Sunday March 7th
A little boy went to his father with a serious look on his face.
He asked, “Daddy, what is a man?”
The father answered proudly, “Son, a man is someone who takes care of the family, who works hard to provide, who is willing to protect loved ones, who always speaks the truth and will never break a promise. That’s what a man is!”
The little boy said, “When I grow up, I want to be a man…just like Mom!”
So Pastor Josh asked us to tackle this chapter together because it addresses marriage, but it does so in a very unusual way – it points out the reality of the phrase that we hear in the classic wedding vows, “till death do us part”!
Here’s what the apostle Paul has to say about that in verses 1-3:
Or do you not know, brothers and sisters (for I am speaking to those who know the Law), that the Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is alive she gives herself to another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress if she gives herself to another man.
This is basically a no-brainer. If your spouse dies, you’re not committing adultery if you get remarried. Why not? Because the Law that bound you to that first husband was made null and void by his death. That’s simple enough, right?
Paul emphasizes this exact same point in 1st Corinthians 7:39
“A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
So what’s that have to do with the rest of us?
Well, the reason that Paul is talking about this is really just a metaphor for us being married to sin!
In other words, we WERE married to sin, but now we are free from that marriage because our old nature, our old self, has died and we are now born again through faith in Jesus!
This is how Paul explains it in verses 4-6:
4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in regard to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were brought to light by the Law, were at work in the parts of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
The connection being laid out here goes like this:
Before we came to faith in Jesus, we were “married” to the Law. We couldn’t give ourselves to righteousness, because our sinful “flesh” was our spouse and we were tied to its demands for life.
But thankfully, we died to our old nature when we accepted Jesus as our savior. And since death breaks the bonds of our former life, we are now free to “marry” Jesus and to serve Him fully as our only spouse, living in the Spirit instead of living in the flesh.
Paul realizes that this analogy makes the Law seem like a terrible thing, so he wants to clarify the Law’s real purpose:
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Far from it! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
The Law isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It serves a purpose. It lets me know that the choices I am making are not pleasing to God.
Once I am aware of that situation, I am able to decide whether that’s the way I want to continue living my life, or if there’s a better path for me.
By knowing that coveting is wrong, I can assess the impact that covetousness is having on my life.
And the end result will be that I will recognize that trying to live under the Law is not a source of life and blessings, it is a source of death and struggles:
8 But sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin came to life, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it, killed me.
The Law brings out my sinful desires, and sin is a killer! It brings about a desire within my flesh to do the exact opposite of what God wants me to do, and that brings death to my soul. So does that make the Law a bad thing? No, Paul says just the opposite:
12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
It’s not the Law itself that’s the problem, it’s what the Law does when it triggers a response from my sinful flesh!
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? Far from it! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by bringing about my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
What Paul it saying is that there is nothing wrong with God’s standards. What is wrong with the whole equation is that sinful part of my old nature that rejects God’s Law because it only wants to do what IT wants to do! My flesh doesn’t want to listen to God, it doesn’t want to obey God. It wants to BE God!
Then Paul goes on to describe the battle that this causes inside of him:
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. 17 But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
18 For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, 23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
So let's not stay married to sin. Let's enter in to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!
The issue Paul is addressing in Romans 6 is our continual urge to sin. As long as we live in this age we will battle with the desires of our old nature. The big difference for those who are in Christ is grace. This grace is not as we see here in Romans 6 a license to sin and get away with it; a get out of jail free card, rather it is the power of God over sin. Grace is the only force that can render sin powerless. Without grace, man cannot overcome the urge to sin, they will give in to it, over and over again, no matter the consequence.
An acronym for GRACE is God's Riches At Christ Expense. We have the Holy Spirit the same source Christ had to live sin-free, in us, so, therefore, we can live sin-free. We have been crucified with Christ as it says in Galatians 2:20 and here in Romans 6:6, which means our sins are nailed to the cross, and just as Christ was raised from the dead, we have been raised to new life (Romans 6:7-9). No more excuses! We do not have to give in to sinful urges. It does not mean we won't be tempted, for Jesus Himself was tempted in all ways but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). So the temptation is not what is wrong it is the act. So what do we do when we are tempted? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says God always gives us a way to escape. As long as we acknowledge God in every situation we will receive direction to do things His way (Pro. 3:5), and not fall into the trap of sin.
