Monday, September 26, 2005

Romans 1:18-3:20

It starts off bad, and many people may be turned off early. Once we get past this point, however, things get very good for us.

I had several points I wanted to get across this week, and I think I struggled on a couple of points. I want to outline what I felt was important in Romans 1:18-3:20. The entire passage could almost be a courtroom drama with God as the judge. The verdict is undoubtedly guilty. We don’t stand a chance with passages such as 3:10-20. This entire passage is bad news for us. The Gospel is literally translated “Good News” but there is not much good in these chapters.


My wife was reading a book that her sister recommended to her. As she read the book, she was crying because it upset her so much. She told me that she didn’t think she could read the book, which was awful and she couldn’t believe her sister recommended it. I woke up in the middle of the night and she was still reading the book. She was still crying, but they were tears of joy. She finished the book that night, and told me it was one of the best books ever. She had to endure the first part, which set up the rest of the book. This is much like the Gospel. It starts off bad, and many people may be turned off early. Once we get past this point, however, things get very good for us.


1:20-21 teaches that everyone has some basic knowledge of God through nature. This knowledge is not necessarily enough to have a saving knowledge of Christ, but it is enough to condemn. When I tried to make that point, I got some strange looks. We talked briefly if these verses apply to the person on the deserted island who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. The more I read this passage and think about it, I think it does, although I would love to hear other opinions.


One suggestion in the class this morning is that the person discussed above would be held to a lesser standard. The term “God gave them over” appears 3 times in 1:24-32. He gave them over to sinful desires, shameful lusts, and finally a depraved mind. John MacArthur says that this is a Greek judicial term meaning to lord over a prisoner to his sentence. It conveys a sense of abandonment. My question is: if God “gave them over” are they without hope? Is there still a possibility of someone getting out of the “downward spiral” if God has abandoned them?


Most of our class seemed to think that a person could indeed make a choice to accept Christ when they are in this predicament. While this could be the case, my take is slightly different. I don’t think that anybody can make a decision to accept Christ without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is not man that makes the first move; it is the Holy Spirit that must start the process. I don’t know exactly what “gave them over” means, but if it means that God has abandoned them, then I think they are without hope. This isn’t something that is fun or easy to say, but I think it is what is being taught. I would love for someone to prove me wrong on this.


When reading the scripture aloud this morning, the Message translation was read. I had never heard it before, being practically raised on the NIV, and I could not follow along. I decided to quit trying to follow from my translation and just listen. I was very impressed with what I heard. Normally when someone reads aloud, I have to follow along and sometimes re read what he or she is reading in order to understand what is being said. I didn’t have to with this translation. I don’t know how good it is for in depth study, but it sure seemed to drive home all the points in a way that is easily understood. We are all without excuse. Sometimes when confronted with something that we know is wrong, we become defensive and may try to shift the blame somewhere else. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the devil. We all want to look good, but God can’t be fooled. This is indeed bad news.


Check back next week to see how this bleak situation is resolved, or better yet read the rest of the book of Romans.

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