Here are your study notes on Romans 1:18-3:20. Allow yourself plenty of time to go through them. Read the Scripture then go back and forth between the Scripture and the notes. God bless you.
Because of Calvary,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. 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. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”
But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 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.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
John Janney Grace Bible Fellowship Church
Adult SS Elective: Romans 1:18-3:20 March 12, 2017
I. The Sin of Man (1:18-3:20)
“St. Paul has just stated what the Gospel is; he now goes on to show the necessity for such a Gospel. The world is lost without it.” [Sanday and Headlam, p. 40]
“The revelation of the righteousness of God (ver. 17) is needed in view of the revelation of His wrath from which only…[the righteousness of God]…can deliver.” [Denney, p. 591]
“Before he prescribes the divine remedy, Paul, like a wise physician, diagnoses the disease. The righteousness of God is needed because of the unrighteousness of men.” [Hunter, p. 30]
“…As G. K. Chesterton observes, ‘no one can walk down the street without seeing that man is a fallen creature.’” [The Speaker’s Bible XII, p. 45]
“When M. Monod and I attended the University of Geneva, there was a professor of divinity who confined himself to lecturing on the immortality of the soul the existence of God, and similar topics. As to the Trinity he did not believe it. Instead of the Bible, he gave you quotations from Seneca and Plato. St. Seneca and St. Plato were the two saints whose writings he held up to admiration. But the Lord sent one of His servants to Geneva; and I well remember the visit of Robert Haldane. I heard of him first as an English or Scotch gentleman who spoke much about the Bible, which seemed a very strange thing to me and the other students, to whom it was a shut book. I afterwards met Mr. Haldane at a private house along with some other friends, and herd him read from an English Bible a chapter from Romans, about the natural corruption of man ― a doctrine of which I had never heard before; in fact, I was quite astonished to hear of men being corrupt by nature. I remember saying to Mr. Haldane, ‘Now, I see that doctrine in the Bible.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied; but do you see it in your heart?’ That was a simple question; but it came home to my conscience. It was the sword of the Spirit; and from that time I saw that my heart was corrupt, and knew from the Word of God that I could be saved by grace alone.” [J. Merle D’Aubigne in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary V, p. 8]
“…Humanity can be described in many ways, but innocent is not one of them.” [R. Scott Richards, Myths the World Taught Me, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), p. 42]
“Certain it is that while men are gathering knowledge and power with ever-increasing and measureless speed, their virtues and their wisdom have not shown any notable improvement as the centuries have rolled…. Under sufficient stress ― starvation, terror war-like passion, or even cold intellectual frenzy ― the modern man we know so well will do the most terrible deeds, and his modern woman will back him up.” [Winston Churchill in The Speaker’s Bible VII, p. 44]
“It isn’t just dog eat dog out there: it’s what Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, called ‘rat eat rat.’” [Harvey Mackay, Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, (New York: Ivy Books, 1990), p. 24]
“During the whole sixty years of Wesley’s continuous labors, from the time when he taught his pupils in Oxford College and the prisoners in Oxford gaol down to the last sermon that he preached, his ministry and teaching were modeled upon that of the New Testament, ― it was ever a preaching of repentance. He counted it utterly useless and hopeless to preach the comforts of the gospel before he had made men feel and wince beneath the terrors of the law and the sense of offended justice.” [G. T. Stokes in The Speaker’s Bible XII, p. 64]
“The subject of sin is vital knowledge. To say that our first need in life is to learn about sin may sound strange, but in the sense intended it is profoundly true. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible. For the Bible is an exposition of God’s answer to the problem of human sin, and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says.” [J. I. Packer, God’s Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981) p. 71]
“The beginning of health is to know the disease.” [Spanish proverb quoted by Richard A. Kauffman, Christianity Today, (August 2006), p. 56]
“The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lives at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification are ‘words and names’ which convey no meaning to the mind…. Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies.” [J. C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, (London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1879), p. 1]
“A recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to Christianity. Christ takes it for granted that men are bad. Until we really feel this assumption of His to be true…., we lack the first condition for understanding what He is talking about. And when men attempt to be Christians without this preliminary consciousness of sin, the result is almost bound to be a certain resentment against God as to one who is always making impossible demands and always inexplicably angry…. When we merely say we are bad, the ‘wrath’ of God seems a barbarous doctrine; as soon as we perceive our badness, it appears inevitable…” [C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), p. 51-52]
“Nothing keeps people away from Christ more than their inability to see their need of him or their unwillingness to admit it. As Jesus put it: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Mark 2:17). He was defending against the criticism of the Pharisees his policy of fraternizing with ‘tax collectors and “sinners”’. He did not mean…that some people are righteous, so they do not need salvation, but that some people think they are. In that condition of self-righteousness they will never come to Christ. For just as we go to the doctor only when we admit that we are ill and cannot cure ourselves, so we will go to Christ only when we admit that we are guilty sinners and cannot save ourselves.” [Stott, p. 67]
“…We are not easily brought to see that we are so totally depraved, so exceedingly vile, so utterly destitute of all good, as the Word of God describes us to be.” [The Works of John Newton VI, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1824), p. 469]
A. Gentiles are sinners (1:18-32)
“…the great and terrible passage of Scripture…” [David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Plight of God and the Power of Man, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), p. 6]
“There are three stages: (1) the knowledge of God which all might have from the character imprinted upon Creation (vv. 19-20); (2) the deliberate ignoring of this knowledge and idle speculation ending in idolatry (vv. 21-23); (3) the judicial surrender of those who provoke God by idolatry to every kind of moral degradation (vv. 24-32).” [Sanday and Headlam, p. 39]
1. The Revelation of God’s Wrath (1:18a)
“It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterwards by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge, and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain by fire from heaven, but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed in the curse of the law on every transgression, and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice, and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this Epistle, the Apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity, and groaneth and travaileth together in pain. The same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes His glory, also proves that He is the enemy of sin and the avenger of the crimes of men. So that this revelation of wrath is universal throughout the world, and none can plead ignorance of it. But, above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the Divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in His sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of His displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation, there are two revelations given from heaven, one of wrath, the other of grace.” [Haldane, p. 55-56] Cf. Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4, 5.
