Who Is Guilty
Lesson # 2

            In this next section of Romans Paul moves on in his letter to tell us who is guilty before God.  He does this in three stages.  First he tells us of the wrath of God.  In this particular segment of verses he gives us a list of reasons why Man must bear God’s wrath.  Then he names the two groups that are subject to God’s wrath.  Paul tells us we are on trial because of two things our “ungodliness” and our “unrighteousness”.  A person is ungodly when they have a conflicting relationship with God; conflict between them and God exists because of a lack of reverence and holiness.  Unrighteousness refers more to where ungodliness leads and that leans more towards our relationships with other people.  By definition unrighteousness leads to unrighteous acts; by that I mean, if we were all right with God there would be no problems between us down here.

            We concluded our last lesson by talking about God’s righteousness however, Paul is not finished on the subject.  We understand God’s righteousness is made up of law and grace well, the reason Paul is telling us about His wrath is because we’ve broken His law.  That is what the OT demonstrates to us, that we are incapable of keeping His law.  So, the reason we are under the wrath of God is because His law was broken.  Remember, we can only stand before God when we are clothed in His righteousness and the law is part of it.  It would be like going to a restaurant that had a coat and tie restriction, you are restricted from entering if you are not wearing both.  You’re simply not allowed in if you show up in a tie but no coat, wearing a coat but no tie is no good either.  You must be clothed in both if you plan on entering.  Now, here Paul talks of the first half of God’s righteousness, the law, but in the next section he shows us the second half of His righteousness and that is His grace.

            The reason Paul takes up the next few chapters explaining the two parts of God’s righteousness is because he wants us to know that we can’t fully understand God’s grace without knowing His law.  We can’t fully appreciate His love without seeing how short we come in the law and His wrath over it.  We can’t fully grasp forgiveness until we know why we needed it.  With that said Paul gives four main reasons for why we are inexcusably guilty and deserving of the inescapable wrath of God.

Who Is Gulity                   1:18-3:20

A.  Without excuse                               1:18-2:16

1a.)      We had the truth.  v. 18-20

            In these verses Paul tells us, the world has been put on trial and the first charge is the most damning.  He tells us the reason we are guilty and therefore subject to the wrath of God is because we “hold the truth in unrighteousness”.  The truth, as the next two verses go on to explain, is that we have verifiable proof of God’s existence.  The proof is creation itself.  The way the world works is so perfect it is clear it was no cosmic accident.  The fact that we are living, breathing, thinking human beings is miraculous.  We didn’t squirm our way out of some puddle of primordial goo; God literally made us and then breathed life into us.  We not only see the proof of God’s existence around us we are proof.  But the more secular and humanistic the world becomes the less it believes in a Creator.  That sentiment has seeped into the Church over the years and has led many to question some of the most basic things, take the “wrath of God” for example.  Mainstream churches don’t touch that subject anymore, yet here is Paul only half way through the first chapter of the book of Romans and he is hitting us hard with it.

            Today a lot of churches have taken the wrath of God out of their doctrine, they don’t even define ungodliness or unrighteousness anymore.  On Christian television nearly all the messages you hear deal with prosperity, abundant living, or the joy and blessings of being in Christ; while all those things are good and true they are not giving a complete picture by only focusing on those things.  In Paul’s day he wanted to make sure that people didn’t develop the sort of mind set about their service to God that led them into the thinking, “it is all about what God is going to do for me”.  Paul’s life is a testament that it is not about what God is going to do for you as much as it is about what you are going to do for God; remember Paul thought of himself as a “debtor”.  God’s greatest power isn’t what He does for you it is what he does with you.  One of his greatest fears was that the cross of Christ would “be made of none effect”.  Well, that is exactly what happens when you take the “wrath of God” out of the picture.  God’s righteousness is a very specific formula, it is law plus grace.  Now, we are guilty of the law and that is the reason for His wrath.  So, what modern worship has done is it has taken the part of the formula it doesn’t like out; which is the law and since we are guilty of it, it translates into His wrath.  We like the grace part so, we left that alone but what modern worship is left with is an incomplete formula.  And there is no motivation to get Bible saved if you don’t know about the “wrath of God”.  The only way to get saved is to know what you need to get saved from.  Why get saved if there is nothing to get saved from?  Paul is saying the wrath of God “is revealed”, he means right now and in the future.

            If you really read your Bible you get an understanding that God’s wrath is revealed two ways, actively and passively.  Active wrath is when God steps in and personally delivers His desired result.  Passive wrath is when He sets back and lets the environment He setup run its course, the NT calls it reaping what you sow.  Saved and lost people are judged according to this system.  Let’s start with the lost, they are primarily under the passive wrath of God, Romans 2:5.  In general Paul is addressing all who die in their sin, those that lived a life and never repented.  This “day of wrath” is God’s active judgment on the lost.  But during their life they bear His passive wrath, he says they “treasurest up…wrath”.  The true Church, on the other hand, is primarily under His active wrath; because unlike with the lost we have no final wrath saved up for us, I Peter 4:17.  I wonder how many really appreciate that when you willingly go out and sin it comes with consequences?  You feel it in your spirit and you experience those repercussions in your everyday life.  The rest of the verse also confirms what Romans says about the lost being under the passive wrath of God.  So, we can see the God of the OT is the same of the NT, the false teaching of a wrathless God only serves to let people live in their unbelief.  Everybody knows what sin is, this verse hints at that truth but the next two go in detail on it.  When we as people “hold the truth in unrigteousness” it means we hang on to our sin despite knowing the truth of its destructive consequences, temporal or eternal.

            We’ve been indicted by God’s holy court for holding the truth in unrighteousness.  Paul goes on to explain why we are guilty.  We are guilty “because that which may be known of God is manifest in them”.  Meaning we are guilty because God has built into us an awareness of His presence.  In the next verse we are given the specific counts against us.  But note first that he says proof of His presence has already been placed in us.  I’ll give you an example of our built in acknowledgment of God.  At a very early age a disease robbed Helen Keller of her ability to hear, see, or talk.  Most of us have heard about the life of Helen Keller and you know that during her adolescence Helen’s parents hired a woman named Anne Sullivan to try and get through to Helen the basics of communication.  It took great labor but finally Anne was able to get Helen to the point to where she could communicate.  At some point Anne was burdened to tell Helen about God.  Helen’s answer not only amazed Anne but proves this verse true.  Helen’s response was that she already knew about Him, she just didn’t know His name.  The only way she could have known about God is if this verse is true, because prior to this talking to her wasn’t possible.  Now, if a blind, deaf, mute girl can believe in God, what is wrong with the rest of the world?

            “They are without excuse”.  And if faith isn’t enough for you Paul goes on to say that “God hath shewed it unto them”.  You ever notice, no matter where you go in the world at some point in history sacrifice was always practiced, regardless of culture?  In ancient times you saw it in Asia, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.  You ever wonder why so many people sought mercy from their gods in the same way?  One theory, which makes a whole lot of sense, is that they all got it from the same place, Adam and Eve.  After they are thrown out of the Garden they have two sons, Cain and Able.  Both made a sacrifice to God to atone for sin but both chose different methods.  Cain went with the fruits of his hands and Able used a blood sacrifice.  However, only the blood sacrifice was acceptable.  Now, back then we were all one big family and it was common knowledge that when you sacrificed to God to temporarily atone for sin it had to be a blood sacrifice.  Fast forward to Babel, everyone still speaks the same language, we are all members of one really big extended family, and making a blood sacrifice was still the only acceptable way to go to God.  But after Babel where God confounded the languages, over time different cultures began to take shape, along with them foreign religions but most of them held on to the blood sacrifice as a means of religious service.  So, while people scattered through out the earth and religions came and went most of them carried this same basic practice through out the ages.  So, when it says “God hath shewed it unto them” the fact that people around the world at one time all practiced sacrifice tells us God showed it to their ancestors who were Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able.

            Here in the next verse we are told specifically of the counts against Man:  count number one is that we deny that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen” and “understood by the things that are made”.  Count number two is our denial of “his eternal power and Godhead”.  Psalm 19:1-3  Science today basically has the view that all that we know was an accident, it happened by chance.  What if we were to take all the little pieces and gears that makeup a watch and throw them into a bag, if we gave it a good shake what are the chances we’d get a completely assembled, functioning watch?  Zero, shake it up as much as you want to, it will never work.  Well, that is exactly how secular science explains our whole existence.  Even though all that goes on here is far more complex than the workings of a watch, they believe that somehow all the pieces just fell together the right way and here we are.  Doesn’t sound like a very solid answer.  Our text says “the heavens declare the glory of God”, they didn’t get there by accident.  The planet that we call home “sheweth his handiwork”.  Even the most primitive know that.  Missionary after missionary will tell you that no matter where you go, one thing you will not find among heathen people is Atheism.  Any missionary you ask will tell you that the people God sent them to knew there was a God, knew what sin was, and knew it would have to be atoned for someday.  How did they know?  They simply looked around at God’s works, “there is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard”.  Paul sums it up by saying, no matter who you are, no matter whether you had access to the Gospel or not, you “are without excuse”.  God has placed His greatest and oldest witness of all around us, creation.  And even if you are blind, deaf, and mute you’re not going to miss it.

2a.)      We are ignorant.  v. 21-23

            In these verses Paul gives us three steps that took us from Eden and left us in the world we know today.  Then as he goes on to explain, those steps have implications that reach far beyond our understanding.  The underlying lesson here is that ignorance leads to more ignorance.  Today, Man likes to play like he is spiritually ignorant, although Paul has already revealed how ridiculous such thinking is.  He says that we “knew God”.  But we play ignorant, hiding behind our science, our philosophies, our own made up beliefs.  He says we knew God the whole time but we “glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations”.  Colossians 2:8  Notice the word “rudiments”.  It refers to the very first in a series, like a foundation.  No matter how big a structure gets it will always have a foundation, be it the smallest of buildings or the biggest skyscraper.  Even lies have foundations.  Take evolution, some guy goes on vacation, notices some similarities between the animals there and all of a sudden he has figured out human existence.  It takes some real faith to believe that.  Evolution is real and it generates big bucks.  You see it in medicine, bacteria years ago that could have been treated with simple antibiotics today won’t work.  Over the years germs have grown resistant giving rise to the need for higher-powered medications.  Farmers have the same problem with their pesticides and herbicides over time they fail to be as effective as they once were.  So, evolution on a small scale is a real thing but a cockroach being able to survive a poison is a long way from where we are today.  Paul was warning us to not put too much stock into half-truths.  See, God doesn’t want us to be ignorant, He just wants us to be reverent but what we’ve done is replaced a theology with a biology.  What the world has done is it has taken a very basic function of life and twisted it to fit their own godless desires.  And the world’s desire is to glorify “him not as God”.

