Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Book of Romans: Chapter 1 Part 2 - Men are without excuse!

by Fraser Gordon
 

Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

As we saw in the first study, this is something that God was revealing to humanity through the life of the Lord Jesus Christ who gave a full expression of who the Father was. He was righteous, and this righteous One became sin for us and we are made the righteousness of God in Him. If you recall, we looked at the whole topic of righteousness by faith and an example in the life of Martin Luther. Now we are going to start from verse 18 where Paul has just given the good news about the gospel. He says “this righteousness is revealed from heaven” and you would expect him to go on into the good things that God has planned. However, he pretty much spends this teaching from verse 18 right through to chapter 3: verse 21; giving the bad news first; and unless you are really willing to hear the bad news, you are not likely to accept and receive the good news. Paul spends a lot of time making it clear that all men have sinned so that no one has an excuse before God, whether Jew or Greek or the heathen; bringing this fact out so that we may know and realize our condition before God.

Who suppresses the truth? And what is the result?

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

So instantly we are confronted with this topic “the wrath of God”. Perhaps we could liken God's character as like an “archway”. On the one side of the archway you have His love and mercy and on the other side of the archway you have His righteousness, which brings His wrath into focus. The archway has to remain intact. You have these sides of God's nature and His character. The wrath of God is not a popular topic. It is not something that people like to talk about, but God's wrath is His determined active opposition to sin. It is a part of His holy, righteous nature. If He loves righteousness then He hates wickedness and evil. His righteousness demands that He judges sin.

We have this just naturally in our own courtrooms. Let's say you have a judge and someone comes up before him who is a murderer and a molester. How would you feel if the judge acted with love and cuddles towards someone like that? You would say, well he is not a righteous judge. He is not fit to be a judge. However, there are lots of people in the world that only like one aspect of God. That He ‘loves’, He is ‘merciful’, that He is kind. But the other side of his nature is that He is righteous, He is holy, and that righteousness and holiness require Him to judge sin. So, it's not a popular topic but you have to realize that God is not someone who has an anger problem, flies off the deep end, and has temper tantrums. He is not like the Greek gods Paul was writing to the Roman church about; in their culture they had lots of deities, and the people themselves were very superstitious and were frightened of offending their gods. . If they didn't do sacrifices in the right way, then they would be afraid that the wrath of god would come down on their community and households. A lot of the movies which are portrayed by Hollywood today are depicting these Greek so called gods. When they are offended, down comes wrath upon the offenders. There is this perception that God is like that. Even among churches and Christian groups, such as a lot of the seeker groups, and the ‘emerging church movement’, they don't talk about sin. They don't talk about judgment. They don't talk about the wrath of God. They don't talk about hell. All of these things are now becoming debatable, as to whether or not they are actually in scripture, because people want to talk about the other side of the archway which is that God is all love, God is all mercy. A lot of their teaching is “come to this God of love, He will give you joy, He will give you peace, He will give you happiness; but the bible tells of Sodom and Gomorrah that their wickedness reached the level where God actually judged those communities, and fire and brimstone came down and destroyed all the inhabitants of those cities So when people are afraid of talking about the fact that God is a God of wrath and of judgment, they quite often talk about God as someone who is there with a big stick just waiting to hammer you down.

Does the New Testament talk much about the wrath of God?

What does the New Testament have to say about God? Do you think the New Testament talks about the wrath of God? Revelation is full of it. I started jotting down a few scriptures and I was quite surprised. I will give a few now.

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

This is John the Baptist, who Jesus said was the greatest of all men born of women. He was talking to the Pharisees of His day. “You brood of vipers who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” They were coming to him and he responded to them in this way!

Matthew 23:33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Here Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, giving great warnings of the wrath and condemnation to come!

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

These are very strong words. It means that for all those who do not actually receive the Son's life, the wrath of God sits upon them. You are either in or you are out. You are either righteous or you are condemned. This book of Romans is almost like a court book. It deals with many topics like this. It is one or the other. No middle ground. You are either justified or you are condemned. You are either righteous or you are unrighteous.