“…The truth of God’s wrath can no more be eliminated from Scripture without unraveling its whole texture than can the truth of His love. They are indeed the light and shade of the same quality in Him. Love has its wrath, and the intensity of the indignation against evil and falsehood, will and must be exactly proportioned to the intensity of the love for goodness and truth.” [Lyman Abbott in Gray & Adams Bible Commentary V, p. 10]
“A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Psa. 7:11).” [Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 82-83]
“In this Epistle the ‘love’ of God is referred to six times, and the ‘wrath’ of God, ten times…” [Scroggie, Salvation and Behavior, p. 18]
“Are you aware that anger is closely linked to love and that you can and usually do get angry at people you love? Love and anger are not mutually exclusive.” [Theodore Isaac Rubin, The Angry Book, (New York: Collier Books, 1969), p. 205]
“…God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry where anger is called for.” [J. I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 151]
“Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness.” [Murray I, p. 35]
“It is hard for us to understand God’s feeling toward sin. Forgiveness seems easy to us, largely because we are indifferent toward sin. But to the holy One, to whom sin is the abominable thing which he hates…nothing but Christ’s taking the penalty of sin upon him can make it possible.” [Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1907), p. 855]
“The New Testament clearly speaks of the wrath of God and the wrath of Jesus Himself; and all the teaching of Jesus presupposes a divine indignation against sin. With what possible right, then, can those who reject this vital element in Jesus’ teaching and example regard themselves as true disciples of Him? The truth is that the modern rejection of the doctrine of God’s wrath proceeds from a light view of sin which is totally at variance with the teaching of the whole New Testament and of Jesus Himself.” [J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1923), p. 131]
“…The popular theology (most of it Gnostic) that portrays perfection as the shedding of every primitive instinct, and portrays God as an impersonal sanitizing spirit, is to my mind evidence of a satanic spirit. The Lord my God is a jealous God and an angry God, as well as a loving God and a merciful God. I am unable to imagine one without the other. I am unable to commit to any messiah who doesn’t knock over tables.” [Garret Keizer, The Enigma of Anger: Essays on a Sometimes Deadly Sin, (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2002), p. 10]
2. The reason for God’s Wrath (1:18b-23)
“Those last words may be read, ‘Who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.’ They will not let the truth work upon their hearts; they will not allow it to operate in their minds; but they try to make it an excuse for their sin. Is there anybody here who is holding down the truth to prevent its entering his heart? I fear that there are some such persons, who have come here for years, and the truth has pricked them, troubled them, made them lie awake at night; but they are holding it down, like one who grasps a wild animal by the ears, and holds it down for fear it should bite him. Oh, sirs, when you are afraid of the truth, you may be well be afraid of hell! When you and the truth quarrel, you had better end your fighting soon, for you will have the worst of it if you do not yield: ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness.” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXXVIII, (1892), p. 252]
“…Ungodliness is direct disregard of God…while unrighteousness has reference to wickedness of conduct, in itself and toward other men.” [Newell, p. 17]
“The noted atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked, ‘If you meet God after you die, what will you say to Him to justify your unbelief?’
“‘I will tell Him that He did not give me enough evidence,’ Russell snapped….
“Interestingly enough, to those like Bertrand Russell who contest that there is a paucity of evidence, the Bible makes a staggering counterpoint. The Scriptures categorically state that the problem with such people is not the absence of evidence; it is, rather, the suppression of it. The message of Jesus Christ shifts the charge of insufficiency from the volume of evidence to the intent of one’s will.” [Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), p. 47, 50]
“The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” [Sir Isaac Newton in Joey Green, Philosophy on the Go, (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2007), p. 158]
“Galen was converted from being an atheist while in the process of dissecting the human body; he could not but see the finger of God in the nerves and sinews, and all the rest of the wonderful embroidery of the human frame.” [Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XVI, (1870), p. 92]
“The gnat proclaims God as really as the sun, though the sun more notably.” [The Complete Works of Thomas Manton XIV, (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), p. 444]
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.” [C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1955), p. 226]
“‘Nature,’ wrote Jonathan Edwards, ‘is God’s greatest evangelist.’” [Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1986), p. 146]
“Roger Penrose, who helped develop black hole theory, calculated the odds of a cosmic accident producing this orderly universe rather than chaos as one in a hundred billion, to the one hundred twenty-third power.” [David Gregory, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2005), p. 37]
“The New Testament maintains that unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes as by moral and psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural antipathy to the being of God In a word, the nature of God (at least the Christian God) is repugnant to man and is not the focus of desire or wish projection. Man’s desire is not that Yahweh exists, but that he doesn’t.” [R. C. Sproul, If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists? A Surprising Look at the Psychology of Atheism, (Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1978), p. 56-57]
“If God has revealed Himself so plainly through the world that He has made, why do men not see?
