Vs 16-18, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”
In the first 15 verses of introduction, the apostle has established his subject as The Gospel.
In verse 1, he referred to it as the Gospel of God – it’s Source; in verse 9, the Gospel of His Son – it’s Subject; in verse 15, his readiness to preach the Gospel – Spirit impelled Service.
In verse 1, he has been separated unto it; in verse 9, he serves with his spirit in it, and in verses 14-15, as a debtor, he is prepared and ready to preach it.
With this total commitment to Gospel testimony, little wonder he states emphatically, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Of the eleven times “ashamed” occurs in the NT, the Lord used it on the first four occasions (Mark 8:38 and Luke 9:26). Here He refers to people ashamed of Him and His words in this adulterous and sinful generation, and in turn the Son of Man will be ashamed of such when He comes in His Own and the Father’s glory and of the holy angels. Perhaps the Lord is also giving us the key to courage in Gospel witness. Keep in view two things:
1. The true character and destiny of this world through which we pass – adulterous and sinful.
2. The awesome scenes of glory that will surround the Lord of glory when He returns to earth to bear the glory.
Romans 1:16 then is the first use of “ashamed” in the epistles. In contrast, he refers to what we are ashamed of in chapter 6:21 — the sins of our past life. Is it possible that we have become unashamed of sin and ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? If so, may the three reasons adduced here by the apostle, for not being ashamed of the Gospel, reverse our shame and inspire us to be faithful in evangelism.
V 16: “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes,” with dispensational priority, but without prejudice. The Gospel itself is the saving instrument that brings eternal deliverance to those who simply believe it: spiritual immediately, moral progressively, and physical ultimately. In the doctrinal part of this epistle, this subject of salvation is developed in these aspects in the final section, chapter 5:12 to chapter 8, with respect to the subject of Sanctification. So when we are confronted with this sinful and adulterous generation, we are to ponder this great fact that we have in our heart and in our mouth (or in a tract in our pocket), the very words they need for deliverance from their bondage and destiny. Let us not therefore be ashamed of it, but speak and hold not our peace.
V 17: For in the Gospel, righteousness which of God is revealed, not now required of people as under the law, but revealed on the principle of faith and in response to faith. This subject is taken up in Chapter 2:21 – 5:11, with respect to the subject of Justification. What a thrilling message of divine grace is the Gospel! That God who is righteous has found a way to legally declare righteous (justify People who are unrighteous), and do so while maintaining His own righteousness! This is the revelation of the ages! A revelation of epic importance! It helps when confronting this sinful and adulterous generation to be enjoying in our hearts the thrill of this free gift of righteousness revealed in the Gospel, which the sinner so sorely needs, and is unable to pay for, thus we should not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.
V 18: “For God’s wrath (deep seated anger) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” Ungodliness is a wrong attitude toward God which results in a rejection of truth. Unrighteousness is a wrong attitude toward people and things that result in all manner of transgressions. This process of sin in the human heart (ungodliness begetting unrighteousness) must of necessity result in deep seated anger in One who is holy, and must of necessity be acted upon in judgment by One who is righteousness. In Chapters 1:1&3:20, God’s holy character and righteous Judgments are detailed in response to man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor 5:11), unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, announcing the only deliverance therefrom.
Chapter 1:19-3:20 – Paul’s Thesis
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all of man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness.”
We noticed above the connection between this subject, and the epistle’s theme of The Gospel. It is the third reason Paul gives for not being ashamed of the Gospel. This section of the book is a courtroom scene wherein the whole human family finds itself before “the throne of eternal righteousness” and “the Judge of all the earth.” In chapter 1:1932 the “heathen” are shown to be sinners — guilty! In chapter 2:1-16, the cultured Greeks are shown to be sinners — guilty! and in Chapter 2:17 – 3:18, the Jews are shown to be sinners – guilty! When we finally arrived at chapter 3:19-20, the whole world stands before God under judgment, and the final conclusion is that by law-keeping “there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” The world has been left at this point in the book with the knowledge of sin and its guilt.