            This whole evolution business is a lot like how denominations build doctrines that don’t exist on things like baptism and speaking in tongues.  At their roots there is truth to it but then they blow what few verses there are on those things into something it is not.  Evolution is just the same.  It is a real process but to give that small process full credit for what we know today is a big stretch.  Not only have we been irreverent but also “neither were thankful”.  Ignorance is a choice, particularly spiritual ignorance.  If we purposely turn our backs on God it is a choice.  And now that the world lives in denial of Him we no longer have to be thankful to Him.  You see, the world is willing to use God’s gifts but not willing to worship and praise God for His gifts.  Ingratitude is closely linked with pride and that is one thing God goes out of His way to tell us He hates.

            The third step of a lost world is to “became vain in their imaginations”.  We’ve kicked God out of our governments, our schools, our communities, and most homes.  And in His placed we’ve imagined up godless philosophies like secularism, evolutionism, or Feng Shui which is environmentalism gone mad.  Essentially Feng Shui is nature worship.  It supposedly deals with positive and negative energy, whatever that means.  In the Chinese and surrounding cultures it is of great importance.  Hong Kong’s downtown business district, which is at least as big as Houston’s, was built according to its specifications.  You see it in new hotels, even interior designers are using it in homes.  It teaches you can ward evil spirits, deflect bad luck, increase good luck all by the positioning of home décor.  In Hong Kong’s case entire skyscrapers were build to flow with nature.  There central bank was constructed to get the maximum amount of positive energy nature could provide.  Now, when you reject God stuff like this is all you have to rely on.

            To reject God means to exchange truth for falsehood, meaning for emptiness, satisfaction for hopelessness.  Without God you are left with an empty heart and soul.  But like a vacuum they’ll draw something in to fill the space left behind by truth and light.  Those that scoff at God say we are simple minded, that we need real enlightenment.  Adam and Eve went down that road and they didn’t find freedom or enlightenment but rather enslavement to sin and darkness.  The world’s idea of enlightenment couldn’t be farther from its real meaning.  When we reject God we reject truth, light, meaning, purpose, basic moral foundations, happiness, and eternal life.  Man has not evolved, we’ve devolved.

            At this point Paul begins to tell us of the implications of our actions, first is how Man’s “foolish heart was darkened”.  With the absence of God in our lives we fill that vacancy with paganism.  Worshipping anything that grabs our attention as Paul explains in verse 23.  In an ironic twist those who actually claim ignorance start “professing themselves to be wise”.  Today you regularly hear people claim to be spiritual but when asked to describe what exactly that is, apart from God, all you get are empty answers of human works.  I Corinthians 2:14  This is an impossibility because true wisdom comes from God and is “spiritually discerned” and without God there is no way we can “know them”.  By rejecting God instead of becoming wise Paul says actually “they became fools”.  I Corinthians 3:19  Like in verse 14 the “wise” refers to someone who is educated but at best our education is foolishness to God.  We get the word moron for the Greek word used for “fools” here.  It is possible to be educated and still be a moron.  Today we have a bunch of over educated morons trying to explain God away but in the process they become fools.

            In our foolishness we do one more thing and Paul wants to draw our attention to it.  In our foolishness we have “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” 

            That is called idolatry.  Man has a monotheistic history.  Monotheism is a belief in only one god.  Polytheism on the other hand is a belief in multiple gods; polytheism is idolatry.  Man began as a monotheistic race.  It was passed from one generation to the next just like the blood sacrifice.  Polytheism didn’t enter the picture until much later.  The first record of idolatry mentioned in the Bible is found in Genesis chapter 31, it is the instance in which Rachel stole her father, Laban’s, images or idols.  But there is a reference that goes back even further then that in Joshua 24:2.  Here we learn that idolatry was practiced all the way back before Abraham’s day; his father was an idolater, his grandfather, and even further back.  Notice he places Abraham in this group, the Bible tells us that God brought him out of idolatry.  Of course it all started somewhere down the line with descendants of Noah who chose disobedience.  Some say it started in Babel.  Babel means confusion because it is where God confounded the languages, in an effort to stop Man’s godlessness.  It was a rebellion led by Nimrod, which also happens to be the meaning of his name.  Maybe that is where Man went from being monotheistic to being polytheistic, maybe that is what brought such cataclysmic change.

            Regardless of where polytheism/idolatry came into birth Man began as monotheistic.  You see it in the history of the oldest and greatest societies from time past.  The first century Roman scholar Varro wrote that the Romans had no images of gods for at least the fist 170 years after Rome was founded.  Herodotus, a Greek historian from the fifth century B.C., recorded that the earliest Persians had no pagan temples or idols. The same is recorded of Greeks and the Egyptians as well.  The reality is man has replaced God with his own inventions.  God created us with a drive to be naturally religious, not godly but religious.  So, when we turn from God it leaves a vacancy that by nature we are going to seek to fill.  Exodus 20:3-5  It is in the personal constitution of every human being to worship something, that is why the very first commandment deals with worship.  In fact all the commandments deal with things God knew we were going to seek to do and the Ten Commandments are guidelines that enable us to do them in the proper ways.

            Speaking of “ways”, Paul goes on to tell us of the ways we try and replace God.  He gives us a list and wouldn’t you know it, the number one thing we like to replace God with is ourselves.  Idolatry in some way is always a form of self-worship.  Because what idolatry does is it gives you the go-ahead to self-indulge, glorify yourself.  The Antichrist is the ultimate picture of that, he shows us how far self-worship goes.  We attempt to deify ourselves.  This New Age thing called “Christ-consciousness” is all about that. Christ-consciousness is the belief that the whole story of salvation is nothing but one big metaphor for something else.  It teaches that Jesus, as the man, possessed all the qualities in life we should aim for.  It states that once Jesus got to that point He became the Christ and that we can do the same.  In its sales pitch it uses the words “mind, body, and soul”.  If you ever you see this phrase used be aware whatever the product or service it is tempered in New Age/Occult practices.

            In fact churches have started embracing these practices; yoga for instance is more than an exercise, it is a religion yet little thought is given to that by Christians who practice it.  The whole “name it and claim it” concept comes from the New Age belief that you shape your reality, that goes back to the concept of Christ-consciousness.  Some other things that are being brought into churches are things like “crone ceremonies” and “praying the hours”.  A crone is believed to be the third stage of a witch’s life.  It is in this stage that they believe that a witch possess the most power, essentially if you are a female witch you are a minor goddess at this point in life.  In the ancient ceremonies witches would gather in a circle, chant, perform the ritual sex acts, and whatever else witches do.  Similarly in some of today’s churches you’ll find nearly the exact same thing, they even call it a crone’s ceremony.  I understand that they are meant to be acts of fellowship but there are just some things that you can’t call Christian.  Like praying the hours, in pagan worship it was a service provided especially by temple prostitutes.  In no way can that be considered a Christian practice.

            The Catholic church is steeped in paganism.  One of the oldest forms of pagan worship is still around today, it is called the mother goddess religion.  This religion has always existed in some form.  The oldest interpretation of her is as the “many breasted one”.  The female image given numerous breasts is a representation of a female deity, which has been believed in all through out the ages as the provider for the world.  Over the years she has been known by many names:  the many breasted one, the Great Mother, the Universal Mother, the Goddess Mother, and some even call her Mary.  Even though the Catholic church has pagan roots it did not attempt to deify Mary in the first few hundred years; that is something that was brought in and it all stems from this ancient mother goddess religion.  You ever hear the Pope called “Pontiff”?  It comes from the phrase Pontifex Maximus.  It is a title a reigning Caesar gave himself when he crowned himself high priest of heathendom.  The Roman Caesars also happened to be some of the first popes.  So, the Caesar served double duty, leader of the Church and official pagan high priest.  Later on when the office of Pope was passed to the Bishops of Rome they kept the title of Pontiff as is said today and so they call the Pope.  He is also called the “Vicar of Christ”.  It means substitute for Christ and they literally believe that.  A catechism from the Catholic church as recently as 1994 states "For the Roman pontiff, by reason of his office as VICAR OF CHRIST, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."  Popes of past century’s explain it best though; "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff(Pope Boniface VIII, 1302)."  Pope Leo XIII had this to say, "[W]e hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty."  That draws your attention to Isaiah 14:14 in it Lucifer says “I will be like the most High.”

            So, here we are, we’ve ignorantly placed a man where only God should be.  Medieval history shows us the price of that but even if you’re not Catholic the same thing is done when you place yourself above God.  And you do that by not being concerned about what His will is.  Next on the list of things that we use to replace God are birds.  Many cultures have worshipped a bird as a god: American Indians, Romans, and Egyptians.  In the next category you might as well take your pick, “fourfooted beasts”, man has worshipped nearly every animal somewhere.  In India millions starve while two hundred million head of cattle roam the countryside.  They are considered sacred and to kill one is as bad as murder, you are called a cannibal if you eat one.  Not even their own government could get the people to be sensible.  Next is “creeping things”, things like snakes and spiders are still religious symbols.  As advanced as the Ancient Egyptians were, they would bow down to a dung beetle as one of their gods.  Many Hindus wouldn’t swat a fly because they believe it could be a deity or the reincarnated form of a human being who is transmigrating to the next stage of life.  I want you to think about the word idolatry for a minute.  Idol-a-try  In today’s world people have grown so ignorant that they’d sooner idol a tree before they would the Savior on it.

3a.)      We are indulgent.  v. 24-27

            The third charge levied against Man is his gluttonous love of indulgence.  Looking at the previous verses we see a picture of Man abandoning God but it is here that God finally abandons Man or at some point He “gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts”.  This is a definite expression of God’s wrath from verse 18.  Commentaries go back and forth on whether this is a passive expression of His wrath or an active expression of it.  Part of the indecision lies in the Greek tense used here.  On its own it refers to an action but in context with this section of Romans it relates to a passive act of God.  Essentially God is saying if you want to live that way, let’s just see what happens.  But where it says He “gave them up” it is telling us God stopped trying, like when you read that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Samson or even Israel.  God has an infinite number of things but patience isn’t one of them.  At a certain point when we make it clear that we are not going to listen God stops trying.  The way you sin against the Spirit is you refuse to repent and receive Christ as Savior, that is why it is unforgivable.  And that is the state of Man, most refuse to turn back to God and that is why Paul is telling us that if we don’t, we are subject to God’s wrath.