Ephesians 5:3-7 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; (4) neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (5) For this you know, [13] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (6) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (7) Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Again it is talking about the wrath of God coming upon a people.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, (10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

This talks about Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

So when we are talking about wrath to come this is God’s end time wrath. It is ‘the time of Jacob's trouble’ where for a period in the last days, the wrath of God is poured out on an unbelieving and rejecting world. They have rejected God's message. They have rejected His servants and the eternal wrath of God is poured out during that time. That is why many believe that the church may not be here, because whenever God's wrath was poured out in the past the believers were removed. When the Lord Jesus died on the cross, He was made sin for us and the wrath of God fell on Him instead of us. He died for us, the unrighteous, and we receive the righteousness He has given to us. And darkness, for a period of time, covered the earth. And he was judged. God didn't hold back. He made His Son sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

But then we read in Romans why the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It is because they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This wrath is actually present all around us today, especially in our western culture. Mankind does not want to know anything about God, and refuses to acknowledge Him. Verses 19 and 20 show why this wrath is around us today.

Why wrath?

Romans 1:19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

The first thing Paul talks about is the fact that there is something which is manifested in man that declares who God is but men suppress this. What do you think it is? What do you think verse 19 is possibly talking about? We read “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them because God has shown it to them”. The Creation itself declares that it must have had a creator.

Romans 2:14-15 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, (15) who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

Then there is the conscience! God has placed within a man is a moral character and a moral conscience. And this conscience, like it says, is either accusing or excusing us. When we make a judgment on a matter, it is our conscience which is passing judgment on moral issues whether they are right or wrong. All the missionaries will tell you that it doesn't matter where you go in the world; all men have this moral conscience. Where does it come from? It comes from God. It is something outside us which actually distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. The animal kingdom just runs off instinct. They are created in such a way that they just do what they do and follow their instinct. My dog does not have a conscience; if I put a steak near the edge of the bench then it is natural for him to wrap his lips around it; but for me that's wrong. So, if I give his back end a little tap, next time he goes to do it, he thinks, this is completely natural for me to do this, but last time I did it something awful happened at the back end, shall I do it or shall I not! So you can have what we would call a learned behavior in an animal, but we have something within us from God which is our moral conscience. Culturally we can learn things that are right and wrong, but morally we know within our conscience that things like lying, stealing is wrong. Some of the Papua New Guinea cultures are esteemed to be treacherous. Lying has been a big part of their culture. That is why in his book by Don Richardson, ‘Peace Child’, addresses this factor. Missionaries found that when the people were told about the things of The Lord they made Judas become the hero of the story rather than the villain because he was the master of treachery!

Without excuse...

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

So God is seen through creation Paul says. He talks about invisible attributes. What do you think these are? When you look at creation what are God's invisible attributes? They are design, power, beauty, order, and creativity. He talks about things in creation that you can see. He also talks about eternal power. When you go outside at night and you look up at the night sky; especially away from the city, you can’t help feeling awestruck at the wonder of God’s creation. When you look up there are just thousands and thousands of stars all packed together and they make up the galaxy. But there are actually billions of galaxies that fill the universe. When we see some of the videos now that are put out about the universe showing the colors and vastness of it, we are amazed. But God created the heavens as a declaration of His glory.

The bible talks about His eternal power. You have to think about the relationship between the earth, sun and moon. Do we know - off hand how far the earth is from the sun? It is about 93 million miles. The scientists will tell you that that is the exact distance that is needed for life to occur. If it was any closer or further away we would either burn or freeze. What is the earths’ tilt? It is 23 degrees. From the tilt we get our seasons. So it is His eternal power that holds everything in place, even the tilt because the earth actually needs the seasons. The ground needs rest, plants need rest, and it is all specifically designed and held there by God Himself. The piece that I was reading stated that the earths’ crust is so specific in its size in relation to the moons’ size that you have the perfect amount of gravity pull. The perfect amount of water is available on earth so that the pull is not so strong that the water would cover the continents, but everything is designed for life to exist. Water is incredibly important. It was just recently that scientists have possibly found another star that could, maybe, retain water. We know that without water there is no life. So everything is specifically designed and ordered. Through creation His invisible attributes are clearly seen by His eternal power. Even in creation we talk about design. Think about when He created the animal kingdom; He said that it was good, and He was really pleased. Everything is run by instinct. Bats and birds have incredible navigational systems! Who put those there? They didn't go to navigational school. They didn't go and learn these things, it is their natural instinct, and it is in their DNA. Take Salmon, how do they find their way back to the very place where they were born. Seagulls-[ I was reading about them the other day. If ever you are out fishing, and you see a seagull and it needs water to survive. So what do they do? They actually drink a little bit of seawater but they have an inbuilt filter which separates the salt from the water and the salt comes out as teardrop from their eye. The filter takes the salt out of the water so that even though they may be way out at sea they have still got enough water... incredible! Who designed that? Who taught a spider how to spin a web? It didn't go to spinning school. Bees and the beehive are also absolutely unbelievable. They do a little dance-which shows other bees where the food source is. The dance changes all the time; according to the direction of the sun, and where the food source is. The way the hive works is unbelievable. Bees have all got specific jobs; there are no stop work meetings or strikes and demands for more wages for the workers'. They are incredible. It is known that the beehive has got to maintain a certain temperature all the time. If it is really hot in the day and cold at night they have bees that suck air in and blow air out, like an air conditioning system. They maintain a certain temperature so that honey can be produced. When you start looking at creation the design is phenomenal!

