Skip Heitzig - Romans 1:24-2
- Buy this sermon
Good evening. You need to know it is my distinct honor and privilege to be among those who will take time out of the middle of their week to come and hear God's word and worship together. God bless you. Let's turn in our Bibles to the book of Romans chapter 1. It is our practice to go through the scriptures verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, all 66 books. I think I mentioned last week this is my, I believe, seventh time teaching the book of Romans, and every time I go through it there's more I learn. Let's have a word a prayer.
Lord, essentially we have been praying. We've been talking to you in the songs that we have been offering up, these worship songs. We've been telling you that you are worthy. We have been telling you that your love is incomparable, and now Father we are asking you to open our minds, our hearts, our understanding to comprehend what you have spoken through the apostle Paul who gave us this incredible treatise called the book of Romans, this Magna Carta of the Christian faith. We pray that we would understand it, because even though it is breathtaking and it is marvelous, it is at the same time difficult in some places especially more than others. And Father we just pray that your Spirit would make it understandable so that our hearts can rejoice in the simple truth that our lives would be changed because of it. For we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.
I remember the first time I went to the city of Rome. I had longed to go there for years. It was a lifelong dream. Rome the eternal city has been inhabited I think almost for 3,000 years. There were so many sights I wanted to take in, and when I saw it, it really truly was spectacular. It's a modern city. Ruins are still there, though, the Colosseum, the forum, many of the fountains, the place where Paul was incarcerated. It's a thrill to go there. Paul the apostle also wanted to go but for a very different reason than Skip Heitzig. He had an agenda on his mind, and he announced in chapter 1 that he had wanted to go there and planned to go there on many occasions but was hindered. And eventually he does go there, as we saw last week, but not like he planned. He went as a prisoner. So God made sure that all of his expenses were paid by Caesar, and he became a prisoner taken on a grain ship from Caesarea and sailed to Rome, where he stood trial before Caesar Nero.
Now I wanted to go to Rome. Paul wanted to go to Rome. Probably you wouldn't mind going to Rome, but it's difficult for us to really understand the kind of anticipation and stirring in the hearts of ancient people when they thought of Rome. Rome in the ancient world was the center of the world. It was the center of civilization. Interestingly it had become by the time Paul writes this a center of Christian faith. And we say it's interesting, because it's a church that though Paul writes to it, Paul never had gone there. Paul had never established a church in Rome like in so many other places.
And we saw last week that probably a church was started as a result of the visitors to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost when the church was born in Acts chapter 2. Because there's a listing of all of the various groups of people from around the world that had been at the feast in Jerusalem, and it says visitors from Rome both Jews and proselytes were converts to Judaism.
So there were people from all over the world. They saw the Holy Spirit and heard the Holy Spirit poured out in that city. They went back to Rome, no doubt started some kind of a Bible study, some kind of an evangelism group, whatever. But by this time a church has been established and is growing. Now by the time the apostle does go there in the 28th chapter of the Book of Acts, he will be placed under house arrest. He will give home Bible studies from that place, and the gospel will be firmly established even more.
We last week, I purposed, I told you to go through chapter 1 and 2 with you. We made it through chapter 1 verse 23, so I didn't make it. But we always say it doesn't it matter, because we always pick up where we left off and we mosey on from there and stop when the clock has run out and then pick it up the next week. But eventually, we are going to make it God willing if the Lord does not come back before then, we'll make it through the entire book. There is a theme. I don't want you to lose track of the theme we announced last week. The theme of the Book of Romans is the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel of Christ. The righteousness of God revealed in the good news, the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.
Now I told you last week that when Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and he heard that phrase, the righteousness of God, it really bothered him. Because he took it to me, not having really studied the book of Romans yet, he took it to mean that God is righteous and nobody can approach that kind of level of righteousness. So in God's righteousness, He's going to judge the world. Then he read the book of Romans, as he studied it, and he came to that beautiful section here in Romans chapter 1, the just shall live by faith. He understood the righteousness of God is actually the righteousness whereby God converts a sinner. He gives to you, He imputes to you his righteousness. You don't earn it. You don't try to approach it. You don't try to do good works in order to get it. You receive it.