            The focus of the remainder of the verse lies in the word “dishonour”.  When you plead the fifth what are you doing?  Trying not to say something that will make you look bad or incriminate you.  Well, when God gives up on someone who continuously rejects Him, He is letting them “dishonour” or incriminate themselves; because God doesn’t make us look bad, we make ourselves look bad.  Look at the UN.  It is an institution void of God, whose purpose is to show how great Man is.  Yet here is this bastion of self-righteousness doing dirty business under the table with Saddam Hussein.  He represents everything they supposedly stand against.  He is a murder; his decisions have led to over a million deaths in the last 30 years, many of those his own people he ordered to be killed.  Together he and the UN made billions off of what was to go to the poorest of people.  That hardly demonstrates how lofty Man is.  This sort of godless living strips Man of all dignity.  It doesn’t matter whether you steal from someone on a ghetto street or in an office building in New York, you are still a thief.  In order to have dignity you must have standards, you must live your life within set limits.

            When it comes to limitations and standards Man is the one who has given up there, that is why God gave up.  Paul tells us the ways we choose to dishonour ourselves is through “uncleanness” and “lusts”.  We’ve dreamed up some prevented ways to dishonour ourselves and at some point in the future they are going incriminate us.  You ever heard of NAMBLA?  It is an acronym for North American Man/Boy Love Association, the name alone just sounds dirty.  Literally it is an organization of child molesters and as the name suggests they are homosexual.  It has lost steam today but is still in existence.  Their goal is to eliminate federal and social restrictions on sexual behavior with under-age children.  In today’s all encompassing politically correct climate they have labeled themselves a “support group for intergenerational relationships”.  That is a deception that almost passes under the radar.  Its slogan is “sexual freedom for all”.  In short this a movement aimed at legalizing the sexual abuse of children.  This is just one of the avenues the gay agenda will eventually pursue if given the chance.

            That is a pretty blatant example of uncleanness but we seek to fulfill our lusts even under religious hospices.  Ever heard of a cult called The Family?  It was founded by a preacher/hippie in the late sixties.  His testimony was that God called him to reach the hippies of Southern California; what followed was one man’s twisted desire.  All throughout the eighties they were dragged into court because of their belief that molestation and sexual abuse of a child was a biblical practice.  They have always condoned incest, prostitution, homosexuality and just about any other form of sexual deviance you could come up with.  The original founder’s son was set to head the cult but he rejected their perversion and was officially excommunicated.  He recently committed suicide, he too was sexually abused as a child by his nanny.  Before his death he made a videotape calling the cult evil and also documented his plan to murder his former nanny before his suicide.

            That is precisely why God wanted societies like Canaan destroyed.  During the Great Depression archeologists found ancient literature that described the wicked Canaanite religion.  At the very least, you would think, religion should make you want to be a better person, well cults can’t say that.  A cult is all about indulging yourself.  Like today it was a cult based on sexual freedom; people were abused, children were sacrificed, service for them was one big pornographic scene.  The reason God wanted these societies destroyed was because they were immoral on the most basic levels.  And today we dishonour ourselves in same ways.

            In the next verse Paul goes on to tell us that we not only had the truth but that we also “changed the truth of God into a lie”.  Now, the “truth” is He is God and we are creature, any other view is idolatrous.  The “lie” is that we think we are our own gods.  See, Man thinks if he is his own god he is free to serve himself, do whatever he pleases.  But you see the more we seek to honor ourselves, through the sins that we enjoy, the more we are actually dishonoring ourselves, take fashion for example.  The vainer we get the trashier fashion becomes.  The trend in jeans today is low-rise, the lower the better.  In the store the other day I noticed a pair of women’s low-rise jeans on the rack, it had like a two-inch zipper.  Can you imagine trying to bend over in a pair of pants that came up just two inches above the crouch?  They make them for men too but taken in fact that most of America is over weight to begin with and it is not a pretty picture.  Yet trashy fashion like this is what is popular.  Where has the basic dignity of Man gone?  It went with God when we rejected Him.  Idolatry is always a form of self-worship, that is all that is an example of, Man’s love affair with himself.  God’s first commandment is to have no other gods before Him but His second has everything to do with idolatry, because idolatry is simply belief in a lie.

            The next part of this verse is what modern day psychology is all about, it says that we have “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator”.  Modern day churches have taken a contemporary approach at serving God; you can call it feel good teaching/preaching, positive thinking, motivational speaking, fortune cookie religion.  It is all the same thing, it teaches you that you are your own god.  And Paul says it affects two particular parts of your spiritual life.  First is worship, the word that is used here in the original Greek refers to fear; we worship or fear God because He is God.  Well, this contemporary style of worship changes that, because more honor is allotted to Man, the creature, than to God, the Creator.  Second is the way we serve.  The Greek for serve here refers to service for hire; we worship Him because He is God but we serve Him because there is something in it for us.  Well, since our modern day psychology has taught us there is no God to fear and consequently nothing to gain from it, there is no reason to serve.

            This mindset has a consequence, the Bible says “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections”.  That word “vile” links back to the word “dishonour”.  These things that we chase rather than serving God will at some point in the future incriminate us.  The word “affections” is an interesting word, it conveys the meaning of whatever comes around the corner.  This describes the liberal side of America real well, the left is always willing to accept the perverted, the abnormal, the freakish.  But there is an unseen element that comes from rejecting God, it is called anxiety.  Frustration, loneliness, meaninglessness, despair all result from worshipping and serving ourselves and not God.  That is an example of God’s passive wrath in action.  He doesn’t have to do anything, just sit back and watch us do the damage and then we wonder why things are they way they are.  In the remainder of the verse and in the next Paul points to homosexuality as the low point after our rejection of God.  The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) writes on a study that was conducted in Thailand in 1999 on identified teenage homosexuals and bisexuals that tells of risks faced, they found that the males of the group had sex on average two years earlier than heterosexual males.  They also had more partners in that time than did heterosexual males.  12% had been paid for providing sex, 26% of them had been forced into having sex, making them as a homosexual male group 6 times more likely to have been coerced into having sex than heterosexual males.  As a group the males had a 52% drug use rate, more also suffered from depression.  Remember that anxiety we talked about?  For the homosexual female group 14% of them provided sex for some type of reimbursement, they were 1.5 times more likely to have been forced into sex, and the females of the group were more likely when compared to heterosexual girls to drink and use drugs.  This is the result of homosexuality, which in itself is the result of godless living.

            First, we wanted idols now, we want complete repulsion from God and that is what homosexuality is, the complete opposite of what God created, Paul calls it “against nature”.  Even most Pagan societies throughout history had enough sense to know that homosexuality can’t be good.  There is an organization called Dignity and on their website they say they are a congregation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.  There are variants of this group popping up everywhere.  When did God stop meaning what He said?  Current psychology gives things like this the Okay.  The problem is they have given in to sin and won’t admit it or they just don’t care.  That is not repentance and salvation is not granted.  That group is just like what is explained in Genesis 19:11.  These guys were so consumed with their lust that being smote blind didn’t even phase them, they just kept right on with their sin.  Today we see the same thing with AIDS but that won’t stop the homosexual.  How many people loose everything to drugs and alcohol, wind up on the street but never quit?  How many people have to lose a lung before they quit smoking?  Eating, gambling, crime, sex, it is all the same.

            We have to work at being this wretched and that is the picture being described.  In verses twenty-six and twenty-seven notice the words “change”, “leaving”, and “burned”; they present the picture of “reaching out after” something, putting in effort.  No one ever woke up one morning and decided they were going to go on an extended drinking and drug binge, that is something you had to work on.  You have to really put some work into it if you want to get this polluted.  That is why groups like NAMBLA are pushing homosexuality, you get them while they’re kids and they have far greater chances of developing a taste for the sin of homosexuality.  The Executive Director of NARTH, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi estimates that one-third of his 400 homosexual clients say they have experienced some form of homosexual abuse before the age of consent and only two of those cases were reported to the authorities.  Paul says to a world this defiled, that there is no way to escape “receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet”.  In the overall picture Paul is saying that when a society starts engaging in homosexuality it has just about hit bottom.

4a.)      We are impenitent.  v. 28-32

            The fourth and final charge levied against Man is every bit as damning as the first; it is that we “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death… did not like to retain God in their knowledge”.  There are two veins of thought on these verses, the first is a very practical one.  Some view these verses as an indictment for having a perverted thought life.  A series of words reinforces this.  The word “retain” points to conscientious thought.  We retain information if it is of significance to us, otherwise we hear it and never really think about it again.  Someone who cares about the will of God retains His direction in their hearts and minds.  Then of course you have the word “mind” which refers to intentional thought out actions.  From there Paul goes on into a list of things that all take shape first in the mind.  “Unrighteousness” is anything that violates God’s holy sovereignty over man.  Mental violations are committed easiest and some times without prompt.  Going down the list, we all have perverted imaginations, “wickedness” refers to sinful desires or purposes.  In our minds we all experience a certain level of greed for something, not just money.  “Maliciousness” is wishing that something bad would happen to someone you don’t particularly like.  “Envy” traces back to destruction, because things that we envy or obsess about to that extent we ultimately destroy or it destroys us.  Who hasn’t honestly had the thought at one time or another, “if I only had a gun”?  The next four things are all crafts Satan in one way or another used in the Garden.  We are “backbiters” when we go around thinking evil of others.  Who hasn’t blamed God for something?  The next three terms relate to insulting someone in some way.  “Covenantbreakers” are faithless people, doubt comes from the mind.  You are “implacable” if you are unreasonable.  All of these things are first committed in the mind. Capping it off is the last verse telling us that sin is a conscious decision not to follow the ordinances of God.  In this context Paul could very well be talking exclusively of a perverted thought process.  After man rejects God it is like we go crazy.  Look at all the Christian countries and then you compare them to the ones that aren’t and notice the difference between them.  In Iraq America is almost single-handedly rebuilding a country.  I know things are no where near perfect over there but they are virtually getting a free ride and as soon as American manpower completes something here comes someone and blows it up.  They are getting something for nothing but out of their twisted religious beliefs they won’t have it.  They regularly blowup their own oil pipe lines without thinking about the fact that it is their own money they are burning.  You see that all over the Midddle East, Asia, and South America.  However, you don’t see this kind of behavior in countries of Christian origins.  It very much seems like Man goes crazy without God.