“Well, when men do not see something, there are two possible explanations of the fact. One is that there is nothing there to see. The other is that the men who do not see are blind.
“It is this latter explanation which the Bible gives of the failure of men to know God through the things that He has made…. ‘Their foolish heart,’ says Paul, ‘was darkened.’ Hence they did not see. The fault does not lie in nature. Men were ‘without excuse,’ Paul says, when they did not see what nature had to show. Their minds were blinded by sin. That is a hard saying, but like many other hard sayings it is true. You will never understand anything else that I may say unless you understand that we all of us, so long as we stand in our own right, and have not had our eyes mysteriously opened, are lost and blind in sin.” [J. Gresham Machen, The Christian Faith in the Modern World, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1936), p. 20-21]
“…Lord Russell has been cramming up his argument against the Goodness of God before he will consider any proofs of his existence; he will not look for God in the things that are made, because he is terrified of finding him.” [Ronald Knox, Broadcast Minds, (London: Sheed and Ward, 1932), p. 257]
“Men and women reject God because they do not like him. They may like a god of their own imagining, a god like themselves, and therefore say that they like God. But the truth is that they do not like the God who really is.” [Boice I, p. 146]
Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy at New York University, writes: “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally, hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” [Thomas Nagel, The Last Word, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 130]
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do…. For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” [Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1965), p. 270ff]
“Sin is not robbing a bank nor committing adultery, nor lying nor stealing; there are the evil results of sin. These are the sins born of sin. Sin is to reject God and suppress the truth. Sin’s way is rebellion against God and against God’s universe.” [Halverson, The Gospel for the Whole of Life, p. 45]
a. They know God (1:18b-20)
“History, Paul observed, is one big cover-up, a failure to face the truth.” [Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding Your Broken World, (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1988), p. 90]
“Cicero says that it is as impossible that an ordered world could be formed by the fortuitous concurrence of atoms, as that a book should be composed by the throwing about letters at random.” [Hodge, Systematic Theology I, p. 226]
“…Sir Isaac Newton had a perfectly scaled-down replica of the then known solar system built for his studies. A large golden ball represented the sun at the center, and the known planets revolved around it through a series of cogs, belts, and rods. It was an incredible machine. One day while Newton was studying his model, an agnostic friend stopped by for a visit. The man marveled at the machinery and asked, ‘Who made this exquisite thing?’ Without looking up, Newton replied, ‘Nobody.’ ‘Nobody?’ his friend asked. ‘That’s right,’ said Newton, ‘all of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together, and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits with perfect timing.’ The message was clear.” [Decision, Sept. 1991, p. 34 in McHenry’s Quips, Quotes & Other Notes compiled by Raymond McHenry, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), p. 58]
“The world embarrasses me, and I cannot think that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.” [Voltaire in 12,000 Religious Quotations edited and compiled by Frank S. Mead, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 189]
“…When Helen Keller was 10 years of age, her father asked Phillips Brooks to tell her about God. Gladly he did so, and the two corresponded as long as he lived. Brooks was ‘profoundly impressed with the remarks she made after the first conversation, that she had always known there was a God, but had not before known His name.’” [Andrew W. Blackwood, Expository Preaching for Today, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1953), p. 103]
“It is not of a mere external revelation of which the apostle is speaking, but of that evidence of the being and perfections of God which every man has in the constitution of his own nature, and in virtue of which he is competent to apprehend the manifestation of God in his works.” [Hodge, p. 36]
b. They reject God (1:21-23)
“The Lord is angry with the gentiles, and hath brought many judgments on them for putting the finger in nature’s eye.” [The Complete Works of Thomas Manton XIV, p. 78-79]
“Nature shows us that God is to be glorified and thanked, i.e., nature reveals Him to be great and good. But men were not content to accept the impression made on them by nature; they fell to reasoning upon it and in their reasonings…were made vain…their instinctive perception of God became confused and uncertain; their unintelligent heart, the seat of the moral consciousness, was darkened. In asserting their wisdom they became fools, and showed it conspicuously in their idolatries. They resigned the glory of the incorruptible God (i.e. the incorruptible God, all-glorious as He was, and as He was seen in nature to be), and took instead of Him some image of a corruptible, even of a vile creature.” [Denney, p. 592-593]
“Some years ago a student of comparative religions names Robert Brow published a book entitled Religion: Origins and Ideas in which he argued correctly that this popular theory of evolutionary religious development simply does not fit the facts. On the contrary, he argued, the work of anthropologists suggests that the original form of religion was monotheism and that the polytheistic or animistic religions we see today among certain ‘primitive’ people are actually a falling away from that much higher standard. Brow wrote, ‘Research suggests that the tribes are not animistic because they have continued unchanged since the dawn of history. Rather, the evidence indicates degeneration from a true knowledge of God.’” [Boice I, 172 citing Robert Brow, Religion: Origins and Ideas, (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1966, p. 11]
“If the Bible says anything about human nature, it says we are idolatrous. That doesn’t automatically end when we are born again. As born-again Christians we now have two natures: one is bent toward God and one toward idolatry…. That is why John warns, ‘Dear children, keep yourselves from idols’ (I Jn. 5:21).” [Russell Willingham, Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 48]
