Think of the Epistle to the Romans as a long conversation Paul is having with believers in Rome. (Bloggers know the feeling of having conversations with unseen-but-hope-for readers.)
Paul is apparently in Corinth on the last of his three missionary journeys and soon to head to Jerusalem where he will be arrested. He will end up in Rome for trial before Caesar. In this letter, he keeps talking about wanting to come to Rome. If he only knew!
The first 17 verses of chapter one are introductory. Paul has never been to Rome and never met most of the people who will be reading this letter. He’s heard plenty about them, however, all good. Nevertheless, he is well aware of the challenge facing them living in the citadel of corruption and depravity. Some are Jewish and facing issues Paul knew from personal experience, namely, what role the promises of God now plays in their destiny and that of their people.
Whether Gentile or Jew, they all need grounding in the faith and a proper understanding of the gospel. Thus he writes this letter.
Pau speaks of
–the gospel of God (the source of this good news) 1:1. See John 3:16.
–the gospel of His Son (the subject of this good news) 1:9. See I Cor. 15:1ff.
–the gospel of salvation (the object of this good news) 1:16. See I Tim 1:15.
–the gospel this is his own (the message of Christ filtered through Paul’s own experience and testimony) 2:16. This is the ultimate aim, for each of us to pass along the gospel message in the manner the Holy Spirit has taught us. That’s why a dozen preacher/teachers could do expositions of Romans and no two would sound alike. It’s not a problem, it’s the genius of God’s plan.
Then, after the introduction, Paul moves into a fuller presentation of the gospel and various issues surrounding it.
Romans 1:18-32 – MAN HAS NO ONE TO BLAME FOR HIS TROUBLES BUT HIMSELF
Theme: Humanity’s troubles stem from his rejecting God. (That’s the root cause.)
Before presenting the “good news” (the gospel), the bad news has to be dealt with.
1) Mankind has rejected the knowledge of God. 1:18-21
2) Mankind has rejected the worship of God. 1:22-25
3) Mankind has rejected the plan of God. 1:26-32
As a result of rejecting the Lord, man has made some very bad choices, which in turn have brought the wrath of God upon him.
1) He exchanged God for idols. 1:23
2) He exchanged Truth for a lie. 1:25
3) He exchanged the Natural for the unnatural. 1:26
What a shame. Mankind could have had God, Truth, and the natural order of Creation. By rejecting God, he has chosen the absurdity of idols, the illusion of lies, and the illness of the unnatural.
Look around the community where you live and see if this doesn’t describe much of what you see.
Hundreds of years earlier, God said: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters and they have hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
What an exchange! Whatever were we thinking! Stay with the Jeremiah 2:13 analysis for a moment. Remember that a cistern was an underground tank, dug out and lined with clay in order to store rainwater. At best, the water would be stagnant; at worst, it could become polluted. But God says His people have not swapped Him–the fountain of living, running, fresh water–for stagnant water. It’s worse than that. They have turned their backs on Him and chosen dry holes in the ground!
The choice is never between God and other gods. There are no other gods. The choice is between the living God and a dry hole in the ground.
Romans chapter 2 – DON’T GET SELF-RIGHTEOUS HERE, RELIGIOUS CROWD!
It’s so easy to criticize and condemn those who blatantly reject God and plunge headlong into lifestyles of debauchery. But hold on–we who are “God’s frozen chosen” are not off the hook.