So He confirms His righteousness upon you, whereby when you believe in him you are made right with God. That's the idea of righteousness. You are made right with God. So it is a term, the word righteousness, found in this book no less than 60 times, righteousness. I know that sounds like an old fashioned word. You may want to translate it right. It is being right with God, in right standing before God. That's the idea, and it is used some 60 times. I know we ended in verse 23, but I want to go back, kind of, overlap just a little bit, to underscore this idea of the righteousness of God and the Gospel of Christ.
So look again at verse 16. "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed". So the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel of Christ. That's the theme. It is revealed from faith to faith as it is written the just or the righteous or those who are right with God or right before God, the just shall live by faith. So eternal life is not earned. It is received. It is given by God as a free gift. It is not a fee. It is for free. It is not produced by us. It is received by us and produced by God.
Now beginning in verse 18 that theme is introduced. Remember what I told you last week that the Book of Romans can be divided into four distinct sections, section one, the wrath of God, section two, the grace of God, section three, the plan of God, and section four, the will of God. And I gave you those divisions last week. He begins in verse 18 by saying for the wrath of God is revealed. That's the first section of the book. After the introduction, the preamble comes the first major theme, the wrath of God is revealed. OK, so this is going to help you when I tell you about the audience that he is writing to. Paul is writing in his mind to an audience that he can see in his mind but comprised of three different groups of people.
Group number one, you're out and out pagan. Now I know that's sort of an ancient term. It is even seen as an offensive term, but did you know the word pagan was devised by the Christians in the 4th century to describe Romans, unbelievers, largely Gentile unbelievers, non-Jewish unbelievers. So he writes to the pagan world. That's one group.
The other group that Paul is writing to are the moralists. The moralists aren't quite pagans. They may be Jewish. They may be Gentile. They have some higher standard of living than the pagans do.
And then the third group are the religionists, and the religionists are people who trust in their religion, their self-righteousness. I do this. I do that. I keep these rituals. I keep these regulations. My Father and mother raised me this way.
And based upon their background and their religious upbringing, mostly Jewish people, Paul writes, so to pagans, to moralists, and to religionists. And he begins by addressing the pagans, then he goes on to the moralists in chapter 2 verse 1. Then around verse 17 of chapter 2 to chapter 3, verse 16 right around there, he speaks to the religionists. Then he writes to everybody, and he says that the whole world may be guilty before God that every mouth may be stopped. So what he wants to do is show you and I whether you are a garden variety pagan or just a moralist person, moral upbringing, high standard, or you're a very devout religious person. Apart from Christ, you're all condemned. There is no hope apart from the righteousness of God in the Gospel of Christ.
So he paints a very dark picture to begin with. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." He wants you to know why the righteousness of God is necessary. And here's why the righteousness of God is necessary. The righteousness of God is necessary, because the unrighteousness of humanity is a reality. Because we are unrighteous, and there's nothing we can do to be right before God.
The only hope is for God to impute to you, give to you His righteousness. So that's the picture that he paints. And he's very, very up front about the judgment. If you're familiar with Romans one and two, it's like wow boom, boom. He's punching me in the spiritual face. And the reason he is doing that isn't to make you feel bad but to make you see that God is good, and he's so good that he takes a paganistic or a moralist or a religionist once they admit that there's no hope and says, you know what? There is hope. I'm going to give you a righteousness you can't earn by yourself. I will confer it on you. Remember Paul said he is a debtor, right. I'm a debtor both to the Greeks, the barbarians, the wise, and the unwise. I owe it to the world to tell them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so he tells the whole world the truth.
