Romans 1 and 2
We read about the story of two different categories of people in the Epistle written by Apostle Paul to the Church in Rome. This is one of the chewiest epistles from this great man of God. To understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit, how to become a Christian, the major doctrines of the Bible, you will need to study, understand and digest this epistle. The Epistle to the Romans has been placed first as containing the first principles of Gospel teaching; and until we have grasped and understood its lessons we cannot know anything as to our true position as Christians; neither can we go forward or learn anything else to our real advantage. Though we may learn other truths, they will remain out of proportion and out of sync if it is not subordinated to and dominated by the essential and fundamental truths written in the Epistle to the Romans.
In the Church in Rome, there was a combination of different groups of people addressed in this Epistle – the Jews and the Gentiles. The Apostle explained the obligation he had in spreading the Gospel to these two groups of people. The general idea was that if you were not from the Jewish Nation, you were automatically deemed a Gentile. Majority, if not the entire Old Testament was written having the Jewish Nation as the Nation of God. In fact, God described them as the apple of His eye. They were said to have descended from their father, Abraham. On the other side of the divide, we find another nation – the Gentile Nation who was never associated with the same God as that of the Jews. You will read about what Jesus said when He told His listeners not to worry like someone who does not have a Father and likened such people to the Gentile.
These two groups were Paul’s concern as he penned this Epistle. He began by introducing the Gospel of God and the power in presenting anyone that accepts the message of the Gospel positively, righteous before God. The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith – the person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives. He also stressed that the message would be proclaimed to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles as well.
He warned that the wrath of God was revealed to the Gentile group against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
How have they done this, you may wish to ask?
This is because the basic reality of God is plain enough; very plain in our eyes by the varying attributes of creation. By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of His divine being. So nobody has a good excuse not to wonder about God. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat Him like God, refusing to worship Him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.
The resultant effect of our worship of idols (creatures) was that we (Gentiles) became pretenders, professing to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. We traded the glory of God – who holds the whole world in His hands, for cheap figurines and images you can buy at any roadside stand. It was such that when people saw the moon, for example, rather than look or think of how the moon came to be, the moon (God’s creation), became their object of worship. We chose to worship the creatures rather than the creator.
What did God do about this act?
God allowed us to express our foolishness since we decided not to acknowledge Him. It wasn’t long before we started to make our abode with pigs; living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this was because we traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god we made (idols) instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. It was that ludicrous! It didn’t stop there; since we refused to know Him, we lost the meaning of what it was to be the human being that we were. We traded our natural inclinations and proclivities for another – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, we abused and defiled one another, women with women, and men with men; all lust, no love. And then we paid for it, how we paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
Since we didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering us and let us run loose. Then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating.
We became mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued, God-bashers, bullies, wicked and intolerable windbags. We kept inventing new ways of wrecking and destroying lives. We ditched our parents when they got in the way; we were stupid, slimy, cruel, and cold-blooded. And it’s not as if we didn’t know better. We knew perfectly well we were spitting in God’s face. We knew so well that those who practiced such were worthy of death yet we didn’t care; we even approved people who practiced the same with us.
Paul was saying all these, as his letter was read to all in this mixed multitude church. Since all was directed at a particular group, one would begin to think of how the Gentiles would be looked at by their fellow Jewish colleague. It was more than shameful and embarrassing. The Jews would have had a feeling of being righteous because they were lost in their knowledge of the Old Testament and the fact that they descended from Abraham; they would have judged the Gentiles oblivious to the fact that their part of the message from the Apostle was just seconds away.
Does this mean that the Jews were perfect? Is God partial? The answer is NO!
Remember the Apostle had just introduced a Gospel disjointed and independent from the Old Testament and the Law. It was a new message and Paul was about to tell them that the Old Testament had become obsolete and that Jesus had fulfilled the penalty for mankind.
You have no excuse, as the reader of the letter moved on to the next paragraph. The reader must have gotten the rapt attentions of the Jews. They were not left out of the letter/Epistle; they had their part too. He told them that the “Gentiles were on a dark spiral downward, but if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.”
They were about to find out that the Law couldn’t make anyone righteous and that the Law was meant to help them discover how sinful they were. They were soon going to discover that they were in the same boat as the Gentiles for Paul’s conclusion was “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God”. They were about to discover that they needed to understand and respond to this Gospel that has just been introduced by this great Apostle.
Dr. R. C. Sproul in his book ‘how can I be sure I am saved’ said if we think salvation is gained by our own good works and we are further deluded into believing that we possess good works, we will have a false assurance of salvation. To have sound assurance, we must understand that our salvation rests on the merit of Christ alone, which is appropriated to us when we embrace Him by genuine faith. If we understand that, the remaining question is, “Do I have the genuine faith necessary for salvation?”