible also speak of a final courtroom scene of judgment on the last day of not guilty for those in Christ.
    • The scene we just described.
  • (2) Covenantal – This courtroom scene “is also the declaration that they are part of the [covenant] family promised to Abraham” – N.T. Wright.
  • (3) Event – “God’s people will be resurrected and will share the promised inheritance, the renewed creation” through their bodily resurrection.

 

View 2 seems to make sense of the verses we mentioned earlier.

  • They all link our works with final judgment.

 

Let’s look at them again.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Ephesians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) — 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
  • Revelation 20:12–13 (ESV) — 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

 

And it also seems to make sense of even Jesus’ own words to the Pharisees:

  • Matthew 12:35–37 (ESV) — 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

And view 2 seems to make sense of the fact that there even is a future judgment described in the Bible.

  • Since we are justified and declared righteous right now by our faith in Christ…
  • Why do these verses even exist if there is also not a future justification?
  • In other words, if present justification by faith is all there is, then what are these verses all about?
  • For what are we being judged?

 

 

View 1 or View 2:

So which one?

  • My question is this.
  • And it goes back to the idea from View 1 that Paul actually believed works could justify.

 

First off, it doesn’t seem he actually really believed that works could justify.

  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

Moreover, Paul teaches in Romans 5:12 that we are dead in Adam.

  • This is why a historical Adam is so important – Paul’s theology rests on it.
  • This is why our default state is under God’s wrath, condemned.
  • It is what we are.
  • This fact obtains whether we obey the law perfectly or not.

 

We can also use the language from our Genesis lesson on Romans 5:12 of Garden Exile.

  • All of us are in Garden Exile.
  • Because of Adam, all are born outside of the Garden and the life it contained.
  • So excluded from the tree of life, all of us will die – and death is part of the problem.
  • Even if we were to obey the law perfectly, we would still be in this exile and thus still die.

 

Paul obviously knew this truth – he taught it.

  • So…why would he think that perfect obedience could save – something needed for view 1 – knowing the Romans 5:12/Genesis connection he himself taught?

 

Obedience to the law does not overcome death and Garden Exile.

  • To say that Paul would think so seems to raise some problems.
  • However, if his works justification/future justification is a separate thing from present justification, then the Romans 5:12 problem goes away.

 

 

My Take:

As I understand it, View 2 plays out as follows:

  • At our future judgment, God can look at our good works and rightly declare that our Union with Christ was real and efficacious – it bore fruit.
    • Our striving, out of profound gratitude, to do what God wants of us.
  • In other words, those justified by faith in Christ lived as those justified by faith in Christ.

 

Wright says it helps to think about it like we think of marriage.

  • In effect, at our future judgment, God declares that those pronounced “married” lived as “married”.
  • To live a life faithful to one’s spouse, one has to be married.
    • A pronouncement and change in status – justification by faith.
  • And to faithfully live a married life one has to “do/not do” things.
    • The things that flow out of the change in status – justification by works.

 

This makes sense.

  • We are born again, in Union with Christ, and participate in the fellowship of the Trinity.
  • Our life lived will inevitably flow out of this thick foundation of the Gospel.

 

In a way, this view glorifies Christ all the more.

  • We could never be “doers of the law” if not for the reality of our Union with Christ…
  • In other words, if we weren’t justified by faith – present justification – we would be incapable of good works.
  • So if future justification is legit, it doesn’t seem to locate the basis for justified status in us at all.
  • It seems to assume our present justification.

 

There is much more to be said on this.

  • Certainly there are critics and supporters of both views.
  • I will keep an open mind to both.

 

 

Romans 2:6-11 – Judgment of Works

Review:

Last week we dealt with Paul’s diatribe language and his handling of God’s judgment.

  • We saw that judgment refers specifically to God’s condemnation – an activity exclusive to God.
  • Paul wasn’t referring to an objective judgment of propositions and actions as right or wrong.
    • The very thing he was doing in his letter.
  • We also saw that to be judged and condemned by God is to come under His wrath – His judging righteousness.

 

We then tried to understand what it meant to “practice” the things that bring about God’s judgment.