What would it be like if you had a postal worker, mail carrier, a mailman or a mail woman. Well, I'm sorry. That didn't quite come out right but a mail delivery person who only wanted to deliver good tidings, just good news, just happy news. So your mail carrier sees that your house is going to be foreclosed, because you have an envelope, and on the outside it says notice of foreclosure. And that's stamped on the front, and your name is on the address. And the post carrier says, you know I'm not going to deliver this letter. I'm going to, I'm going to throw it away, because it's going to make the person who owns a home feel really sad, feel really bad. I don't like making people feel sad. I only want to deliver happy news. So I'm going to throw it away. Well, he or she is not being faithful to their calling.
Or if the doctor said, yeah, the radiologist report is positive and you have a month to live your cancer is so advanced, but I don't want to tell the patient that. It's going to make him cry. So I'm going to pat him on the back, tell him to take two aspirin, and go home, because I want to make him feel good. Paul is not that kind of guy. He is a debtor. I owe it to people to tell them the whole truth.
So here's why God's righteousness is so necessary, because man's unrighteousness is such a reality. And so he paints that dark picture. Here it is. "For the wrath of God is revealed, verse 19, because, and we read a few of these verses then stopped, because what may be known of God is manifest, shown, revealed in them. For God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen. They're unmistakable, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so they are without excuse."
The apostle was talking about something we call general Revelation. God has revealed himself generally to the world by the world itself. You look around, you look around at the universe, the earth, the biosphere, the cosmos that we live in it looks like a finely tuned place that we are in. And so you concur by looking around, this design must have had a designer. There must be a God, a God who loves people and has ensured that they can live in this environment. One will lead you to the other, and Paul is saying it has.
God has revealed himself generally, and I even quoted last week that Psalm, Psalm 19, where David said the heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day, they utter their speech. Night unto night, they reveal knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. So the idea is there's not a person on the planet that has an excuse. You live in the jungle, you live in the desert, you live by an ocean, you live up in the mountains, there's enough information in the physical world by general Revelation to make a thinking person realize with great obviousness that there is indeed a God. So he says verse 20, they are without excuse because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God nor were thankful. But they became feudal in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
In other words, at some point in pagan history, there was a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the Revelation of God. And so when they did that, when they shut down that Revelation, their moral capacities were darkened. They had reduced the level of God to be like people. They made images. They made God to look like images of people. They made little statues, and they worshipped those images. That's idolatry. So they're made in the image of God, but they're making God in the image of mankind, of humans. So they're turning away from the Revelation of God and reducing God to their level, so their morals were darkened.
And notice in verse 21, it's interesting, because he just sort of throws this in, but I don't want you to miss it. So when they're turning off the Revelation of God, it says nor were they thankful. Now that makes sense, because if you deny God, if you start denying God and say, well, that's not God and there's no evidence of God, then pretty soon there's nobody to thank. You've ruled God out. So you don't, you're not a thankful person. This is why as believers we should make it a point, a habit to be thankful on a daily basis, to be reminded God is good. God has given me breath. God has sustained me. And in the very least, thank you, Lord, for that. Thank you for another day.
Now some of you may roll your eyes and say, Skip, what are you in the dark? Don't you know this whole year has been a pandemic and an economic freefall? What is there to thank God about? Well, I'm glad you asked.
Let me tell you a little story. In World War II when the ten Boom family was arrested for hiding Jews in their house and they were taken to the concentration camps, when Corrie ten Boom as a young girl and her sister Betsy were placed in a concentration camp as punishment, they went from one concentration camp to another concentration camp to the worst of all, Ravensbruck, the worst that they had experienced. And while they were in Ravensbruck, the barracks were overcrowded and flea infested.
And yet one morning Cori and Betsy ten Boom as sisters were having their little devotional Bible study together in prayer time, and they happened to be reading that day 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 16, 17, and 18. "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Betsy closed her Bible, looked right into the eyes of her sister Cori, and said Cori we need to stop right now and thank God. Cori said, I won't do it. I refuse to thank God. I'm in a concentration camp. Have you noticed? This place that we're sleeping in is flea infested. What? Thank God for the fleas. That's what she said, thank God for the fleas?
