For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.[Gentile] (Rom. 1:16)
Paul begins here to establish the foundation of his topic for the book of Romans. The topic? The Gospel as it applies to Jews and Gentiles. As he continues he will fill out the meaning of his topic, but even here from the outset the topic specifically pertains not merely to the Gospel, but to the Gospel as applied to both Jews and gentiles. This may seem irrelevant, but it is an essential preliminary understanding to the book as we will see as we continue.
This verse, itself is packed with meaning; Paul calls the Gospel the ‘power of God unto salvation.’ Many in our day seek after spiritual power – as did many of the pagan-background Greeks and Jews likewise. In our day there is a resurgence of New Age spirituality, but even in the Church (and I count myself Pentecostal, so don’t take me wrong here) there is a fixation on attaining Holy Spirit power. Now, again, I am Pentecostal and both believe in and operate in spiritual giftd, and I believe we ought to pursue Holy Ghost power. Yet here Paul (who wrought the ‘signs of an apostle… in signs and wonders and mihty deeds’ (2 Cor. 12:12) calls the Gospel the power of God unto salvation.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ [Habakuk 2:4] (Rom 1:17)
Paul then reveals why the Gospel as applied to both Jews and Gentiles is his topic: because the just (or the righteous) no matter what their ethnicity, background or upbringing live by faith. He will go into a good deal more detail about this in Romans 4.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:18-21)
Here Paul begins to make his case that ALL MANKIND need the Gospel (Jew or Gentile) by speaking of the condition of all men prior to being taught the Word of God. Yet in this context: speaking of all men generally, he makes some interesting assertions.
Chiefly, he asserts that God has already revealed Himself to us all, specifically through the creation. This thought complies entirely with Psalm 19: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork … There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.’ (Ps. 19:1 & 3)
It reveals that God is reaching out to man for even before we are exposed to the Word of God we are exposed to creation, which was made by the Word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). Yet Paul’s assertion is more direct than that, it implies tat God is not merely reaching out just to mankind, but to each and every individual. In fact the implication goes a little deeper than the idea that God has testified merely through the creation; Paul says: ‘God hath shewed it unto them’ (v. 20), AND ‘when they knew God’ (v. 21).
Paul’s implication is that God personally reaches out to us to show us Himself through the creation, not simply that He has left us His creation to see as a testimony to Him. Not only so, but Paul makes the assertion that the testimony of Creation (coupled with God’s personal reaching out to speak to our spirits) is sufficient to reveal even the Truth of the Godhead – which many refer to as the ‘Trinity.’
Likewise he shows us not merely the response of humankind, but of all individuals. God has revealed Himself to us, yet we – not receiving His testimony by faith (for the just shall live by faith) – actually hold the Truth in unrighteousness. That is: we have received God’s testimony and dis-believed it. To disbelieve God is to call Him a liar; thus we hold the Truth to be unrighteous: a lie.
Why do we hold the Truth which God reveals to us in unrighteousness?
Because when we knew God – when He was manifested to us – we neither glorified Him as God, nor were we thankful to Him for giving us life (v. 21). Instead we become ‘vain in our imagination.’ Because we didn’t glorify Him (we didn’t want to acknowledge Him) as God, we assumed that our own imaginings were just as good as a real spiritual experience; surely we can find our OWN way!
Now all corruption, and sin which follows is on the foundation of our denial of God, and our holding the truth in unrighteousness.
22 Proffessing themselves to be wise, they became fools, (Rom. 1:22)
Because we become vain in our imaginings, we think ourselves to be wise, yet it is an assumed wisdom; a wisdom of arrogance. We think ourselves sufficient to determine truth, so we think our own assumptions to be wisdom. This is foolishness, and leads to evident error as seen as we continue:
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
The natural response to rejecting the truth of God and assuming ourselves wise is idolatry. And this is historically evident, for ancient peoples all over the world in all cultures resorted to idolatry in their quest for spirituality. If we reason through idolatry it is evident foolishness; how could a carving or image which can be destroyed be god? And many of modern times would feign atheism and also declare idolatry foolishness, yet this is not because they have broken this cycle of man’s condition, but because they deny spirituality altogether. The basis of this idolatry, remember is denial of the testimony of God to the soul unto arrogance; our pre self-assumption of wisdom. This pre-assumption of wisdom is, itself, idolatry (even before one takes the step of worshipping an image); the idolatry of self. We assume ourselves wiser than God, and are our own idol. What follows is just the outward fruit and manifestation of our self assumed wisdom. In fact Paul also shows this in the next verses:
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
In corruption, we begin to worahip and serve ourselves; our own lusts and desires rather than the will of God. God therefore allows man in this state to become as depraved as they will, for theh have already rejected His testimony, having changed the truth of God into a lie. That is: we have recieved tesimony from God, but held that in unrighteousness so that we coukd believe our own imaginings instead: artfully constructed fables, and lore become our spiritual truths rather than the testimony of God.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Scripture here teaches that one result of this denial of the Truth of God and the vanity of our imaginings is homosexuality. Many in our day will profess one can be gay and Christian, but this passage plainly shows that homosexuality is the result of the corruption of rejecting God’s Truth. Now I ought to point out that this statement is not limited to homosexuality, but incorporates all perversion and corruption of morals as Paul points out as we continue.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Now we see Paul continued, pointing out that all corruption of human morals comes from this denial of God’s Truth, and self-worship. This chapter, again, is speaking of the common state of man. God’s truth is revealed to us all; God reaches out to us all. Paul will later point out hat there is a phenomena in which some few recieve the testimony of God. Surely the our father in the faith, Abraham did. As we shall see in chapters to come, Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (for: the just shall live by faith).
Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Chapter 2 linked HERE