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June Lessons

 

June 5, 2016 — Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16 & 2:3

The Day Of The Lord

 

June 12, 2016 — Zephaniah 3:1-8

That Day Is Coming

 

June 19, 2016 — 3:9-14 & 20

A Day of Joy for the Remnant

 

June 26, 2016 — Romans 1:16-32

 

Ignoring God’s Plain Truth

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

June 26

Ignoring God’s Plain Truth

 

 

Devotional Reading:Psalm 52

 

Background Scripture:Romans 1:18-32

 

Romans 1:18-32

 

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

 

19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 

20 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:

 

21 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.

 

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

 

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

 

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

 

25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

 

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

 

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

 

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

 

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

 

30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

 

31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

 

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

 

Key Verse

 

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. —Romans 1:20

 

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. List some ways that people change the truth of God into lies.

 

2. Explain how God’s general revelation makes humans morally responsible to Him.

 

3. Identify in his or her life one besetting sin and the worldly lie behind it and make a plan for change.

 

 

Introduction

 

 A. Accept No Substitutes

 

The title above is a classic slogan in advertising. Many businesses try to persuade us that their products are original, genuine, the best. Of course, in some cases we cannot tell the difference between the so-called genuine item and a substitute. We occasionally may conclude that the substitute offers better value. But in many instances, we avoid substitutes and insist on “the real thing.”

 

Today’s text is about life’s most important choice regarding the genuine and substitutes. Our text insists that the one, true God is clearly revealed to all people. None can rightly say that they have no knowledge of the true God.

 

Tragically, however, we see how people ignore the true God and accept substitutes. That choice is tragic because it leads to the degradation and disharmony that ruin lives. More seriously, it also leads to eternal punishment.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Our lesson text comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans, probably written from the city of Corinth during his third missionary journey, in about AD 58. The church in Rome had been planted by others many years before, and Paul sought the Roman Christians’ support as he planned to travel to Spain (Romans 15:23-28).

 

The nature of the church in Rome was influenced by an edict, issued by Emperor Claudius in about AD 49, that had forced Jews living in the city to leave (Acts 18:2). The Roman historian Suetonius tells us that Claudius “banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus,” the word Chrestus likely referring to Christ. This experience probably fostered a certain division within the Roman church between Gentile and Jewish believers, with each group contending that it had better claim on salvation in Christ than did the other (compare Romans 11:13-24, lesson 12).

 

The expulsion of Jews from Rome resulted in Gentile Christians being in the majority in the church there, if they had not been the majority already (Romans 1:5, 6, 13). Their majority status seems to have continued even after the death of Claudius in AD 54 allowed Jews to return to the imperial city (compare Acts 18:2 with Romans 16:3-5a). Much of Paul’s letter is therefore directed specifically to the Gentile believers there (11:13).

 

I. Willfully Ignorant

 

                                                               (Romans 1:18-20)

 

 

 

A. Revealed Wrath (v. 18)

 

18a. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

 

Paul addresses the division noted in the Lesson Background by noting that all people, Gentile and Jew alike, are guilty of sin (compare Romans 3:23). The apostle’s broad statement in the verse before us allows no exceptions. There is no division between Gentile and Jew in this regard!

 

Unlike the inconsistent anger that humans exhibit, the wrath of God is utterly consistent. The righteous God is angry only with what violates His purpose. His wrath ultimately destroys completely, but it destroys only that which destroys the good. So, Paul says, God’s wrath is set against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.

 

The word ungodliness is commonly used to refer to inappropriate, dishonorable behavior toward the deity. The word unrighteousness is used to refer to behavior that violates standards of justice and goodness. The first suggests rebellion against God; the second, disregard for other people. God’s wrath stands against people in general because people generally have actively destroyed God’s good purpose (compare Colossians 3:5, 6).

 

18b. Who hold the truth in unrighteousness.