Yet what they noticed unlike the other concentration camps is they had a certain freedom in Ravensbruck to have prayer meetings and Bible studies, and they didn't know why till months later they discovered the reason is the guards refused to come into their barracks because of the fleas, which awarded them a certain freedom for prayer and Bible study. What thank God for the fleas? Uh-huh. "Nor were they thankful but became futile or empty in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools".
The word fools is a very interesting word in Greek, moras. You know what that sounds like? That's exactly where the word comes from, morons. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became morons, and they change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four footed beasts and creeping things." It's ludicrous. It's even hilarious were it not so eternally sad how people look around at this universe, and they don't get it. And they say, yeah, it's amazing how everything just so happened to be the way it is. It's just one of those fortuitous occurrences of accidental circumstance.
Really? You're telling me It just so happened that the temperature of the sun is 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit and that the Earth is 93 million miles away from the sun giving us the temperatures that we enjoy on the earth. If the Earth were as close as Venus, we would all burn up. If we were as far away as Mars, we would all die of, we'd freeze to death. You're telling me that just so happened?
You're telling me It just so happened that the Earth spins on its axis 365 and 1/3 times as it makes this journey around the sun? Why? Why not 30 times? If it was 30 times, our seasons would be 10 times longer than they are, and life couldn't be sustained on this planet. The alternate freezing and burning would be too much, but it just so happened.
And what's really wild it just so happened that the Earth is tilted on its axis 23 degrees, which gives us those four seasons that we do enjoy. And it just so happened that the Earth land mass to water mass is what it is. They tell us that if the oceans were just an eighth larger, just an eighth more larger than they are, an eighth, we would have 4 times the amount of rainfall on the Earth and the Earth would flood.
If the oceans were half as much as they are, we would all on Earth be in a drought. You couldn't grow anything, but yeah, it's amazing how it just so happened. It didn't just so happen. It was just so designed by God. You'd have to be a moron to say it just so happened. At least according to Paul, professing to be wise they became morons, "and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man."
Now notice the progressive degeneration. "They began making idols of human beings, men, and then birds and then quadrupeds, four-footed beasts, and then creepy things, insects. It didn't get any lower than that. If you go to India, I've been there five times, in their pantheon of gods, they have 33 million gods. I don't know how you keep track of that many gods. Now they're not really gods or goddesses. They're fake. They're made up. There's only one true living God.
But if you go there and you see even to this day the grotesque forms of worship that people engage in front of trees and statues and on the streets of these weird looking gods and goddesses, you see this come to fulfillment. Therefore, verse 24, we better get going. All that was catch up. "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness in the lust of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever, amen."
Now contrary to what people in universities, even high schools, general education will teach you, which is man started low and then gradually we ascend generation after generation, right. We're getting, we start low, primitive man and then now we're getting so sophisticated. That's what we think. That's part of the lie. We actually started much higher, and we fell. Mankind started who they knew God, but they didn't glorify Him as God. And each successive step with each generation seems to betray that truth that we go from high to low. We go from familiarity with God to vanity, from vanity to idolatry, and from idolatry to immorality.
Notice this. "For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchange the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust for one another, men with men, committing what is shameful and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error, which was due." An errant theology will lead to an errant sexuality, because when you get God wrong, you get humanity wrong. When you get humanity wrong, you get everything humanity does wrong.
So it all begins with having the proper orientation Godward, toward God. When you get that wrong, that's where the degeneration process takes place. Now I want you to notice something in verse 2006. It says for this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. The word nature is the word fusin in the Greek. We get the word physis from that, which means the created order or the natural order of things.
Now watch what he does with the natural order in the very next verse. "Likewise, also the men leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful receiving in themselves the penalty of their error, which was due." The Greek language is much more precise than the English language. It doesn't say men and women. It says literally male and female, and the Greek language is unmistakable, the biological male and the biological female. So to give you a literal rendering of verse 27, "Likewise, also the males, leaving the natural use of the females, it's unmistakable what he's talking about, "burned in their lust for one another, males with males committing what is shameful and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error, which was due."
