This chronicle deals with man’s need for God’s gospel. To desire the good news one must understand the bad news. The sudden appearance of a fire truck is not good news unless there is first the bad news of a fire.
The opening verses of Romans 1 give an overview of the gospel’s nature.
1:1 ORIGIN – God
1:2 AUTHENTICITY – prophetic Scriptures
1:3 SUBJECT – God’s Son, Jesus Christ
1:5 OBJECTIVE – obedience of faith
1:5 SCOPE – among all nations
1:5 PURPOSE – for His Name
1:7 CAUSE – grace
1:7 EFFECT – peace
1:16 FORCE – power of God
1:16 PROMISE – salvation
1:16 CONDITION – belief (trust) in the Lord Jesus
1:17 CHARACTER – righteousness (justice) of God
Humanity has two major problems before their Creator. One, the wrath of God against their committed sins, and two, the wreckage of sin in their life-style because of their inherent sinful nature.
For example, a person is speeding in his car and hits a child. He flees the accident scene in fear as he is chased by an officer of the law. He crashes into a tree, breaking many bones in his body, ending up in the hospital. The person now has two problems. Obviously, his body cannot function properly because of the wreck, but there is a more serious problem: the legal consequences of the law’s judgment.
God’s gospel deals with man’s dual problem; wrath and wreckage. And this is the order in the scriptural presentation in Romans. To experience the personal power of God in one’s life from sin’s internal damage one must first be legally cleared to be accepted by God.
Evangelical preaching today often emphasizes the wreckage of sin: healing broken hearts and alleviating pain. Romans first emphasizes the wrath of God toward our sin that offended Him.
Old Testament Picture
In the book of Exodus we find the children of Israel with two problems in Egypt. They were slaves under the control of the hard Pharaoh. This initially caused them to cry out to God. Also the judgment of God was falling: death on the firstborn. God’s salvation would save them from both slavery and judgment so they could serve Him. God, however, will deal with them in the opposite order. First God saved them from His judgment by sacrifice; the price of passover blood. Then God saved them from their problem of Pharoah’s controlling slavery by His power at the Red sea (Ex. 12-14).
While it is true that life’s pain resulting from sin can drive one to seek God for a solution, there is a bigger problem: God’s judgment against his sins. Though his temporal problem may be an important one, he needs to be aware of the more important problem of his eternal standing before an offended God.
|Romans 1:18 – 5:11||Romans 5:12 – chapter 8|
Wrath of God Solved
Wreckage of Sin Solved
In chronicle one of God’s gospel we first want to emphasize what God’s salvation saves from. That brings us to the problem of condemnation.
God’s Court Case
We will now consider God’s lawsuit against the human race as found in Romans. Is man under God’s judgment because God is some "cranky old man" in a bad mood? Does God have a "favorite race" who will escape judgment over others? Remember, this gospel reveals the “righteousness (justice) of God” (Rom. 1:17).
A court case in a legal system involves several basic elements.
Plaintiff – the offended party who makes the charge of wrongdoing
Defendant – the one being charged with the wrong
Charge – the description of the alleged wrong done
Witnesses – those whose testimony of the facts will either help or hurt the defendant
Verdict – based on witnesses’ evidence will convey guilt or innocence of the defendant
Sentence – if found guilty, the type of punishment given
It is a positive thing that God is a legal God Who honors the rule of His law. One is not subjected to the whims and moods of a ruthless dictator but finds security of mind in the faithful actions of God based on legal justice.
God is the plaintiff. As Romans 1:18 says: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against … .” God has creative rights over His creation which was intended for His glory. When one’s rights are violated one has a right to be angry and to prosecute.
The human race is the defendant. Rom. 1:18 also says: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against … men.” Romans views man in two groups.
Jews – Those with the religion of God or those with the Bible. The law revealed details of the Creator God and His righteous standards for living. Romans 2:12 refers to Jews as those “in the law.”
Gentiles – Nations and races other than Jews. They were in pagan darkness without the revelation of God and His law in the written Scriptures. Romans 2:12 refers to such as those “without law.”
In the words of Romans 1:18: "… against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The charge is that mankind has sinned. Not only that have men sinned, but they sinned with a full knowledge of what they were doing; they held (suppressed or held down) the truth in unrighteousness. In other words they sinned while knowing better– not ignorantly, but intentionally.
