A Verse by Verse Study of Romans 1:18-32
Romans 1:18-32 contains verses that some people may find difficult or find controversial. We live in a world that defines truth as subjective. Truth is determined by how we feel. It it feels good, or feels right, it must be right and therefore true.
But the Bible should not be considered a buffet that we can pick and choose what we want to believe. The Bible needs be understood as a whole, without taking verses out of context, or simply removing what we are uncomfortable with. The Bible tells us that the human heart is the most deceitful of all things (Jeremiah 17:9), so we can’t really rely on our feelings to tell us what is true or not.
In the last blog post, we talked about the good news of salvation. But what are we saved from? In these verses, Paul’s goal is not to proclaim the good news, but to demonstrate the absolute necessity of the good news.
A Moral Code Requires a Moral Code Giver
We all live by a set of standards, or a moral code. And though many people don’t want to acknowledge that sin even exists, we are all revulsed by it. When we witness or hear about horrible acts happening to innocent people, we are horrified. The Bible says that this moral code has been written into our consciences by God so that we have no excuse about knowing right from wrong (Romans 2:15).
I recently read a book called, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman L. Geisler, and in it they made an interesting point about this moral code that was given to all mankind. They said that all religions share common beliefs about morality, what is right and what is wrong, because that moral standard has been given to everyone by God – imprinted into our very consciences.
Each religion may claim that they have a unique message and set of unique beliefs, but the entire human race has been imprinted with God’s moral code, only his standard is much higher than ours. He is revulsed by all sin, not just the ones that horrify us.
Breaking God’s Moral Code Has Consequences
In verse 18 the New Living Translation (NLT) uses the phrase ‘God’s anger’, while the New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) both use the phrase ‘the wrath of God’. God’s wrath is a sobering concept. God is revealing His wrath against all sinful, wicked people – which is the entire human race. And the entire human race deserves the wrath of God.
We sometimes object to the idea of the wrath of God, or God’s anger, because we equate God’s anger with human anger, which is motivated by selfish and personal reasons, or by a desire for revenge. God’s anger, however, is completely righteous and holy in character. God’s anger is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which contradicts His holiness.
We Are Saved from Those Consequences
So, what are we saved from? First and foremost, we are saved from the wrath of God. Wrath that we all justly deserve. In this verse, the NLT talks about God’s anger against all sinful, wicked people. But I think the NIV and the NKJV translations do a better job at defining what angers God. They describe two categories of sinfulness:
1. Ungodliness: which refers to man’s offenses against God.
2. Unrighteousness (or wickedness): which refers to the sins of man against man.
Why is this distinction important? It’s all sin, isn’t it? Well, the Bible speaks clearly on the two greatest commandments. Here are Jesus’ own words in Matthew 22: 37-39:
1. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment.’
2. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
We Are Incapable of Keeping God’s Moral Code
Not only do we sin against God by not loving him first and foremost, but we are equally incapable of loving each other as God intended and commanded. Verse 18 also tells us that, not only are we guilty of being wicked, but we are also guilty of suppressing the truth about God. Every truth revealed to man by God has been fought against, disregarded, and deliberately obscured.
Verse 19-20 tells us that God showed us His eternal power and divine nature through creation. He gave all of us this revelation of Himself that is obvious both in creation and within the minds and hearts of man. We are studying botany in our homeschool this year, and we have been learning about God’s amazing design in creation. When we take a closer look at God’s design, it becomes impossible to deny that our world has a Divine Creator.
Two of God’s Amazing Creations:
The successful pollination of flowers can only happen when the pollen from one species reaches the carpel of another but same species. As bees flight patterns have been studied, scientists noticed that, rather than just fly around and collect nectar from any and every nearby flower, they fly great distances to collect nectar from one flower species on a given day. The next day they may choose a different species, but only collect nectar from that species. This enables the pollination of plants and flowers, and their continued existence.
Bees are only interested in finding nectar, which is their food source, but God designed them to behave in a way that ensures the survival and reproduction of plants and flowers. If bees evolved with ‘survival of the fittest’ in mind, they would not expend so much extra time and energy travelling great distances to collect nectar from one type of flower but would just gather all the nectar they could in one given area.
Flowers do not use nectar for themselves. In fact, they don’t use nectar in any way. Yet, they expend a great amount of energy to produce it. The sole purpose of nectar is to attract insects to assist in pollination. There are a few flower species, however, that use another method of attracting pollinators: their shape, color or smells attract insects and animals. These flowers do not produce nectar, sparing them the unnecessary expenditure of energy and resources.
