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socialmedia@cityrise.org February 1, 2021 sermons, baptist, baptist church, cityrise, Good News, houston, houston church, Roger Patterson, romans, sermon,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Roger Patterson on Sunday January 31 at our West U Baptist Church campus and in our Online Experience. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage. To listen to the message, check out our podcast page.

Today, we are digging into the portion where Paul takes on the role as prosecutor as he levies charges against all humanity.  And here is the breakdown.

Paul as Prosecutor

  • Romans 1:18-32 – Paul prosecutes God’s case against the Gentiles
  • Romans 2:1-3:8 – Paul prosecutes God’s case against the Jews
  • Romans 3:9-20 – Summation of his argument

And here is the big take-a-way: All are without excuse!  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This is the message Paul will logically and carefully establish.  And here are a few things that you and I need to see as we study this portion:

  1. Paul’s conviction and worldview (and it’s mine as well) is that God is the source, establisher and arbiter of truth.
  2. Throughout history, mankind has exchanged the truth of God for lies.
  3. Paul’s core conviction is that all of mankind are idolaters. For the Gentile world, this idolatry leads to all sorts of impurity and immorality. For the Jewish population, their idolatry is expressed in terms of their self-righteousness. This leads to a pride, arrogance and judgmentalism that keeps them from seeing their own need for salvation.
  4. This section is crucial for us to understand the good news. It is the bad news. It will offend some of you. It is going to be hard to study. But, it will lead us to see the gracious, loving heart of God and the riches of the gift of Jesus Christ to our lives. But, even though it’s hard, let’s do the work.  Let’s listen for our Lord’s heart and voice. Let’s see what ails us all and how we can find his great love.

A few things to note…

  • God is the source, establisher and arbiter of truth.
  • Throughout history, mankind has exchanged the truth of God for lies.
  • Paul’s core conviction is that all of mankind are idolaters.
  • This section is crucial for us to understand the good news.

Let’s dig into this passage today.

Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Let me share with you my outline as we seek to grasp the Good News of our Lord Jesus as Paul lays it out in the book of Romans.

To understand the good news about Jesus, we must…

  1. Begin with God.
  2. Be persuaded of our rebellion.
  3. Be compelled to put down our idols and worship Jesus.

 

Let’s look at this first principle today.

To understand the good news about Jesus, we must…

I. Begin with God

One of the things that Paul does here is he begins to lay out his charges against all of humanity by appealing to the Creator.  You see, he has a theocentric worldview.  It’s God-centered.  As I said earlier, his conviction and worldview is that God is the source, establisher and arbiter of all truth.

God is the source, the establisher and arbiter of all truth.

Now, why is this the case? 

This is the case because to understand the problem, you have to begin with the standard.  In a courtroom, the prosecutor levies charges against the accused by pointing to the standard—the law.  And the law is given for the common good—for the common grace for society.

Here, Paul is revealing his conviction that God is the standard.

Now, why is God the standard?

Well, that’s a fairly simple answer.  Because He is the creator, the designer, the architect. Because he is the author and giver of life. Because it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.  But even beyond that, we begin with God as the standard because to be God is to be One whereby there is nothing stronger or greater that exists.
For if there is something greater that exists than God, God cannot be God, for that which is greater than God would be God.

Paul says in verses 18-20…

Romans 1:18-20

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

So, what does Paul say about God here?

  1. God has plainly revealed himself to all people everywhere from creation.

 God has plainly revealed himself to all people everywhere from creation.

Application:

  • Have you looked at creation lately?
  • Have you gotten out into the country to look at the stars?
  • Have you studied the complexity of the human body and how ordered it is and all of its systems and how they work together?

I had the privilege of going on a hunt last weekend to celebrate Brady’s 20th birthday.  He drove down from Waco and I took Cooper and Carson and we met in Goliad, Texas.  And the sunset Friday night was glorious.  And then we were around the campfire and on this beautiful night, do you know what I saw once more?  I saw that the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.  My friends, the heavens truly declare the glory of God.