“Nor is it without reason that he adds, that they were not thankful, for there is no one who is not indebted to him for numberless benefits: yea, even on this account alone, because he has been pleased to reveal himself to us, he has abundantly made us indebted to him.” [Calvin’s Commentaries XIX, p. 72]
Not “thankful, attributing to luck, chance, etc., of to their own reason and skill, what they should have traced to God.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary V, p. 11]
“…Rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant.” [Os Guinness, In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Solve It, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976), p. 72]
“If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.” [Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Notes from Underground,” Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre edited by Walter Kaufmann, (New York: Meridian Books, 1956, p. 74]
“Are there not many, who eat and drink, yet never bless God for what they have; or who abound in riches, and yet out of all their wealth there never comes from their hearts any thanksgiving to God? They are, as good old Rowland Hill used to say, like the hogs under the oak, which eat the acorns that fall on the ground, but never lift up their thoughts to the tree from which the acorns come. These ungrateful people are willing to receive all the good things which God may give them, and they are greedy to get more; but the Lord never receives from them even the peppercorn rent of a word of thanksgiving. Their hearts are set upon the gifts of God, and they care nothing for the gracious Giver.” [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLII, (1896), p. 592]
“Their first sin was a not glorifying God as God; and then, not being thankful, they became vain; being vain they were darkened; from that they became fools, and so on to abominable idolatries, and at last it came to this, that God gave them up (verse 24). Such is the danger of sins of omission! One makes way for another, and from that they proceed to commission, until they are given up…” [Ralph Venning: A Treatise on Sin, (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1669), p. 250]
3. The results of God’s wrath (1:24-32)
“With ver. 24 the Apostle turns from this sin to its punishment. Because of it…God gave them up. To lose God is to lose everything; to lose the connection with Him involved in constantly glorifying and giving Him thanks is to sink into an abyss of darkness, intellectual and moral.” [Denney, p. 593]
“When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.” [Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband in The Cynic’s Lexicon collected by Jonathon Green, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984), p. 210]
“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’” [C. S. Lewis…(recalled on his death, November 22, 1963) in The Executive’s Book of Quotations edited by Julia Vitullo-Martin and J. Robert Moskin, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 126]
“The best way to convince a fool he is wrong is to let him have his way.” [Josh Billings in Gerald F. Lieberman, 3,500 Good Quotes for Speakers, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983), p. 283]
The terrifying phrase “God gave them up” simply means “…God allowed them to go their own way in order that they might at last learn from their consequent wretchedness to hate the futility of a life turned away from the truth of God. …Paul’s meaning is neither that these men fell out of the hands of God…nor that God washed His hands of them; but rather that this delivering them up was a deliberate act of judgment and mercy on the part of the God who smites in order to heal (Isa 19.22), and that throughout the time of their God-forsakenness God is still concerned with them and dealing with them.” [C. E. B. Cranfield, “A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,” International Critical Commentary, (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975) I, p. 110]
“…We can use the parable of the prodigal son to illustrate what this means and what it does not mean. There the father gives up the son who forsakes him. In other words, the father lets him go; the Father in Heaven does not hold anyone back by force either…. But the Father does not forsake or abandon when He gives up: He waits and keeps watch for the one who has run away, waiting for him to turn back from his perversity, for the Father does not give up in order to destroy, but in order to save…” [Walter Luthi, The Letter to the Romans translated by Kurt Schoenberger, (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1961), p. 24]
“Sometimes God seeks us by letting us go. Letting us go our own way and allowing us to suffer the inevitable consequences of that way in the hope that our suffering will bring us back to Him.” [Seamands, Healing Grace, p. 195]
“‘Tis dreadful for a man to be left to himself, like a ship without a rudder or pilot driven out of the winds and dashed upon a rock.” [Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin, (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1671), p. 72]
“As the best of comforts is to have assurance of the love of God, and to be sealed to the day of redemption, so the saddest of judgments is to be given up (as is said three times in Romans 1) to one’s lusts, to a hardened heart, a seared conscience, a reprobate mind.” [Venning, The Plague of Plagues, p. 189]
For further study:
Matthew Rueger, Sexual Morality in a Christless World, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2016)
“Paul’s picture of the moral state of heathendom is not a whit overwrought. Its truth is confirmed by the most celebrated and earnest-minded heathen writers. Wherever Tacitus, the greatest of Roman historians, looks, whether to heaven or upon earth, he sees nothing but black night and deeds of cruelty. Seneca says: ― ‘All is full of crime and vice; there is more committed than can be healed by punishment. A monstrous prize-contest of wickedness is going on. The desire to sin increases, and shame decreases day by day. Vice is not longer practiced secretly, but in open view. Vileness gains in every street and in every breast to such an extent that conscience has become not only rare but extinct.’” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary V, p. 12]