  • The meaning of “practice” in context was “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.

 

The activity in question was described in Romans 1:

  • Spiritual corruption.
  • Physical corruption.
  • Fellowship corruption.

 

We also saw that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity was…

  • The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.

 

Let’s pickup where Paul left off…

 

 

Today’s Text:

Romans 2:6–11 (ESV) — 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

 

Verse 6:

“He will render to each one according to his works”

 

Paul switches gears a little be here and lays out a good news bad news scenario.

  • Paul talks about the “apodidomi” of God.
  • “Apodidomi” appears as “render”, “reward”, “repay”, and “give” in various translations.

 

Paul says God is going to “apodidomi” everybody – the Jew and the Greek.

  • No one will not receive the “apodidomi” of God.

 

The exact kind of rendering, reward or repayment depends on the person – the “each one” (vs. 6).

  • Paul puts it clearly, God’s “apodidomi” will be “to each one according to works” (vs. 6).

 

This fits well with a typical Jewish OT understanding.

  • Psalm 62:12 (ESV) — 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.

 

It seems like Paul is saying that eternal life is according to one’s works.

  • A concept that appears to contradict justification by faith.
  • “Paul asserts that works are necessary for salvation and also that one cannot be justified by works of the law…” – Tom Schreiner.
  • More on this seemingly problematic statement by Paul in a moment.

 

Paul states that the reward will take one of only two forms.

  • Paul explains…

 

 

Verse 7-11:

7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

Paul contrasts the one whose works seek “glory and honor and immortality” (vs. 7) with the one whose works are “self-seeking” and do “not obey the truth” (vs. 8).

  • The one who “does good” (vs. 10) with the one who “does evil” (vs. 9).
  • Good works vs. Evil works.

 

The two different works lead to a difference in what “will be” rewarded – in what the “apodidomi” will be.

  • The first will be given “eternal life” (vs. 7) – life in the age to come – resurrection life!
  • For the latter, there “will be wrath and fury” (vs. 8).
  • Paul is talking about the consummation of the Kingdom of God and what it looks like for each “worker”.

 

In light of Romans thus far, what are the rewards?

  • Reward 1 – God’s saving righteousness in the form of our future eternal salvation.
  • Reward 2 – Gods judging righteousness in the form of a future eschatological wrath.

 

 

Race is Not the Basis:

Notice that Paul is making it clear that the difference is not found in being Jew or Greek.

  • The distinction between Jew and Greek is meaningless.
  • the Jew first and also the Greek” (vs. 9 and 10).
  • God shows no partiality” (vs. 11).

“There is a God who, as creator, is responsible for the world, and he will put it to rights. And when he does so, he will act with complete impartiality, as accords with strict justice” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

But – Are Works Really the Basis?

What is the ground level difference between the “those” of verse 7 and the “those” of 8-9?

  • We have already seen the difference is not Jew or Greek.

 

Are their “works” really the difference?

  • Or are the “works” indicative of the difference?
  • If the latter, what are the works indicative of?
  • Answer is coming…

 

What Paul is not saying!

  • “Did Paul believe that some could obtain eternal life by doing good works?” – Tom Schreiner.
  • It is incredibly important that we resist hearing our text today with works baggage weighing us down.
  • As we saw some time ago, the believer lives in “this grace in which stand” (Romans 5:2).
  • Our works, therefore, never merit us any righteousness before God.

 

As we saw from Romans 1, God’s righteousness is His activity – it is from Him and it is His.

  • We are connected to it through faith – not through works.

 

So what is Paul getting at?

  • We have to remember our context – what Paul has been teaching.
  • God’s divine activity takes two forms.
  • His saving righteousness and His judging righteousness.

 

So we do not create our own righteousness.

  • We act within God’s.
  • And the kind of act or “work” we practice depends upon the righteousness in which we walk.

 

So to answer our earlier question…

  • The Christian’s works are indicative of living within the divine activity of God’s saving righteousness.
  • They are possible because, and flow from, this fact.

 

So what exactly is a good work for Paul?

 

 

Good Works:

A closer examination of verse 7 will help us understand what is behind a good work.