Romans 6:13 says do not let your bodies become instruments of sin but rather let them be instruments for His glory. Our lives are a song, they are either demonically influenced or heavenly inspired. When we surrender our lives into the hands of God we become His instrument to produce the songs of heaven that draw others towards Him. Nobody serves themselves, everyone serves somebody, so even when one thinks he is in control of his life, they are deceived for they are completely under the control of their sinful nature. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Someone is playing us, we are just mere instruments, a product of whoever is pulling the strings. I would rather have the person playing me be the one who makes the best music, where my life is an inspirational song rather than just the chaotic, disjointed noise of this world.
My prayer for each of you today is that you step into the grace of God and live under His power. All it takes is acknowledging Him and allowing Him to direct your life, then you become His instrument to play the music of heaven.
Sunday February 21st
You know it’s been over 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, but a lot of people still don’t know about the first woman astronaut to walk on the moon.
Here is the transcript of her talking to NASA after the lunar module had just landed:
"Houston, this is the lunar module - we have a problem."
Lunar module this is NASA. What is the nature of your problem?
Lunar module please repeat. What is the source of the problem?
Lunar module, if there is a problem you need to tell us.
Lunar module are you there?
"Houston, you should know what the problem is without me having to spell it out for you."
In Romans chapter 5 we aren’t going to talk about the first woman on the moon or the first man on the moon, but we are going to talk about the first man, Adam.
All of this will come in the context of a discussion about justification. Starting with the first two verses:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God.
Paul says “therefore” because the last word of Chapter 4 was “justification”. Justification is the process by which we are made holy and righteous – we are “justified” – not by anything we have done, but simply by what Jesus has done for us, by dying on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
And because of that justification we have two things, peace and hope. When we accept Jesus’ forgiveness, peace is established. We are no longer at war with God, no longer separated from God, and we now have access and are welcome to be in God’s presence.
And along with this peace we are given hope. Hope is the expectation and assurance of something not yet fully experienced. We know that this hope is guaranteed by the love of God that the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts. And this hope can carry us through the challenges and trials of life, so much so that rather than being frustrated by our trials, we celebrate them! What? Yes, that’s exactly what Paul says next:
3 And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
When we have hope, we recognize that God is using our tribulations to teach us patience and perseverance, which builds godly character, which leads to even more hope.
Now look at what Paul identifies as our greatest source of hope:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
The nature of our hope is the tremendous love poured out by Jesus on the Cross. God acted to save us “at the right time,” in the moment of our deepest need, while we were “still helpless” and “still sinners”.
Why would someone do that? Why would anyone choose to die for helpless sinners, people who were literally God’s enemies? That incredible mystery is what Paul addresses next:
7 For one will hardly die for a righteous person; though perhaps for the good person someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
11 And not only this, but we also celebrate in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Never forget the powerful truth of these two simple words – Paul says that Christ died “for us” More specifically I want you to embrace the incredible reality that Jesus died “for you”! And by His death He achieved for us “reconciliation” by our broken relationship with God.
Our separation from God was erased by Jesus removing the cause of it (our sin and our guilt).
And in verse 9 Paul adds that we’ve actually received “much more” than just reconciliation. If God would do that “for us”, the work of reconciliation, at the cost of the suffering and death of His own Son, He surely won’t withhold anything else from us that we might need.
We’ll see this emphasized again later in Romans 8:32
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
Okay, so remember how I said this would all come back to the “first man” Adam? That connection starts with verse 12:
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all mankind, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not counted against anyone when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the violation committed by Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Paul uses another “Therefore” just like he did at the beginning of the chapter. This indicates that what follows is connected in Paul’s mind with what has already been said regarding justification and reconciliation. Paul is now laying out a comparison between the “one man” Adam and the “one man” Jesus Christ.
In the case of Adam, the focus is on his “one sin” by which we all “were made sinners”. All of humanity had Adam as our representative before God, and that’s why his sin made us all sinners.
Keep in mind that Adam wasn’t meant to die. None of us were. Mankind was originally created to have eternal life.
Death is not a natural phenomenon, it is the direct result of sin.
Adam, the first man, was the divinely appointed representative of all of humanity, and his sin forfeited eternal life for all those he represented.
(Thanks a lot Adam!)
In the same way, Jesus, who was equal with God, became a man so that He could be the representative of a New Covenant with humanity so that His obedience would nullify or counteract Adam’s disobedience. And because of this we regain our eternal life through this thing called justification.