“There hardly could be a more fitting description of our own culture today. Bent on the pursuit of autonomous freedom — freedom from any restraint, and especially from God’s truth and moral absolutes — our culture has set itself on the course of self-destruction. Autonomous freedom! How the voices of our day cry out! I must be free to kill the child in my womb. I must be free even to kill the newborn child if I don’t think he or she measures up to my standards of ‘quality life.’ I must be free to desert my husband or wife, and abandon my children. I must be free to commit shameless acts with those of my own sex.” [“The Great Evangelical Disaster,” The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaffer IV, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), p. 315-316]
“Romans 1, especially verses 24-28, are the most frightening lines in scripture to anyone struggling in sexual sin…” [Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012), p. 17]
a. God gave them up to heterosexual sins (1:24-25)
The “idolatrous darkening of the heart begins with the entertainment of deceptive thoughts (verse 21), but it soon find expression in man’s very body.” [Patrick Henry Reardon, Touchstone Magazine, (January 25, 2006)]
“Much of what we…call straight is…crooked by God’s definition…. It is important to realize that much of what passes as normal heterosexual drive and desire is also fallen.” [Ed Hurst with Dave and Neta Jackson, Overcoming Homosexuality, (Elgin, IL: David C. Cook Publishing Company, 1987), p. 92-93]
“It is natural for the mind to believe, and for the will to love; so that, for want of true objects, they must attach themselves to false.” [Blaise Pascal, Pensees translated by W. F. Trotter, (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1908), p. 24 #81]
b. God gave them up to homosexual sins (1:26-27)
For further study
Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2015]
“The original perversion of man’s relationship to God is followed by the perversion of all human relationships…. The basic relationship among men is that of the sexes for in this way God gives every man his life. Thus the perversion of the divine relationship is especially recognizable in the perversion of the sexual relations.” [Emil Brunner, The Letter to the Romans, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959), p. 18-19]
“This is the most devastating passage in the Bible for practicing homosexuals.” [Jerry Kirk, The Homosexual Crisis in the Mainline Church, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1978), p. 58]
“The biblical case against practicing homosexuality does not rest primarily on the few explicit words of condemnation (although those are present and clear). It rests primarily on the constant, pervasive biblical teaching that sex is a gift intended only for the committed relationship of a man and a woman in lifelong covenant. Never is there a hint anywhere in Scripture that God intended sex in any other relationship.” [Ronald J. Sider, Completely Pro-Life, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), p. 114]
David L. Bartlett, a member of the faculty of the Divinity School, the University of Chicago, while arguing that the church should “acknowledge that homosexual relationships can be legitimate expressions of human love” was compelled to admit, ‘Without exception, those biblical passages which refer specifically to homosexual practices condemn those practices.” [David L. Bartlett, “A Biblical Perspective on Homosexuality,” Foundations XX, No. 2, (April-June 1977), p. 133]
“That recompense of their error which was meet. NEB renders rightly ‘The fitting wage of such perversion’.” [Bruce, p. 85]
c. God gave them up to numerous sins (1:28-31)
“And as they thought fit to cast out the acknowledgement of God, God gave the over to an outcast mind, to do the things that are unseemly.” [W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1880), p. 501]
“If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual; the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, or hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.” [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1952), p. 87]
“Man as sinner hates God, hates man, and hates himself. He would kill God if he could. He does kill his fellow man when he can. He commits spiritual suicide every day of his life…. Psychiatrists say that if you penetrate beneath the veneer of human culture, etiquette, and behavior (and remember, this is not John Calvin speaking, but just a typical modern psychiatrist) ― if you peer beyond the surface of mankind, you lift the lid of hell.” [John H. Gerstner, “The Atonement and the Purpose of God,” Our Savior God edited by James Montgomery Boice, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 107]
“All injustice — Selfishness, enthroned against all rights of others.” [Newell, p. 35]
iii. Covetousness Cf. Hebrews 13:5
“Just a little bit more.” [John D. Rockefeller, Sr., financier, on being asked how much money is enough in Robert M. Sharp, The Lore and Legends of Wall Street, (Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1989), p. 233]
“In a cemetery in England stands a grave marker with the inscription: SHE DIED FOR WANT OF THINGS. Alongside that marker is another, which reads: HE DIED TRYING TO GIVE THEM TO HER.” [Max Lucado, A Love Worth Giving, (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2002), p. 37]
“To choose one’s victim, to prepare one’s plans minutely, to stake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed…there is nothing sweeter in the world.” [Joseph Stalin in Life Legends: The Century’s Most Unforgettable Faces edited by Killian Jordan, (New York: Life Books, 1997), p. 69]
“I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.” [W. C. Fields in Oh, What an Awful Thing to Say! compiled by William Cole and Louis Phillips, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), p. i]
“It’s not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” [Gore Vidal quoted in the Montreal Gazette in The Week, (March 12, 2004), p. 19]
v. Envy Cf. Genesis 4:1-16
“While the eyes of pride look down, the eyes of envy peek up through tiny little slits suspicious that someone nearby might just be getting something that the envious one isn’t; paranoid that someone might be more capable in something that oneself.” [Randy Rowland, The Sins We Love: Embracing Brokenness, Hoping for Wholeness, (New York: Doubleday, 2000), p. 69]
“Shakespeare called envy ‘the green sickness.’ Bacon admitted ‘it has no holidays.’ Horace declared that ‘tyrants never invented a greater torment.’ Barrie said it ‘is the most corroding of the vices.’ Sheridan referred to it in his play The Critic when he wrote, ‘There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as this,’ Philip Bailey, the eloquent English poet of yesteryear, vividly described it as ‘a coat [that] comes hissing hot from hell.’
