Romans 1-5 (3-12-22)
I am very excited that we are now in Romans in our annual Bible reading plan. This has been considered by many scholars and historic theologians as one of the great pillars of the New Testament.
Paul starts in chapter one highlighting the sinful demise of mankind and that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. He then spends the majority of the next chapters making it abundantly clear about mankind’s condition apart from Christ’s saving work. This is what I want to highlight in today’s study--the spiritual state of mankind in our sin. Then next week, we will turn to chapters 6-10 and highlight the good news of the gospel and our spiritual state in Christ.
Romans 3:10-12 speaks of our spiritual condition in our sin so well, so let’s start there:
Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
Scripture again and again points us to the overwhelming and damning reality that we are dead in our sin--not sick, not morally neutral--we are dead!
Three things Paul highlights here that lay this most important foundation for our utter need for God’s saving grace:
1. No one is righteous.
We have no righteousness of our own that is satisfactory for God’s utter holiness!
We cannot stand in front of a holy God and attempt to do what the prideful Pharisee did, saying, “Compared to that guy, I am looking pretty good.”
The Bible says everything we do apart from Christ is sin because it’s not done from a right heart to the glory of God, and that our best efforts at good deeds or righteous living are like filthy menstrual rags.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Understand this most critical reality. One day, you will stand in front of a holy God inquiring about His acceptance of you. Not anyone else’s acceptance of you--only the holy God. We must not miss this! We must see how absolutely grand the canyon is that separates us from God because of our sin.
2. No one seeks God.
The Bible-revealed reality is what man seeks on his own is not God but some form of religion--a man-made, self-salvation based on self-merit. It’s a pursuit of a lifestyle that attempts to put God in debt to him. The good deeds of man are ultimately not to honor or glorify God but are self-glorifying or self-satisfying. Without the gracious intervention of God, man only seeks to glorify man. Spiritually dead people don’t tend to spiritual matters unless first made alive or born again.
3. No one understands.
This is not speaking to our ability to think or reason or understand many things in this life. It is speaking to our spiritual blindness, our utter lack of spiritual perception. We are totally absent-minded to the things of God in our sin.
Ephesians 4:17b-18 in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Later in Romans, Paul will say “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7).
The Bible says that even the demons understand who God is, believe He exists, and can talk about Him; but the spiritual discernment required to know Him personally is not in them.
This is super important to understand. James Montgomery Boice says it so well:
“This does not mean that an unsaved person cannot have a rational understanding of Christianity or of what the Bible teaches apart from the illumination given by the Spirit. A scholar can understand Christian theology as well as any other branch of knowledge. A philosopher can lecture on the Christian idea of God. A historian can analyze the nature of the Protestant Reformation and describe justification by faith very well. But left to themselves, people like this do not believe what they explain, nor are they saved or changed by it.”
Please understand rightly: Because we are dead in sin and all we do is sin, we are not due any gift of God. Especially one that restores us to a relationship with Him. A very important way to think about grace is that it is a gift that is undeserved. We must fully and rightly see that God’s grace is undeserved. In its simple reading, “undeserved” means you did nothing to deserve it. Undeserved is like showing up on the job site, and you just sit there your entire shift and don’t lift a finger to work at all. Any pay your boss might consider giving you, in that case, would be completely undeserved.
But it’s worse than this, because we didn’t do nothing; we showed up on the job site and worked our entire shift to tear apart the work the boss wanted done, to hurt his company and to work against him. Surely when that is the way we performed, as an enemy and anti-agent, we, all the more, don’t deserve any pay or reward. So, what we must see is that undeserved here means we actively and holistically are against the giver. This is Paul's emphasis in the early verses of Ephesians 2!
Our death in sin meant we were …
… following the course of this world. That means we were actively not obeying the law and commands of God.
… following the prince of the power of the air (Satan).That means we were actively not following the holy God; rather, we lived in anti-God unrighteousness like Satan.
… the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. That means we were not righteousness unto obedience and honoring God.
… living in the passions of our flesh. That means we lived for ourselves and for our flesh--not for God and His glory.
… carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.That means we were idolaters instead of worshiping and following God and His desires.
We were His enemies in every way! This brings up another foundational principle that helps us rightly understand that God saves by grace alone: Because we are all fallen in Adam, we deserve God’s wrath. And we have increased the severity of wrath due us in living as Paul describes here in our passage.