 

Are people even aware of what they have done? Taking the word hold in the sense of “withhold,” the answer is yes. In their pursuit of things that violate justice and goodness, people censor the truth that God reveals. Ignorance of God’s truth is willful ignorance. Humans live not in ignorance but in denial.

 

How to Say It

 

Claudius Claw-dee-us.

 

Corinth Kor-inth.

 

Suetonius Soo-toe-nee-us.

 

B. Revealed Glory (vv. 19, 20)

 

19. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 

God has made truth about himself clear to all people. It exists in or among us, well within the reach of all. God has revealed it; clever people did not discover it in their cleverness or good people in their goodness (compare Acts 14:17).

 

20. 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.

 

The revealed truth concerns God himself, the one who cannot be seen. He reveals himself in what can be seen: the world that He created (compare Psalm 19:1). His creation demonstrates his eternal power: only one who exists without beginning could cause the beginning of the universe. His creation demonstrates His Godhead, which is His very nature as God. Only a God greater than all things can be the Creator of all things.

 

Paul’s argument is simple and devastating: the very fact that the world exists tells us that we owe ourselves to the God who made us. To live as if we were in charge instead of God is to deny and suppress the most essential of truths.

 

In a Kansas Wheat Field

 

I was no more than 10 years old. It was the dark of night, and Mother was driving our old station wagon on the Kansas turnpike, to visit relatives in Topeka, when the car began making a strange noise. Spying a farmhouse on the other side of the highway, she pulled over and set out for it on foot to get help. (No cell phones in the 1960s!)

 

In her absence, restlessness impelled me toward the adjacent wheat field. It was a time of year when no crop was growing; the field was barren of everything except dirt clods. Scaling the token fence, I walked about five yards into the field, where I proceeded to lie on my back and look up.

 

What I saw absolutely stunned me: it was the majestic Milky Way, clearly visible from horizon to horizon. There was nothing to block or dim the view—no trees, no clouds, no “light pollution” of a city, no moon. I had seen stars before, of course, but never like this! That’s when I knew that there had to be a Creator. There just had to be.

 

When I think of those who live as if there is no Creator, I wonder if they have ever bothered to look up. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).—R. L. N.

 

What Do You Think?

 

In what specific ways do you see creation revealing God’s nature?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding His power

 

Regarding His goodness

 

Regarding His wisdom

 

Other

 

II. Displacing God

 

                                                                (Romans 1:21-23)

 

 

 

A. Darkened Hearts (vv. 21, 22)

 

21. 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.

 

Though people know God—that is, know that He must exist—they do not respond as that truth requires. God the Creator should be glorified and submitted to as the all-powerful king. He should be thanked as the one who sustains and blesses.

 

Failure to glorify and thank God comes through a process of self-delusion. Humans use their capacity for thought to ignore and explain away God’s glory. Their imaginations, the complex workings of the mind, end up being vain, empty, and without purpose or meaning. The power to reason becomes pointless when God is ignored. The human heart, our capacity to make decisions and commitments, ends up being darkened, filled with ignorance and falsehood (compare Ephesians 4:17, 18).

 

Those who reject God build their lives on a lie, and thereby ruin themselves with the rebellious self-destruction that results. As he makes this point, Paul is addressing the pride that many people have in human accomplishments in discovery. That is indeed a great capacity, created by God as a blessing. But without knowledge of God, it becomes the seedbed of a curse.

 

22. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

 

The accomplishments of the human mind are considerable, as amazing in Paul’s time as in ours. But in ignoring God, human wisdom becomes a disguise for foolishness. Psalms 14:1; 53:1 declare that the one who says there is no God is a fool, and Paul draws on that idea here. To deny the existence of the Creator God is to commit the most fundamental and destructive foolishness (compare Jeremiah 10:14; 1 Corinthians 1:20).

 

B. Graven Images (v. 23)

 

23. And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

 

The fundamental misunderstanding of God makes itself known in the creation of idols. Paul’s world is full of physical images created to represent mistaken notions of the spirit world (compare Acts 17:16). Idols typically are images of humans, but they also mimic other creatures; Paul lists here a range of such creatures that are depicted in idols.