Now Paul wrote the book of Romans from the city of Corinth. You know anything about Corinth? Not a great place. A morally degenerate place. Just above the city of Corinth was the hill of Aphrodite where 1,000 priestesses left their temple in the evening and came down into the city to ply their trade. These prostitute priestesses would sell their bodies to men and would entice these men to worship the goddess of love, Aphrodite, by the act of sex.
So when Paul writes to the Corinthians, so he wrote Romans from Corinth, listen to how he describes the Corinthians. I'm reading out of 1 Corinthians 6. I'll just read it to you. You don't have to turn there. You don't have enough time. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetess, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God, and such were some of you." This was your background, Corinthians. Such were some of you. "But you were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."
So we can never use a practice, a personal preference, or a personal proclivity as the will of God. Well, that's my desire, that's what I wish, or that's the way I was born. Because if you tell me you do what you do because you were born that way, I'm going to say you are leaving the glory of God and exchanging it for the lie. We all have preferences, and we all have proclivities for a number of different things. When we follow those propensities, proclivities, and preferences is when we get into trouble. On a daily basis, we have to be saying no to certain things and yes to other things.
So back to Romans chapter 1 and even as they verse 28 did not like to retain God in their thinking or their knowledge, God gave them over, there's that phrase again. God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness. They are whisperers, back biters, haters of God, listen to this list, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.
Sounds like I just read a modern newspaper from cover to cover or a news source. Do they even have newspapers anymore? Digital news feeds. Undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful. Don't lose sight of this phrase, and God gave them over. Most of the time when we hear the word wrath, God's wrath, we have in our little minds like thunderbolts. God's anger, that's the wrath of God. We fail to realize that part of the wrath of God is for Him to give people what they say they want. Oh, really you want this? OK.
Like in the Old Testament, they kept leaving the worship of Yahweh, and Israel started synchronistically, that is bringing in with their worship system of Yahweh, other gods and goddesses and kind of mixing it all together. And they built idols and they built altars and they worshipped in Groves. And God said stop that. Don't do that and kept giving him chance after chance after chance. Eventually He said really? You want idolatry all that much. I'm going to make you go into captivity into the land of idolatry. You'll go to idolatry central, which is Babylon itself. And when they were in idol central, they cried out to God, "God, please deliver us". and after 70 years, he did bring them back.
So part of the judgment of God is where he lets go. CS Lewis said you could take all of mankind and divide them into two groups. We did that last week, right. We said the Jews have two groups. The Greeks have two groups. CS Lewis says, I can divide all of humanity into two groups. Group number one, those who say to God thy will be done. Group number two, those to whom God, those the God says your will be done. So you got group number one that says God your will be done. Group number two, God says to them your will be done. You can have what you say you want. And so when people say they want that long enough, God says, OK, you can have it. And that marks the beginning of God's wrath that he has stored up by giving them what they say they want. That moral degeneration is a judicial act of God.
Let's finish out at least this chapter. "Who knowing the righteous judgment of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." If you were to go 2000 years ago to the Roman Colosseum, you would have thousands of people not killing anybody themselves, not throwing spears through people themselves. They wouldn't think of doing it. They wouldn't go home and throw a spear through each other, but they would happily go to the Colosseum and watch violence displayed in front of them. They would enjoy it vicariously, and they would applaud. They would approve those who do such things. Yay. That guy got killed. That gladiator got gored by that ball. Awesome, the lion tore him apart. Vicious, violent, cruel, horrible, approving of those who do those things.
Now today we don't have to go to a coliseum. You can sit-in your living room, and you can stream a series on Netflix. And you can see vise and sexuality and murder and applaud for the characters, approving of them. You can say you approve, because you pay for it. You're paying the monthly fee to get that series downloaded. So we have to be very careful. I say, well, I would never do that, but I will applaud those who do that. Not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Now having gone through chapter 1 painting that horrible picture of the pagan world, you would have a group of people listening to Paul and go Paul I agree with everything that you said and point their finger at those pagans saying those are bad people and they deserve God's judgment. So while they point the finger, there are three fingers pointing back at them. And so Paul now addresses the moralists, those who have a higher standard than the pagan world in chapter 2 verse 1.