This is what Paul says next. Look at verse 3:
Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Most people, and sadly even many Christians, have a low view of the righteous wrath of God. Please understand, at the end of human history, sin will be punished eternally. But this is so foreign, it seems like a fantasy to many. Many simply cannot imagine God to be a God of judgment--a God who would impart His wrath on us or people we have loved in this life. People like to see Jesus as a loving hippy who would not dare send anyone into eternal torment based on His sound judgment of them.
To correct this line of thinking, we simply turn to Jesus’ very own teaching, as He describes the judgment to come in Matthew 25 through three parables He shares.
In the first story, the bridegroom returns suddenly, and the women who are not ready for his coming are excluded from the marriage feast (Matthew 25:10).
In the story of the servants, the master returns to settle his accounts, and the evil, lazy servant is condemned, as the master says, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30).
In the final story, the king separates the sheep from the goats, sending the wicked “to eternal punishment” and the righteous “to eternal life” (v. 46).
According to Jesus Himself, there absolutely will be a future day of reckoning for all people. But many people love to argue, “God is so good, He could never send anyone to hell.” Yet, it is because of God’s goodness that He must rightly judge and condemn guilty people to hell.
Exodus 34:7 says God "will by no means clear the guilty." The principle in this Old Testament verse applied to final judgment is that all who stand outside of Christ will rightly be condemned and receive just wrath. His perfect justice means He must declare the guilty “guilty!” And the sentence is death--eternal death. If a human judge declared someone innocent who was clearly guilty, he would not be considered a “good judge.” In fact, he would be fired, because he is indeed a terrible judge.
It is because God is a God of love that He must send people to hell for the same reason that letting a guilty person go free is not an act of love; it’s an act of great injustice. So, the presupposition that “God is good” is correct, but the conclusion that therefore, because He is good, means He won’t or can’t punish anyone is completely misguided, unbiblical, and dangerous.
The Bible proclaims the sentence for sinners in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death …”
Jesus declared it in Matthew 7:13: “… For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction …”
Hebrews 10:26-27 (NIV) says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth … [there is] only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”
It is imperative that we note that none of our excuses will have any weight before God. You might get away with giving excuses to other people—your boss, your parents, your friends. But, you cannot excuse yourself before God. The apostle Paul wrote that in the day of judgment, “… every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). When the Judge takes the bench, there will not be a single protest.
In our current day, man is in love with human “rights,” and most people wrongly assume that God owes us something good—salvation or, at least, a chance at salvation. God owes sinful man something; this is true. He owes unrepentant, sinful man His righteous and eternal wrath. Yes, we are owed and we are deserving … of His eternal wrath. But there is good news that Paul highlights in chapter five:
Romans 5:6-11 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
While we were His enemies, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! What does this mean for us? It means we who believe into Jesus as Savior and Lord are “… saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9) He substituted Himself in our place. He died to pay our penalty.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus Christ substituted Himself in our place.
This is the wonder and beauty of what Jesus accomplished on the cross of Calvary on our behalf. His bloodshed is the righteousness with which we who trust in Christ are covered. So, when God, in all His holiness, looks upon you and me to consider if we get to enjoy His glory and have communion with Him, He sees Jesus’ perfection and righteousness and declares us justified. We are justified by His blood.
We are “… reconciled to God …” (Romans 5:10). This leads to the next huge point Paul tells us in Romans 5, verse 10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son …” There is not eternal life, there is no return to the garden of Eden, no all-satisfying enjoyment with God almighty, no being freed from sin and eternal suffering, no reconciliation to God if not for the death of His Son, Jesus Christ on our behalf.
If you are reading this and are not yet saved, repent and believe in Christ alone for salvation, for reconciliation to God.
Romans 5:11 …we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Habakkuk says it so well:
Habakkuk 3:18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Even while standing downstream of absolute physical ruin and abject famine, the prophet realized that inner peace and joy did not depend on outward prosperity but only on the God of his salvation. Habakkuk did not state that he would merely endure in the hour of distress. He said he would rejoice in the Lord and be joyful. God is the inexhaustible source and infinite supply of joy.
The phrase "the God of my salvation" is also seen in the Psalmist’s words:
Psalms 18:46 The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation
Are your feet firmly grounded on the rock of Jesus Christ, on the God of your salvation?
Praise God for the good news of Jesus Christ which sets condemned sinners free.
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC