In Part I, Paul introduced himself and explains his role as an apostle and why his responsibility in Christ has brought him to write this letter of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Romans.
In this section of Romans, Paul explained how God revealed Himself to the world, the reckless abandoned nature of sin, our inability to independently resist or overcome sin, and God’s righteous anger and imminent wrath against all who commit and are guilty of sin.
There is no current evidence I have seen that indicates an Apostle personally visited Rome the start the church there. So, I believe that Paul is fulfilling his duty by revealing to them in this epistle a complete gospel picture as he can.
In this chapter, he is showing church in Rome why we need God. The foundation of consecration and commitment to Him has already been laid in the first part of the chapter. We are to be His slaves and to do his will above all.
Our Need for God
It is of utmost importance to seek His ways and to follow His path of righteousness. This is especially true in light of our accountability to God who has manifested Himself through nature, prophets, and His word since the beginning of creation.
And we, as nations of peoples have generally given back to Him, dishonor and utter disregard.
Yet, His plan of redemption was lovingly designed before the foundation of the world. It was given first to his chosen people. It was written in scripture for all to read, and lastly, lived out through Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us ~ Romans 5:8. See also John 17:24; Ephesians 1:3-4; Hebrews 4:1-12; 9:26-28.
Romans I-IIIa details our utter contempt for God. It also explains that His holy and righteous judgment is bearing down upon a rebellious and disrespectful world.
Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? Romans chapter 1:18-32 explains the extent of God’s disdain for our sin and our need to be redeemed from such a state.
Beautifully, God’s divine plan of redemption has the power to completely replace our deceitful and unrighteous hearts with one like His.
Romans 1:18-32 ~
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God
is manifest in them;
for God hath shewed it unto them.
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 that they are without excuse:
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.
Professing themselves to be wise,
they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God
into an image made like to corruptible man,
and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up
to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts,
to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature
more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.
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:
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 themselvesthat recompence of their error
which was meet.
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;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication,
wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness;
full of envy, murder, debate, deceit,
malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God,
despiteful, proud, boasters,
inventors of evil things,
disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenant breakers,
without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
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.
Our Sinful Nature
All of this wickedness is completely natural for us. We have been inculcated into a grand deception by the father of all lies. In our fallen and sinful state we have no choice but to be subject to the power of sin.
We wallow in it, enjoy its effects, and the Devil remains over us as our master and Father; keeping our minds shrouded in darkness, disbelief, and doubt.
Romans 1:18-32 screams of our need for redemption.
Paul shows why God is angry against all sin, that His anger is revealed presently, and that we are already under His judgment that is kindled, yet to be fully aflame.
God’s judgment correlates with the degradation of our nature as it spirals deeper and deeper into depravity, darkness, and subjection to sin. We fall further and further away from the source of our salvation with every debilitating step into sin.
Joseph Agar Beet describes this well:
“In proportion as the image of God fades from our view do we fall into thoughts, motives, and practices, which for very shame we must hide from our fellows.”
This fact should put fear in every readers’ mind. Sin is of the Devil and our willingness to submit to it means we are submitting to the Devil’s authority and power. When we willingly sin, we also subject ourselves to the wrath that God has divined for Satan and his angels.
When we live in a state of sin, we disregard and dishonor our creator, savior, and judge.
Oh how foreboding it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God.
Paul is showing us what we are like in God’s holy eyes. Yet, God in His infinite wisdom sees something still within us. Yet to be revealed is His plan for salvation in this Gospel to the Romans.
Throughout scripture, God calls us to turn away from our sin and embrace Him. We can come and sit at His feet and bask in His glory, holiness, his love.
But, we must give Him our filthy hearts so He can purify them and make them whiter than snow ~ Psalms 51:5-13.
He is waiting to cleanse us from our sins and free us from the power of Satan ~ Acts 26:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12.
If we do not have a heart cleansed by God, even as believers, sin still rules in our soul. This should be deeply troubling.
We are called and commanded to, be ye holy for He is holy ~ 1 Peter 1:14-17. If we fail to do this, we are disobeying God. When we persist in sin, we are continuing in the same disobedience that we read about above.
Judgment is coming once again to the world for the same reason that is came before the great flood ~2 Peter 3:3-7.
As Peter the Apostle so explicitly stated in 2 Peter 3:10-12, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation (all behaviors) and godliness, In light of God’s coming judgment?
Paul describes two qualities of sin; ungodliness, which can be described as our disrespect for God; and unrighteousness of men which, is the refusal to conform to the laws of God. We still have laws we must follow as Christians, the Law of Christ.
These two qualities are the common denominator of God’s judgment in our natural inclination to resist the truth. God is evermore angry at us because we know the truth and suppress it in unrighteousness.
So, we are without excuse and bear the full weight of our own sin.
Proof that our heart was darkened is found in vs. 22-23, we profess to be wise. Paul also refers to us in animal terms; male and female rather than human terms. This is due in part to our overwhelming propensity to desire things that are wicked leading to idolatry and lustful desires.
How insulting is this to God who made the Heavens and the Earth so He can be with us?