That’s what Paul addresses next:
15 But the gracious gift is not like the offense. For if by the offense of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one offense, resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the gracious gift arose from many offenses, resulting in justification. 17 For if by the offense of the one, death reigned through the one, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
When Paul says that the free gift is not like the offense, he is pointing out the contrast and the significant difference between Jesus and Adam. Not only are the acts of these two men antithetical, or completely opposite in nature, but the grace of Christ is much greater than the sin of Adam in the way it brings new life to ruined souls.
It’s easy to cause death. It takes supernatural power to restore life! Jesus power beats the power of death!
18 So then, as through one offense the result was condemnation to all mankind, so also through one act of righteousness the result was justification of life to all mankind. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
There is a parallel between Adam and Jesus in that condemnation (in Adam’s case) and justification (in Jesus’ case) are the direct results of their actions.
On the basis of the actions of “one person” “many people” are made either sinners or righteous. Adam is root of all sin, and we all sinned and fell when he sinned. In contrast, “by the one man’s obedience” those whom Christ represents are “made righteous”.
Adam ruined it for us all. Jesus fixed it for us all.
Keep in mind that Paul grew up as a Jewish man, under the Law of Moses, so he always wants to distinguish the role of the Law in God’s plan for reconciliation. And as Paul will point out over and over again, the Law has no power to justify or to forgive sin, it can only point out sin.
In fact, what he says next about the Law might really shock you:
20 The Law came in so that the offense would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Did you see what he said there?
The Law came in so that the offense would increase!
Listen to this commentary:
The Law was given as an additional element in God’s dealings with His people, so “to increase the trespass.” While sin was in the world before the law was given, the law reveals sin in its specific character as trespass, lapsing from a set standard.
Let me explain this in a little more detail.
Stealing is wrong. Even if nobody ever tells me that stealing is wrong, it’s still wrong.
In our courtrooms there is a principle that says “ignorance of the law is no excuse”.
So I can’t escape the punishment for my crime by claiming that I didn’t know that bank robbery was against the law! (My bad)
But from a moral perspective, my guilt would be even greater if I knew that I was breaking the law and still did it deliberately.
That’s why God laid out the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. He wanted the people of Israel to understand that their behavior was clearly in violation of His standards, for their own good.
His goal was to increase their awareness of their sinfulness so that they would recognize their need for a savior and cry out in repentance.
That’s the biggest reason why the Pharisees had such a hard time with Jesus. They didn’t want to admit their own sinfulness.
So Jesus turned up the heat even more, saying that hatred is just as bad as murder, and lust is just as bad as adultery. The simple fact is, the sooner we accept the truth about our own sinful nature the better.
But here’s the good news. In the face of this increased awareness of sin, we see those wonderful words in verse 20 “grace abounded all the more”.
The grace of God is able to not only keep pace with the offenses of sin, but grace outdoes sin, overrules sin, erases sin by way of the great work of salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Have you had enough of Sin? Ask for more grace!
Nobody wants to be alone, we all want friends, people that will accept us for who we are. Most of us can remember as insecure teenagers trying so hard to fit in with our peers. Often this need for acceptance transfers right into adulthood. Even as Christians we can be so different in thinking than other Christians that we feel on an island all alone. It would be easier to just agree with a mixed, diluted form of Christianity in order to remain in fellowship.
What often gets people to like us is how well we are at something. When I was great in High School football people liked me despite how different I was from them. Now as a preacher if I just speak what people want to hear I will be liked. The world is so much about performance that it is easy to develop a works mentality even regarding our relationship with God.
Here in Romans 4, we have an example of Abraham who was accepted by God simply because he believed in Him. It reminds me of the moment I saw Loraine and just knew she was the one for me and when I told her even though to many it would have been crazy, she accepted it. I had not yet proven to her my love, I had nothing to offer her, but yet she believed.
The Issue Paul is addressing throughout Romans is Works, the Jewish Leaders thought they were justified by God because of the Law. The truth is by grace we are saved through faith, it is a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Abraham is the ultimate example of this and Paul knew that the religious leaders he was addressing would have a hard time arguing against the father of their faith.
It says in verse 3 that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” So what had Abraham done? Nothing, the law had not yet even been established. He just believed! The question is, do we believe?
Nelson's Bible Dictionary defines faith as a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving a commitment to his will for one's life. Nelson also says belief is to place one's trust in God's truth. A person who believes is one who takes God at his word and trusts in him for salvation.