When God saw creation He said that it was good. When He made man He said it was very good. When you think of our complexity, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. DNA is such a complex computer system. There are codes, which are all a mathematical in design. I read that the brain can take in more than a million messages simultaneously, per second. I find that incredibly hard to believe. It is the same with the eye which is auto focusing; and they say that with the eye you have a million little things going back and a million coming out for there to be vision. They have all got to connect to their correct corresponding connection. This is why evolutionists struggle with the eye so much, because it just can't evolve. Our bodies are incredibly complex. For example, our skin has the ability to let water out and not in. Imagine if our skin let water in, we would drown in the shower!

Paul says next that “God is seen through His eternal power”. Everything, somehow, is held together. Then Romans uses the word Godhead. Many people struggle Godhead. We have the scriptures and so we know that there is unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and they work as one. When you look at creation Paul is saying “there is something you can know about the Godhead”. What is it in creation that talks about or goes along with this thought? There is an example which comes to mind, water – how you can have water, ice and steam. Same properties but all are equal. Paul then goes on to say “they are without excuse”. Paul is saying here is that there is enough evidence in creation, enough in man's moral conscience for them to know that God exists. Creation doesn't give you the whole package, but it gives you enough so that men are without excuse and all cultures of the world should know that there is a Creator. It doesn't give you the whole picture of salvation but enough to enable us to know that there is a God or someone higher. This raises the question, which is quite often asked, what about the heathen who haven't heard? What Paul is saying here is “all men are without excuse”. There is enough revealed; there is enough light and there is enough revelation given for people to actually know that there is a God, that there is someone higher. On the day that all men stand before God the Father they will be judged according to the light and revelation that they have received. So, as I said before, missionaries say that all people groups of the world have found that they have a sense of the moral conscience. They have a sense of worship of something, or some higher being. Western culture probably has a struggle now with the thought of a higher being because humanism has so pervaded our culture that we think how can there be anything higher than myself. That is today's thought, that we have become the higher being.

So this wrath that Paul talks about is revealed to those that actually suppress God's revelation. In verse 18 it states that they actually “push it down” they push down the truth about the moral conscience. They throw a wet blanket over it. They suppress the truth about creation. When you look at a painting, you know there is a painter, and that there is a design behind it. No one just threw cans of paint in the air and out came a picture. Probably evolution would have to be the greatest lie or hoax that has come about as regards the suppression of God as designer that something can come out of nothing. From their perspective it takes a lot more faith to believe in nothing, but it’s actually an easy belief, because as soon as you take away the fact that there is a higher being or creator there is no accountability. They love evolution because there is no cost to you as a person whatsoever. You are not accountable to anyone for that belief. You can hold it right to the end and you are still not accountable. However, if you say that there is a Creator He may require something from you. There may be a day when you have to give a full account of your life before Him.

Conclusion

I want to finish this morning with a poem that I read:

Earth's crammed with heaven
And every common bush aflame with God
But only those that see
Take off their shoes
The rest sit round and pluck berries.


I thought that that is really true. When you look around everything is crammed with heaven and design. Every common bush is aflame with God. When you look at creation it is everywhere, but only those that see God in all this take their shoes off. The rest just take from creation.

I remember when I first got saved and was working in the forestry. The very next day, I saw a tree being dropped. I remember looking at those trees and thinking “I just don't want to cut them down” because for the first time they actually had meaning to me, I saw for the first time even the simple things of creation differently. And so I really like that little poem where it says that “every bush is aflame with God”

When we come back next time we will talk about this “wrath that is revealed from heaven. It is the wrath of abandonment. It is a giving over. And it is becoming all too real in Western society!