            The second picture you could point to here is that of a smith testing the quality of a piece of metal, in the OT God uses this same analogy to show us of our impurities.  A piece of metal is strongest at it its purest, when all the extra material is taken out, leaving you with one solid, uniform, substance.  That is God’s aim for us, over the course of our lifetime to shape us, remove the impurities so, that we resemble Christ.  A few of the terms used here in the Greek mirror the description of testing metal to see if it is of quality.  “Like” for instance means to test or examine or approve of.  “Reprobate” on the other hand refers to something that does not stand up to examination or doesn’t meet with approval.  Paul is saying sin of any kind does not meet with God’s approval, you can’t live in sin and hope to pass God’s inspection.  But here is how twisted and self-centered we are.  It says “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge”.  In our twisted minds it’s not us that failed, it God’s fault, He’s the one that doesn’t measure up so we cast Him out.  Me and Bro. Alan were trading e-mail this past week and he was telling me about something he had seen that proves how “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not”.  Now how did Satan accomplish that?  Jesus tells us it wasn’t hard in John 3:19-20.  We love darkness more than light.  We love our sin.  And the reason for that is we no longer feel shame, why else would we do the things Paul has listed?  The word “convenient” means to reach down for something, today we find almost no shame in a lot of the sin we have to dig down deep for.  God is the only one that can call us on it but He ain’t right now, is how most people feel.  Ezra saw the same thing in his day; Ezra 9:6.  Jeremiah too, Jeremiah 4:22 & 9:6.  In the first verse “foolish” means having a lack of moral standard, the exact same thing Paul is describing to us.  The OT prophet says we do all sorts of mischievous things but when it comes to being godly we wouldn’t even know where to start.  Like in Iraq, those causing all that trouble could probably come up with dozens of ways to prevent progress from being made but not have one idea on how to build a stable country.  In the next verse God tells us that we love this world we’ve created and “refuse” give it up for righteousness.  Finally, Paul explains the deceit we like to live in.  You know we are pretty far-gone when we stop being self-righteous and adopt the attitude “to each his own”.  Paul says when we hit that mark we “not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”  Today we glamorize promiscuity, and defend homosexuality, and excuse a variety of other things.  God has kept track of all of these things over the millennia, they’re all “written in the books”.  That is why Man is “inexcusable”.

5a.)      We are therefore inexcusable.  v. 2:1-16

            Just to summarize the last fifteen verses Paul has basically said there are four reasons for why Man is inexcusably guilty before God; we had the intelligence but we chose to ignore it, and we chose to ignore it so we could be indulgent, do pretty much whatever we wanted to do, and we went ahead and did it and then we weren’t sorry for any of it.  Those are the fundamental reasons for why Man must face the inescapable wrath of God.  Now we get to the next phase of this section in which Paul aims his comments at another group.  He already addressed those that live in open sin but here he speaks directly those who live in sin but are more discreet about it, those who like to sit around pretending they are better than others, when in reality they are just as guilty.  In their minds they hold some imaginary privilege that allows them to live by a different set of standards.  But as Paul makes very clear, God is an impartial judge.

        v. 1-4             The hypocrite and the truth

            To start off with there is some division as to who these first sixteen verses are talking about.  Some say Paul has been talking about Gentiles ever since verse eighteen in chapter one and doesn’t change subjects until he reaches the seventeenth verse where he first addresses the Jews specifically.  Others say he is talking about the Jews because he makes several references to “law” and only they would understand the significance of that.  The approach we have taken is that Paul is making a case against Man in general and then later on will address Jews and Gentiles separately.

            Paul opens this section by telling us what a hypocrite is, he says a hypocrite is someone that judges another and then “doest the same thing”.  He is not talking about any one specific thing rather he is talking about sin in general.  Anyone who condemns an act of sin and then goes on out and sins in some way themselves is a hypocrite, and the manner in which you do it is immaterial.  James 2:9-11 clarifies.  At the beginning of his letter James makes clear that he is talking to Jewish people because they made up a majority of the church in his day.  But the application to all people is clear.  God has laws and violation of any one of those is a violation of His sovereignty.  All sin regardless of how we categorize it is the same in God’s eyes and bares the same judgment, hell.  God’s law is like a chain and if you break the law at any link it is still broken.  Paul is talking to the moralists, the good people out there who may not particularly be religious but they have a sense of right and wrong and they live according to it.  Morals don’t save you, all they do is prove how big a hypocrite you are.  The kind of person Paul is talking about is the person that says “at least I’m not like them, I’m not that bad”.  Does that justify us?  No, look at what Jesus says about that very thing in Luke 18:9-14This guy actually believed his prayer did something.  Today people think they are safe because they were baptized, they came down to the front prayed a prayer and then filled out a form, some think doing the sacraments is enough, some that their ethical standards will get them into heaven.  Jews often felt that merely being Jewish meant they were excused from judgment.  Today there are plenty of people who call themselves Christians that feel the same way, they “judgest another” but “condemnest thyself”.

            In the last half of chapter one Paul notes how even the lawless deserve judgment for their sin so, surely the more enlightened must realize that the “judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things”.  But today we don’t believe verses like this, there is no hell, God wouldn’t do that.  And the truth is He doesn’t, He didn’t even create hell for people.  But hell is a real place and it is the individual that chooses to go there.  Once again as the Bible says, the proof is “written in the books”.  So, you play the hypocrite, take solace in the fact that you just haven’t been caught yet, but rest assured “that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things”.

            Thinking is the hypocrite’s biggest problem.  What makes man such a hypocrite is that we tend to think that our actions bear no consequences.  We live in a day in which that is an easy notion to believe.  We live in an age of grace where God’s primary rule of thumb is His passive wrath.  We choose the course and our lives are determined by the theater in which God has constructed.  Most of the time His judgment isn’t immediate because the purpose of His grace is to give us time to repent.  And in our thinking we mistake this period of hoped for repentance, because the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” but we mistake His patience for escaping “the judgment of God”.  We live in a day in which people believe they are going to “escape the judgment of God”.  We have various justifications for that belief but it all boils down to people believing that on judgment day God is going to weight out the good and bad in their lives and find that for some that the good outweighs the bad.  This is something that we thought up, God never said that is how salvation is granted.  We made it up to support the lie that it is possible to “escape the judgment of God”.

            Even the saved fall for this lie, look at David.  He sat on the throne as a righteous judge of God but even he at times felt he could escape the judgment of God.  That is why David gives us one of the clearest examples of being a hypocrite.  See the hypocrite likes to indulge himself but get indignant with others.  David should have known better but it didn’t stop him.  Despite knowing what he knew he went ahead and seduced Bathsheba.  A little while later Nathan pays him a visit in his court and tells him a story of a man and his only possession, his lamb, and how it was stolen by his rich neighbor to give to his guests.  In his indignant anger David rises up and says “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die…because he had no pity”.  David was unprepared for what he heard next, Nathan says you hypocrite, “Thou art the man”.  II Samuel 12:7-10  As Nathan continued his charge the scenes of what David had done played in his mind, scenes how he seduced the wife of a loyal man, then tried to trick him and his wife into living a lie.  Finally, he just had him killed; letting David live the lie, making every part of this verse true about David.

            David was even guilty of the next verse, compare that to what Nathan says.  Twice Nathan uses that same word “despised”.  It means to regard as unworthy of one’s interest or concern.  It is an English word by way of the French.  The root word in Old French means to look, while the prefix of “de” means the opposite of.  So, if you despise something, you purposely look in the opposite direction of it.  What God is saying to David through Nathan is, you didn’t look at Me David.  When we sin we do the same thing we refuse to look at God.

            Another truth concerning the word “despisest” is this, rather than looking at “the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering” we tend to look at what God isn’t doing and the whole while ignoring “that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”.  Everyone of us could have a pity party, look at me, look at how bad I have it, things aren’t going my way.  But the instant we do that we loose sight of “the goodness of God” and that is what led David into the mess he got into.  See a hypocrite can fool everyone, even themselves but not God.

            In this day of name it and claim it preaching we are too quick to forget about the goodness of God.  I could go on and on about how much I hurt, how raped I feel, how unfair it all is but truth be told God has been pretty good to me.  If this had happened to me in nearly any other place in the world I probably wouldn’t have survived, if I had I’d have been locked away, or my family would have put me in some back room some where, thrown me enough scrapes to survive and felt they did their duty.  But we here especially in America experience “the riches of His goodness”; terrorism, starvation, disease aren’t problems here.  The whole earth enjoys “the riches of his forbearance”, meaning He is withholding His wrath by not striking us dead right now because of our offenses.  And “the riches of his longsuffering” means He is going to continue these things indefinitely for the elect and at least until the appointed day for all those who reject Him and the reason for that is given in the last part of the verse, “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”.  It is out of the goodness of God that He doesn’t reign wrath on us right now but instead uses our sin to lead us to repent.  Paul says that “God leadeth thee to repentance” He changes the individual’s heart, not us.  And He does it out of love; goodness, forbearance, longsuffering those are acts of love.  God doesn’t beat people into repentance, He loves them into it.  It is His blessings that move people to repentance not His judgment, maybe that is why we see the wicked prosper.  Maybe He is trying to move them to repentance because on their own they’re inexcusable.  But the next verse tells us why most will never be moved, their hearts are hard and impenitent.

        v. 5-10             The mirage of privilege

            Paul is of course speaking to Jews and it was a common assumption among Jews that not only were they excused from the law and having to obey it completely but also that Gentiles were beyond the redeeming reach of God.  Now, Paul is about to shatter those misconceptions for the benefit of a growing Church; because he didn’t want them going into the Church age carrying that same prejudice.  He tells them that God is going to accept or reject the Gentile just as assuredly as He is going to accept or reject the Jew.  The Church is all-inclusive, meaning anybody can be saved that will be saved.  But Man’s problem lies in this first verse, Paul says our problem is “thy hardness and impenitent heart”.  He just told us about the goodness of God well, hardness and impenitence are the rejection of that goodness.  We’ve already talked about impenitence, basically it is not being sorry for anything.  “Hardness” is when you are stubborn, traced back it refers to something that won’t bend or change.  When it comes to our sin we don’t like to give it up.  Now, it is this rejection of His goodness through hardness and impenitence that leads to “wrath and revelation”.  In fact we still use the Greek word for hardness today.  Ever hear of arteriosclerosis?  It is a disease in which thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity of the arterial walls result in impaired blood circulation.  In the same way spiritually in our hearts we become hard, and insensitive, and unresponsive to God.  Physically this is a condition that will kill you but spiritually to the unregenerate heart it’ll take you to hell.