To say I believe in God is easy to say but much more difficult to walk out. We must make sure that our belief in God is not just as far as it fits our will, but rather it is accepting His will no matter how we feel or think about it, we just believe.
One usually gets credit and therefore paid if they do their job right. Abraham was credited as righteous for doing nothing but believing. When one believes in God their sins are forgiven for they are believing that Jesus covered their sin by His sacrifice on the cross. Abraham was not even circumcised, as it says in verses 9-12, yet he was credited as righteous.
The Religious leaders looked down at the world as unholy, uncircumcised, sinners. Yet Paul was making it clear that being religious meant nothing if one has not been circumcised in heart by the Holy Spirit. It is only through Holy Spirit that one can be Holy. When we believe in God, Holy Spirit goes to work. It is not our works but God’s works through His Spirit that clothe us in His Righteousness.
Paul encourages his listeners not to follow in the footsteps of leaders who are works-oriented but to follow the example of Abraham who is the father of our faith. Works produce wrath because they can never live up, we always fall short and therefore feel condemned and reap what we sow, unrighteousness.
Our American culture is obsessed with stardom! We try so hard to find a talent that will cause others to idolize us. The sad thing is most stars eventually fall, it is so hard to maintain public approval, one wrong word or act the world so easily turns.
Abraham was told that his inheritance was like the stars in the sky, we who have faith in God are stars! Stars light up only because they are a reflection of the sun. We can not get credit for the light we are just a reflection of the Son, and if we forget, we quickly will fall.
As Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goeth before destruction, haughtiness before the fall,” and as it says in Luke 14:11 “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The key to reflecting the Son is humility, as long as we remain humble we will continue to light up a dark world as God’s stars.
Sunday January 17th
An obviously intoxicated man sat down on a subway seat next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his collar was plastered with lipstick, and a half-empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his coat pocket. He opened up his newspaper and began reading.
After a few minutes the guy turned to the priest and asked, "Say, Father, what causes arthritis?"
The priest answered, “It's caused by unrighteous living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol - just a basic lack of righteousness."
"Well, I'll be darned," the drunk muttered, “I never would’ve guessed that.” And he returned to reading his paper.
A few minutes later, the priest had second thoughts about his abrupt manner, so he nudged the drunk man and said. "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. I would like to pray for you. How long have you had arthritis?"
The man said "Oh, I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope has arthritis."
Righteousness and unrighteousness are the two sides of a coin that Paul is addressing here in Romans chapter 1:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles in behalf of His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul starts out by identifying himself as a bond-servant of Jesus. A bond-servant was someone who was totally dedicated and continually at the disposal of his master. It meant that Paul was completely devoted to Jesus, who had called him to be His servant.
He also says that he was called to be an apostle. An apostle was someone who was sent out on an official mission. In Paul’s case he was called to be an official messenger of the gospel to the gentiles.
In verse 5 Paul says that the call of his apostleship is to teach an obedience of faith to the gentiles. This is because obedience flows from faith and true faith implies complete submission to the call of God.
He identifies those who he is writing to as “saints”, called by God and loved by God, filled with God’s grace and His peace. These terms will be continually repeated throughout the whole letter, as God’s calling, love, grace, and peace will be explained at greater length in the coming chapters.
Paul also wants to encourage and commend these Roman believers for the testimony of their faith that he has heard about. Because at the time that he was writing this letter Paul had not yet been to Rome.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers requesting if perhaps now, at last by the will of God, I will succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also just as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to the uncultured, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul tells them that although he hasn’t visited them yet, he had often intended to go to Rome.
One example of this would be found in Acts 19:21
Now after these things were finished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”
And then Paul focuses on the key message that he wants to share with them when he comes:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Although the gospel was considered to be foolish by the supposedly wise and cultured members of his society, Paul saw the gospel message as divine wisdom, and he was not embarrassed to share God’s way of salvation, not matter what others thought of him. In our world today, many people still ridicule the gospel message and call it foolishness.
But to Paul it was the only true source of power. And that’s true for us as well. The life-changing impact of the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit is essential because of the inherent weakness and spiritual inability of humanity to set ourselves from free the bondage of sin. We need help from a power greater than ourselves to get free.
Paul said that this power was available to anyone who was willing to believe. Although salvation is unmerited, meaning that it can’t be earned; faith is still required for the power to be acquired.
He also emphasized that the gift of salvation was offered to the Jewish people first.