“And speaking of hell, no one has done of better job of portraying envy than Dante. In his Purgatory…the envious sit like blind beggars by a wall. Their eyelids are sewn shut. The symbolism is apt, showing the reader that it is one of the blindest sins — partly because it is unreasonable, partly because the envious person is sewed up in himself and swollen with poisonous thoughts in a dark, constricting world of almost unendurable self-imposed anguish.” [Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart And 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998), p. 181-182]
“Envy shoots at others and wounds itself.” [English Proverb in A World Treasury of Folk Wisdom compiled and edited by Reynold Feldman and Cynthia A. Voelke, (New York: HarperColins, 1992), p. 89]
vi. Murder Cf. Matthew 5:21-22
“Do you remember how envy and murder are coupled together in Scripture?… There is but a step from the one to the other.” [J. D. Jones, Commentary on Mark, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1914), 607]
“Arguing is a game that two can play at. But it is a strange game in that neither opponent ever wins.” [Benjamin Franklin in Dale Carnegie’s Scrapbook: A Treasury of the Wisdom of the Ages edited by Dorothy Carnegie, (Garden City, NY: Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., 1959), p. 134]
“Human life is thus only a perpetual illusion; men deceive and flatter each other. No one speaks of us in our presence as he does of us in our absence. Human society is founded on mutual deceit; few friendships would endure if each knew what his friend said of him in his absence, although he then spoke in sincerity and without passion.
“Man is, then, only disguise, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in himself and in regard to others. He does not wish anyone to tell him the truth; he avoids telling it to others, and all these dispositions, so removed from justice and reason, have a natural root in his heart. I set it down as a fact that if all men knew what each said of the other, there would not be four friends in the world.” [Pascal, Pensees, p. 32-33 #100]
“malignity, hatred concealed by a smile.” [Gray & Adams Bible Commentary V, p. 13]
“Gossip: When you hear something you like about someone you don’t.” [Earl Wilson in Reader’s Digest, (July 2009), p. 27]
“A hypocrite is someone who slaps you on the back in front of your face, and slaps you in the face behind your back.” [Bob Monkhouse, Just Say a Few Words: The Complete Speaker’s Handbook, (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1991), p. 130]
“I was not meant for the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here running people down is considered sport.” [Vincent W. Foster, Jr. Deputy Counsel, Clinton White House in note found after his suicide quoted in Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations: The Most Notable Quotes Since 1950 edited by James B. Simpson, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), #1047]
xii. Haters of God Cf. Romans 8:7
“This is the great Greek word hubris, which means ‘pride.’ But it is a special kind of pride. It is pride that sets a human being against God.” [Boice I, p. 189]
“Pride makes us hate our equals because they are our equals; our inferiors from the fear that they may equal us; our superiors because they are above us.” [St. John Vianney in Quotable Saints compiled by Ronda De Sola Chervin, (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publications, 1992), p. 112]
“Whenever I hear a man brag of what he is going to do, I always know he is frightened.” [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit VI, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1860), p. 364]
xvi. Inventors of evil
“We may think especially of their inventiveness in finding ever more hateful methods of hurting and destroying their fellow men” [Cranfield I, p. 132]
xvii. Disobedient to parents
“It indicates a readiness to be false to those to whom one owes the most. It implies a lack of gratitude and a contempt for family authority.” [Morris, p. 98]
“Hobbes well observes that the force of words being too weak to hold men to the performance of their covenants, there are in man’s nature but two imaginable holds to strengthen it; and these are either a fear of the consequences of breaking one’s word, or a glory or pride in appearing not to need to break it.” [Edward John Carnell, Christian Commitment: An Apologetic, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1957), p. 63]
“‘Among the murderers of Caesar,’ Seneca dryly wrote after the deed was done, ‘there were more of his friends than of his enemies.’” [Peter David, Julius Caesar, (New York: Crowell-Collier Press, 1968), p. 119]
“First, all means to conciliate; failing that, all means to crush.” [Cardinal Richelieu in The Executive’s Book of Quotations, p. 68]
d. God gave them up to ultimate degradation (1:32)
“To be guilty of such things oneself, under the impulse of passion, is bad; but it is a more malignant badness to give a cordial and disinterested approval to them in others.” [Denney, p. 594]
“They show that it is no momentary yielding to the force of temptation or of passion, but a radical perversion of conscience and reason, by the fact that they not only practice such things themselves, but in cold blood commend and applaud those who practice them.” [William Sanday, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans,” Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible VII, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), p., 269]
“If the time should ever come (for these things are conceivable nowadays) when we should succeed in demonstrating that black is white and white black, that good is evil and evil good, if we should ever be successful in invalidating the fundamental moral principles of the universe, so that sin were no longer hated and everyone took a fancy to evil, then there would still be a stronghold where evil would be hated, and that is heaven. And there would still be one who has sworn to fight the evil in the world to the last drop of his blood, and that is God, whose ‘wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.” [Luthi, p. 20-21]
B. Jews are sinners (2:1-3:8)
“The first chapter is to the Gentiles ― its purport is: You have not righteousness. The second is to the Jews ― No more have you, though you think you have.” [Matthew Arnold in Sanday and Headlam, p. xlv.]
“The transition from Gentile to Jew is conducted with much rhetorical skill, somewhat after the manner of Nathan’s parable to David. …Paul sets before himself a typical Jew. Such an one would assent cordially to all that had been said hitherto… It is now turned against himself, though for the moment the Apostle holds in suspense the direct affirmation, ‘Thou art the man.’” [Sanday and Headlam, p. 54]
“Having declared the depraved Gentile world to be guilty and inexcusable (1:20, 32), Paul now passes the same verdict on a person whom he addresses in direct speech: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else… (2:1)…. Both…have a certain knowledge of God as creator (1:20) or judge (1:32; 2:2). What, then, is the difference between them? It is that the first group do things they know to be wrong and approve of others who do them (1:32)… whereas the second group do what they know to be wrong and condemn others who do them, which is hypocritical.” [Stott, p. 80-81]
1. Certain judgment (2:1-16)
“In this…section…four principles of Divine judgment are affirmed.