"Therefore, you are inexcusable, oh man, whoever you are who judge. For whatever you judge another, you condemn yourself. For you who judge practice the same things, but we the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things." We are really good at pointing out other people's faults while we ourselves have those faults. I'm convinced that most of the postings on social media, the responses that people give, if they don't like a person, they'll, say something and they'll point out why that person's wrong and hypocritical. But if you were to examine the personal life of the one who posted that, you would find the same thing.
Remember what Jesus taught in the Gospel of Luke? He said two men went up to the temple to pray, a pharisee and a tax collector. And the pharisee prayed thus with himself. He said God I thank you that I'm not like other men. I'm not an adulterer. I'm not an extortioner, and I'm not like that tax collector. He's praying this out loud to himself. He said, I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I possess. So he's really talking himself up. He does not see his own sinfulness, his own problems. He thinks he's great by what he does.
And Jesus said but the tax collector wouldn't even lift his eyes toward heaven. He stood afar off, and he beat his breast. And he said, oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Jesus said that man went away justified. This man is justifying himself pointing the finger at people like that tax collector. The tax collector, Jesus said, is justified.
So yes, we can point fingers at people's behavior, but we can never pinpoint what's going on in their hearts. Only God can. So one was pointing the finger at the tax collector. God was, Jesus was pinpointing the fact that in his heart, because he believed and he knew that he wasn't right before God and cast himself on God's mercy, he went away justified. "So you who condemn another, don't you know you condemn yourself?"
We are hard on, we are hard on others and soft on ourselves when it comes to judgment, right. You know that's just sort of a basic weakness we all have. We are quick to respond and say that's wrong, and yet others we'll get, in Christian circles, it seems it's OK to gossip and lie and slander, but just don't smoke cigarettes or drink that beer. Wait a minute. That's incongruous. That's hypocritical, right.
And this is what the self-confident moralist hopes. He hopes that God will be soft on him, softer than he is on others, because he's hard on others. He's hoping that God grades on a curve, because he doesn't on Earth. You can take a situation and tweak it just a little bit, just change a couple of the details, and here's an example. David committed adultery. Didn't see that as sin at first until Nathan came to him and told him a story. He said, Nathan, there's this rich guy, and he had all these sheep and he could have taken any one of them and killed one for supper, but there was a poor guy who had only one little yew lam He loved that yew lam. It was the family pet. They took it to bed at night, groomed it, washed it.
And the rich guy thought I'm not going to go on my flock and get a lamb for supper for my guests. I'm going to take that poor man's lamb and kill it, and we'll have dinner. And so Nathan's telling this to David, and David gets all red in the face and anger and he goes that man will die. Nathan said, really? Well, you ought to know you are the man. You're that guy. You have all these wives. You have all this wealth. God said he would have given you more if you'd only asked for it, but you took one man's wife and you slept with her. Then David broke down and goes I have sinned against God.
Now he saw it. Now he could see it. Before he was ready to judge the guy and kill a dude who stole a sheep. Really? Capital punishment for stealing a sheep. The law just says restore fourfold. But he says death penalty. Oh, well, you're the guy. You're the man. So it comes back to bite him. "And do you think this, oh, man, you judge those practicing such things and doing the same that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, His forbearance, and long-suffering not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance." Hey, when you see God being patient with somebody else, don't mistake that.
God isn't being lenient with that person. He's being patient with that person. He was patient with you. He gave you a break. You now believe in Jesus. There was a time you weren't following him you were blowing it big time. You were falling on your face. You were doing all sorts of nasty stuff, and now you're a believer. Hallelujah. Now what about other people? If God wants to be patient to that person, why would you despise him for that? The goodness of God is what leads a person to repentance.
"But in accordance with your hardness and you're impenitent heart, see he's really hammering the moralist, high standards, but he's blown it himself, you are trudging up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath and Revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds. Eternal life to those who by patient continuance and doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality, but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath. Tribulation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God."