This was true in terms of the history of the redemption story, which came down through the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, through David to Jesus. It was also the pattern of Paul’s missionary outreaches. In visiting the various cities of the world Paul would always begin by expounding on Scripture in the synagogues, preaching Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Then, if the Jewish citizens rejected his message, he would share it with the gentiles.
This next verse, verse 17, is the verse that caused Martin Luther to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church - thereby establishing the entire Protestant Reformation:
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “But the righteous one will live by faith.”
Since we can’t obtain righteousness on our own, the only hope that we have is to receive righteousness from God as a gift. This is a key theme in the book of Romans. We will see it again in chapter 3, in chapter 5, and in chapter 10. In each instance, it is clearly explained that this righteousness can only be received through faith, not by works or effort.
As a righteous judge, God through the death of His Son Jesus justifies, or declares righteous, and forgives the sins of those who come to faith in Christ as their savior.
Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4
“Behold, as for the impudent one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous one will live by his faith.”
This provides the biblical basis for justification by faith alone, indicating that the way to eternal life by faith was already known in the Old Testament.
After verse 17, Paul now shifts his attention from the righteousness that comes by faith to the unrighteousness that comes by rejecting faith. In the New American Standard Bible the title over this next section is:
Unbelief and Its Consequences
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
So the first consequence of unrighteousness is that it opens people up as the objects of God’s wrath.
That wrath is God’s righteous judgment against immorality and evil. Justice demands a consequence.
Notice that Paul says that God’s wrath IS revealed, meaning that God’s judgment is not limited to the future. The consequences of sin are already shown in the world around us. Its effects are visible even now.
Paul uses two words together - ungodliness and unrighteousness. This is significant because moral decay always follows spiritual rebellion.
And the end result of these two things working together is that the unrighteous want to suppress the truth. When confronted with the truth of God’s righteousness, fallen, sinful humans seek to deny it. But they actually do know what the real truth is, which is why they are “without excuse” as Paul will go on to explain in the next few verses.
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The entire created world around us should be enough evidence for anyone to know these two key truths about God:
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.
Paul stresses that all of humanity has the opportunity to know God through the revelation of His creation, therefore, humanity’s greatest sin is their refusal to acknowledge what is already known to be true.
People simply refuse to honor Him or give thanks to Him. They might worship what God created, talking about the wonders of nature and the beauty of the environment, but they won’t acknowledge the one who created it all. And one consequence of rejecting God is that their minds and hearts grow dark.
That’s why Paul says “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Intellectual arrogance before God brings forth a twisted sense of values. Worship of God is exchanged for devotion to man-made idols. And what happens as a result of this twisted idol worship? Impurity becomes acceptable behavior.
24 Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
That’s a general way of saying that things start to get perverted when we allow the truth to be denied and twisted. Now Paul is going to break it down to the real nitty-gritty – so get ready for these verses:
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged natural relations for that which is contrary to nature, 27 and likewise the men, too, abandoned natural relations with women and burned in their desire toward one another, males with males committing shameful acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Here is how one commentary sums up those two verses:
The effect of perverting the instinct to worship God is the perversion of other instincts from their proper functions. The consequence is degradation of the body, domination by lust, the disintegration of what is truly “natural”, and bondage to uncontrollable passions.
I want to take a minute here to clarify a few things about these verses:
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a depraved mind, to do those things that are not proper,
God gave them up. Isn’t that so sad? Choosing sin over God risks abandonment by God to a spirit of licentiousness. It’s as if God says, “You want to worship at the altar of sin rather than worshipping me? Have at it! See how that works for you!” And what is the end result of that path?
29 people having been filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, and evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unfeeling, and unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also approve of those who practice them.
One interesting fact about this description of a life filled with sin is that Paul was writing this letter to the Romans while he was living in Corinth, which was one of the most sinful cities in the entire known world. Right outside of his own window Paul could see the clear evidence of their bondage of sin. The fact is that the rejection of the reality of God’s judgment not only removes all forms of restraint, but it actually becomes a source of further rebellion in the form of encouraging others to sin. Sinners gonna sin. And sinners gonna try to get others to join them.
I think that it’s important to bring balance to our understanding of these issues by bringing in these additional verses from Paul in 1st Corinthians 6, verses 9-11:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor those habitually drunk, nor verbal abusers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Unrighteousness has no inheritance in God’s Kingdom. None of it, from sexual sin, to stealing, to greed, to drunkenness. It’s just not acceptable to a holy God. But such were some of us before we were washed in the blood of Jesus, and sanctified by His grace and justified by putting our faith in Him.
