This section of Romans reminds us of the power of God to save. Paul opens this section as follows:

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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

This first question that comes to mind is why would Paul have a reason to be ashamed of the gospel? At this time, and even today, the gospel appears to be "folly and weakness," something that doesn't conform to the knowledge of this world (1). Wesley here also points out that Rome was the center of the empire and Roman thought. There is no need to be ashamed of it, because Paul knows how powerful God is and salvation through Jesus: for Jews and the Greeks. Again, he's bridging the gap between the two groups in Rome.

What should be revealed by this power? How is it revealed from the gospel? "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." That is, faith is "both in the beginning and progress of Christian life. It is not from faith to works, as if faith put us into a justified state, and then works kept us in it; but it is all along from faith to faith; it is faith pressing forward, and gaining the victory over unbelief" (2).

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. ... For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.*

We all have a knowledge or a hint to God. It is written throughout our very beings and our world. Paul points it out that that everything that has been made is a picture of God's eternal power and divine nature. How did man lose this focus? This is not the first time we hear of people losing their sight of the true God. In Exodus, we find a group of Israelites, led by Moses, who turned to worship of a golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sanai. Later, we find many instances where the Israelites lose focus and worship Baal, their good fortunes and successes, etc. Here Paul is talking about men who have lost this focus and vision of God's mighty power in creation, just as had happened in the past. "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. ... For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:16-32 NASB)

This section is always hard for me to read, and even harder for me to blog here about. In it, Paul discusses sins that man finds himself in, showing us that we need the power of salvation in the gospel through Christ. What's listed includes lust, men and women "abandoning the natural function," greed, wickedness, murder, gossip, slanders, etc. After listing these, Paul then condemns us all: "although they know the ordinance of God, ... those who practice such things are worthy of death."

Ending this post here would be leaving on a very depressing tone. Even though it's the end of the passage for today, there is more of the story! We usually end a good Friday service with the story of Jesus' death on the cross, but knowing that salvation came three days later when He rose from the dead and left the tomb. Paul is setting us up here in a similar fashion: he opens showing that we're all sinners, but the good news is the power of God through faith that can wash our sins and save us.

What sins are weighing on your heart? Are they in this list? It's time to bring them up and give them over in faith; knowing that the gospel is not foolishness, but an awesome and saving power through Christ.

* in this section, I reordered two verses to keep the topics together. They appear in their correct ordering below.

Full text

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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of 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 over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:16-32 NASB)

Resources

  1. Wesley, John. John Wesley's Notes on the Bible. Public Domain.
  2. Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Public Domain.