Saturday, August 31, 2013

Romans 3:5-8 - Let Evil Abound?


Paul said that having the Word of God, which instructs about what constitutes sin and how to receive forgiveness, made being Jewish an advantage. Yet, if many of the Jews did not believe, that didn't mean that God's plan of salvation didn't work or that God is unrighteous. Paul continued his thought by taking an argument to the extreme.

Romans 3:5-8 (KJV)
5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)
6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

If mankind's sin contrasted so completely with God's righteousness, making God's goodness seem even more holy, lofty, and perfect in comparison, wasn't God unrighteous if He punished that sin (verse 5)? Paul was making an argument that conveyed the idea that God received a kind of benefit from sin's existence. He was "speaking as a man," meaning that this argument was of faulty construction. It was the type of argument or reasoning that someone might have, but it was not the truth.

Again, Paul objected vehemently with, "God forbid!" If God truly were unrighteous, then He would not be qualified to judge the world (verse 6).

Paul repeated his argument in verse 7 using the specific sin of lying as an example.

Then, in verse 8 the outcome of this flawed reasoning was taken to the conclusion that mankind should go ahead and do evil so that good would come! Paul added that there were those who had slanderously reported that Paul had actually taught this. However, the damnation of anyone teaching this doctrine was just.

Paul has been building a case for mankind's guilt before God concerning sin. Both Jews and Gentiles are guilty. Questions have arisen regarding the righteousness of God in His judgment, yet in all things God remains just. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The New Covenant Revisited

Christianity believes that the Church is now in a new covenant with God that began after the death and resurrection of Yeshua and the coming of the Holy Spirit. This new covenant replaces the old covenant that God gave Israel through Moses. The requirements of the new covenant are no longer the same since Yeshua fulfilled the law of Moses. Because of this, many Christians believe that the Old Testament is no longer binding. Others, however, believe that only the ritual laws could be set aside, while the moral laws are still in effect.

We find a description of the new covenant in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 (KJV)
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

On close examination we find that this new covenant is not with the Church, but rather with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. We also see from verse 33 that the law will continue to be in effect. The only difference is that the law would be written on the peoples' hearts. In other words by the coming of the Holy Spirit and His indwelling, the believer would be enabled to fulfill the law's requirements.

Despite the Scriptural evidence, many Christians will still believe that the Mosaic law is no longer applicable and that the covenant is not made with Israel. Yet, there is another evidence of the new covenant found in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 30:1-8 (KJV)
1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
7 And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.

This passage took place as the Israelites were about to enter the promised land. God had just outlined blessings and curses that would result based on the peoples' faithfulness to God's covenant commands. From history we know that Israel was often very faithless and suffered under the curses that God said would result. However, from this passage we see that at some future time Israel will turn again to the Lord wholly (verse 2) and God would gather His people from all the nations where they had been exiled. He would have compassion on them and would bring them back to the land of Israel (verses 3-5). God would circumcise their hearts (verse 6) and would place all the curses on the enemies of His people (verse 7). Through this the people of Israel would return to God, obey His voice, and OBEY all His commandments that God had commanded them that day (verse 8).

This prophecy of Moses did not occur during the days of Moses, but rather is now only beginning to take place as we see the Jews returning to Israel. Although it is true now, that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit and His enablement, the Jews are, as a nation, only beginning to return to God. Their full salvation is yet a future event. But this is a description of the new covenant. Being circumcised in the heart is another way of speaking about the Holy Spirit's work in the believer. When the Jews return to God, their circumcision of heart will allow them to obey God. What commandments are they going to obey? Those that Moses had spoken to them (verse 8).

So if the new covenant is between God and Israel (with Judah, making the two houses complete) how can believers participate? When we are saved we are grafted into Israel. Israel's future becomes ours. If Israel will be required to follow the law of Moses (actually the law of God) so will the believers.

There is also Scriptural evidence that points to God never annulling prior covenants.

Galatians 3:17 (KJV)
17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

What Paul was saying in Galatians is that any promises that God has made, He will fulfill. The Mosaic law, which came after the Abrahamic covenant by 430 years could not annul the Abrahamic covenant. In like manner, the promises made to Israel in the Mosaic (or Old) covenant cannot be annulled by any future covenant.