            The reason it leads to hell is because a lifetime of hardness and impenitence means you have rejected the goodness of God that comes through Christ Jesus.  People who live their entire lives and never get saved abuse a lot of things, they abuse His:  goodness, forbearance, longsuffering, kindness, mercy, grace, love.  That is why Paul says that the lost “treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation”.  The word “revelation” here means to lay naked, God “will render to every man according to his deeds”; everyone who is judged on that day will have their deeds exposed, the end of chapter 20 in Revelation talks about it.

            Remember this basic Bible truth, we are known by our fruit?  Now, this is a very straightforward group of verses but you have to approach it right otherwise you corrupt doctrine.  The basic truth here is that judgment is by works, I didn’t say salvation because Paul is not talking about salvation.  The world consists of only two groups, the saved group and the lost group; Paul is making a general reference to both in the next few verses because both will be judged according to deed, which means this is after the choice for salvation has already been made.  Paul talks about the saved in verses seven and ten.  We are told of the judgment of the saved in I Corinthians 3:11-15.  Paul in II Corinthians and Romans calls this judgment of the saved “the judgment seat of Christ”.  The other judgment spoken of by Paul is the judgment of the lost found in verses eight and nine.  It is referred to as the “great white throne” judgment and its picture is given to us in Revelation 20:11-15.  Now look back at verse six because this is where Jesus makes all the difference.  Only a fool would choose to be judged by those standards alone.  Because if based on our sole merits which group will Man always fall into?  The lost, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin is death”; without Jesus we are eternally lost.

            Notice that it says about the lost that they are “contentious”.  In the Greek it is a political term referring to running for office but using underhanded means to get it.  God is King and He wasn’t elected to the office it is His by right but like we talked about in the first chapter we in our idolatry like to elevate ourselves to that position and “not obey the truth”.  “Obey” is used twice but in the Greek two different terms are used.  This first one means not allowing one’s self to be persuaded, it is when you won’t listen to God, that is what “hardness” is.  In its second use it refers to what a lost person was persuaded to do, unrighteousness.  What does that lead to?  “Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish”.  “Indignation” refers to passion, God is going to execute judgment with passion on those that have rejected His goodness.  In verse five he made it clear that it isn’t God who sentences someone to hell, we build our own cases against us.  “Tribulation and anguish” refer to hell.

            Lastly, note that Paul makes the statement twice “the Jew first, and also to the Gentile”.  Amos 3:1-2  Paul wants his people especially to understand that with the more light or understanding you have comes more responsibility.  It is the same way with the Christian today.  We have the Word, we have the Truth and if we don’t live according to it we will be punished, Bro. Terry says choose to sin and choose to suffer.

        v. 11-16             The impartial Judge

            God is an impartial judge, which means just like it says “there is no respect of persons with God”.  This is a truth Jews knew but didn’t apply very often especially when it came to Gentiles.  But the truth, as Samuel explains in his search for David, is that “the LORD seeth not as man seeth” because “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart”.  That truth applies to Gentiles every bit as much as it does Jews and Paul is about to make that abundantly clear.  Now, again he gives us two groups in the next verse; the first group he calls those that “have sinned without law” and the second he calls those that “have sinned in the law”.  This is an obvious reference to both Jews and Gentiles because the Jews had the law while the Gentiles were “without” it.  Paul is still talking about judgment, primarily his attention is focused on the judgment of the lost.  Now, the destination of those who have sinned in or out of the law is the same, it’s hell.  You might be thinking that sounds incredibly unfair to the Gentile because after all they never had the law but you would be wrong.

            Look back at chapter one beginning in verse eighteen and going through twenty; because it says Gentile or not we already know the law.  Unlike the Jew we didn’t have the benefit of the written law but everyone contains a basic copy of it written in their hearts.  Paul says “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 shew the work of the law written in their hearts”.  Let me give you a few scenarios to prove it.  You take someone else’s spouse to bed and then they catch you, do you really need a copy of the law to tell you you’re in trouble?  Or you steal something and then get caught red-handed, do you need the law to tell you that you’ve done wrong?  No, no matter where you go, Jew or Gentile, Christian or not things like this are always wrong.  God has written it in our hearts.  So, when it says “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law” the standards God is going to use to judge them, they’ve always known.  So, if you were without the law yesterday or live in a part of the world today in which the Gospel just hasn’t made it to yet, you are still “without excuse” because no matter who you are, you have a basic idea of what God expects of you.  God is not going to judge you by something you could have never known.

            On the other hand, if you knew and didn’t do anything about it you’ve made an eternal mistake.  Hebrews 10:26-29  This is taking about someone who fully understood the plan of salvation but continued to “sin willfully”.  It says right here like we talked about earlier, with the more knowledge you have comes more responsibility.  Think back to what Jesus said about people who know but don’t act, Matthew 11:21-24.  Our Lord is talking about places that not only had the law but saw the fulfillment of it, these people had seen the Son of God.  And like so many do today they just let the chance they were given pass on by.  We all know how guilty Sodom was when it was just the law but if you have access to the Savior and you still reject Him, you look far worse.

            These next few verses particularly infuriated the Jews because Paul reveals the truth that possession of the law does not amount to anything without the practice of it.  That was their trump card, they were better than everybody else because they had the law and no one else did.  The only problem was they didn’t adhere to it; sounds like most Christians today, they have the Savior, they have His Bible but they don’t live by it.  Paul makes it clear that it is “not the hearers of the law…but the doers of the law” that “shall be justified”.  Because if you’re not a doer you’re just a pretender, today there are far more pretend Christians than real Christians.  The expectation of the “hearer” is taught all through the OT, Proverbs 4:20 is clear in its definition.  “Attend” means to listen with purpose.  It is like taking a college course.  There are two ways you can take it, for credit or audit.  Now, if you are taking it for credit you have a responsibility to retain what you’ve heard because you will be tested on it for a grade.  If you audit that class though, you’re not held responsible for what was said or even taking the tests.  The problem with a lot of people is they are spiritually auditing their way through life.  Oh they hear God’s instruction but they don’t want to accept the responsibility.  But with God the more truth you hear the more responsible you become for believing and obeying the truth.  So, without obedience the more you hear the guiltier you are.

            Proverbs talks a lot about Man’s most common problem, his mouth.  Proverbs 10:19  Listen, two angry people never accomplish anything.  Whenever you are in an argument you need to remember this verse and shut up.  It says that in all the words you spit out it is only a matter of time until you say something you shouldn’t have said that is only going to make things worse.  Now that I’ve brought this verse out to you the next time you’re in an argument and you don’t stop, you’re even guiltier.  I know it’s hard, because we live in the land of talk radio and that has prompted us into forgetting that he that shuts up “is wise”. They’re mad, you’re mad, just shut up it is the best thing you can do.  How is that for a little bit of biblical psychology?  Now, it’s not going to do you any good if you don’t do this, which is why Paul says it is not possession of the law that counts but practice of it that counts.  Along those same lines is a truth we hinted at earlier; you are not saved by the amount of light you have but you are judged by it, verse twelve.

            Prior to addressing one particular group before another he gives us a final comparison of Jews and Gentiles.  He tells us that we all have “secrets”, that our “conscience” bears witness to that fact, and our own “thoughts” will either accuse or else excuse us.  When he uses the word “conscience” he is referring to that built-in awareness of the law God has given everyone of us.  There are a lot of ways that you could use to explain what your conscience is.  For instance we could liken it to a radar, it warns us of approaching danger.  But like all things that have an earthly nature it can be damaged and the way you damage it is through sin.  The longer you live in sin or if you’re saved the more you backslide into it, the weaker it gets or the less sensitive to it you become.  But the record is still kept regardless of how much you damage this particular instrument.  Hebrews 4:12 clarifies.  The “discerner” here is God “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ”.  Paul says Jew or Gentile what is going to prove you guilty are your “secrets” and the two witnesses of our secrets are our “conscience” and our “thoughts”.  Our conscience tells us what we should do, our thoughts tell what we either did or wanted to do.  Those are the things that are “written in the books”.  If we are judged “according to” the “Gospel” alone every one of those secrets we have are going to become evidence against us, all the perverted and down right mean “intents of the heart” are going to be revealed, along with everything else.  No doubt about it, we are inexcusable guilty and in need of a Savior.

B.  To the Jew                        2:17-3:8

1b.)      The good  v. 17-20

            The next twenty-one verses are especially dedicated to a Jewish audience.  Since verse nine Paul has been laying the groundwork for the subject he is now addressing.  Paul has shown how Man in general is guilty but in the Jewish mind they weren’t included in that reckoning.  Their view was that they were elevated above the Gentile world and that any time judgment was spoken of it was automatically ascribed to the Gentile.  Now, the way Paul approaches this is by first telling them what is good with being a Jew.  He tells them they have a solid foundation and purpose.

        v. 17-18             Their creed

            The first thing he says is “Behold, thou art called a Jew”.  They took a lot of pride in that.  Amos told us that out “of all the families of the earth” God chose them so, they felt they were special.  And they were as Paul goes on to say, God had big plans for them.  But they shunned their calling in favor of self-exaltation.  Jew comes from the name Judah which conveys the meaning of to be praised.  The Jew took that a little too literally.  At some point they began to feel that they were superior to everybody else, that their own merit is what brought God to them rather then His grace bringing them to Him.  They were a people blinded by pride.

            They justified this notion of superiority by looking back at the promises that God had made to Israel.  And since it all started with Abraham, as his descendants they were entitled to everything that followed.  Something else they would do is they would put themselves on the same spiritual plane as Abraham.  Matthew 3:7-9  Their idea of salvation was salvation by association.  They reasoned that he was a saved man so, as his descendants that salvation somehow passed on to them.  But John the Baptist makes if very clear, your heritage has nothing to do with salvation.  People still believe that today.  Plenty of people think that since they live in a Christian nation, even though they don’t go to Church, don’t pick up a Bible, and only address Him when in need or when angry at Him, that they’re saved.  We still believe salvation is by association today.  When in reality a couple of rocks are closer to being saved than most people are.  The truth is you are not saved by calling yourself a Christian, you are not saved because you have family that might be.  You’re not saved because you got baptized, because you can’t wash away sin with water.  Only the blood can save.  That was the part of their creed the Jew had forgotten.