 

The absurdity of exchanging the true God for such things is obvious. Paul underlines this point with one contrast: humans and animals, unlike God, are very corruptible. Their vulnerabilities are constantly apparent. How can anyone be so foolish as to trade the eternal, all-powerful God for a creature that lives briefly and dies unnoticed?

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we guard against subconsciously attaching more importance to temporary things than to the eternal God?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding relationships

 

Regarding social causes

 

Other

 

The Rise of the Nones

 

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not religious.” The Pew Research Center calls these people the Nones. They are the fastest growing group in terms of spiritual orientation, comprising one-fifth of the U.S. public and one-third of adults under 30. They are distinct from agnostics and atheists. The Nones may consider themselves to be spiritual, but they want nothing to do with organized religion. As one self-identified None put it, “I like the ambiguity of going without a label. I prefer to stress the importance of acting with compassion rather than choosing a predetermined system of beliefs.”

 

The logic problems here are easy to see: the “rather than” declaration implies that one must make an either/or choice instead of adopting a both/and stance; to want to be known as one who acts with compassion is itself to embrace a label; etc. But those problems ultimately are secondary to this one: unless one acknowledges the existence of the Creator God, then how one thinks and acts will have no firm anchor point.

 

Such was the problem of the idol worshippers of Paul’s day, and such is the road that the Nones of today are on. How do we reach them?—C. R. B.

 

III. Receiving Penalty

 

                                                                (Romans 1:24-32)

 

 

 

A. Unnatural Relations (vv. 24-27)

 

24. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.

 

Paul now begins a series of three statements that show how the denial of God correlates with destructive, debasing behaviors. Each statement begins with the phrase God gave them up/over. (The fourth word is up here and in v. 26; the fourth word is over in v. 28, with no difference in meaning since the Greek is the same in all three instances.) In response to human rejection of God, He allows people to have in full the things that they choose in place of Him. In effect, God says, “If that is what you want, I will let you have that in abundance.”

 

The word wherefore indicates that the first gave them up statement links the idolatry of verse 23 with sexual immorality (lusts), two seemingly unrelated behaviors. Paul speaks of human sexual desire operating without boundaries, which causes people to pursue things that are wrong by nature. Sexual activity that does not acknowledge God’s purpose for human sexuality—its expression only in the context of faithful, exclusive marriage to one person of the opposite sex—becomes something by which people bring dishonor to their own bodies. Having lost sight of God, people live in a way that loses sight even of themselves.

 

25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

 

Paul repeats his point about humans having traded the true, eternal God for false gods that are represented by images of created things. This repetition further ties idolatry to sexual immorality, both being expressions of rejecting God. In Paul’s world, the worship of idols often involves sexual misdeeds, sometimes with prostitutes of both sexes who work from pagan temples.

 

What Do You Think?

 

In what ways do people today exchange the truth of God for delusions and untruth? Why is that?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In goals they pursue

 

In how they spend money

 

In what they admire

 

In what they worry about

 

Other

 

26. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.

 

The second statement in which Paul says God gave them up focuses on the further degradation of humanity in sexual sin. Vile affections are desires for things that bring dishonor. Where sexual sin is concerned, the person who is dishonored by such behavior is ultimately oneself. In sexual sin, one sins against one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).

 

As the rest of the Bible does, Paul takes for granted that sexuality is intended for expression with the opposite sex. So he speaks of women exchanging the natural for that which is against nature as a way of referring to sexual activity between members of the same sex. Everyone can know the true nature of human sexuality. But when humans reject the true God, they come to reject even the obvious.

 

27. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

 

Paul underlines his point by reminding readers of men who pursue sexual activity with other men. Again, his assumption is that same-sex activity represents rejection of the obvious design of sexuality (compare Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10). In the pursuit of what is not the Creator’s intention, people experience payback (recompence); that is, the sinful act itself is a fitting punishment for the rebellion that allows it.

