On every hand we hear the question, Are the heathen lost and condemned as sinners? Usually the question is intended as a blast at conservative Christianity.
At least, this implies that many advantaged Americans might well be doomed in the hour of final judgment!
Still further, one might ask the caustic questioner if he suggests that we promote ignorance of God, since this supposedly leads to forgiveness out of pity.
Such twisted reasoning implies that the Gospel message would then be the means of condemning many - if all are saved when left in ignorance. No! The glad tidings about Jesus Christ delivers, not condemns. The Gospel is certainly GOOD NEWS.
In the book of Romans, Paul is writing to the heart of that modern, empire. He tells them truths we need to hear today. Let us study Romans 1:16-32 and see a progression of reasons set forward to show why men everywhere desperately need to receive the Gospel of Christ.
I. GOD'S WRATH IS AGAINST ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS
"The wrath of God is being revealed." verse 18. This is not emotional rage, but active judgment against all evil. And it is revealed, brought out to light, uncovered, made known.
God's righteous anger toward sinning men is made very clear in the Bible. Strangely, it is revealed even in the way some are able to persist in their sins until they are utterly animalistic in their morals. This shows God has given them up to uncleanness, as our text later teaches.
Some men feel an inner anguish and foreboding of doom regarding their wickedness. This, too, is a revelation of God's wrath and approaching judgment.
Exactly what is ungodliness and unrighteousness? It involves His standards, not yours or mine. Any contrary attitude toward God or fellowmen is here condemned. Now, surely this would wipe out all from any hope of eternal life were it not for some good word from heaven. That word is the Gospel of Christ, as we shall presently see.
II. UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN IS INEXCUSABLE
God complains that men often "suppress the truth by their wickedness," verse 18. Catch what this means. Human beings everywhere have truth! But what do they do with it? They resist it and do evil despite it.
This truth about God is "plain to them," verse 19, which possibly indicates the inner work of God as taught in 2:15. "They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts." Here is God's claim that he has called at the door of every darkened heart with the lamplight of some truth.
Outwardly, this enlightenment has been going on since creation, verse 20. The visible world now makes clear such invisible realities as: 1) God's eternal power (How else would anything exist?) and 2) His divine perfection and excellence.
This appeal to the open book of nature is made by Paul in his urgent message to the pagans of Lystra, Acts 14:15-17.
"So that people are without excuse," Romans 1:20. The next verse then adds, "They knew God." Truly, we may point at any man and say, That man to some extent knows truth about God. Mark all the words indicating this in verses 17-21, such as, revealed, manifest, showed, made plain, seen, understood, knew. No excuse left for sin!
Obviously, a man will not be held accountable for what he does not know. He will however answer for his sin against the light God has given. Romans 3:23 is clear, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" -- which light He has mercifully and surely brought to them.
III. UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN IS VERY GREAT
This is seen in that men knowing God refuse Him due honor and gratitude. Instead, they become foolish and corrupt in thought, and blackout! "Their foolish hearts were darkened," verse 21. Spiritual understanding and insight drops to level zero. Here is man's real trouble. It is not that the Bible is so hard, or that our IQ is too low. Sin has blinded the soul's eyes.
Yet, these very evil ones generally pose as great authorities regarding religion. They are so certain that the Bible is faulty, but the truth is that they know little of its real truth! See verse 22.
A terrible exchange is mentioned in the next verse, where men are said to give up the true glory of God and make, instead, images of horrid creatures. How the devil must delight as he sees man kneel in the dust before these! What a spectacle. Man, once upright in the image of God! (May it be clearly understood that the Scripture condemns the making and using of images in worship. Jesus Christ is the ONE image of the invisible God, the ONE Mediator, the ONE way to the Father. (Hebrews 1:3, I Timothy 2:5, John 14:6)
Next, God moves in judgment. He punishes by giving what the sinner wants! verse 24. Often men are permitted to sink ever more deeply into the evils of their cravings. And sin has its own horrible stain and sting. You see, God is doing something. He lets go the rope which men are wildly pulling, and down they go into their lusts, or vile desires.
The awful result is that they dishonor their bodies. Debasing God's human temple. (See I Corinthians 6:19,20). Using the body as a mere tool of the passions, an instrument of self-gratification. Emotional atheism! This belies all truth, verse 25.
Verse 26 - Even women! All is on the way down when they slide into the sordid stream of immorality. Perversion of every sort among both sexes follows, verse 27. Now, this is not
only true in pagan cultures, it is propagated and stoutly defended in our own United States.
Verse 27 -- The basic error causing all this is forsaking the true God. Spiraling sin is a resultant punishment of the fundamental error, that men won't let God be God. Wrong ideas about God and wild immoralities frequently are found together. Read the newspapers and hear the thunder of Romans, chapter one! The true God is the only one who can rescue from vices and evil habits.
Thus, sinners become "slaves of their degenerate minds" and are gradually dehumanized, verse 28.
Relentlessly, the holy Word of God continues its exposure of human secrets which burn and sear a life in this world even as the flames of hell will in the next world. (Verses 29-32). Number one on the list is no surprise: fornication. This term includes all forms of sexual immorality.
The painful words that follow show that men, left to themselves, become: hateful toward one another, craving and driving for material things, envious murderers in heart if not in hand, treacherous, driven to tear down others (even at home!), active in gossip and slander, in reality haters of God, many-sided in pride and evil, dishonoring to parents, so spiritually blind as to confuse evil and good. unfaithful to a trust, failing even in natural love toward children or parents (See them trying to escape such responsibility!), inflexible and harsh.
The final indictment is that just as their twisted religious views were against knowledge, so their immorality is despite enlightening truth. Men know about the judgment of God which must burn against such behavior, "they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them," verse 32.
How lost are the heathen! And, how terribly, terribly doomed are those who sin against the much fuller light of the Gospel of Christ! Friend, do you not need a Savior who can both forgive the past and bring new holiness into your life? The Lord Jesus Christ died to pay sin's penalty. He now lives to send His Spirit into each repentant life. Turn in prayer to Him right now.