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Archive for November 26th, 2007

Paul introduces his letter to the Romans by stating his desire to preach the Gospel to them, “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. He places his absolute confidence in it as being “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” on the grounds that “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”, and then he commences in chapter 1 and verse 18 to open up and expound the truths of this very Gospel. 

 

But where does he start? Where would you start? Most churches today would start with the love of God or the kindness of God to humanity. Or perhaps by offering people something they are missing in their lives, something to help them feel fulfilled. Not so Paul. He doesn’t even mention the love of God until chapter 5, and that but in passing. So where does Paul start? …Where? At the beginning! 

 

But what is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Take a look at Mark 1:1-3 which tells us…. 

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  

 

The Gospel begins with a voice “crying in the wilderness”, preparing the way for Christ. That’s the beginning of the Gospel. But what does that voice cry? 

 

In Romans 1:18-20 the voice which prepares the way for Christ has the following declaration: 

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it into them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” 

One Beginning: The Wrath of God Revealed

 

Yes, that’s where the Gospel of God begins – with a declaration of the fact that God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It begins with a voice which prepares the way of the Lord by telling men what they are by nature – sinners – and that God’s wrath is revealed against that sin.

 

This is where the Gospel must begin. For the Gospel reveals Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners, it is the power of God unto salvation, and if so, the way to Christ must be prepared by seeking out sinners in need of salvation, by revealing to them their state before God and their need of the Saviour. For who needs salvation but those who are lost, those who are dead, those to whom God has sounded an alarm…. an alarm that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men?

 

Most of religion today is seeking to convince people to become Christians, to show them a ‘better way’. But those sent of God to preach the Gospel aren’t sent to ‘twist people’s arms’ or to educate them about religion through ‘courses’, but to seek out the lost, to preach a message of salvation to them, to find those who are desperate, hungry for the truth, those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come – those who know that death and eternity awaits them – those who need to hear of the Saviour and the Gospel of their salvation. Because until God shows us our need of salvation the message of a Saviour is meaningless. Sinners first need to hear that they are sinners!

 

For Jesus said “…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 15:24.

 

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Mark 2:17.

Yes, the alarm needs to be sounded… and to this end, Paul, as it were, cries out in Romans from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20, and sounds forth an alarm, in order to prove all men to be under sin… and to warn of its eternal consequence (Romans 2:8-9).

 

Two Classes of Men

In these chapters Paul divides mankind into two classes of men, into which all men fall, either into the one class or into the other. They are either Jews or they are Gentiles. They are religious, or they are irreligious. They may be church-goers, or they may be party-goers. They may be devout, or an aimless lout. But whether they have the scriptures like the Jews of old and profess to follow God, or whether they be in the world, with no thought for God, living for themselves and for selfish gain or pleasure, Paul in this epistle shows that all are alike in this respect: all are dead in sin. Outside of Christ, whether religious or irreligious, Jew or Gentile, there is no difference – all have sinned, all are guilty before God, all stand condemned before Him, all have turned their backs on their Maker, all in their ungodliness and unrighteousness have rejected the revelation of truth regarding God, so all are without excuse.

 

Three Revelations of Light

Why are all without excuse? Because all have had truth regarding God revealed to them in one way or another – whether they comprehend it or not. From Romans 1:20 to Romans 3:9 God the Holy Spirit points us to three clear revelations of light regarding the truth which God has made to man, to which mankind is accountable. Light which leaves men without excuse.

 

There is light in the Creation, light in the Conscience and light in the Scriptures.

 

Firstly, there is light in Creation. We read “… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” Romans 1:19-20.

 

Secondly, there is light in the Conscience. Romans 2:14-15 tells us “…when the Gentiles, which hath not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”.

 

Both these revelations of light regarding God are made to all men, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious. All men have the witness of the creation, of the world around them, to the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator. And all men by nature have a conscience which bears witness to the truth, by which they have some understanding of right and wrong. Yet all men, by nature, look not upon these things. They ignore the light outside them, and they ignore the light within them, being blinded to both by the depths of their sin and depravity. This depravity is vividly described in the rest of chapter 1 which makes for sober reading regarding the state of man in sin – the state of you and me. Yet how contemporary is the picture painted therein.

 

But there is a third revelation of light which Paul points to and this is that found in the Scriptures. Romans 3:1-2 tells us “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” So the Jews had this advantage over the Gentiles of possessing the scriptures, yet they too were under sin. Indeed because of this advantage they, like many who are religious today, so easily fell into the trap of thinking themselves better than others, of having more light, and judging others, yet in reality when that light remained outward, and never truly penetrated their hearts, they remained just as blind and just as sinful (See Romans 2:17-29). “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly…. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” And the law which God gave the Jews made them no better – no, it made things worse, simply condemning them, just as it does us, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” Romans 3:19.

 

So God has revealed light about Himself in the Heavens, in the Heart and in the Holy Bible. Yet who sees it? Who comprehends it? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

 

No wonder then that all men are without excuse before God. No wonder then that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who resist (hold) the truth in unrighteousness. Why? Because despite three revelations of light to mankind regarding the truth, man still turns away from the truth, from the light and from God.

 

Yes, despite these three revelations of light and despite the fact that today we have the benefit of the full written revelation of the Gospel in the scriptures, nevertheless man’s heart is so sinful, so darkened by nature, so hard that none of this light penetrates. It just washes over us! We may look, we may listen, we may read, yet all the while we see and hear nothing. Man by nature cannot, and he will not hearken. Mankind is without understanding and by nature no man seeks after God. There is no neutral response to God – we have all gone out of the way. As Romans 3:9-12 tells us:

 

“… for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.”

An Inward Revelation

No, man in the depth of his sin simply cannot and will not come unto God. Not unless, and not until, God the Spirit opens the heart and shines the light in! Not until God reveals the truth to us, not only outwardly, but inwardly. Until then we remain in darkness. You may hear the words of a preacher, or read the words on a page, but have you heard the voice of the Spirit of God sounding an alarm in your heart? Has He spoken to you inwardly? Have these things been revealed to you?

 

For when God, through the preaching of His Gospel, opens the ears to hear and opens the eyes to see, when God the Spirit gives us light to see things as they really are, then we come to see just what we are before God by nature – just how bad we are! How vile we are, how unrighteous we are – and how “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. And then, and not until then, we will look for, and cry out for, mercy.

 

But what an answer God has for needy sinners in the Gospel! When shown our sin, when shown our state, when the alarm has been sounded and the way prepared, then we are brought to hear of the Saviour of sinners, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and just what He did upon the cross to save sinners. Then we are brought to the “But now” of Romans 3:21 and to the glorious revelation in the Gospel of the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But have you been brought there? Have you indeed heard the beginning of the Gospel? Is this where the gospel you heard began? Have you heard that voice which prepares the way of the Lord?

 

Have you been shown that you’re a sinner in need of salvation… or in your wisdom have you become a fool (Romans 1:22)…? 

(Read this in Portuguese)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“Grounded and Settled” Colossians 1:23

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Who is This?” Matthew 21:10

“The Fool… And The Heart That Says, There Is No God” Psalm 14:1

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