For example, you redecorate your house and change the mud room into a formal foyer with a beautiful white rug. But you forgot to tell the children and they come in as normal with their dirty shoes and walk on the new rug. You are upset but have no right to punish them because they did it in ignorance.
But suppose you told them about the new room and rug and they now said, “who cares,” and walked across the white rug with their muddy shoes. Would your reaction be any different? You would have righteous indignation, for they did it knowingly; that’s rebellion which merits punishment.
This is God’s charge–that both those with the Bible (law) and those without the Bible (law) have sinned knowingly. It will be the burden of the witnesses to prove this.
The defendant submits excuses why the charge and wrath of God does not apply to him. There will be four witnesses called to testify to see if the plaintiff’s charge stands.
Witness #1 – CREATION
This excuse comes from the Gentile without the law. “I’m not deserving of the wrath of God, for while maybe I didn’t always do everything right, I never had a Bible that told me there was a God. I’m innocent because I was ignorant.”
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed 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: (Rom 1:19, 20).
The excuse does not hold for one knows about the existence of God apart from the Holy Scriptures. An intelligent design communicates the existence of a designer. And the brilliance and beauty of the design communicate the greatness of the designer.
Yet knowing there is a God as witnessed unmistakably by creation, people are not thankful and will not give Him the glory. They knowingly hold the truth of creation’s revelation down. The result: they become blind in their reasoning. The fruit of their blindness produced by their deliberate rejection is the developing of their own fantasies and religions (Rom. 1:20-23).
Witness #2 – Our Mouths
This excuse claims ignorance of right and wrong and yet at the same time judges others for wrongdoing. They appear moral in their social system of values.
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (Rom 2:1).
Some open their mouths in criticism of those who do wrong. But by doing so, they have given themselves away showing that they do know right and wrong after all – or else they couldn’t have judged others. Thus, when they do wrong themselves, it couldn’t have been in ignorance. They stand condemned in God’s court.
Witness #3 – Conscience
How does a man without the Bible gain a knowledge of right and wrong? This is revealed by this witness. As with witness #2, this excuse also comes from the man without the law or God’s religion. It too claims innocence based on ignorance. It reasons that since one did not have the 10 commandments written on stones like Moses gave the Jews then one cannot be responsible for breaking a law.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Romans 2:13-16).
Every person is born with some “standard equipment.” “Programmed” in a heart is the basic moral knowledge of right and wrong; the knowledge of good and evil. All societies have some level of law and order demonstrating an inherent knowledge of basic moral values regardless of not having the 10 commandments. The fact that our conscience convicts or excuses us reveals that there is something activating it. That something is the work of the law (moral awareness) written not on stones but in the hearts of all humans.
God sees the secrets of a person’s heart when he goes against his own conscience. This condemns him.
Witness #4 – The Law
This excuse comes from the man who knows God’s Scriptures and has religion. He reasons that he has the Bible and hears it, so he is accepted with God.
Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; (Rom 2:17,18). Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (Rom 2.23). It is not the hearers of the law that are right but the doers of the law (Rom. 2:13).
The law wasn’t given to give man a free religious pass into heaven. It was given to a nation chosen for special service to be obeyed. And when that law is disobeyed, man’s sin is explicitly revealed.
– Thou shalt have no other gods before me
– Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
– Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
– Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
– Honor thy father and thy mother
– Thou shalt not kill (murder)
– Thou shalt not commit adultery
– Thou shalt not steal
– Thou shalt not bear false witness
– Thou shalt not covet
To break just one constitutes one a lawbreaker (James 2:10). (Only one crime can put one in jail). The violator stands condemned for breaking the very law they possess. The wrath of God stands.
… what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God (Rom 3:19).
Creation, criticizing and conscience have proven that those without law are not innocent for they are not ignorant. And the commandments show that those with the law are lawbreakers by breaking it. Now all mouths are stopped for all excuses are invalid. The whole world shares the same verdict: guilty. As the verdict declares in 3:10: “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
Most will concede they have sinned. But God says we are guilty sinners. There is the difference. Guilty means to be responsible or accountable for what one has done and therefore deserving of judgment.
Humanity’s great problem is that they are guilty of sinning against God in the first degree. Mankind is not innocent for mankind is not ignorant. All need the gospel of God’s salvation.
“Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,…” (Rom 1.32).
Death– sin is that serious! Eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Salvation’s attitude should be humble repentance and faith alone in trusting the Savior to "be merciful to me a sinner."