So when we see people around us who are still trapped in the darkness of their sinful choices, before we are too quick to judge them, let us stop for just a moment and recall this important truth –
There, but for the grace of God, go I!
Here is a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
God’s grace stands over man’s sin. Now, the grace of God is not just some passing phrase, not just some old concept that we should be ashamed to use now. It’s not just some mechanical concept that has no deep meaning. Grace has a very vital place in any life. It has a very vital place in understanding the whole predicament of man and the whole predicament of the universe, for you can never understand life until you understand the meaning of the grace of God. The whole of life hinges on the ever flowing power and ever flowing stream of God’s grace. Grace is just that something that God gives us. It’s a gift that we don’t merit, that we don’t deserve, but which we so desperately need. That’s grace, and none of us could live without it.
In today’s world, people just quit so easily. Whether it be a marriage, job, family, ministry, or just a gym membership, etc. when they lose interest, whether through boredom, seemingly irreversible differences, or extreme challenges, they just move on and seek something new.
We are in a New Year, 2021, and every year people make new resolutions, this can be good, but it often leads to shame and disappointment when one falls short. It seems easier to try something new rather than fix what is broken but it doesn’t lead to anything that lasts.
The things that last are the things that we build on each year, builders examine the previous year and see where they fell short and make adjustments to improve on them so that things continue to develop for the better in the different aspects of their life. Even severe trying times can actually be stepping stones to deeper intimacy. When people suffer together they can either be drawn closer or further apart. Kingdom-minded believers use adversity to deepen their walk with God and the fellow disciples around them.
Our God is the Master Builder, He never quits, He never fails! We need to have this in mind as we read Revelations 21 regarding a New Earth and a New Heaven. The word new in Greek does not mean new as we think, it is more similar to the word renew. If God has to start all over it means He failed, no, it is not a new Earth or new Heaven, it is Earth and Heaven completely renewed, restored back to the original plan and purpose, as it was in the garden of Eden before sin.
It says in Acts 3:21 “that Jesus is seated in Heaven until the restoration of all things.” We are in the age of this work, ministry is all about restoration. Look at our mission statement, People Restored And Inspired Serving Everywhere. We who are restored to God are now in the restoration business with God. He is here with us Spiritually but at the next age, He will be with us physically. The Lord will come to complete the work we have continued as we transition from the age of grace to the age of eternal reign.
We all have experienced the unfaithfulness and lies of others, even from our own family members and friends, but one thing we know is our God is as written in Revelations 21:5 “faithful and true.” What He promises will come to pass! There is a better day coming and the time is soon. Well, isn’t it over two thousand years since this was written, that doesn’t seem soon, well, in light of eternity, it does, and we are called to live as if stepping into the next age could be today.
In the majority of Revelations, we have seen a dark picture of the fall of this world described as Babylon but here in the last two chapters we get a glimpse into the beautiful restoration of this world, with the Heavenly Jerusalem descending as we step into the eternal reign we will have with Christ.
In the eternal age, there will no longer as promised in verses 3-4 be any tears for He will wipe them away, death will no longer exist, grief, crying, and pain will cease. Yet in this present age, we can have a foretaste of what is to come.
“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” - Romans 8:23
Through Holy Spirit God is with us, and though things are not yet complete, we can still press into intimacy and have Him wipe our tears, comfort us, and renew us in His presence right here, right now!
2021 is a year to press in for RENEWAL! Renewed marriages, renewed families, renewed ministries. RENEWAL, RENEWAL, RENEWAL!
Now the rest of Revelations 21 through 22 describe this New Earth and the New Jerusalem that comes down but in whatever you see, don’t just picture it as what is to come, but reach out for the foretaste right now!
In Revelations 21:6 it says the Lord “will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life, in Revelations 22:1-5 it describes the river of living water that comes from the Throne of God, and the trees alongside with leaves as the healing for the nations. In verse 17 it says “Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.”
This is an invitation for the here and now so while we are living in expectation for what is to come, let us make the most of what we have through the Holy Spirit. The Throne of God will come to earth and be amongst us but we still have access in the Spirit to the Throne of God right now. The voice of the Spirit says daily, come, and drink! It is a gift, it restores, refreshes, and revives, so don’t ignore the nudging, the still small voice.
The last verse of Revelations says “The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen!
As we drink we take in grace! So DRINK, DRINK, DRINK!!!!