There is a very real sense here of a climax in God’s moral testing of the human family. People have been on probation up to this point of the divine program. God has tested them with innocency, with conscience, under human government, with promises and at last with His law. The time has come to change the program, if we may so speak. Having failed his probationary tests, man is brought back into court to learn the hopelessness of his guilt, But Now also to learn that grace has provided a way to have the guilt removed. That is why the “But Now” of chap. 3:21 is so dispensationally pivotal, and so pivotal in the development of thought in this epistle. But more of that later, if the Lord will.
The heathen are shown to be sinners, through their ungodliness (v 19-23), their uncleanness (v24-28) and their unrighteousness (v 29-32).
Vs. 19-23, Ungodliness
In these 5 verses, their is a 7-step moral deterioration ending in idolatry. The people envisioned here, we call heathen only because they seem not to have had the written word of God, only the light of creation.”That which may be known of God” (in contrast to divine illumination) was “the invisible things of Him clearly seen from the creation of the world.” These two verses show clearly that God holds people responsible to respond in worship to the revelation of Himself in creation. “The invisible things of Him” are stated to be His eternal power and Godhead (certain attributes of God, here observable from creation): i.e. His wisdom, goodness, generosity, life, greatness, severity. Perhaps Cornelius of Acts 10 is a notable exception as a person who had responded rightly to the revelation of God in creation. Upon receiving the greater light of the Gospel, he immediately believed.
But sadly, in contrast to Cornelius, the heathen world, including the “post-Christian era”, the world of 1996, is described thus: knowing God (naturally) (1) they glorified Him not as God, (2) neither were thankful, (3) they fell into folly in their thoughts, (4) their heart without understanding was darkened, (5) professing to be wise, (6) they became fools and (7) changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, birds. beasts and creeping things. Of these seven steps downward, note the following: One and two constitute a definition of ungodliness. It is a wrong response (attitude) to the revelation of God. Three shows the dreadful result of turning away from God; man’s reasoning become folly, resulting in an awful void. Four shows the ensuing darkness, and five shows the pitiful pride of man thinking that his pathway away from God is wisdom (ancient Greek philosophy, modern humanism). Six shows the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; God terms man’s wisdom to be foolishness. Seven shows the awful results of apostasy, idolatry, and shows the wickedness of it – that in man’s insatiable need for worship, he expresses the incorruptible God in terms of corruptible material and corruptible creatures. Note the parallel teaching in 2 Thess. 2:3-12.
Verses 24-28, Uncleanness.
In these 5 verses, Paul presents man’s uncleanness as moral judgment from God: i.e., His wrath being revealed from Heaven upon their apostasy which resulted in idolatry. In idolatry, men “exchanged the truth of God for the lie”, and that willfully. “They did not to retain God in their knowledge.” He repeats three times: “God gave them up unto”. This is a moral judgment from God, and is unto “impurity” ariing from their lusting hearts, to disgrace their bodies (v 24). No doubt the well known disgracing diseases of our day, associated with sensual activity, are therefore evidence of the wrath of God being revealed.
In verses 26-27, people are given up to “passions of disgrace.” As idolatry expresses the glory of the incorruptible God to be like corruption and wild things, so homosexuality expresses a disgraceful exchange of the natural for the unnatural. God’s judgments are righteous when related to the sins that occasion them.
In verse 28, God gives them up to thoughts that He rejects. Their whole thinking process is hateful to God. One can observe a progress of judgment in “God giving them up.” First, impure acts (v 24), secondly to passions (v 26), and thirdly, to rejected minds.
Vs. 29-32, Unrighteousness.
The product of the rejected mind of verse 28 is the twenty-two sins that are evidences of being filled with all unrighteousness. People turn from their rejection of God and His will (ungodliness) to their fellows, to hurt and destroy (unrighteousness.) This list is dark indeed, but it is darker when one observes in verse 32 that not only do they commit such things and consent to others doing so, but in the process understand that God’s standard of righteousness is “They which commit such things are worthy of death.” This attitude displays the total depravity of the human family and shows that people love their sin and are “dead in trespasses and sins.”
To be continued.