  • Here is the good work – “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”
  • Or as verse 10 puts it – he who “does good”.

 

To get at this, we need to understand “hypomone”.

  • The ESV translates this as “patience”.
  • It appears this is a bit of a misfire.
  • Other translations use “perseverance” or “persistence”.

 

The latter are more accurate.

  • In context, the BDAG says “hypomone” means “steadfast endurance of sufferings”.
  • Whereas “patience” conveys the idea of “passive waiting for divine intervention” – Robert Jewett.

 

Peter can help us here:

  • 1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

 

We will suffer because of Christ – “for righteousness’ sake”.

  • This is the Christian life.
  • As we do, we are to actively honor Him.
  • In fact, we are to actively give “reason for the hope” we have in Him – the reasons why we do honor Him in the midst of suffering.

 

Given all this, a paraphrase of Romans 1:7 will help us put it all together:

  • The real vs. 7 says a good work is “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”.
  • The paraphrase would be that a good work is to steadfastly and actively endure in the faith – especially in the midst of sufferings – seeking for glory and honor and immortality.

 

In fact we can shed even more light on what this good work is.

  • Because “hypomone” even has military overtones.
  • “It includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power” – Robert Jewett.
  • Such as “…maintaining ones place in a line of battle” – Robert Jewett.

 

So a good work is a deliberate and energetic working on our part to actively endure in the faith in the face of suffering and so honor Christ.

 

And Paul says this active, energetic action on our part is not a one-off thing.

  • He couples it with the idea of seeking – “seek for glory” (vs. 7).
  • And by that he means, “a sustained and deliberate” activity over time – Robert Jewett.
  • So add “over time” to our previous definitions of a good work.

 

Who are those that will “work” in such a manner – actively honoring Christ in our suffering in a sustained fashion?

  • Those who suppress the truth?
  • No…Those in God’s saving righteousness.
  • Those who in their “hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Importantly, then, we are not patiently waiting for God to intervene.

  • As we have seen, He has already acted and is daily acting on us with His saving righteousness.

 

How does this impact how we view obedience and works?

  • We have to be careful to exclude our works baggage that skews us toward self-righteousness.
  • Something Paul is not talking about.

 

This means that good works are our striving, out of profound gratitude, to do what God wants of us.

  • So we “seek for glory and honor and immortality” in and through Christ (vs. 7)
  • We “do good” (vs. 10).

 

This is the “obedience of faith” Paul speaks of in Romans 1.

  • Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
  • And it occurs among “all the nations” – not just Israel.

 

But our striving and doing “good” do count for something – just not our righteousness.

  • Paul teaches that “…good works are essential for participation in the coming age” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Now what this something is a subject of a lot of debate!

 

Just know that ultimately, our works count for something only because of the context in which we live as believers – God’s saving righteousness as opposed to His judging righteousness.

  • “The works of the Christian that are valid in the judgment are the ‘fruit’ of union with Christ and manifestations of God’s grace” – Douglas Moo.
  • “The justification by faith [God’s saving righteousness] granted the believer in this life is the sufficient cause of those works that God takes into account at the time of the judgment” – Douglas Moo.
  • Our works don’t secure our future; they demonstrate it is already secure in Christ and God’s saving righteousness.

 

 

Romans 2:1-5 – Judgment of God

Romans 2:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

 

Review:

We saw last week three things that happen with the unrighteous truth suppressors who are without excuse:

  • (1) Spiritual Corruption – they become idolaters.
    • Possibly the root problem of all sin for Paul.
  • (2) Physical (created order) Corruption – homosexuality.
  • (3) Fellowship Corruption – covetousness, envy, murder, disobedience to parents, etc.

 

With these, Paul was giving further reason why all are under God’s wrath.

  • In other words…
  • Why the unrighteous are and will be under God’s judging righteousness.
  • The unrighteous being those that “refuse to give God his proper sovereignty in one’s life” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Wrath/judging righteousness being the “establishment of a divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 2:1a (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.

 

Suddenly, Paul has switched from the third person plural – them and they – to the second person singular – you.

  • It seems he has now switched his attention to the Roman church – you guys in Rome.
  • The readers of Paul’s letter.