            Note next that it says that the Jew liked to “boast of God”.  These were the holy rollers of Paul’s day.  The kind of people who are all show, the “name it and claim it”, “quote it cuz He wrote it” crowd.  People do it because it sounds good but more often than not it is just show.  Jesus tells of how these people would stand out where people could see them doing it.  You see so many TV preachers today that can tear up the stage but when you really listen to them, there is not a whole lot of depth to what they have to say oh, it sounds good but God wants more of you than just lip service.

            What gave the Jew clout was the fact that they not only had the written law but because of it they also knew “his will”.  In a few verses Paul is about to hit them hard with their own hypocrisy over the law.  Then Paul says they “approvest the things that are more excellent”.  The meaning here basically is that the Jews had a frame work in which to live their lives because they were “instructed out of the law”.  Gentiles didn’t have this benefit but the Jews had the advantage of using the law on a daily basis, helping them to live more righteously, they were supposed to use it to weigh out what their proper course of action should be, just like how we should let the Spirit direct us in our lives.

        v. 19-20             Their call

            The call of God’s Church has never changed, it was the same in OT times as it is in NT times, the call of the Jew was the same back then as the call of the Christian is today and that is to win the lost.  As Paul says, this was something the Jews were “confident” about.  That is a word of purpose, action, and drive.  They were confident that God chose them to persuade the nations of the world that they were guilty of the law of God and that their only possible recourse was subjection to the one true God.  This call was first revealed to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.  So, at the very conception of Israel it was called into the ministry.  See, Israel was to be the means by which God was going to bless the whole world.  It was always His plan to include the Gentile in the plan of salvation.  But they shunned that calling in favor of self-exaltation.  They had the law which meant at least in their minds that they were number-one, they were on top.  And like anyone in that position they didn’t want to give it up.  So, they had no desire to share God’s Word with the rest of the world.  In fact this prejudice so saturated Israel that even their men of God were racist.  Jonah 4:1-4  Now, he is mad here because he has just preached and the entire city of Nineveh responded.  And he was so racist he couldn’t even enjoy it, what a poor testimony to have.  God uses him in a way He uses no other, hundreds of thousands of people get saved, and all he can do is complain.  And that was his sole reason for refusing to go in the first place, he was scared some of those Ninevites might actually get saved and be put on level ground with the Jew.  They liked that feeling of superiority and didn’t want to give it up, called or not.

            Through out history the Jew has been ostracized but have you ever wondered why?  Two reasons:  of course prior to the establishment of God’s true and final embodiment of the Church, the Jews were the only truth bearers; consequently it made them a target for Satan.  The second reason though was self-inflicted.  Look at how they viewed us Gentiles.  First they felt that we were “blind”.  They felt that Gentiles were so spiritually blind that we couldn’t reach out and connect with God if He were standing in front of us.  If that wasn’t insult enough they also felt that we lived in spiritual “darkness”.  Their mentality was that the Jew was the only one worth saving and everybody else was going to hell.  They also believed we were “foolish”.  They felt as if we were stupid and only they had the answers, only now has the Catholic church begun to change their own insinuation of that image.  And if that wasn’t enough to make you mad they also viewed us as mere “babes”.  Our wisest of wisdom to them was just childishness.  For those reasons they were the only ones qualified to be a “guide” or an “instructor” of anything.  Now, with that kind of contempt for everyone else is it any wonder why the Jews have been ostracized?  No but we understand today that was not the direction God wanted them to take the law.  Their purpose just like ours is today was to win the lost but because of their own beliefs they disqualified themselves from His plan of salvation.

            Paul says that the Jews only had a “form” of godliness.  The same language is used and the same kind of people are referred to in II Timothy 3:5.  That was the Jew of his day.  They had the structure that the law provided them but by not living in the law they nullified its power.  It was the corrective force of OT times but if you only held it up as a symbol and never put it into practice, it had no power.  Modern churches are doing this same thing today.  Many churches are no longer holding what you could call services, instead they are putting on seminars.  They’ve substituted Bible teaching for self-help and motivational speaking programs.  What that does is it denies the power of the Word of God, “from such” things we are to “turn away”.

2b.)      The bad  v. 21-24

            Now, if the Jew had wholeheartedly committed themselves to these last two verses it would have been a seamless transition when Jesus came on the scene.  Who knows where we would have been today.  But they didn’t answer the call.  And the next thing he addresses is how they have blatantly went about breaking the law they so proudly boast about.  He mentions stealing first, the Jews were notorious for stealing, from God.  In Malachi God tells Israel, “ye have robbed me,…In tithes and offerings”.  We do the same thing today, we hang so much importance on that 10% like that small amount is going to break us.  When in reality it is that 10% that shows God our obedience and opens up doors a hoarded 10% never could.  Next is adultery, we have that problem today too.  Ever since they got the Mosaic Law they’ve been trying to figure out ways around it.  They wanted the option to jump from one failed marriage to another, God’s law calls that adultery.  We’ll take the time to destroy an institution that is meant to last for a lifetime but because we are so driven by convenience we won’t take the time to fix what we broke.  He then moves on to idols and we have plenty of those as chapter one made crystal clear.  Some feel as if Paul is making a particular indictment here though.  Like in various parts of the world today in his day pagan shrines were a common find.  In the Greek the word “sacrilege” seems to be talking about robbing those shires of their valuables.  In OT precedent God told the Jews not “take” or even “desire” anything associated with an idol but rather burn it no matter how precious because it could “snare” them.  In the face of irrefutable proof he asks a rhetorical question, “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonurest thou God?

            The nail in the coffin is the next verse.  Paul is saying the Gentiles aren’t as stupid as you seem to think they are.  They hear you talk all the time but consistently fail to walk.  Centuries ago Isaiah said the same thing.  The message carries through to us today.  If the lost world sees us committing the same sins they are, they fail to see the need for salvation.  That is blasphemy we are responsible for.  And then when we are judged for those sins by God it just compounds the situation because it will prompt a lost person to think why get saved if, whatever they are seeing, is going to happen?  That is the bad but it is about to get ugly.

3b.)      The ugly  v. 2:25-3:8

            The Jews had worked themselves into a paradox and Paul is about to point that out.  Paradox comes to us from the ancient Greek language.  A literal rendering of the word is when reality conflicts with expectation.  God had certain expectations He wanted the Jews to live up to but of course the reality was that they had fallen hopelessly off course.  The Jews had expectations too, that their privileged roots had secured them an inheritance but once again reality conflicted with expectation.

        v. 25-29             False security:  ritual vs. reality

            The first paradox of the current Jewish belief system was their sense of false security.  Paul strikes at the heart of this false doctrine in verse twenty-five.  Among other things a common Jewish belief was that circumcision is all it took to get into heaven.  That was the expectation but the reality was it was only a symbol and in and of itself vacant of any redeeming power.  Abraham was the first to be circumcised but that is not what was counted to him as righteousness, it was the fact that “he believed in the LORD”.  Circumcision was just a mark identifying Abraham and his descendants as covenant holders with God.  God only intended circumcision to be a symbolic representation of how we are born into sin and how that sin nature must be removed to be a holder of the promises of God.  Comparatively baptism is the same type of symbol, it is a physical representation of something much bigger.

            Now, the value of any divinely authorized ritual is directly related to the individual heart.  Deuteronomy 10:16 proves this.  Rituals are meaningless unless they are genuine outward expressions of inward motivations.  Your heart is what gives a ritual true value.  The reason you tithe should be because God has blessed you to the point that you can give and out of a grateful heart you do.  The reason you read your Bible should be to get closer to God, if you just subconsciously scan the pages of your Bible and then have no recall of what you read, you just took part in a ritual that had no meaning; because your heart wasn’t in it.  Same thing with the Lord’s supper, I Corinthians 11:23-30.  Once again this is Paul but he is confirming Deuteronomy when he says “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  The person Paul is talking about here, their heart isn’t right with the Lord.  This divinely given ritual is supposed to mean something but instead we profane it when we take part, because God can see the reality of our hearts isn’t meeting up with His expectation for them.  Right here, the consequence for being “stiffnecked” in our sin can be pretty steep.

            These next few verses are the sound reasoning of Paul based on Scripture preparing the Jews of the church for something he doesn’t say until he feels he has laid sufficient ground work, Romans 9:6.  Finally at this point after much persuading Paul feels confident enough to say, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”.  God’s expectation is “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  And the reality is that it includes both Jew and Gentile.

            Next Paul tries to appeal to the pride of the Jewish people by saying “And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee”, what he is saying here is a godly Gentile example makes the circumcised but disobedient Jew look bad.  They didn’t feel that was possible but Paul assures them it is and at the very lest the pride of being an Israelite, especially chosen by God, should motivate them into obedience and not allow a Gentile to show them up.  In the last two verses of the chapter he tells us what a Jew is.  He begins by saying that circumcision is more than just decoration, so to speak, it means something.  Circumcision is the outward expression of the work of God in the heart and “in the spirit”.  Don’t put stock in empty ritual alone like circumcision, or baptism, or the Lord’s supper, or church membership.  Sure those things look good, they may gain the praise of men but you only get God’s praise through the heart.

        3:1-3:8             False direction:  The “what ifs”…

            Paul was a preacher of grace because it is by grace that we can be saved.  Ironically the Jews had a problem with that and the reason it is ironic is because you find examples of the grace of God all through out the OT.  You first see it in the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned.  God could have killed Man off right there but grace kept Him from it.  Out of grace God then clothed them with the skins from the first sacrifice.  Further grace is evidenced when God gives the land over to Man to work, later on they are given Israel and still further promises yet to be fulfilled.  Salvation by grace was never an alien concept.  But what the Jews had done over the centuries and millennia is replace that God given theology with theology of their own.  The two main schools were salvation by works and salvation by association.  So, those next few verses are the Jewish hypocrisy’s attacks on Paul and the Gospel of grace.  Paul actually talks candidly about this particular group over in Titus 1:10, 3:9.  These Jews would purposely try and trip up Christians, confuse them so, Paul says “avoid” the “foolish questions”, the meaningless “genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law” because “they are unprofitable and vain”.  What is to be gained by arguing about something that is either inconsequential or untrue?  Nothing, he calls it vain or just a waste of time.  So, if you ever come across someone that makes it clear that they are not interested in your Savior or His message and just wants to pick you apart in any way they can; at some point you have to determine you are not going to let them waste your time.  It is the most humane thing you can do, with the more knowledge you reveal to them the more account they are come Judgment Day.  It would be far better for them to stand before Him ignorant having known nothing than to stand before Him, eyes opened to the truth, but never having done anything about it.