Since the only covenants that God has made have been between God and Israel, with Gentile believers coming in by grafting, there is no other covenant that allows any believers, Jew or Gentile, to ignore the commands written in the Old Testament.

The new covenant isn't really so new after all.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Romans 3:1-4 - Jewish Advantage


Paul had just finished a section of rebuke regarding hypocritical Jews. The tone almost seems to imply that being Jewish had absolutely no advantages. Is that true, that being Jewish has no advantages? Paul answered in this next section.

Romans 3:1-4 (KJV)
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Paul asked the question himself in verse 1. Is there any advantage in being Jewish, or is there any profit in circumcision? Considering all of the antisemitism in the world today, it would seem that being Jewish is about the last nationality anyone would want to be. And circumcision, as a sign of covenantal relationship to God, has been pooh-poohed even by those who believe themselves to be in a relationship to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Paul answered his own question in verse 2. There is advantage to being Jewish and circumcised. Paul claimed that there were many advantages. The most important is that the oracles or Word of God have been committed to the Jews. Throughout the Jews' history the Word of God has been held sacred by them, protected and preserved. This small group of people have committed their lives to that Word. And through that Word, or Torah, they knew about forgiveness and faith. The Gentiles, on the other hand, only knew enough through the Creation and the conscience to be held accountable for their sin.

Yet, if some of the Jews have not believed the Word of God, does that make God's means of salvation any less effective (verse 3)? In other words, do the actions of the Jews, or their unbelief make God a liar because He "failed" with His chosen people? Can He not save? Is the Torah ineffective in its intended purpose? Paul forcefully responded in verse 4, "God forbid!" Even if every man were a liar, God would be true! Then Paul quoted part of Psalm 51:4.

Psalm 51:4 (KJV)
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

By this quote, Paul was alluding to the entire Psalm that speaks of individual sin and the righteousness of God's judgment. David, the author of the Psalm, in recognizing his sin, declared God innocent of any wrongdoing in David's punishment.

Psalm 51:10-12 (KJV)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

God had not failed in David's case, and He had not failed with the Jews. Although there are corporate aspects to salvation, God saves us one by one, by grace through faith. God is not at fault for the Jews' lack of belief. God's gift of Torah to the Jews still stands as the vehicle of understanding God's means of salvation.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Romans 2:17-29 - Will the Real Jew Stand Up?


Paul next returned to a discussion of hypocrisy, especially in the case of some of the Jews. He also continued on his theme of unrighteousness.

Romans 2:17-29 (KJV)
17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,
18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;
19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.
21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?
22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?
23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?
24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

In verse 17 Paul began the scenario of his discussion. The Jews definitely were God's chosen people. They had the Torah. No other group could say the same. Unfortunately, instead of understanding how blessed they were, they believed themselves better than the rest of mankind. They "rested" or relied on the Torah and they boasted of God, but what they had, became their means of believing they were superior to anyone else. They knew God's will and they knew the things that were more excellent, since they had been instructed from the Torah (verse 18). They were confident that they could be guides for those who were blind or in darkness spiritually (verse 19). They instructed fools and babes because they had the knowledge and truth of the Torah (verse 20).

Yet, although these Jews taught others, why didn't they teach themselves? Why did they preach to others that stealing was wrong, but were guilty of stealing themelves (verse 21)? They taught against adultery and idolatry, but they were guilty of the same (verse 22). They boasted of the Torah, but broke the laws of Torah and dishonored God (verse 23).

Paul was continuing to highlight how just knowing God and Torah were worthless without actions that resulted from that knowledge. The Jews were to not only have faith in God, but live according to the perfect standard of the Torah. Preaching one way and living another caused God's name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (verse 24). This was a quote from Ezekiel 36:20, 21 that spoke of the Jews' exile because of their sin against God. They had the Torah, but lived contrary to its teachings.

Ezekiel 36:20-21 (KJV)
20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.

As we claim to be Yeshua's followers, are we guilty of profaning His name by our actions? Are we righteously speaking His commandments, but living in opposition to them? Are we following Torah, or have we profaned His name by setting it aside?

In verse 25 Paul brought circumcision into his line of thought. Circumcision was valuable to the Jews who kept the Torah, but was virtually made "uncircumcision" if the Jews habitually broke the Torah, or lived in a manner characterized by sin (verse 25).

