Month: June 2019

United in our need (Romans 2)

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LiU-IAS-Konsekvenser-av-demografisk-och-organisatorisk-mangfaldAs we read Romans, it is helpful to remember who this remarkable letter was written to. The church in Rome was a multi-cultural church with both Jews and Gentiles in it. It appears as though this church was wrestling with how to work out the truth of the Gospel in this multi-cultural setting. Paul is building an extended argument that stretches through this whole letter to show off the Gospel and how we should live.

Jewish Christians would have had no problem with Romans 1, probably feeling like Paul had pagan Gentiles in mind. In Romans 2 Paul points the spotlight on all believers by warning the Jewish believer of being judgemental (Romans 2:1-11) and proclaiming radically that; “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11). A radical statement that declares that the problem outlined in Romans 1:18-32 is universal, that all will be judged according to how they have lived (Romans 2:6).

All who have sinned, whether they are Jews under the law or Gentiles apart from the law, all will face judgement equally before Jesus on THAT DAY (Romans 12:16).

The Jewish believers who were rejoicing in, trusting in their heritage, their Jewishness are rebuked here by Paul – “You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law” (Romans 2:23) So, whether you are born Jewish or circumcised is not as important to God as each one obeying God’s moral law (Romans 2:25-29).

Romans 2 could be summarised as a warning to the Jewish believers in Rome not to be self-righteously confident in the wrong things (their Jewish heritage). The problem of sin outlined in Romans 1 is not a Gentile problem, and they who were Jewish believers are not in a privileged position as believers, God looks on all obedience with no partiality. As Paul declares succinctly in Galatians 2:28; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

We are united in our need since no one has fully obeyed the law of God. And we are united in God’s provision for our need, the good news about Jesus, His son sent for us… But more on that when we get to Romans 3.

The Slide to ungodliness (Romans 1:18-31)

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Here at the beginning of Romans, Paul is going to outline the BAD NEWS. Essentially, God is holy, and yet we are not. Such is the universal problem of humankind, which is described in Romans 1:18-32, and this is my paraphrase of it.

God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness & wickedness in humanity. (vs18)

Humans in their wickedness have suppressed the truth about God. To suppress something is to know something and to hide it or bury it, to suppress something is not ignorance but an active decision. (vs18)

No one has any excuse; no one can claim ignorance since there is enough revelation in creation about who God is – God’s eternal power & divine nature – ‘so they are without excuse’. (vs19-20)

Rather than acknowledge God, although they knew about God, they have not honoured God as they should, more than this; they have also not given thanks to Him as they ought to. (vs21)

The result of this ungodly thinking is that those who suppress the truth about God become futile in their thinking. After all, all thought that denies God is ultimately empty and meaningless. The flicker of light that was in them, allowing them to see, has been snuffed out and replaced by darkness (vs21).

Although they claim to be wise, they have, in fact, become fools because of their active suppression of the truth about God that they knew. (vs22)

And like fools, they went further and exchanged the authentic glory of the immortal God for pathetic images of mortal human beings and other created things! It’s a choice that makes no sense at all. (vs23)

And so as a result of this suppression of the truth and this voluntary exchange of God’s glory for pitiful things – God responds by giving them over to the very things they have pursued. God allows them to follow the trajectory they have chosen. (vs24)

Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. The rejection of the truth and the rejection of the one true God as Lord results in a rejection of God’s morality. This rejection then leads to lustful impurity & the dishonouring of their bodies with one another. All of this happens because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie & worshipped that which is not to be worshipped rather than worshipping the One who ought to be worshipped. Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. (vs 24-25)

And so God gave them over to dishonourable passions, God allowed them to follow the moral trajectory they had chosen for themselves resulting in all manner of distortions to sex and sexuality the way God had intended for it to be. (vs26-27)

And since they chose to ignore God totally, God gave them up to a depraved way of thinking, which leads to a depraved way of behaving. As a result, they began to do what ought not to be done. So, they slid into all manner of sins; “covetousness, malice… envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness… gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (vs29-31)

Such people behave in such despicable ways even though they know what God has declared; that those who practice such things deserve to die. They act as though God never said that or that it will never really happen and so they not only do such things but give approval to those who practice them. (vs32)

These words written in the first century AD are as fresh and as relevant today as they ever have been. May you and I never be those who suppress the truth that we know about God, may we be those whose thinking is shaped by the timeless authority of Scripture and not by the transient fads of culture.

Getting into the passage (Romans 1:1-17)

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Read the passage for the day 1-3 times over then take time to answer the questions that follow in a journal or a piece of paper to really get to grips with the passage and to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

1. What is Paul’s self-stated identity in these opening lines? (vs1)

2. If this is how Paul identified himself, what are the primary ways you identify yourself currently?  In what ways does this passage challenge that?

3. What was Paul’s purpose (vs1)?  In what way are you called to the same purpose?  What could you do today to line your day up with your purpose?

4. The Gospel summarised: the Gospel of God (vs1), concerning His Son (vs3), Jesus Christ our Lord (vs4).  The Gospel is the good news story about what God has done in giving us Jesus the Son, the Christ (Messiah) and our Lord. We have been sent to the whole world to call people to the obedience that comes from faith (vs6)

5. Why was Paul not ashamed of the Gospel (vs16)?  In what ways are we tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel of God?  Why do we not need to be ashamed of the Gospel?

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Having read and meditated on this all, what is the main thing God has said to you?

Is there anything you need to do or pray about?