“Wrestling With Romans”
Thank God for Jesus (Chapter 1 Verses 18-32)
The reason people need the gospel is taken up in the remaining verses, because of humanity’s awful condition (vv18ff). The gospel is needed by people not because it would be good for them to be religious like us, nor primarily because it would change their lives, though it certainly would. It is because of the curse they are under, as a result of sin, they are under God’s holy anger due to their ungodliness and resultant life-style. In other words they are so unlike the One who made them in his own image (Genesis 1.26-27; v23), they have sinned that image away (vv21-23). There is a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the truth about themselves, or God, they hold down that truth, suppress it, and live as they please, in ungodliness and unrighteousness. The plain truth, the existence of a designer-God v19, screams at them from the universe they live in, plus their very own existence (v20), it all leaves them with no excuse at all for not believing. The fruit of all this is seen around us in our own society, the further it sinks into unbelief, the more wickedness and evil prevails. It is the inescapable law of cause and effect (Isaiah 47.10-15).
Can you imagine anyone trading the glorious creator God for images, for idols made by the hands of men (Isaiah 44.6-20; v23), that is surely sin. As they reason God away (v21), the darker, the blinder they become, they are given over, pushed by God into their wicked choice (v24). These verses are so very important for understanding our own day and generation in the United Kingdom, the terrible consequences of spiritual and moral apostasy. We begin to see and understand what it is we are up against in prayer and in the preaching of the gospel, and realise that unless God, in even mightier power moves in the hearts of people, they remain just as they are, blind, ignorant, and determined not to allow God to rule over them (Luke 19.14). God gave them his law (John 1.17a), sent his prophets (Acts 3.21), and eventually the fullness of light in his Son Jesus Christ (John 8.12), the record of the Scriptures (1John 5.9), but all to no avail. The knowledge of God is not on the world’s agenda. So, because of this, God has done something else (vv24-25). As many a father has had to do with a rebellious teenager who refuses to be corrected, entreated, eventually the father says, “Well, if that’s the way you want to go, then go and learn the hard way.” He gives them over to that prodigal lifestyle. Well, that is what God has done, and the more the divine restraint is removed, the worse, the more degraded people become (v24). It is an awful picture. Does not the darkness make the gospel shine the brighter, where it is to be found, and are you not so, so very thankful for the Lord Jesus, that he is your Saviour?
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)