 

And yet, our commentators all reject this on textual grounds.

  • They do so for at least two reasons.
  • (1) Paul would have switched to the second person plural to address the Roman church – Douglas Moo.
    • Not “you” but “you all”.
    • But in our text the Greek words are in second person singular.
  • (2) Paul is using literary technique called diatribe.
    • Diatribe is “an imaginary dialogue with a student or opponent” – Moo.
    • Schreiner adds, “in which one anticipates possible objections to one’s argument”.
    • In this case the imaginary opponents are those who judge.

 

Another interesting question involves the religious identity of Paul’s imaginary opponent.

  • The natural reading would seem to suggest we are still dealing with Gentiles.
  • And yet the majority of our commentators – Murray, Moo, Schreiner, Mohrlang, Heiser, ESV Study Bible – all suggest that we are now dealing with Jews.

 

 

N.T. Wright’s Take:

However, N.T. Wright argues that we are still dealing with Gentiles.

  • He suggests that, reflecting on verses 18-32, Paul starts Romans 2 with a question in mind.
  • “How could it be that you might know what was the right thing to do and yet fail to do it?” – N.T. Wright.
  • Then with respect to 2:1 says the answer is found in, “The present passage”.
  • Where Paul exposes the “elevated pagan moralist” and his problem – N.T. Wright.
  • Their problem is that they have become judge in place of God.

 

We know this because Paul says he is answering this question in 1a – “Therefore [or here is the answer] you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges”.

  • An allusion to 1:20, “So therefore they are without excuse”.

 

Who are both the “they” from 1:20 and the “O man, every one of you who judges” from our text?

  • The unrighteous truth suppressors that reject the Creator’s rightful status – the “pagan moralist”.

 

I am inclined to agree with N.T. Wright.

  • Go door-to-door for one afternoon and you will see our text played out in spades.

 

 

Verses 1-3:

Romans 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the two main themes of these 3 verses are…

  • (1) Judgment
  • (2) “Practice”

 

 

1) Judgment

  • you who judges” (vs. 1)
  • passing judgment” (vs. 1)
  • judgment of God” (vs. 2)
  • you who judge” (vs. 3)
  • escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3)

 

How are we to understand all this “judging” language?

  • We have to establish immediately that there are two kinds going on here.
  • The judging of the unrighteous.
  • The judging of God.

 

(A) The judging of the unrighteous seems to be simply this:

  • A judging that seeks to judge in the place of God’s judgment.
  • “Not in the sense of evaluating objectively, but in the sense of condemning” – Roger Mohrlong.

 

Paul makes this connection implicitly in verse 1.

  • in passing judgment…you condemn yourself”.
  • In other words, in trying to condemn others, you condemn yourself.

 

The picture here, again, is the person who is unrighteous – on the throne that is God’s.

  • From this context they compare themselves with others.
  • Ultimately deciding that others must be worse – and thus worthy of condemnation.

 

But, in fact, by assuming the place of authority required to condemn, they do the very same things!

  • “You have no excuse—because, even while you sit in judgment on these poor benighted souls you so despise, you are secretly doing the same things yourself!” – N.T. Wright.
  • They reject God and suppress the truth, yet act as God and as if they know a truth.
  • Again, this is why they are without excuse.

 

So the judgment contained in the idea of to “evaluate objectively” is not the problem.

  • Indeed, Paul’s very words here are this very form of judgment.
  • As Tom Schreiner says, “Judging itself is not condemned, for Paul expects Jews to agree that Gentiles who engage in such behavior are deserving of wrath” – Schreiner.

 

(B) Facing the judgment of God is part of what it means to be under God’s wrath.

  • It is the divine activity of God against the unrighteousness of men.
  • As we have said before, this is God’s judging righteousness.
  • It comes against those who assume the authority of God.
  • Something that is demonstrated by their “practice” of “such things”.

 

 

2) Practice:

  • practice the very same things” (vs. 1)
  • who practice such things” (vs. 2)
  • who practice such things” (vs. 3)
  • And lets not for get last weeks text.
  • those who practice such things” (1:32)
  • those who practice them” (1:32)

 

How are we to understand this “practice” language?