However, only a small percentage of these types of flowers exist. If ‘survival of the fittest’ was the main reason that flowers existed, more of (if not only) these types of flowers would exist, because it would save them a lot of work and resources in the production of nectar. However, nectar is a main source of food for many animals. God has a plan and purpose for everything!
The Heart of the Problem
Verse 21-22 tells us the heart of the problem and it’s not that we do not know God. We know him yet we refuse to worship God. We are without excuse. Rather than worshiping God, or even thanking him, we transfer what we know about God into ideas and images we are more comfortable with – into ideas that are more palatable.
We created our own religions and belief systems. Even for Christians, it can be easy to fall into the trap of imagining away the parts about God that we are uncomfortable with, or that is unpopular. So many popular philosophies and mantras have become so pervasive in today’s culture, that it’s difficult not to get these ideas mixed into our beliefs about God and our Christian faith.
In verse 22, it tells us that man claims to be wise, but instead becomes an utter fool. Rejecting God’s truth leaves us with no other option but to be foolish. Once we reject the truth of God, we will fall for anything and find it easier to trust in far weaker and far-fetched beliefs.
We All Experience the Consequences of Sin
Verse 24: Talks about how part of God’s judgment against us is allowing us to suffer the damage that our sinful paths lead us. He allows us to experience the self-destructive result of sin. We sometimes mistaken God’s allowing us to continue sinning as his mercy or kindness – that we’ve managed to escape judgment for the time being. But it is his wrath that allows us to go on destroying ourselves with sin.
Have ever questioned why God allows bad things to happen. I know I have. I have a video on this topic on my YouTube channel that I have called ‘Why Do Bad Things Happen?‘ if your interested to learn more.
God Wants Everyone to Escape Judgment
Jesus promises to return, which will result in his followers being taken up with him, followed by the destruction of Satan and a sinful world. There is a final judgment coming, but it is God’s love and patience that prevents him from returning sooner rather than later. He wants as many that will turn back to Him to do so before it is too late (2 Peter 3:9).
In the next verses, Paul describes specific sin and the wickedness of people, and this is not an exhaustive list. This is the difficult part of the passage I was talking about. Paul writes this to demonstrate what God’s anger is directed at – what we need to be saved from. He’s giving us mental imagery, so that we can see it from God’s perspective.
Now it’s important to understand that God hates sin, but he loves us! And remember, we are all sinners. The Bible says, ‘all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard‘ (Romans 3:23). He loves us so much that he himself died for us, even when we reject and despise him.
God Loves Us But Can’t Tolerate Sin
Some of these things might be hard to grapple with. You might not find any fault in some of these things. You might even think you’re not guilty of anything. We are not judge and jury. God is. What I can say about sin is that God, through the Holy Spirit, is the one that will convict us when we examine our own hearts.
For this to happen however, we need to be able to come to God with an open heart and an open mind to His Word. The Bible is God’s Word, and the Bible says God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Romans is not a letter to an ancient people. It’s God’s message to us and continues to be relevant to us today. By our own standards we may judge a murderer to be far more wicked than a gossiper, but to God’s standard of holiness there is no sin that God can tolerate.
In verse 32, Paul circles back to the idea that mankind doesn’t do these things in total ignorance. He declares that human beings by nature know these things are wrong. And more than that, Paul insists that we directly know that God has announced those who behave in this way deserve to die, yet we keep doing them anyway. And even worse, we encourage and applaud other people to continue doing them.
God’s Plan of Salvation
We are all guilty of sin, but we are not hopeless! As I mentioned before, God loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. Jesus was a perfect and sinless sacrifice that paid the price of sin for all mankind past, present, and future. His death paid our penalty. And all we need to do to be forgiven by God, and have our records forever wiped clean, is to believe!
Salvation is not just for our futures, but for our present life too. God wants us to live lives of freedom, joy, and peace. If you have been carrying around shame and guilt, maybe for past or present sins in your life – God will forgive you. You only need to believe. You’re record will be erased and God’s plan to transform you into something new and wonderful. He wants you to experience a life of freedom, joy and peace that can only be experienced in a relationship with Him.
No one is too far gone for God! God will heal us and transform us, but He will also use us as we are. He uses our life experiences to both grow us and help others who might be going through similar circumstances or lived through similar experiences. No matter what direction our lives have taken, or the sin that has enslaved us, God promises to make all things beautiful in it’s time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Frank Turek and Norman L. Geisler – these authors argue that Christianity is not only more reasonable than any other belief system, but it is more rational than unbelief itself. They provide a strong argument and evidence supporting the truths of Christianity.