January 13 (Reading for January 9-15: Romans 1; quotes are from the NIV) This is a “trailer” for the Sunday sermon, January 16, at the ICF.
This weekend, the National Football League playoffs begin, culminating in the Super Bowl, when the last two teams standing will compete. In Romans 1, Paul described the ultimate conflict in the spiritual domain between two opposing sides. On one side are those who are righteous and live by faith. On the other side are the unrighteous who are godless and wicked (vv. 17-18). The first group, called Christians, or believers, or saints, have found “grace and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7). They have believed in “the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16). They, like Paul, consider themselves to be “a servant (or slave) of Christ Jesus” (v. 1). They possess a deep desire for fellowship—to share together in the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ. Paul was committed to go in person to Rome. “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (vv. 11-12). Only in Christ can such fellowship exist. Paul was a great man of God, but even he needed the strength he could receive from the faith of others—as do we!
Those on the other side are identified by Paul as unrighteous, wicked, evil, ungodly, liars, faithless, deceitful, depraved; he even called them God-haters” (v. 30). Their master, Satan, denies the truth that one can know God, even though “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen” (v. 20). Satan’s followers refuse to acknowledge God, and they fulfill their master’s plans through their sinful lives. Paul described the sin of idolatry. They exchange God’s glory for a god fashioned by their own choosing. They worship their own creation instead of worshiping the One who created them! They are also guilty of the sin of perversion. They exchange the God’s truth for a lie. They deny His word, water it down, call it irrelevant, outdated, bigoted, full of myths and fantasies. In its place, they put theories and suppositions. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the theory; it is accepted to replace the truth of the word of God.
These sins open the door to depravity. When you take away absolute truth, there are no boundaries to evil behavior. This is the condemning reality of our world: “They do what ought not to be done” (v. 28) and they “approve of those who practice them” (the things which should not be done) (v. 32). Every person on the earth must choose between these two lifestyles. One brings “the wrath of God against all godlessness” (v. 18). The other provides salvation in Christ through His “grace and peace” (v. 7). What grace to know whose side we are on and that the victory has already been won!
– Al Gary