Conversely, if the Gentiles kept the Torah, didn't their uncircumcision count for circumcision (verse 26)? And although these Jews thought that they were qualified to judge the Gentiles because of their superiority based on having Torah, the truth was that the uncircumcised Gentiles who kept Torah (to the extent of their knowledge) were qualified to judge the Jews that failed to keep Torah (verse 27).

For the true Jew is not one who is merely circumcised in the flesh (verse 28), but one who is circumcised in heart (verse 29). In other words the true Jew was the person who followed (did) Torah. These are those who would receive praise from God.

Paul's words would have been sharp daggers for those Jews who rested in the Torah, but didn't necessarily live according to the Torah. Paul even seemed to elevate the Gentiles' status based on how they kept Torah, rather than the physical sign of circumcision. Yet, Paul has managed to make the case that all mankind is depraved, both Jews and Gentiles. Where would his thoughts go next?


Friday, August 16, 2013

Romans 2:12-16 - The Conscience


Paul continued to speak about how mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, is judged by its deeds.

Romans 2:12-16 (KJV)
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14 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:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

In verse 12 Paul compared "those without law" and "those in law." This is another way of comparing Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles were without the Torah, while the Jews had the Torah. Paul related that the Gentiles would "perish without Torah" and the Jews would be "judged by Torah." Although some have tried to say that Paul was alluding to the Jews having a higher responsibility than the Gentiles (that the Jews are the only ones who need to continue to observe Torah), or that the Gentiles could be saved because of their lack of knowledge about the Torah, these statements do not tell the complete truth. Let's go on for the moment.

Paul made a parenthetical comment in verses 13 through 15, and would return to his main statement in verse 16.

Paul added to the principle of justification by works in verse 13. He stated that those who only hear the Torah, but who do not DO the Torah would not be justified. How many supposed Christians sit in our churches hearing the Word of God on a weekly basis, but then go on to live lives in opposition to God's Word and never find this a problem?

In verse 14 Paul clarified his statement in verse 12. When Gentiles, who are ignorant of the Torah, conform to the Torah, they are a law unto themselves. Then in verse 15 Paul further stated that much of what is in the Torah is written in the hearts of the Gentiles (actually Jews, as well). When their inner Torah is disobeyed, their consciences bear witness against them, which becomes the standard for judging one another.

Paul was saying that just like the evidence of Creation, the conscience has been given to man to cause him to turn to God. Also, the conscience has been given as a means for all mankind to understand, to a certain degree, right from wrong. Yet, the Gentiles, who are accountable for the law written on their consciences, will still perish because they violate their consciences and the law written therein. The Jews, on the other hand, will be judged by the Torah and will be found guilty of violating the Torah.

We are held responsible for the degree of our understanding of God's Torah. Those, for example, who have never heard of Yeshua, will be judged based on what is understood in their inner being. But before we believe that ignorance is blissful salvation, we need to understand that Paul has also been building a case that everyone either violates Torah directly, or that inner conscience.

Paul then ended his statement by saying that "in that day" (either when someone trusts in Yeshua as Savior or in the final judgment at the end of the age), God will judge the secrets of men by Yeshua according to the principles he had been describing.

It should be noted here, that Paul's differentiation of mankind into Jews and Gentiles leaves much unsaid, since there are Jews that believe in Yeshua and those that don't. There are Gentiles that believe in Yeshua and those that don't. The unbelieving Gentiles are the ones that are judged by the inner conscience. Unbelieving Jews are judged by the Torah. But what about believers of both stripes? Paul's differentiation definitely referred to the intitial states of the Jews and Gentiles before the coming of Yeshua. However, when the Jewish or Gentile believer in Yeshua is considered, doesn't that change things? Why doesn't Paul speak about them?

Based on Paul's statements, Paul considered knowing Torah to be the highest state of the understanding of right and wrong. When Jew or Gentile comes to belief in Yeshua, there is no higher Law. Some say that the Law of Christ is higher as evidenced by the Sermon on the Mount, but nothing Yeshua ever commanded was different in intent to the Torah. God's standard has always been perfection. So, if we are judged by our understandings (that are evidenced by DOING),  we will all be judged somewhere along the continuum that begins with the conscience and ends with the Torah. And although we, all, are guilty, believers have the assurance that we are saved based on Yeshua's righteousness and His perfect fulfilling of the Torah.  However, let's be very careful, that any supposed ignorance of Torah is not based on rebellion and a refusal to DO as God has commanded. That was also Paul's warning.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Romans 2:6-11 (Again) - To the Jews First


Today we're going to relook at Romans 2:6-11, but from another angle.

Romans 2:6-11 (KJV)
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

Previously, our discussion was on Paul's idea of the basis for God's judgment, but for today we're going to concentrate on his comments about Jews and Gentiles.

In verses 6 to 10 Paul described how mankind will be recompensed according to its deeds. Those who do good will receive glory, honor, eternal life, and peace, but those who do evil (sin) will receive tribulation and anguish. He added that this principle of recompense was "of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile."

During the days of Paul, the difference between Jews and Gentiles was very stark. From the Jewish perspective, only Jews really mattered, because it was only the Jews that were God's chosen people, that were able to participate in the World to Come. Therefore, any attempts by Gentiles to become closer to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were met with the requirement of becoming Jews by conversion before acceptance was allowed in the community. But this was not an easy process, especially for a man, who would have to ungo circumcision. Many Gentiles, then hung around the edges of Jewish society, not fully being accepted.

Cursorily,  it seems that Paul may have been acknowledging that Gentiles were just second class citizens. But look at verse 11. Paul ended this section by claiming that God was no respecter of persons. In other words, to God it didn't matter if a person was Jew or Gentile, both could be accepted by God and the recompense based on deeds would be applied to both Jews and Gentiles.

David H. Stern,  (Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, MD, 1992, p. 329-330), refers to three different ways in which "of the Jew first," applies.

1. Historical Priority. The message of God was initially given to the Jews, but ultimately would spread to the rest of the world.

Acts 1:8 (KJV)
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

2. Covenant Priority. John Murray in his commentary on Romans wrote:

          "Salvation through faith has primary relevance to the Jew. . .aris[ing] from the fact that [he] had
          been chosen by God to be the recipient of the promise of the Gospel and that to him were
          committed the oracles of God."

3. Present Priority. There should be a priority of spreading the Gospel message among this covenanted people of God. Stern asks, "Could it be that one reason for the "present priority" of preaching the Gospel to the Jew espcially is that neglecting Jewish evangelism delays the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth?"

In summary, it appears that there is something special about the Jews. Yet, God has given equal status to both the Jews and Gentiles and all are held to the same standards of behavior, leading to either punishment or blessing. Since Paul's epistle to the Romans concerns the side-by-side nature of Jews and Gentiles, he will certainly have more to say as we progress in this study.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Romans 2:6-10 - Recompense According to Deeds


After speaking about hypocritical judgment Paul continued his thoughts on judgment.

Romans 2:6-10 (KJV)
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

In the previous section, Paul had just finished stating that God, because of mankind's unrepentant heart, would righteously judge. "Who" in verse 6 refers to God, who in His righteous judgment, would judge every man according to his deeds.

To those who continue to do good deeds would receive glory, honor, immortality and eternal life (verse 7), but those who are contentious (quarrelsome), who disobey the truth, who obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath (verse 8), would receive tribulation and anguish (verse 9). Paul then repeated the idea by stating clearly that God's righteous judgment would fall on every man (and woman) that does evil. Glory, honor, and peace would be given to every man that does good (verse 10).

Paul's declarations should give Christians pause. Aren't we taught that it is faith in Yeshua that saves us from God's judgment? Aren't we taught that good works can never be enough to earn salvation? Paul seemed to contradict his very own comments about salvation by faith in chapter 1. So what is the truth? Are we saved by grace through faith or is it by works?

Technically, we are saved by works. If it were possible, a sinless human being would be able to attain salvation on his or her own. Unfortunately, Paul had been building a case that demonstrated that all mankind is sinful, thereby rendering a guilty verdict against every single human being. We all deserve to die in penalty for our sin. This is where God's grace comes in. Through our faith in Yeshua's payment of mankind's penalty for sin by dying on the cross, we can trust in Yeshua and receive His righteousness that will allow us to escape our just end and receive eternal life. God sees us "just as if we'd never sinned." For the believer, God only sees the good works that Yeshua has done.