“Firstly, GOD’S JUDGMENT IS TRUE (2:2)…. The judgment of the Jew was false, because he thought God would spare the descendants of Abraham as such, on account of their national and religious privileges. But these very privileges made the guilt of the Jew more evident, and his accountability more certain (2-5).
“Secondly, GOD’S JUDGMENT IS JUST (2:6)….
“Thirdly, GOD’S JUDGMENT IS IMPARTIAL (2:11)…. Jews have the Mosaic Law and their conscience; Gentiles have their conscience, but not the Mosaic Law; and each will be judged by what he has, not by what he has not….
“Fourthly, GOD’S JUDGMENT IS ACCORDING TO THE REDEEMING CHRIST (2:16). [Scroggie, Salvation and Behavior, p. 15-16]
a. The Jew will be judged for his impenitence (2:1-11)
“Turn thine eyes unto thyself, and beware thou judge not the deeds of other men. In judging of others a man laboreth in vain, often erreth, and easily sinneth; but in judging and examining himself, he always laboreth fruitfully.” [Thomas à Kempis in The Speaker’s Bible XIII, p. 47]
“…Not you do the identical actions, but your conduct is the same, i.e. you sin against light. The sin of the Jews was the same, but their sins were not.” [Denney, p. 595]
“God sees sin. He is not ignorant. God is sensible of it and concerned; for it grieves and vexes him. God is able to avenge himself when he pleases; yet he forbears and is patient. Wonder at it!” [Venning, The Plague of Plagues, p. 191]
“Note the degrees or stages…of God’s kindness… First, it is God’s ‘goodness,’ in daily preserving him, providing for him, and protecting him. Second, Divine goodness being despised by him, God’s ‘forbearance’ is exercised, — God does not smite instantly the proud ingrate, but goes on in goodness toward him, withholding wrath even as times when disease, danger, or death threaten all about him. Third, all God’s goodness and forbearance being despised, God’s ‘longsuffering’ keeps waiting, even over ‘vessels of wrath’ see 9:22).” [Newell, p. 56]
“The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart into tears.” [Watson, A Divine Cordial, p. 11]
“Paul is not teaching salvation by works here, but emphasizing the impartiality of God as between Jew and Gentile; cf. Peter’s surprised confession in Acts x.34f.: ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation (among Gentiles as well as Jews) he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.’ God showed His acceptance of Cornelius, to whom these words were spoken, by sending Peter to him with the gospel, that he and his household might be saved (Acts xi.14).” [Bruce, p. 89-90]
c. The Gentile will be judged for his disobedience (2:12-16)
“The Apostle tells us that those who have a written revelation, shall be judged by that revelation; that those who have no externally revealed law, shall be judged by the law written on the heart. That the heathen have such a law, he proves first, from the fact that ‘they do by nature the things contained in the law,’ i.e., they do under the control of their nature the things which the law prescribes; and secondly, from the operations of conscience. When it condemns, it pronounces something done, to be contrary to the moral law; and when it approves, it pronounces something to be conformed to that law. (Rom. ii.12-16.) The recognition of God, therefore, that is, of a being to whom we are responsible, is involved in the very idea of accountability. Hence every man carries in the very constitution of his being as a moral agent, the evidence of the existence of God. And as this sense of sin and responsibility is absolutely universal, so must also, according to the Bible, be the knowledge of God.” [Hodge, Systematic Theology I, p. 196]
“We are not a tabula rasa or a mindless lump of clay to be molded by others.” [David W. Smith, Men without Friends: A Guide to Developing Lasting and Meaningful Friendships, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 157]
“As William Law said, ‘The worst man knows more than the best man practices.’” [The Speaker’s Bible XI, p. 31]
“Marilyn Laszlo dedicated her life to giving the Hauna people of New Guinea the Bible in their own language. As she worked on the translation she came to the word for ‘sin.’ When Marilyn asked the people what they thought sin was, they told her, ‘It’s when you lie.’ ‘It’s when you steal.’ ‘It’s when you kill.’ ‘It’s when you take another man’s wife.’