            Today we call what they are doing quibbling or trying to evade the truth of a point or question by raising irrelevant objections or points of their own.  John provides us a clear example of this.  John 4:7-21, 24  Here Jesus is convicting this woman of what she already knows is wrong, about to give her an invitation into the kingdom of God and she interrupts Him to bring up something that has nothing to do with what they are talking about.  People will do that today, they’ll talk about a “god” but the minute you starting talking about their own salvation and what you should be doing in order to live a godly life, it’s time to change the subject.  And that is all those questions are, in Romans, attempts by the Jewish hypocrisy to confuse the issue, change the subject.

            Now, after hearing the first part of Paul’s letter the Jewish mind would pose some obvious questions but some of those questions were nothing more than attempts by legalistic Jews to debunk the salvation by grace message.  Which once again is ironic because salvation has always been by grace.  The law never saved the Jew it only condemned them but by living according to the law they were actually appealing to God’s grace, relying on His grace to keep them from the condemnation that is found in the law.  So, this segment of the letter is Paul addressing these quibbles before some Judaizer or OT diehard came along to cause some kind real trouble.

            Jews felt Paul, and his Christian message, contradicted some of their most basic doctrine.  Their first question, in the light of being told that their heritage and their circumcision were almost meaningless, was “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?”  They felt as if Paul was attacking the doctrine of the Jews being God’s people.  This is a sentiment that Jews still carry today.  They feel that if they were to become a Christian that it would strip them of their Jewishness.  That couldn’t be further from the truth, there is nothing more Jewish than becoming a Christian.  Christ was God making good on a promise He made to them.  So, in no way would that make them any less Jewish.  That is reflected in Paul’s response to their question “what advantage…or what profit” does it bring; he says “Much every way:  chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”  They received the literal Word of God.  Now, that didn’t save them but it did allow them the means to get saved, which means they shouldered more responsibility than those they liked to call Gentiles.  Not only had they received the literal Word of God but it was through this people God was going to bring forth His Son, no doubt they are a special people.

            The next issue they felt Paul was taking a swipe at was the doctrine of the faithfulness of God.  Paul is preaching grace, God’s ability to forgiven sin well, another question they pose to try and fault the message of grace is “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”  If God said He is going to do something He is going to do something.  Now, that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Our disobedience does not render “the faith of God without effect”.  God’s unconditional promises do not depend on our own faithfulness.  Just because the Jew failed to come through on their call or if we all fail doesn’t mean God is going to fail; he says “God forbid:  yea, let God be true, but every man a liar”.  Man will sooner be found a liar than God will, it is written in His own Word, God “cannot lie”.  And that is something you better believe if you want to “overcome when thou art judged”, because without a righteous God of the universe there is no hope.

            It is in their last question that you see the Jewish hypocrisies view of being saved by grace.  They didn’t like it; because in order for you to be saved by grace it means you must first confess your own guilt, something their Jewish pride just wouldn’t let them do.  They weren’t about to confess anything.  What they do instead is try and discredit the message of grace, make it sound bad or sound too good to be true.  And they go about it by asking a series of questions in which one leads to another.  Their first question is, in order to be saved you don’t have to be a Jew, if you are saved by grace.  That then led them to ask this, if you don’t have to be a Jew in order to be saved, seeing as Jews were the only people who believed in the one true God, than that must mean that you can be saved and not even believe, if you are saved by grace.  In this final question they take it to the extreme.  They ask, “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say?  Is God unrighteous who taketh vengence?”  Paul clarifies their little word play here and gives us what they are really asking, they want to know, does grace “Let us do evil, that good may come?”  That is the picture they are painting of grace, they are falsely representing grace as something that allows you to sin and still be saved.  Now, if you have really received God’s grace in your life you know that is not at all what grace is but what these Jews were doing is quibbling, trying to confuse the issue.

            So far, in their estimation, they feel as if Paul has attacked God’s people, God’s faithfulness, and now they feel as if he is attacking the doctrine of God’s righteousness.  The idea that a righteous God would tolerate sin was inconceivable and that is not what Paul was saying, notice he tacks on “I speak as a man”.  Or he is emphasizing that those words are not his own, it’s the reasoning’s of the Jewish hypocrisy.  To which he says “God forbid:  for then how shall God judge the world?”  You ever notice how jewels are always displayed against black backdrops; why do they do that?  So, that they appear to sparkle more, it is all illusion.  Once you remove them from that background their luster isn’t as brilliant.  Well, that is exactly what they were doing by taking grace to the extreme and saying if you are only going to be forgiven anyway, the more sin you have in your life the better it makes God appear to be for forgiving it.  The more lies we tell, the more truthful it makes Him look; the more faithless we are, the more faithful we make Him look.  They were saying that Paul was teaching a “sin as much as you want because it is only going to bring Him the glory anyway” message.  That is a perverted twist on what grace really is.  Jude really rips into these guys in Jude 3 & 4.  Talking about this same group and others like them he says their sole purpose on this earth is “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This “sin all you want” view they’re taking of grace is nothing but them fulfilling our innate desire to do so.  And these guys specifically “were before of old ordained to” suffer the “condemnation” that follows.  They tried to say that grace only licensed you to sin, after all it is only going to be forgiven anyway.  Basically they are saying sin is as acceptable to God as righteousness is.

            Well, Paul counters by asking “then how shall God judge the world?”  If God takes on human qualities, like gaining anything at all out of sin He wouldn’t be God anymore and He certainly wouldn’t be fit to be judge over anything.  See, Paul was preaching grace by saying that our unrighteousness shows how righteously faithful God really is.  And what they were trying to do was fault the message of grace by using it to sin willfully since in their perverted reasoning it would bring Him glory either way.  To this Paul directs two questions.  First, “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?”  In the Greek the word “unrighteous” means lawbreaker.  Paul is asking them if God breaks His own law and of course the answer is no.  Then he asks “For if the truth of God hath abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?”  He actually uses their own question against them.  Sense God can’t break His own law he uses their question to lead to one of his own.  He says, if God can’t break any of His laws, then why on earth would you think that we could?  Because sin of any kind carries the same punishment death, hell, and the grave.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life” exact opposites to what sin is and where it leads.  So, you can never glorify God through sin, He doesn’t need some false backdrop to make Him look good.  And to those who are so in love with their sin that they think that good will come of it, their “damnation is just”.  It is odd the Jews would even try and fault Christians on such grounds seeing as they practiced such hypocrisy.  They knew on many counts they didn’t come close to obliging the law but despite that they still felt that God was still going to bless and good was still going to come.  They believed in an unspoken sort of way that they could get away with their sin, if for nothing less than the fact they were Jewish.  In that last statement Paul’s stops just short of getting in the face of every Jew and telling them, you can go to hell just like everybody else.  However, I imagine they got the gist.

C.  And all the world                        3:9-20

1c.)      We are all under sin  v. 9-12

            For the last two chapters Man has been on the witness stand of God and Paul says we’ve been “proved” corrupt and incredible.  Well, now picture in your mind God’s own Word taking the stand against all the world.  Paul starts off with an exclamation point.  He asks, “What then?”  In light of all the overwhelming evidence against us what can you say?  Very plainly we “are without excuse”.  His next question is a little bit of a puzzle; he asks “are we better than they?”  Not to make too much out of it but some question who the “we” refers to.  It doesn’t matter either way but opinions are divided some say he is referring back to his conversation of Jewish superiority, some take the “we” in the previous verse as a cue that he is talking about the early Christians, more likely it is just a rhetorical question with the obvious answer of no.  He faulted the Jewish mindset of superiority because regardless of race or heritage we are all cut from the same cloth, we all have that same basic sin nature.  For the sake of argument he answers the question by saying “No, in no wise:  for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin”.

            God’s suit is more than a class action lawsuit, His suit is against the world and we are all personally named.  In fact both the words “proved” and “under” were Greek legal terms of his day.  Notice particularly the word “under”.  It means to be under authority; that being said, we are all under the authority of sin.  You ever hear anyone say “I am my own man”?  Well, that is not true, if you are lost your father is “the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do”.  So, that expression is not true, at least not on a spiritual plane and it is especially not true if you can claim to have a “heavenly Father”.  God looks at the world and says “that they are all under sin”.  It reminds me of a cloud, wherever it goes it always casts a shadow.  Well, sin is that cloud and it covers the whole earth and since it does we are all in its shadow.  The opposite of darkness is light and that is where the Son comes in.  In a few more verses the clouds break and we get to see the Son but Paul isn’t finished with his description of sin yet.

            In the next three verses he gives us a rundown of what we’ve seen so far, it is a rundown of Man’s fallen condition.  And he uses Psalm 14 as his text.  Now, we are under the authority of sin, we are controlled by it.  He gives us four areas sin dominates in our lives.

1.)             Spirit and soul  v. 10

            Quoting Psalms he says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”  Righteousness is like the wind, you really can’t see it but you feel its affects.  Sin has control of us on a level that is outside of our physical manipulation of it.  Bro. Terry has this story he tells of a kid that used to say he “just does stupid stuff sometimes”.  Truth is while we do make decisions in our lives that sin nature in us has wired us to make the wrong ones.  When you get saved the Holy Spirit of God comes in and begins to rewire you.  I Corinthians 2:14  But until then we are controlled on a level that is beyond our ability to change.

2.)             Mind  v. 11

            Once again quoting from Psalms he says “There is none that understandeth”.  Isaiah 55:8 & 9  In a Toronto park lake a duck made a home.  One day it accidentally got its bill stuck in a pull tab off of a soda can.  Passers by noticed in the following days and tried to help but despite their best efforts they could never catch it.  The duck of course mistook the attempts to help it as threats and flew away.  No one knows if it ever got it off.  We are just like that, sin chokes us off from what gives us life.  And we are so completely wired both spiritually and physically we almost can’t see the difference sometimes.  Then of course there are those definite times we don’t care about what God thinks or His ways.