But then what was Paul talking about when he referred to the results of doing good or evil deeds? Is he talking simply about rewards and consequences? Paul's words are those used for judgment and salvation and must refer to more than just rewards and consequences.

James 2:20 (KJV)
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Paul was agreeing with James' statement that faith and works go hand in hand. A person may think he has faith, but if there are no good works, there really is no faith. Works are the evidence of faith. So, Paul was saying that if a person's life is characterized by good works of faith he will be saved, but if a person's life is characterized by sin, that person has no faith and will not be saved. This should be sobering to the Christian as well. We are to live in righteousness.

Paul also spoke about Jews and Gentiles in this passage. This will be addressed in the next post. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Romans 2:1-5 - Hypocritical Judgment


In Romans chapter 1 Paul demonstrated the deplorable state of mankind. His thought continued with this:

Romans 2:1-5 (KJV)
1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

With the beginning of this chapter Paul changed over to a discussion addressed to "man." Prior to this, the discussion encompassed the totality of humankind, but here he began a section about a particular group of people. These are people who understand the sinfulness of the actions in chapter 1 and judge those who commit these sins. However, Paul said that they were inexcusable because in their judgment of those committing the before mentioned sins, they condemned themselves because they did, perhaps not the exact sins, but ones that were just as bad (verse 1).

Many in Christianity have used verses like these to justify the belief that judging sin is wrong and is condemned by Paul. But this was not what Paul was saying. We are to judge what is right and wrong according to God's Word. Paul was doing exactly that in chapter 1, but in the judging of sin we are not allowed to somehow think that we are above or better than another sinner. Paul's point of chapter 1 showed that all of mankind is sinful. We must recognize that this includes each one of us.

In verse 2 Paul stated his assurance that God judges the sinner accurately according to reality rather than just the outward appearance on which humans base their judgments. Often some are held to high esteem because of notoriety, wealth, position, or apparent godliness and others are condemned to the highest degree who may be no more guilty than the esteemed. Also, although these judges know themselves as wretches, they make excuses, minimize the seriousness of their sin, and believe that they are better than others. They seem to feel that God will make the same excuses for them, but God will not (verse 3).

In verse 4 Paul spoke about the goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering of God and how the goodness of God should lead to repentance. Instead, these judges are hard of heart and don't repent, which stores up God's wrath against them and one day will result in the righteous judgment of God against sinners (verse 5).

We need to be truthful with ourselves and recognize our sinfulness. Sin doesn't belong only to those around us. All of mankind is in need of a Savior.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Romans 1:26-32 - Unrighteousness, Continued


Last time we began a look at the condition of mankind and its unrighteousness. We continue today.

Romans 1:26-32 (KJV)
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

The phrase, "For this cause" of verse 26, connects with verse 25's "who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." Because mankind turned against the truth of God and did not worship Him, God gave mankind up to its vile affections.

What are these vile affections? The Free Online Dictionary defines "vile" as "loathsome, morally depraved, and wicked." Other Bible versions use the following:

Romans 1:26 (NASB)
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,

Romans 1:26 (NIV)
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.

We also see from the verse that these vile affections refer to "women changing the natural use for the unnatural," as well as "men, leaving the natural use of women and burning in their lust for one another" (verse 27).

Although many commentators have tried to say that these verses refer to idolatrous temple worship or the blurring of gender roles, Paul's language is fairly straighforward. Homosexuality must be at least an aspect of what Paul is condemning here. Yet, it isn't Paul's condemnation only. When mankind refuses to acknowledge and worship God as God and follow His ways, God allows mankind to follow its own depraved lusts. Paul called it "error."

The end of verse 27 states that such rebellious, depraved behavior results in consequences.

Verse 28 summarizes and adds to what Paul had been saying to this point. "Convenient" here means "suitable, or proper" (Webster's 1828,  American Dictionary of the English Language).

Verses 29-31 list many of the sins mankind is guilty of, the things that flow out from reprobate minds. Isn't this a picture of our society? As time progresses, evil seems to grow worse and worse. But that is what God was trying to convey. A "good" society is dependent on mankind following the Law and ways of God. We cannot determine, in our own minds, what is good and acceptable. We run to error.

Then in verse 32 we see even further into the depravity of mankind. Although it knows that God will judge sin and that the above list depicts sin worthy of death, it takes pleasure when others join in sin.