So once again people are hard on others but soft on themselves. And when they're hard on others, you know what they call it? Righteous indignation. We love that term as Christians. It's just righteous indignation, Maybe. Could be. Nothing wrong with that, or it could be self righteous indignation. And if it's self-righteous indignation, it's just indignation. It's just anger, no value, no holy value. For with God, there's no partiality.
"For as many as have sinned without the law", that's the Gentile world, "will also perish without the law because, God has revealed himself in the natural wonders of the world, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law". So you're going to be judged according to the standard that you live by, standard that they had. If you're Jewish and you have the law, you'll be judged by that law. If you are in another country, you have no Revelation of God, you just have the revealed atmosphere, cosmos that reveals the power of God. You still have a Revelation, a general Revelation of God. God will judge according to the standard.
"For not the hearers of the law are just in his sight or the sight of God, but doer's of the law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the law by nature do things contained in the law, these although not having the law are a law to themselves." They have a conscience. They're thinking that's not right. I shouldn't do that. "Who showed the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness and between themselves, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by the Gospel of Christ according to my gospel, By Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."
So Paul is saying, you guys who have a religious background, a religious law, a moral law, the law does not make you immune. It does not grant you immunity. You don't get a free pass just because you have the law. And remember in Jesus' day, there boast is we're Jewish. We have the law. We have the covenant. Made with Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, rah, rah, rah, but now notice the next set of verses.
Verse 17, "indeed, now he's writing to the religionist, you are called a Jew and rest on the law and make your boast in God and know his will and approve the things that are excellent being instructed out of the law and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law."
So notice something. He's writing to these Jewish people, these very religious and in this case self-righteous Jewish people, and he's saying, well, there's a few things you have right. First of all, you have the right background. He says, indeed, you are you are called a Jew. Paul boasted that he was Jewish. He gives his testimony in the book of Philippians, a Hebrew of the Hebrews as concerning the law, blameless.
So you have the right background. That's good, check. And number two, you have the right book, right, because he says you rest on the law. You have the Torah, the Revelation of God through the Torah, the law, and you have the right business. You make your boast in God. You know his will. You approve the things that are excellent, and you teach others. So you got the right background, the right book, got the right business, but you have the wrong practice, right. You think you've got all these things, and that's enough. I'm immune. All I need is the fact that I am Jewish.
"You therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself, verse 21. You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say do not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For, quoting scripture now, verse 24, the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you as it is written."
Paul is simply saying this. Do you realize that if you as a religious Jew don't practice your Judaism, the Gentiles who look at you are going to dismiss your religion on the basis of hypocrisy, right? So when David did sin by committing adultery with Bathsheba and Nathan came to him that whole story and David cried I have sinned against God, Nathan said your sin is forgiven. God isn't going to destroy you because of it, but you need to know this, David. Because of your actions, you have given great occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.
All these other nations that are going to hear of what you did, you who worship Yahweh, you worship the Lord, all those beautiful Psalms you gave us, David, the covenant God made with you, David, don't you realize that unbelievers looking in are going to look at your hypocritical life and they're going to blaspheme God because of what you did. You're giving them ammunition. Or what about Abraham? Remember when Abraham went to Pharaoh and he was with his wife Sarah, and Pharaoh took a liking to Sarah, thought she was very beautiful. It's interesting. Sarah was quite an aged woman at the time. Let's just keep it at that but strikingly beautiful.
And Abraham was so scared instead of saying, hey, man, you're honing in on my wife, he said, well, she's my sister. So Pharaoh made a move on her. And God said, you move any closer, I'm going to kill you. That's this guy's wife. Well, he told me it was his sister. So from now on Abraham's reputation was sullied before Pharaoh and before the Egyptians. Ruined his testimony because of that half truth, which was also a half lie.