And after killing a hog, and field dressing it—friends, you haven’t lived until you have field dressed a hog, you see the beauty and complexity of God’s creation and you conclude that He is goodthat He is orderly…that He is constant and that He is vastly greater than creation.

His handiwork was unmistakable. His provision of food, remarkable. His intricacies in creating, unforgettable.

Application:  The Apostle Paul begins with God and His creation and challenges us to look around and see his goodness and vastness and his provision and respond to it in worship!

What else does the Apostle Paul teach us about God?

  1. God has “Eternal Power” and a “Divine Nature” that He has illuminated to all. Combine these two attributes and you might call God the “Supreme Being.”

 God has “Eternal Power” and a “Divine Nature” that He has illuminated to all

John Stott declares…

“The creation is a visible disclosure of the invisible God, and intelligible disclosure of the otherwise unknown God.”

Notice Romans 1:20 again.

Romans 1:20

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

This phrase, “clearly perceived” is actually two verbs. The first verb refers strictly to intelligence and is generally translated as “understood.”  The second verb is translated as “perceived” and refers to physical sight.

In other words, God’s revelation of himself is BOTH UNDERSTOOD AND SEEN.  Thus it is clearly perceived.

B. Gartner proclaims…

“Together, the verbs describe how on contemplating God’s works, man can grasp enough of His nature to prevent him from the error of identifying any of the created things with the Creator, enabling him to keep his conception of the Deity free from idolatry.”

As Paul begins with God, what else does he teach us about God?

  1. That God has wrath.

That God has wrath.

Look at Romans 1:18.

Romans 1:18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

Did you know that God has wrath?

You may say, “Well, I thought that God was a God of love.  How is wrath compatible with God’s love?”

That’s a great question.  As we study Romans, we are going to see how these two qualities are not inconsistent.  You see, God is love and God is just. Because his nature is that He is holy, He must punish sin in order to execute justice.

But when we see God has wrath, it’s critical to understand what the Apostle Paul is and isn’t saying.

  1. God’s wrath isn’t an irrational explosion of emotion like we might see from one of the Avengers or from someone with a bad temper. No, God’s wrath is very much controlled.

John Stott says…

“The alternative to wrath is not love, but neutrality in the moral conflict. And God is not neutral.  On the contrary, his wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment against it.”

  1. God’s wrath in Romans is different than God’s wrath in Revelation. In Revelation, there is the imagery of the wrath of God that is already rushing along fiercely. It is very near and very present. In Romans, Paul uses the word which means “to grow ripe for something.” The idea is that of something that builds up over a long period of time, like water collecting behind a great dam.

As Leon Morris explains…

“The biblical writers habitually use for the divine wrath a word which denotes not so much a sudden flaring up of passion which is soon over, as a strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of God’s very nature.”

And of this strong and settled opposition to all that is evil, Paul says that this wrath is “BEING REVEALED.”  It’s present tense.  It’s revealed and continuing to be revealed.

So, how is God revealing His wrath?

Here are a few ways.

Robert Haldane says…

“The wrath of God … was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise.”

Charles Hodge speaks of three ways the wrath of God is being revealed.

  1. The actual punishment of sin.
  2. The inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.
  3. The voice of the conscience.

All of the theologians I read can add to this list.  But each also conveys that the cross of Christ is also central to our understanding of the wrath of God being revealed.

God’s strong and settled opposition to all that is evil arising out of his very nature, demanded a just punishment of this evil. And that just punishment was the sentence of death of his son on the cross.

You see, God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  That’s John 3.

John 3:16-17

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The cross reveals the wrath of God, his just punishment for sin, and his love, all at the same time.

But there is one more way his wrath is revealed to us.

Notice this phrase with me, stated three different times.

Look at verses 24, 26, and 28 of Romans 1.

Romans 1:24, 26, 28

  • 24 – Therefore, God gave them up…
  • 26 – For this reason, God gave them up…
  • 28 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up…

God gave them up.

                        God gave them their way.

                                                God gave them their free will to do as they please.

In other words, God removed his hand.

 Let me illustrate it like this. Maybe it will make sense. You, as a parent, have done everything you know to do to provide for and love your children. You have displayed your love and character in the way you have provided for them.  You have sought to give them the best education you can, you have had them in church, they know the importance of faith, have come to Christ and have even been baptized as a born-again believer.

