Romans 1

January 28, 2007

I am preparing a series of classes on the book of Romans, so that will be my topic for the next few blog posts. I recently posted some thoughts on the historical context of the book.

Some of the teachings found in Romans are undoubtedly among those Peter referred to when he said:

2 Pet 3:16b His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Romans 3:8, Romans 6:1, Romans 6:15, Romans 7:7, and James 2:14-26 are a few indicators that Paul’s difficult teachings were being distorted even in his day.

The evident purpose of Paul’s letter to the Romans was to stop the Judaizing influences in the church. In this letter Paul proved that Jews and Gentiles were equally separated from God and equally dependent upon God’s intervention to bring about redemption.

To prove this point, Paul taught the Romans about righteousness. The words righteous, unrighteous, and other variants appear over forty times in the book of Romans, and are found in each of the first ten chapters. The basic message was that Jews and Gentiles alike were unrighteous and helpless to do anything about it. But God intervened, providing a way for us to be granted righteousness through faith.

After greeting the Roman Christians in the first part of Romans 1, Paul introduced the theme of the book:

Rom 1:16-17 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Paul then immediately focused on the core problem of unrighteousness beginning in verse 18:

Rom 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness

The wickedness (KJV unrighteousness) resulted from men refusing to acknowledge God and becoming fools, following after created things rather than the creator. According to Paul, this is the root cause of sin.

And then Paul wrote some of the most sobering words in all scripture:

Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over…

God gave them over! He did not prevent man from spiraling deeper into wickedness. The consequence for not acknowledging God is to be destroyed by our own folly and wickedness.As a direct consequence of men not acknowledging God, they were “given over” to sexual immorality, idolatry, and homosexuality.

Note that Paul made it unmistakably clear that homosexuality is sin, both for men and for women. In today’s American culture that is being called into question. But based on this passage, there can be no doubt where Paul stood on the question of homosexuality. This is certainly not one of Paul’s difficult passages! He called homosexuality shameful, unnatural, and indecent. He called it a perversion, for which there is a penalty due. Also note that Peter accepted Paul’s letters as scripture, the Word of God (2 Pet 3:16, see above). Those who take the opposing view on homosexuality cannot reasonably claim to hold the scriptures as their standard.

Paul listed numerous other sins that follow when men fail to acknowledge God, because of their depraved minds.

Rom 1:28-31 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Here Paul presented an interesting list of evil deeds. Envy and deceit are in the same group as murder. Godhaters are right next to the slanderers, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. Disobedience to parents is listed along with ruthlessness. It is impossible to imagine a person who is not guilty on some point according to this list.

Then, so that there could be no doubt about the consequences for such sins, Paul stated:

Rom 1:32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

God has decreed that those who do these deeds deserve death.

Our proper response to these things will only become clear as we continue into the following chapters. But a few things are already obvious:

  1. We must acknowledge God in our lives. That means more than an intellectual admission that God exists. It also means that we need to glorify God and to give thanks to Him. And it means that we must not exchange God for the things of this world.
  2. We need to flee from the sins described in this passage!
  3. We must not approve of these sins, neither in our own lives nor in the lives of others.

Yet as we continue into Romans we will find that even doing all this will not make us righteous. We need to be rescued fom ourselves.


  1. […] by Faith (Only?) » Romans: Distortions Then and Now February 6, 2007 In the Romans 1 post I briefly mentioned Peter’s comment about the difficult passages in Paul’s letters. […]

  2. […] » Romans Part 3: Righteousness by Faith (Only?) February 8, 2007 In Part 1 we looked at Paul addressing man’s unrighteousness, and God’s wrath towards that […]

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