 

The issue of homosexual relations (“gay rights”) is much debated today. Many argue that same-sex relations are “natural,” because some people are persistently attracted to members of the same sex. As we consider this question, we should realize that all of us are fallen sexually from a biblical perspective. That is, we all at one time or another desire to satisfy strong sexual urges with acts outside the Creator’s design of faithfulness in opposite-sex marriage (compare Matthew 5:28). Our purpose as sexual beings is fulfilled not when we do whatever we want but when we learn to submit our desires to the will of the one who made us.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How might Paul respond to various “gay rights” arguments today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Responses similar to those in today’s text

 

Responses in addition to those in the text

 

B. Corrupt Minds (vv. 28-32)

 

28. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.

 

This third God gave them up/over reemphasizes the correlation between rejection of God and the punishment that results from the life that the rebellious choose. Reprobate translates a word meaning “tested and found inadequate.” The phrase not convenient translates an expression meaning “not fit or suitable.” If we find God as failing the fitting-and-suitable test, then God lets us discover the resulting life that is itself unfitting and unsuitable.

 

29a. Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness;

 

Paul now begins a list of evils that characterize a life that rejects God. Such attitudes and behaviors move life far from the justice that the Creator intends and humans should long for.

 

There are several such “vice lists” in the New Testament, and this one is the longest. All unrighteousness leads the list, signifying the absence of justice. Fornication refers to sexual sin. Wickedness is an umbrella term that addresses all kinds of evil. Paul equates covetousness with idolatry in Colossians 3:5; the King James Version translates the same Greek word as “greediness” in Ephesians 4:19. Maliciousness occurs (as “malice”) alongside wickedness in 1 Corinthians 5:8 as well.

 

29b. Full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers.

 

The focus here is more specifically on ways that humans refuse to live well with each other. Envy is hostility toward others for what they have or are (compare 1 Peter 2:1). Murder is, of course, the outright destruction of others. Debate points to dividing up into mutually hostile groups; the same word in the original language can be translated “strife” (as it is in Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Philippians 1:15) and “contentions” (as in 1 Corinthians 1:11). Deceit is willful dishonesty (also translated “guile” in 2 Corinthians 12:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:3). Malignity desires bad things to happen to others. The inclusion of whisperers (those engaged in rumormongering) puts that sin in its true light; ultimately, it can be no less destructive than other sins listed here (compare 2 Corinthians 12:20).

 

30. Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents.

 

The catalog of social sins continues. Backbiters are those who speak ill of others (again, compare 2 Corinthians 12:20); the Bible also calls such folks “slanderers” (see 1 Timothy 3:11, although a different word is being translated there). Those who hate their fellow humans, who bear God’s image, thereby also are haters of God (1 John 4:20).

 

Such behaviors reflect an inflated view of oneself, the desire to rule one’s own life as supreme monarch. So Paul includes the despiteful (having contempt for others because of a high view of self), the proud, and the boasters in the list. Such people use their divinely given creative capacity to find new ways of doing evil things. They reject all authority outside themselves, even to the point of being disobedient to parents (compare 2 Timothy 3:2).

 

31. Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.

 

In the original language, all the terms in this verse begin with the a sound. Each term expresses a negative, the lack of something that true justice and goodness demand. Without acknowledgement of the Creator, understanding of what is most important is lost. This leads people to become covenantbreakers. Such hardened people are without natural affection. The word implacable means “unforgiving” or “irreconcilable.” Mercy is thwarted when God, the source of mercy, is rejected.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What can we include in a list of characteristics of a life in submission to God, in contrast with what Paul lists for the life in rebellion against God?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding attitudes

 

Regarding actions

 

Regarding values

 

Regarding goals

 

Other

 

32. Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

 

To conclude, Paul reasserts that knowledge of God is available to all. To know that there is a Creator is to know that we are responsible to Him, that He indeed judges all people. Those who are guilty of the attitudes and actions listed are worthy of death because they know better. And how much worse it is when we deliberately and by example lead others to do the same! See Luke 17:1, 2.

