July 15, 2001
Can you recall a time in which you tried to give an excuse after you were caught doing something wrong or if not wrong, not the best thing to do?
During my senior year of college, I overslept one morning and made the decision to skip my second hour class – the first one of the day for me – and go instead to the dining hall and eat breakfast.
The route that I took to the dining hall from my dorm placed me in view of my class that was located on the third floor of the administration building – where my professor happened to be looking out of the window and saw me heading toward the dining hall and not her class.
She made note of my travels the next day.
People still do the same thing. They try to take detours of various kinds. They try and pass the buck, place the blame elsewhere and push the truth the away. Some get away with it for quite a while but eventually it somehow, someway catches up with them.
In today’s study of Romans, Paul suddenly switches gears, and we are faced with the uncomfortable truth about ourselves that we cannot push away.
READ THE TEXT: ROMANS 1:18-2:4
B. A change of emphasis – from God’s Good News to humanity’s condition. (1:18-23)
1. Paul describes a certain kind of person distinctively different from those of whom he has been speaking and describing.
2. The use of the word “but” indicates a shift in direction and change of emphasis. And this is a dramatic emphasis.
3. Paul has shifted from talking about followers of God to those who refuse to follow God. His use of language creates a question in my mind, “Who are they?”
C. “Them” (1:18, 21, and 23)
1. They “push the truth away from themselves.” (Vs. 18)
2. “[T] hey began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like.” (Vs. 21)
3. “[T] hey worshipped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.” (Vs. 23)
4. Illustration – 1980’s mini-series “V.” Aliens take on human form to overthrow the human race. We are good at doing the same thing. In the guise of Christianity we have the capacity to teach and practice things that are clearly un-biblical.
5. Question: So who then are these people? Who are “them?”
A. We could assume, based on verses 19 and 21 they are former believers who have walked away from the faith.
B. They also could be Gentiles (non-Jews) who are considered pagan by the Jews because of their worship practices in verses 23 – 25.
6. But, Paul is talking about people who have pushed away the truth for whatever reason and choose to worship everything else BUT GOD. This group of people includes everybody who refuses to walk by faith in Christ and live the right way.
D. A choice made – the results promised. (Vs. 24 – 32)
1. A law of science – “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law, this principle, holds true to the spiritual dimension of our existence.
2. Paul now moves from laying out the choices that have been made to the results that have been promised.
A. God lets them have their way (vs. 24 – 32):
1. In their thinking and worship (vs. 25)
2. In their sexual behavior with one another (vs. 26 and 27)
3. In their total lifestyle (vs. 28 – 32)
3. Most disturbing thing – they do so deliberately. They know what God’s law is but they go ahead and break it any way. But, Paul says something more shocking and true!
E. A non-Dale Carnegie answer!
Illustration: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” A college speech text.
1. Paul turns his guns on his audience when he says, “you are just as bad and you have no excuse.” What is Paul’s point for saying this?
A. He could be trying to correct a problem in the Roman church that has occurred regarding the lifestyle of the active leadership.
B. He could be making a rhetorical point, a point designed to get them thinking.
C. Or he could be trying to get a very important point across about God’s mercy and grace in light of his audience’s behavior.
What is your final answer? It’s “C.”
2. Paul is making a point about God’s mercy and grace in light of his audience behavior.
3. He is also making a point about living the right way in light of God’s mercy and grace. Why? Because Paul wants the Roman believers and God wants us to know is that if we have been saved by faith then we must act and live like it. In other words, there is no place for the lifestyle described in chapter 1 in a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. And there are no exceptions to this.
F. So What?
1. Listen to what Paul says in 2:5 – 11.
A. There is coming a day of judgment when God will judge the entire world – according to what they have done (vs. 6)
B. He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good seeking after the glory and immortality offered by God (vs. 7)
C. But, he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and practice evil deeds (vs. 8)
D. Trouble and calamity will come for those who keep on sinning – in other words for those do not change their ways (vs. 9)
G. Reflection and application:
1. A tough passage to preach – would rather preach next week’s sermon twice.
2. But the reality of our condition demands that we tell the truth about it and then we can understand just how great God’s love and mercy for us truly, truly is.
3. Here some questions for your reflection and application:
A. As you read through 1:29-32, do you see some familiar sins? How does it make you feel?
B. What is your true inner response to what has been said this morning?
C. Do you need to face the truth about something?
D. Do you need to make changes in your lifestyle?
H. A word for next week – GRACE!