“Marilyn was astounded they were giving her God’s standards as spelled out in the Ten Commandments. ‘God’s law is written on the heart of man,’ she later commented…” [A Story Is Told: Inspiring Stories and Illustrations from Our Daily Bread compiled by Dave Branon, (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 2010), p. 14]
“The conscience code is not an infallible guide to right and wrong. It was destroyed as an adequate guide for life by the fall of man into sin and his rebellion against God and the good: but it has never been effaced.” [Kenneth S. Kantzer, “Christian Personal Ethics,” Evangelical Affirmations edited by Kenneth S. Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), p. 225]
“There is a dangerous error…that a man is bound to do everything which his conscience telleth him is the will of God; and that every man must obey his conscience as if it were the lawgiver of the world; whereas indeed it is not ourselves but God that is our Lawgiver. Conscience is not authorized to make us any duty which God hath not made us, only to discern the law of God and call upon us to observe it. An erring conscience is not to be obeyed, but to be better informed.” [Richard Baxter in You Can Say That Again: An Anthology of Words Fitly Spoken compiled and arranged by R. E. O. White, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), p. 53]
2. False hopes (2:17-29)
“Threatened with God’s wrath, the Jew imagines he can shelter behind two ‘shields’ ― the law (17-24) and circumcision (25-29). Paul quickly disillusions him.” [Hunter, p. 37]
a. The Law cannot help you unless you have the obedience it demands (2:17-24)
“After having exalted the advantages of the Jews above the Gentiles with as much force as they could have done themselves, Paul unveils their hypocrisy, and exhibits the vices which were concealed under so fair an exterior.” [Haldane, p. 96-97]
b. Circumcision cannot help you unless you have the purity it depicts (2:25-29)
“Paul goes on to declare that Jewish circumcision, which was the mark of that nation’s separation to God, was good only if one were thus really separated to God, but that if not, the Jew was really an uncircumcised one…” [Newell, p. 69]
“The argument of the foregoing verses assumes what is stated here, and what no one will dispute, that what constitutes the Jew in the true sense of the term, and gives the name of Jew its proper content and dignity, is not anything outward and visible, but something inward and spiritual. And the same remark applies to circumcision itself…. Heart circumcision is an idea already familiar to the O.T. From the Book of Deuteronomy (x.16, for the meaning comp. xxx.6) it passed to the prophetic writings: Jer. iv.4. The contrary expression ― uncircumcised in heart and in flesh ― is also found: Jer. ix.26; Ez. xliv.7…. ‘Heart circumcision’ without any qualifying words, expresses completely that contrast to circumcision in the flesh, which is in Paul’s mind…the idea that heart circumcision, which alone deserves the name of circumcision, is achieved by the Spirit of God, not by the written law…. The very conclusion to which Paul wishes to lead is that the New Covenant is as necessary for the Jew as for the Gentile.” [Denney, p. 601-602]
3. Foolish arguments (3:1-8)
“If the qualifications which God requires are thus inward and spiritual, an objector may urge, What becomes of the privileged position of the Jew, his descent from Abraham, and the like? What does he gain by his circumcision? He does gain much on all sides. The first gain is that to the Jews were committed the prophecies of the Messiah….
“You say, But the Jews by their unbelief have forfeited their share in those prophecies. And I admit that some Jews have rejected Christianity, in which they are fulfilled. What then? The promises of God do not depend on man. He will keep His word, whatever man may do. To suggest otherwise were blasphemy. Nay, God must be seen to be true, though all mankind are convicted of falsehood. Just as in Psalm 51 the Psalmist confessed that the only effect of his own sin will be that…God will be ‘declared righteous’ in His sayings [the promises just mentioned], and gain His case when it is brought to trial.
“A new objection arises. If our unrighteousness is only a foil to set off the righteousness of God would not God be unjust who punishes men for sin? (Speaking of God as if He were man can hardly be avoided.) That too were blasphemy to think! If any such objection were sound, God could not judge the world. But we know that He will judge it. Therefore the reasoning must be fallacious.
“So the objector. And I know that this charge of saying ‘Let us do evil that good may come’ is brought with slanderous exaggeration against me ― as if the stress which I lay on faith compared with works meant, Never mind what your actions are, provided only that the end you have in view is right.
“All I will say is that the judgment which these sophistical reasoners will receive is richly deserved.” [Sanday and Headlam, p. 68-69] Cf. Romans 9-11
C. All are sinners (3:9-20)
“The apostle has drawn in two great pictures the reign of God’s wrath ― (1) over the Gentile world (chap. I); (2) over the Jewish people (chap. ii); and by way of appendix he has added a picture to the second picture, intended to sweep away the objections which, from the ordinary Jewish point of view, seemed opposed to the statement that this elect people could possibly become, notwithstanding their unbelief, the object of divine animadversion. Now, to the judgment which follows from the preceding context with respect to the whole of mankind, he affixes the seal of Scripture sanction, without which he regards no proof as finally valid.” [Godet, p. 139]
“…If the words which the apostle uses, do not most fully and determinately signify an universality, no words ever used in the Bible are sufficient to do it. I might challenge any man to produce any one paragraph in the Scripture, from the beginning to the end, where there is such a repetition and accumulation of terms, so strongly, and emphatically, and carefully, to express the most perfect and absolute universality; or any place to be compared to it. What instance is there in the Scripture, or indeed in any other writing, when the meaning is only the much greater part, where this meaning is signified in such a manner, They are all, — They are all, — They are all — together, — every one, — all the world; joined to multiplied negative terms, to show the universality to be without exception; saying, There is no flesh, — there is none, — there is none, — there is none, — there is none, four times over; besides the addition of No, not one, — no, not one,— once and again!” [The Works of Jonathan Edwards I, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1834), p. 194]
“…In the magazine section of the Los Angeles Times early one Sunday morning….my eye fell on a picture of a venerable old professor, Dr. Cyril E. J. Joad, and the dramatic story of the change that had taken place in his life.
“One of the world’s greatest philosophers, Dr. Joad was for years head of the Philosophy Department at the University of London. He and his colleagues — Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, H. G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw — had probably done more to undermine the faith of the collegiate world of the last generation than any other group.
“Dr. Joad believed that Jesus was only a man and that God was a part of the universe. Should the universe be destroyed, he taught, God would also be destroyed. He believed that there is no such thing as sin and that man was destined for utopia.
“The article described the many years he had been antagonistic toward Christianity and how he denied the existence of sin. However, he said that two world wars and the imminence of another had conclusively demonstrated to him that man was indeed sinful. Now he believed that the only explanation for sin was found in the Bible and the only solution for sin was the cross of Jesus Christ. Before his death, Dr. Joad became a zealous follower of Christ. I have in my library one of his last books entitled The Recovery of Belief.” [Bill Bright, A Man Without Equal: Jesus, the Man Who Changed the World, (Arrowhead Springs, CA: NewLife2000, 1992), p. 35-36]