The problem of our sin is further compounded in our intentional suppression of the truth and inability to discern and desire to any thing related to God.
Albeit, we are bound in sin and unable to please God. This should bring guilt, but with every transgression our heart becomes more and more seared until we no longer feel guilt or realize the error of our ways.
As Christians, we must purge these types of influences in our walk with Christ. We must feel the full guilt of our sin, be ever repentant, and vigilant in seeking God’s blessing of cleansing our heart of sin.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked: who can know it?
~ Jeremiah 17:9
It is also described as the core or inmost center of man and is insinuated in metaphors throughout scripture. Here are just three examples: Exodus 15:8; Matthew 12:40; 2 Samuel 18:14.
The Bible is full of metaphors. Just last night, I realized that the creation story is a metaphor for our sin and our salvation. God created us void, there was no knowledge of good or evil, we were in darkness, His spirit hovered and waited to change and form us, He fills us with His desires like in the 6 days of creation, and when He is done with us, He rests and we in Him.
In Jonah chapter 2, God speaks of the process of genuine repentance, consecration to Him, and sanctification in Him. This is God’s plan for us now; to save us from our sins.
Our thoughts, our words, and all our actions are derived from the condition of our heart. God calls us to bridle it. Only God can do that for us.
It is the corruption of the heart, the foundation from which Paul’s letter to the Romans will build. See Matthew 15:18; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 1:18.
Studying the heart would require volumes and is only scraped upon here.
The last verse of this chapter I find amazingly disturbing because it is true of ever person who has walked the face of the Earth.
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.
This verse cuts to the core of sin in as much as it rings true in every heart. We are all guilty of wickedness and in desperate need of God’s cleansing power.
Conviction of sin speaks of the things God is working on; Listen to it. God wants to cleanse our heart, clear our guilty soul, and bring us every moment in truth and light with Him.
True Disciples of Christ
Walking with Christ is sometimes painful and humiliating. Expect it. Yet is is joyful and rewarding as His rich blessings are poured down upon us when we least expect them.
The journey to the cross is paved in sacrifice and obedience; in honor and holiness.
Firstly, When we come to Christ, it is absolutely necessary that we sacrifice our most precious belongings, those we love most must be placed secondary to Christ.
For me, that was my children. I have given them up to God and place Christ positionally and literally over them. We are instructed to seek God’s pleasure and interest more than anything else.
Nothing can compete with God. The innermost parts of our heart and soul must love God more than any of our worldly affections.
This must be so, or we cannot be His disciple. Nor are we considered worthy of Him or His Heavenly reward. According to Jesus,
If any man come to me, and hate not his father,
and mother, and wife, and children,
and brethren, and sisters,
yea, and his own life also,
he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross,
and come after me,
cannot be my disciple
~ Luke 14:26-27.
And he that taketh not his cross,
and followeth after me, is not worthy of me
~ Matthew 10:38.
If anyone professes to be a Christian, it must be on these terms.
We must without exception, be ready and willing to suffer persecution, be it something as small as refraining from speaking from a selfish heart to light mockery for standing for Christ. Or it may be something like losing a job opportunity, or even more severe such as incarceration, torture, or death.
In our day to day life, we must forbear any evil, sin, or convenient thought, word, or deed if it sacrifices the pure example following Jesus in truth, holiness, and righteousness.
This is a moment by moment service of love. All is done in consideration of God’s will.
Adam Clarke highlights this point well in his commentary:
“Let him deny himself, and take up his cross – A rule that can never be too much observed: let him in all things deny his own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God, however painful.
Should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are, as opportunities of embracing God’s will at the expense of our own?
And consequently as so many steps by which we may advance toward perfection?
We should make a swift progress in the spiritual life, if we were faithful in this practice.
Crosses are so frequent, that whoever makes advantage of them, will soon be a great gainer.
Great crosses are occasions of great improvement: and the little ones, which come daily, and even hourly, make up in number what they want in weight.
We may in these daily and hourly crosses make effectual oblations (offerings) of our will to God;
which oblations, so frequently repeated, will soon amount to a great sum.
Let us remember then (what can never be sufficiently inculcated [instilled]) that God is the author of all events: that none is so small or inconsiderable, as to escape his notice and direction.
Every event therefore declares to us the will of God, to which thus declared we should heartily submit.
We should renounce our own to embrace it; we should approve and choose what his choice warrants as best for us.
Herein should we exercise ourselves continually; this should be our practice all the day long.
We should in humility accept the little crosses that are dispensed to us, as those that best suit our weakness.
Let us bear these little things, at least for God’s sake, and prefer his will to our own in matters of so small importance.
And his goodness will accept these mean oblations; for he despiseth not the day of small things.”
What does God despise? Our refusal to obey this command to pick up our cross and follow Him.
To escape His wrath
and understand His ways
Our heart cleansed of all it’s sin
What a wonderful thing to be considered worthy
and to be called, The Sons of God
In the next chapter, the deep nature of sin will be explored and the need to reflect God’s character, judgment, and love.
There is much to be learned from the book of Romans. It is a gospel within itself, revealed to the church as instructions from Christ fulfilled in the life of Paul.