  • The Greek word means “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.

 

The activity is last weeks lesson.

  • The spiritual corruption.
  • The physical corruption.
  • The fellowship corruption.
  • It must also be unrighteousness and truth suppression.

 

What is the thing brought about and accomplished?

  • Paul seems to be implying that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity is…
  • The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.
  • This is why he asks, do you think, “You will escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3).

 

There is an important implication here for the sin of the believer.

  • We too engage in spiritual, physical and fellowship corruption.

 

But the question is what is brought about or accomplished by our activity of sin?

  • Do we incur the judging righteousness of God?
  • Or because of our Union with Christ, do we incur the saving righteousness of God?
  • This is really worth exploring further, but not now.

 

 

Verses 4-5:

Romans 2:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

God has every right to pour out his future, eschatological wrath right now.

  • And yet He is actively withholding it.
  • This is an “expression of God’s goodness in his patient withholding of the judgment that is rightfully due the sinner” – Douglas Moo.

 

Why is He witholding?

  • “God is patient. Again and again he gives people the chance to get it together, to turn to him in repentance and trust, and to find their lives coming back into shape” – N.T. Wright.
  • In context, this repentance for Paul is a self-dethroning ceremony.
  • It is a restoration of the Creator-creature distinction.
  • It is a submission to God and His preeminence and all that goes with this.

 

But God’s patience will come to an end.

  • storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (vs. 5)
  • This is future wrath.
  • Like our resurrection and new creation, even God’s future wrath is stored up.
  • Presumably, stored up in Heaven with Christ.

 

N.T. Wright sums up for us.

“But if people insist on rejecting God’s love—and part of the logic of love is that it can always be rejected—there is nothing else for it. God is committed, precisely as the good and loving creator, to putting the world to rights. That includes human beings. Those who live in the dehumanizing ways described in the previous passages are courting disaster. Those who persist in wickedness, despite having every chance to turn back, are positively asking for it. There is no other alternative” – N.T. Wright.

 

Romans 1:24-32 – God Gave Them Up

Intro:

Last week Paul stated that God’s wrath – His judging righteousness – is revealed.

  • It is revealed against the “unrighteousness of men”.
  • We saw that this unrighteousness is their rejection of God’s preeminent status as Creator.
  • And in a life lived in rejection of God’s preeminence, the natural outcome is the suppression of God’s truth.
  • And for this, men are “without excuse”.

 

Our text today shows that God’s judging righteousness – His wrath – is not an impersonal theological concept.

  • It is in fact a present reality of divine personal activity in the life of the unbeliever.
  • Just as God’s saving righteousness is for the believer.

 

Some think that “the handing over to sin as evidence that God is not personally angry but merely allows sinners to experience the full consequences of sin” – Tom Schreiner.

But in fact, “The consequences that are inflicted because of sin are the result of God’s personal decision. The wrath of God, then, is to be understood in personal terms” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 1:24–32 (ESV) — 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

The gist of our text today is simple enough.

  • “The emphasis of the text has shifted since now Paul details the consequences of failing to worship and honor God” – Tom Schreiner.
  • The consequences are seen as both God’s action and the “without excuse” action of men.

 

Verse 24:

Romans 1:24 (ESV) — 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

  • Right away Paul speaks of what God is doing.
  • He says, “God gave them up”.

 

This is a phrase Paul uses three times in our text.

  • And it speaks about God’s judging righteousness – His wrath.
  • God is personally active in this way toward unrighteousness men.

 

However, is Paul saying that God is causing them to sin?

  • “Clearly he cannot be saying that God impelled people to sin…this would contradict the biblical depiction of God” – Douglas Moo.

 

So how does it play out?

  • “Paul’s purpose in this verse is to highlight the divine side of the cycle of sin; but it must be balanced with the human side, presented in Eph. 4:19, where Paul says that Gentiles ‘gave themselves up’ to licentiousness, leading to all kinds of ‘uncleanness’” – Douglas Moo.