Your son or daughter knows your heart, has experienced your provision, and has enjoyed life at your table without a thought for tomorrow.

And then, maybe its in high school or college, there comes a moment when their free-will kicks in.  They have gotten in with the wrong crowd. They begin to push boundaries and then it becomes full rebellion.

They are continually making wrong choices and when you find it all out, you bring discipline.  You discipline them because you love them. It’s unpleasant but you all get through it and there seems to be a remorse so you all start repairing and seeking to restore things.

Then, more comes to light. There are choices, frequent choices, being made that go against everything you have been pouring into your child.  And the confrontations become more and more intense and the dishonesty from them is off the charts.  And then they say something like, “Why can’t I have my freedom? Why are you always trying to control me?”

It’s here that you come to a point where you say, “You want your freedom?  Here you go!  We’ve got to cut you off. We cannot endorse this. We cannot continue to enable you. We are going to give you what you want.  We will no longer pay for your car, your cell phone, your gas, your insurance, your tuition, your books or your apartment.  We are removing our hands!”

As a parent, you have just given them over to their own free will. You have taken your hands off so that they discover some things about life, about you, and about themselves.  You as a parent know that this is going to lead to seasons of deep misery in their lives, but you know that you have tried every other way.

This is the prodigal story and you, are acting as the Father in the story, have given them their inheritance and you know that they are going to go and squander it in wild living.  And you let them.  You let them so that they can experience a life of misery…that leads them ultimately to a place where they might HUMBLE THEMSELVES, see the ERROR OF THEIR WAYS, and COME TO A PLACE OF RECOGNITION, REMORSE and REPENTANCE.

You, yourself agree with Hodge when he talks about the inherent tendency for moral evil to lead to misery.  You want nothing more thank to keep them from misery.  But you give them over to their free will in order that they might experience a misery that will lead them to repentance.

My friends, we can all connect with that story.  We either are the prodigal, are the older brother or sister, or are the parents releasing their sons or daughters out into the world, just praying that they aren’t devoured by the world.

But listen, God’s wrath against all moral evil is being revealed:

  • in creation,
  • in death,
  • in disease
  • in the old order of things
  • in the cross…by the sacrifice of his son on the cross
  • and in removing his hand and giving us the miserable lives we are longing for…so that in all of this, we might look at him and receive the love available to us in his son.

Oh, that you would look up and see the Son.  Oh, that you would see the wrath of God poured out on his only son in order to spare you from his final wrath that is to come.

My friends, I am going to do something different today.  I told you earlier, I had three points to my outline.

Remember that outline?

To understand the good news about Jesus, we must…

  1. Begin with God.
  2. Be persuaded of our rebellion.
  3. Be compelled to put down our idols and worship Jesus.

Well, I’m going to pick back up here next week and we will keep pressing through this passage.  We will look at the necessity to be persuaded of our rebellion and the call to put down our idols and worship Jesus.

But maybe today, the Holy Spirit is stirring in you.  Maybe you have learned some things about God and you are convicted.  You are convicted that you have minimized him.  You are convicted that you have made light of who he is. You are convicted that you haven’t worshipped him or thanked him for providing for you.

Or you are convicted that you are acting like a prodigal.  Or you are stirred to pray for one in your life who has run from God, run from you and run from your love.

I want to remind you of the good news and I want to challenge you…no matter what you may be experiencing in terms of conviction, I want to remind you of the good news.

Do we see that the wrath of God is being revealed?

We certainly do.

But we also see that the righteousness from God is being revealed.  And that righteousness is by faith.

And this good news…this gospel…its transformative.  It’s life changing.  It’s the very power of God to give you salvation.

We saw it last week and I want you to see it once more.

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

My friends, this gospel has power to change your life.  This good news brings salvation to those who believe.  This gospel brings righteousness, removing your wickedness.  This good news brings healing and a new way to live.

Our hope is not our economy, our politics, or how safe our communities are. Our hope is the gospel.  Have you allowed it to change you?

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