So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 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 give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Intro: The Book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul sometime during his 3rd Missionary Journey. You may remember that Paul was confronted on the road to Damscus by the risen Christ and was given new marching orders. While he had previously persecuted the Christian church, he now would be the loudest and most notable advocate for Christianity in early church. Much of the NT are recordings of Paul’s writings to churches and partners in ministry.
He wrote this letter from the city of Corinth to the church in Rome- where he had not yet been, to people whom he did not personally know.
We can deduce from Scripture Paul’s reasoning for writing this letter- He was wrapping up his missions efforts in and around Syria, North Africa, Asia Minor- and he has a desire to further the Gospel message- this included taking the good news to Spain (as we’ll see revealed in Ch. 15). Paul was aware of the church in Rome and admonished their witness (7), praised their faithfulness (8), and expressed his desire to visit them in order to encourage them and to be encouraged by them. -
This is really how Christian relationships work, isn’t it? We hope to build up one another in faith through our fellowship, prayer, and partnership.
I think Paul saw Rome as a strategic missionary hub.
It was a city of trade and travel- thousands upon thousands of people who from all over came to Rome to do business.
It was the (then) center of the known world- No greater city existed. (We might compare to NYC or LA, London at one point, Beijing, etc.)
The church was made up of both Jews and non-Jews; they were diverse… this was an ideal spot from which to launch the Gospel to the rest of the world.
So this should offer us a little bit of a background to our text this morning. And right off the bat, we see that Paul is communicating his eagerness to proclaim the Gospel in Rome (15)
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.
Now, this is important, so I want you to hang on to this verse for a little while. Here we are seeing Paul introduce something very important to both the 1st Century church and to us:
God’s righteousness is revealed both in the Gospel and in God’s wrath.
Reality of God’s Wrath ()
Reality of God’s Wrath ()
Wrath. We don’t like that word, do we? I think we struggle with this because we wrongly associate wrath with some sort of irrational anger or undeserved punishment. In fact, I’ve spoken with many who call God harsh for sending the flood that devastated the world as recorded in Genesis. Yet, I would posit that the problem is in our thinking. Either we have too low a view of God or too high a view of ourselves.
We place ourselves as judge over God and thus, in our lives and world, we suppress the truth. This is the work of unrighteousness- it attempts to move the bar in our favor because it refuses to see the truth.
It is the words of Satan in the Garden of Eden
Is is the reasoning of David as he pursued Bathsheba, the wife of another man
It is the casting aside of the Word of God as our guide- our plumb line as Amos says.
Do you know what a plumb line is? It is used in carpentry/ masonry to give a line by which builders could know the quality of their work. It is the measurement against which the work is judged!
Is the wall straight? Check it against the plumb line.
Unrighteousness is using a broken level - it is replacing God’s Word with popular culture or relative truth.
The first year I went to Haiti, Fred handed me a tape measure- but when I pulled the tape out, it did not have the standard marks for inches and feet, but instead someone had marked their own lines. The only consistency that you could possibly have is if everyone used that same tape measure. The problem is, in our world, and in 1st century Rome, everyone had their own tape measure. They had rejected God’s standard for measurement.
And when we do this, we suppress the truth of God’s Word. Because God is holy, sin (unrighteousness) must be judged. The reality is that God’s wrath is righteous wrath. His anger burns against sin and is revealed in two ways:
gives us a picture of the eternal judgment - men and women great and small standing before the throne of God to be judged according to their deeds. In that day, the deeds of man will be held against God’s plumb line of perfect righteousness (Jesus Christ) and will testify against him.
The righteous wrath that Paul introduces here is given a descriptor of unrighteousness as it plays out in culture- where the present consequences of sin create what I call a “Sin Snowball”
Sin Snowball ()
Sin Snowball ()
You might call this the “slippery slope” but either way, the unrighteousness which suppresses truth is the unrighteousness that leads to our rationalizing sin. What a bleak picture of humanity this paints!
This unrighteousness denies God’s existence even though there is ample evidence all around.
Scientists today are faced with overwhelming evidence of a created world. There is no scientific way of explaining how the universe came into existence from nothing. Evolution as a theory of creation is bogus; Order does not come from chaos. To posit that we are accidental beings and that mankind is equal to a giraffe or monkey in function and existence is absurd. The very idea that scientists pose about our thoughts being merely a result of atoms bouncing around randomly would by it’s very assertion negate the theory! If my thoughts are accidental atom bouncing- how could anything make sense? … and yet so many people refuse to acknowledge that we are created by God.
I saw an interview with a man who said that he believed this world was all a happy accident. He then was given a book- with pictures and words and was asked if he believed that pixels randomly came together to form these pictures and if letters randomly came onto these pages in a way that formed words which formed sentences and together they all told one cohesive story… Of course not he said.... Do you see where I’m going here? There is overwhelming evidence of God as creator and yet in mankind’s unrighteousness he denies God and refuses to give Him credit or thanks.
But man is made to worship, and when man is not worshiping God, he will worship something. This, of course is idolatry. Paul explains that this unrighteousness causes man to profess that they are wise and yet exchange the glory of a perfect, holy God for things that are corrupt and imperfect. (22-23)
Idolatry, because we have forsaken God as creator, leads to forsaking God’s design for mankind- for man’s rule of earth, for the function of our bodies. This all plays out in some interesting ways. People who are well-educated deny the clear design of male and female and instead try to assert that, because we are accidental beings, that our bodies can function however we imagine them to. Note: we are talking about 1st century Rome, but we can easily see this taking place in 2020 across the globe. People are denying what is plainly true to excuse their unrighteousness.
Of course, this leads to a complete breakdown of morality- what is right? Who is to say what is right? There is no moral compass, no end to the slippery slope of sin. And that which is being practiced in unrighteousness thus is also applauded and encouraged. (32) -
And people say that the Bible is not relevant today...
This is the grim picture of a society that is overflowing with acts of sin- all symptoms of unrighteousness that comes from suppressing the truth of God, rationalizing our evil. This is deserving of God’s judgment and wrath.
So what? This is a desperate situation. It is anxiety-inducing…
Do we throw our hands up in despair? Do we look at these who are living this out and decide to walk away? Or do we make them our enemy and boil over with anger and disgust towards them? Do we sit back and pray for God to destroy them as Jonah did?
Here’s what we need to see this morning:
We are under obligation to eagerly share the Gospel ()
We are under obligation to eagerly share the Gospel ()
Why? Because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! (16b)
What Paul saw in Rome was a great opportunity for the preaching and proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ- the news that God so loved the world- even the broken, unrighteous, deceived, and depraved, that He gave His only son to take away the sins of the world.
Paul saw a people in need- as Jesus said in “lift up your eyes and look, for the fields are white unto harvest!
Friends, there is a world of unrighteous, ungodly people. They deny God’s very existence and live a life that reflects that. And these people are in need of the good news of Jesus Christ. They need to hear the truth proclaimed- that there is a God and He is holy and just. And though sin separates man from God, He has made a way to be reconciled.
I read a statistic from NAMB’s 2020 Evangelism Resource Guide that said over 55% of regular church-attending Christians have NOT shared the Gospel in the last 6 months. I imagine that number is actually higher. Have you shared the Gospel in the last 6 months?
Imagine if just half of you that are here today shared your faith just once per year… That’s something like 100 people who would hear the Gospel! What about if half of you shared your faith just once per month? Oh how God’s Kingdom might be multiplied! Folks, there are a whole bunch of people in our community - at your work, in your schools, in your neighborhood, etc. that are living a life desperately in need of the hope that only comes from Jesus!
Will you commit to praying for and sharing the Gospel with them?