 

Douglas Moo describes the “divine side of the cycle of sin” this way:

  • “Like a judge who hands over a prisoner to the punishment his crime has earned, God hands over the sinner to the terrible cycle of ever-increasing sin” – Douglas Moo.
  • God is active – not passive.

 

In other words:

  • God’s side of the equation is far more than just a “withdrawal of divine influence” – Moo and Schreiner.

“The meaning of ‘hand over’ demands that we give God a more active role as the initiator of the process” – Douglas Moo.

  • “God does not simply let the boat go—he gives it a push downstream” – Douglas Moo.

 

The result of the ensuing choices made by men under after God has “pushed the boat” aren’t good.

  • “What happens…is that human thinking, not just human behaviour, begin to deconstruct altogether” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Verse 25:

Romans 1:25 (ESV) — 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

  • Paul repeats why men are under God’s wrath and the reason He “gave them up” (vs. 24).
  • They “served the creature rather than the Creator” (vs. 25).
  • They made the great exchange – creature above Creator.
  • In other words, they became idolaters.

 

 

Verse 26-27:

Romans 1:26–27 (ESV) — 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

 

Notice that, once again, Paul first cites God’s activity – the “divine side of the cycle of sin” (Moo).

  • God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (vs. 26)

 

And right on the heels of one perversion – idolatry – Paul goes right to another – homosexuality.

  • women exchanged natural relations” (vs. 26)
  • men gave up natural relations” (vs. 27)
  • They both “turn the created order upside down” – Schreiner.

 

What does he mean by natural relations?

  • It is clear that Paul is making “an argument from the created order” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul is appealing to God’s “created order” – Douglas Moo.
  • In other words, Paul takes his view of “natural relations” from Genesis 1-3.

 

As Paul speaks on homosexuality, “he has in mind one particular biblical passage, namely Genesis 1–3” – N.T. Wright.

  • “He wants to trace the way in which humans have violated, not simply a ‘law’ given at some point in human history, but the very structure of the created order itself” – N.T. Wright.

“Paul’s point, then, is not simply ‘we Jews don’t approve of this’, or, ‘relationships like this are always unequal and exploitative’. His point is, ‘this is not what males and females were made for’” – N.T. Wright.

 

Schreiner details this even further.

  • “First, Paul selected the unusual words θῆλυς (thēlys, female) and ἄρσην (arsēn, male) rather than γύνη (gynē, woman) and ἀνήρ (anēr, man), respectively. In doing so he drew on the creation account of Genesis, which uses the same words (Gen. 1:27 LXX; cf. Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6). These words emphasize the sexual distinctiveness of male and female (Moo 1991: 109), suggesting that sexual relations with the same sex violate the distinctions that God intended in the creation of man and woman” – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Second, the phrase ‘contrary to nature’ (παρὰ φύσιν) is rooted in Stoic and Hellenistic Jewish traditions that saw homosexual relations as violations of the created order. The latter point is borne out by verse 27, which specifies in three ways what constitutes the unnatural activity for men: (1) in forsaking sexual relations with women (ἀφέντες τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας); (2) in burning in desire for other men (ἐξεκαύθησαν ἐν τῇ ὀρέξει αὐτῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους, exekauthēsan en tē orexei autōn eis allēlous); and (3) in doing that which was shameful with other men (ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην κατεργαζόμενοι, arsenes en arsesin tēn aschēmosynēn katergazomenoi)” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Can there be any reason to doubt what Paul means here?

  • Current controversy seeks to reinterpret Paul’s words in at least four ways.
  • (1) Paul is only referring to the Greek practice of pederasty – homosexual relations with children.
  • (2) Paul is condemning “only homosexual acts practiced by people who are ‘naturally’ heterosexual” – Tom Schreiner.
    • Homosexuality practiced by heterosexuals.
  • (3) Paul is not referring to loving same sex relationships between equal partners, but of coerced or forced same sex relationships.
  • (4) Paul is merely a victim of his own cultural hang-ups.

 

The answer to the question is…

  • No.
  • Among other things, modern reinterpretations read into Paul’s words modern views of psychology, and dismiss Paul’s allusions to Genesis 1-3.
  • See Moo, Schreiner and others for an extensive handling of this issue.