 

 

Conclusion

 

 A. Pointing Fingers

 

Paul described the worst of pagan society as his fellow Jews were accustomed to seeing it. But Paul’s description is also very close to the way Israel’s prophets had condemned Israel for similar denial of God. As noted in last week’s lesson, one finger that points at others leaves the rest of the fingers pointing back at ourselves.

 

In the end, none can condemn others without condemning oneself. Realizing that, we can do nothing except to receive and rely on the mercy of God, who invites us back to Him by His grace.

 

B. Prayer

 

God our Creator, when we look at creation, may we always see Your hand behind it. When we look at Jesus Christ, may we ever see in Him the new creation You reveal. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Right attitudes and actions begin with acknowledging the Creator.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s  Corner

God’s Solution to the World’s Problems

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

 

 

 

Romans 1:16-32

 

(Romans 1:16) 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.

In chapter 1:16-17 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Paul states the theme of the letter, which he wrote to introduce himself to the Christians in Rome prior to a hopeful visit. Paul gave his reasons for preaching the gospel or “Good News.” First, he was not ashamed of the gospel even though the Jews persecuted him and the Gentiles thought it was foolishness. Second, he was not ashamed because the power of God flows through the gospel whenever it is proclaimed. By the power of God, the gospel message will save everyone who trusts in the facts of the gospel message and Jesus as their Lord and Savior (see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). The gospel was preached first to the Jews, many of whom believed and were saved, including the apostles and those to whom they first preached. Then, the gospel was preached to the Gentiles, who composed most of the churches outside of Judea.

 

(Romans 1:17)  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.”

 

The gospel reveals how God will make the whole world right again by doing all that He wisely can and only what is right. Even now, and since the beginning of time, God does all things right no matter how history may appear to us and in spite of our own troubling experiences. God did right, does right, and will continue to do right through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, through whom He will make those who have faith in Him right morally, spiritually, and physically eventually for eternity. Those who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior God will declare and make righteous, and they will live daily with faith in God through Jesus Christ. Because God is gracious, He will do this and more for those who have faith in Jesus Christ from beginning to end.

 

(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,

Paul stated why everyone needs God to make them right by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In Romans chapter 1, Paul wrote first to and about the Gentiles, to those who did not have the Bible or the written law of God to teach them about God and righteousness. Then, in chapter 2, Paul wrote to the Jews who had the Scriptures and the law of God but did not obey God. To people in both groups, the wrath (the personal, angry, just judgment and punishment) of God was revealed from heaven (the spiritual realm and throne of God), because people in both groups have rejected God and God’s law (they became godless) and they have lived according to morally evil standards forbidden by God and nature (they became wicked). Their desires to practice moral and spiritual evil have influenced them to totally ignore and reject the truth. They have restrained the truth from influencing their decisions when they have wanted to do what they knew was wrong. They have twisted the truth and kept it from having any effect on their behavior. They have misled others about the truth and have changed the truth into subtle lies to deceive others and keep them away from God too. In the verses below, Paul will describe how God’s wrath is revealed from heaven.

 

(Romans 1:19)  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

God is justified and right to express His wrath (His just punishment on unbelievers who reject God to live godless and wicked lives), because even without the Scriptures unbelievers have had the opportunity to know God exists. If a person has the opportunity to know God exists, he has no excuse for living a godless life that disregards God or seeks to suppress all the truth about God that can be learned from simple observation. The creation points to a Creator and some of the Creator’s attributes; therefore, people have an obligation to obey God and trust in Him up to the level of their understanding without the Bible. Those Paul refers to in these verses had not had the opportunity to read the Bible.

 

(Romans 1:20)  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.