3.)             Heart  v. 11

            Again inspired from Psalms he says “There is none that seeketh after God.”  Mark 7:20-23  You only seek or really look for what your heart truly desires.  That is why these feel good denominations are so popular.  We don’t want a God of standard and expectation, we want a God that’ll cater to our every whim.  That is what “lasciviousness” is, we saw it earlier in Jude and now we see where he got it.  People will use religion if it will get them what they want.  Over in the first chapter Paul calls that idolatry.  It is idolatry to try and change the God the Bible into a god that personally appeals to you.  That only proves that sin has authority over us.

4.)             Will  v. 12

            Concluding his mini-sermon on Psalm 14 he says “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good no, not one.”  The psalmist knew that going “out of the way” is an act of will.  Sin is always a choice.  Sin has so much pull on the flesh that for the lost, it controls the will.  The lost out there aren’t living the lives they think they are; they are actually pleasing the lusts of the flesh which are the desires of their father the devil.  Once that choice is made we loose the only control we have because the destination will not be one of our own choosing, because you can choose the sin but you can’t choose the consequence.  When we willingly sin we exchange control for unprofitableness.  That word “unprofitableness” means ruin, no one would willingly cut a deal like that unless they were deceived into.  Sin is deception, on the surface it looks like it has everything going for it but the reality is it is suicide.  He says “there is none that doeth good”, he is talking about righteousness.  We are incapable of righteousness and where he is going with this is, the only way to be truly righteous is to accept His righteousness.  That righteousness is our only salvation, by grace through faith in a risen Savior.  Now, Man on a good day might try to be righteous but we will always “come short of the glory of God”.  We alone can’t escape that shadow that sin casts.  So, since man won’t seek God, the Son of God “is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Something He had to do because sin dominates us on all four levels.

2c.)      We are all consumed by our sin  v. 13-18

            The likeness of sin presented to us in these verses is one of disease.  Sin is a disease, the Bible often uses leprosy to illustrate this.  Leprosy is capable of spreading over the entire body if let untreated.  Another disease that fits that description today is cancer, it can destroy a body.  Heredity is a big contributing factor when assessing your own personal risk for having it.  Well, sin is just like that, it is a disease but it is 100% hereditary.  Every person ever born will be born with this disease.  Now there is a cure and Paul is about to tell us what it is but first notice how he describes the disease we all have to us.

            He starts out by saying “Their throat is an open sepulchre”.  You ever go see a doctor when you’re sick the first thing they’re going to tell you to do is stick out your tongue and say awwww.  It lets them get a good look at your throat.  Whenever you get sick that is generally where the infection starts.  The reason you get a sore throat is because your body responds by killing off those infected cells in your throat to try and quickly rid your body of what is making you sick, it consequently leaves your throat raw.  For the previous illustration Paul used Psalm 14 but to get the full effect for this one he chooses some particular verses to demonstrate how the disease of sin consumes the entire person.  The first part of this verse comes from Psalm 5:9.  A person’s conversation can say a lot about that person.  Look at what Jesus had to say in Matthew 12:34-35.  When you judge the things that come out of our mouths by that standard, we don’t look so good.  Jesus is talking to a group of people that like to get their way.  We all like to get our way.  But this same group in their chase to get what they wanted, which was to get Jesus, was more than willing to twist the truth.  Paul also says “with their tongues they have used deceit”.  They blatantly lied on Jesus, their farce of a trial was absent of all truth.  We’ll lie to get what we want, deceit is a normal part of life these days.  From where Paul is quoting it also says “there is no faithfulness in their mouth…they flatter with their tongue”.  You ever know anyone who you couldn’t believe a word that came out of their mouth?  It is interesting God inspired them to compare the words that come out of our mouths to an open grave.  Out of respect we bury the dead but what would happen if we didn’t?  The sight and the smell would get pretty bad.  Yet here we are letting all this filth spill out of our mouths not caring who has to see or hear our foulness.  We’ll respect the dead but not the living, what a backward practice.  Proverbs 10:32 says “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:  but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.

            The next part of the verse comes from Psalm 140:3, Paul quotes “the poison of asps is under their lips”.  Psalm 64:3-4  Here is just one of the many pictures we could draw out of these verses.  You ever have anyone just set and pick at you?  They make little comments here and there, mean spirited enough to register to you but low-key enough to make you look like the idiot if you say anything.  On an interpersonal level that’s what it means where it says “That they may shoot in secret”.  And they’ll keep doing it and doing it until you finally get mad.  And their response is the classic, “What, what’d I say”.  Of course they know what they said or what they didn’t say but implied but here is the kicker, they actually get mad at you, because they can’t understand why you could possibly be mad at them for something they did in the first place.  They get mad at something they prompted you to do.  They provoke you into a confrontation and when you respond you’re the bad guy.  That is just those little buttons we all know how to push on people.  We’ll use our words to hurt other people.  Quoting Psalm 10:7 he tells us how we hurt each other, we do it with a mouth “full of cursing and bitterness”.  Just like it says our poisons of choice are often things motivated by bitterness or a want to curse.  Bitterness is simply unresolved emotional hostility and cursing you might actually say is when bitterness comes to fruit.  It is criticism, it is defamation, it is character assassination; laid out intentionally for anyone to see.  Paul says some of the things that come out of our mouths are as offensive as the smell of a rotting corpse, yet we have enough decency to bury the dead.  When it comes to our words we ought to have at least that much decency towards the living around us who have to bear the stench of our ill speaking.

            Like a disease though sin spreads, from the throat now to the feet, Paul says “Their feet are swift to shed blood”.  These next three verses come from Isaiah 59:7-8.  Man has always had a thirst for blood.  The first sin committed by the first person ever born on this earth was murder.  We can get real bad real quick; we’ll go as far as we can just about as fast as we can.  Today we have kids serving life sentences for what they’ve already done.  All through out history you have murderous tyrants killing hundreds sometimes thousands of people for self-serving purposes.  Job says we drink “iniquity like water”.  Looking at this that becomes evident, he says “they have made them crooked paths”.  That means we didn’t like God’s way so, we etched our own and that path leads us to any sinful desire we may have.

            Notice the progression here:  this disease began in the throat and infects the surrounding areas, then it travels down infecting everything to the feet, finally it travels, as Paul has already told us, to the mind, where it does its greatest damage.  Again quoting Isaiah Paul says “Destruction and misery are in their ways”.  That word “ways” in the Greek is referring to our thinking or a course of conduct.  Again let’s look at the verses that are inspiring Paul.  What Paul is saying is if you have this disease or if you are lost, your “thoughts are thoughts of iniquity”.  We can’t help it, that sin nature has just wired us to think “thoughts of iniquity”.  Then Isaiah talks about the “paths” of the lost.  He says that they are full of “wasting and destruction”.  That goes back to what he said earlier about running to evil and our love of blood shed.  It doesn’t exactly make sense that we have an affinity for things like this, things that only serve to hurt us.  We weren’t created to wage havoc, or bring ruin, or devastation wherever we go, it is just that we have been hard-wired by that nature to do these things.

            For that reason Paul goes on in the next verse to quote Isaiah and finish the thought by saying “the way of peace they have not known”.  Here in Isaiah the word “way” relates to direction.  So, when he says, “The way of peace they know not”, he is literally saying when it comes to peace, we don’t have a clue on how to get it or keep it.  Something that is proven everyday, everyday untold numbers die because of conflict somewhere.  Once again it is that sin nature but the truth is we like that sin nature and because we do Isaiah says “whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.”  Paul says whoever lets their sin nature drive them is guaranteed “destruction and misery”.

            Warping up his miniature sermon he quotes one more OT verse, Psalm 36:1.  He says condemning a lost world, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  That is truer today than ever before not only among the lost but saved people too.  Plenty of people look at getting saved as nothing more than getting your fire insurance.  Like the group of Jews Paul was talking about earlier, if God’s grace means you can be forgiven for anything, “Well sign me up!”  But that is not genuine “fear”.  When someone comes to church for a while gets saved and then all of a sudden stops coming, there is not a genuine fear there.  For the saved fear is:  worship, understanding His power, His holiness, and glory, your lack of those things; fear is love, dependence, gratitude for His saving grace.  Proverbs 16:6  Interestingly the word “purged” here doesn’t mean to rid or throw out it means to cover, atone, reconcile, propitiate.  What’s it talking about?  The work of Christ and every drop of blood He bled along the way.  It is not a life changing fear to know that and then turn back and live a life of sin.  Notice what he does not say, he does not say “by the fear of the LORD men” should “depart from evil.”  Man has lost that fear.

3c.)      We are all under the law  v. 19-20

            It is at this point in Romans that he concludes the imagery he has been using.  There is no point in even trying to mount a defense, the given testimony has proven we are inexcusably guilty.  The mere fact alone that there is law means someone is guilty, that is what the first part of the verse is saying.  “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law”, those “who are under the law” he says are “guilty” and “all the world” is under the law so we are all guilty.  Also Paul is trying to get something special across to us.  It is the only time this word for “guilty” is ever used.  From what I can tell it is more of a legal term meaning debtor, owing satisfaction to someone, or someone who has lost their case in court.

            In this case the law won’t do you any good because it was never intended to save anyone.  The Jews held it like it was a winning poker hand.  Instead what they were really doing was betting everything on a loosing hand, with the law you’re always going to come up short.  See, sin and poker are a lot alike, you may choose the cards but you don’t determine the outcome.  The same is true for sin, you choose what sin you want but you don’t choose where it leads you, you just have to deal with the destruction and misery it leaves behind.  Sin is always a loosing hand because, just like we are “under” sin, sin is “under” the law, it is judged by the law.  Paul says “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:  for by the law is the knowledge of sin”.  This was a serious blow to the Jewish, legalistic, ceremonial, religious machine of the day.  The first part of that verse simply confirms what the OT fundamentalists knew all along, the law was never meant to save, no matter how closely it was followed.  But that second half was a real slobberknocker.  They lifted up the law like it was some kind of savior, when in reality it actually showed them how to sin.  It almost sounds contradictory, “by the law is the knowledge of sin”.  But Paul wasn’t saying the law was a bad thing.  You ever tell a child not to do something?  By the end of the day what will they most likely have done?  They will have done the very thing they were told not to.  When God gave the law it is like Satan, the flesh and the sin nature in it, all conspired together and said, if the law says don’t do it then that’s exactly what we are going to do.  There is only one way to be justified in His sight, that is by grace; the other half of His righteousness.