 

Why does Paul bring up homosexuality?

  • Schreiner has a good take.

 

It basically plays out as follows:

  • Just as idolatry is an obvious corruption of right worship in the spiritual sphere…
  • Homosexuality is an obvious corruption of what is “unnatural in the sexual sphere” – Schreiner.

 

In other words:

“Just as idolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too homosexual relations are contrary to what God planned when he created man and woman” – Tom Schreiner.

 

N.T. Wright sums up Paul’s words on homosexuality this way:

  • “He [Paul] sees the practice of same-sex relations as a sign that the human world in general is out of joint” – N.T. Wright.
  • Men have “…lost their grip on God’s truth and, like Adam and Eve in the garden, listened to the voice of the creature rather than the voice of God” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Verses 28-32:

Romans 1:28–32 (ESV) — 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

Again Paul starts with “God gave them up”.

  • (1) The first time (vs. 24) Paul spoke of the spiritual/worship corruption that occurs with idolatry.
  • (2) The second time (vs. 26) Paul spoke of the physical/created order corruption of homosexuality.
  • (3) This time (vs. 28) Paul speaks of the relational corruption between image bearers.

 

BTW – please note that for Paul, as we saw in vss. 21-23, all of the above – worship, homosexuality and broken relationship – are all traced to the “same root sin of idolatry” – Douglas Moo.

 

Paul shows that because of their debased minds – rejecting what they know to be true about God – we get:

  • All manner of unrighteousness” (vs. 29)
  • Evil, Covetousness, Malice, Envy, Murder, Strife, Deceit, Maliciousness, Gossips, Slanderers, Haters of God, Insolent, Haughty, Boastful, Inventors of Evil, Disobedient to Parents, Foolish, Faithless, Heartless, and Ruthless.

 

And he ends by saying that unrighteous men:

  • Know the consequences of these actions – death.
  • Yet, they “not only do them” (vs. 32).
  • But they also “give approval to those who practice them” (vs. 32).

 

BTW – Notice that Paul does not say homosexuality is in some way worse than all the other sin he has mentioned.

  • In fact, if he were to pick the worst sin, it appears he might pick idolatry.

“The fundamental sin that informs all others is a refusal to delight in or submit to God’s lordship. God’s wrath is rightly inflicted on those who not only practice evil but find their greatest delight in it” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Homosexuality is simply one of the many ways that give evidence to God’s judging righteousness and man’s unrighteousness.

 

 

Vexing Question:

If God is real and has revealed His saving righteousness in His divine activity…

  • And has shown Himself plainly to all…
  • Why do so many act in rebellion to God’s saving righteousness?
  • Does God’s divine activity somehow lack the power to persuade?

 

Answer:

“Paul stresses that people who have turned from God are fundamentally unable to think and decide correctly about God and his will. This tragic incapacity is the explanation for the apparently inexplicable failure of people to comprehend, let alone practice, biblical ethical principles. Only the work of the Spirit in ‘renewing the mind [nous]’ (Rom. 12:2) can overcome this deep-seated blindness and perversity” – Douglas Moo.

  • God gave them up – only God can restore them.

 

Importantly, this means:

  • The unbeliever’s sin is not an indication that God’s saving righteousness is a farce.
  • The severity of the condition of the unbeliever, for Paul, actually demonstrates that God is active in their lives.
  • The activity is God’s wrath – His judging righteousness.
  • This means that even the unbeliever is not outside of God’s divine activity.

 

 

Conclusion:

N.T. Wright’s words are helpful as we conclude Romans 1.

“What we see in Romans 1 is the chilling sight of future death casting its dark shadow forwards into the present. If we recognize even part of the picture, we ought to be all the more eager to see what kind of a solution Paul is going to propose as the letter moves forwards” – N.T. Wright.

 

In this context – of God’s holiness and wrath and men’s unrighteousness – God’s unmerited grace truly becomes extravagant.

  • God loves all of us.
  • But His wrath shows us that His love is holy.
  • And so He can’t leave us as we are!
  • We are to be conformed to the image of Christ.
  • And to do that, we must agree with God about what that conforming looks like.