Verse 25, "for circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law. But if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision, that outward sign of an inward change, circumcision, has become under circumcision". It's a very interesting and rabbinical way of writing this truth. Circumcision is profitable if you keep the law. If you're a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become under circumcision. So here's the formula that Paul is giving us. Circumcision minus obedience equals uncircumcision just like baptism minus obedience equals no baptism. You see if you are relying on your baptism, a ritual you went through to be right with God, it's no different than this. So circumcision is profitable. It's a good thing. It's a good statement you're making, but if you are a breaker of the law it's as if you were never circumcised or in the Christian's case baptized.
So let me put it another way. We who are married, your wedding ring is honorable as long as you are faithful to your spouse. But if you are unfaithful to your spouse, it's just a piece of metal. It's just an outward thing that does not speak of the inward reality. There is no inward reality. That's the idea of that verse of circumcision. "Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirement of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision."
So you Jewish people, you can't look at circumcision as sort of a magic charm, which they did. I know I'm going to heaven, because I'm circumcised and I'm Jewish and I go to the temple. They trusted a ritual. They should have dug a little bit deeper in their own Torah. Oh, sorry about that pop, their own law. In the law, Torah, if I do sideways, it won't pop.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God says circumcise the foreskin of your heart and don't be stiff necked any longer. It's not the outward ritual. I want the heart to be affected, because if your heart is not affected and your stiff-necked, your hardened, your recalcitrant against my command, you're not soft to my touch. I can't move you. I can't direct you, then your circumcision is invalid. Circumcise the foreskin of your heart and don't be stiff-necked.
Verse 27, let's finish this up. "And will not the physically uncircumcised if he fulfills the law judge you who even with your written code insert circumcision are a transgressor of the law. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and the circumcision is that of the heart in the Spirit and not in the letter whose praise is not from men but from God."
So you could say that about believers in Christ. A Christian is not one who is one outwardly, who got wet at baptism. You see when you ask a person, you've had this experience, are you a believer in Jesus, actually you should phrase the question this way. Are you a follower of Jesus? Because, oh, I believe in Jesus. No, are you a follower of Jesus? You'll get answers like this. Well, I've been raised in the church. Nice. Now answer my question. Are you a follower of Jesus? Well, I've been baptized in this church. OK, good. Now answer the question. Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
And you know how people will hem and haw and give you not the answer to that question, because following Jesus Christ is what reveals that the heart has been changed. Remember outward sign, inward change. There's no outward expression in lifestyle. One has reason to question the outward claim that there's no evidence of that changed inward heart. His praise is from men and not from God. So don't be whitewashed. Be washed white. Be washed whiter than snow.
Come now let us reason together says the Lord. Even though your sins are scarlet, I will make them white, whiter than snow, white as wool. Don't be whitewashed. Be washed white. Let it be real. Let it be authentic. So he speaks to the pagan, to the moralist, to the religionist. And in chapter 3 by the end of that chapter, he's going to say look basically what I'm saying is, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no not one.
So he paints the picture dark in these few chapters, and the next section will be but the grace of God poured out overflowing, always available to anyone who calls on his name and believes in him. So he tells us the bad news, so by the time we get to the good news we go man that news is really good news, But you'll never know how good it is until you know how bad it was. And so he does that dark background before he gets to the bright colors of the grace of God.
Thank you, Lord, for your grace especially against this very dark background that he paints in the book of Romans, the plight of all mankind, all humanity. Whether Gentile not having any Revelation of God, whether moralist Jewish or other religious systems who have some kind of a standard or Judaism itself that got the direct Revelation of God, True Moses through the prophets, everyone needs a Savior Lord. Lord, I pray for anybody who may not know the Savior yet would say yes to the Savior's call upon their life, claim upon their life tonight. That there would be a release. And Father we pray that you would use us to bring your truth, dare we even say it to bring a revival to this city, to this country. We pray, Lord, that you will not turn us all over as a nation to our own wickedness that we see proliferating on a daily basis. It scares us, Lord. I pray it would frighten us enough to want to get the truth out, the Gospel out, to fight for justice where there is injustice, to fight for truth where there is lying to represent you in this world. In Jesus' name, Amen.