 

God is Spirit and is not seen with physical eyes, but the effects of God’s work can be seen in creation and history. From the time of creation, God has revealed His eternal power that keeps all of creation in existence moment by moment and has for eternity past, present, and future. God’s divine nature is also revealed through His benevolence to people and in many other ways. Five hundred years before the coming of Christ, Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle described what they thought about God’s eternal power and divine nature from their observations and speculative thinking. Paul could have used them as examples to prove his point. Though the Bible is needed to correct and explain further their ideas, the writings of Plato and Aristotle illustrate that Paul wrote truly. Because enough about God can be known from observation for people to seek God, those who fight against God and try to suppress what is obviously true about God have no excuse for their wrong attitudes and actions; therefore, unless they repent they are subject to the wrath of God.

 

(Romans 1:21)  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.

Based on the evidence around them and within them, everyone with the ability to reason has known that God exists; therefore, Paul did not develop a logical argument to prove what people once knew and could know if they sought God and the truth. Instead of continuing to believe in God, glorify God as the Creator, and thank God for their lives in the marvelous world that God created, those who say there is no God and rebel against the God they once knew suffer consequences. First, they lose the ability to reason and their thinking becomes meaningless in the moral and spiritual realms. Second, their hearts (their feelings, emotions, and ability to choose) no longer have the light of understanding to guide them and keep them from error. Because unbelievers restrain the truth from influencing them, they make unreasonable choices and engage in destructive behaviors that believers know are contrary to reason and common sense.

 

(Romans 1:22)  Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Many or most who claim to be atheists (atheists deny God’s existence) or agnostics (agnostics claim they do not have enough evidence to believe God exists or does not exist) have claimed to be wise (far wiser than believers). In their arrogance and pride, they claim God has not left enough evidence in creation or in the complexity of their own mind and body to believe in God. They judge that God is inadequate, because He has not compelled them to believe in Him with overwhelming evidence. In the process of rejecting God and God’s influence upon them, they become fools and act and think and choose like fools (those with no common sense or understanding). Fools act and talk without reason or an understanding of the consequences of their choices.

 

(Romans 1:23)  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.

 

 

After people in their pride have concluded they are “smarter” than their Creator, Who they judge did not leave them with enough compelling evidence of His existence or is a “bad” God, they turn from worshiping God, to worshiping themselves as wise, and then to worshiping images made with human hands. Paul saw evidence of gross idolatry and immorality wherever he traveled outside of Judea, and we see these man-made gods in museums today or in countries where many still worship idols. Idolatry is a sign of the foolishness that results from denying the Creator exists and refusing to worship God.

 

(Romans 1:24)  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

Three times Paul wrote: “God gave them over” or “God gave them up” or “God gave up on them.” Rather than interfere with the choices of those who deny and denounce God, God gives them up or over to do what they want without restraining them (except when He can wisely protect His people from them). God will not turn unbelievers into mindless robots to keep them from doing evil or to keep them from doing what they want to do in their foolishness, godlessness, and wickedness. God protects and restrains true believers from committing many sins, so by God’s grace they do not act as badly as they could or are tempted to act; whereas God gives those who reject Him the opportunity to do the evil they want without restraint except when He can wisely restrain them to protect His faithful ones from evil. Believers grow in their understanding of nature and nature’s God and God’s laws and right choices, whereas unbelievers lose this understanding and act more godless and wicked (as Paul shows).

 

(Romans 1:25)  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.

Paul described in detail how unbelievers decline morally and spiritually with an initial emphasis on the sexual sins which were so prevalent in the Roman world. Many of these sexual sins were associated with the worship of the idols that we read of thousand years before the coming of Christ in the Old Testament and that were also practiced in the days of the Greeks and Romans before and after the coming of Christ. The devil is a liar and these unbelievers exchanged the truths about God that they knew for lies of the devil, who deceives those who fancy themselves as wise and turn from God. Paul is so disgusted by what he sees around him that he is led by the Spirit to praise his Creator

 

(Romans 1:26)  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,

In the midst of writing about the moral and spiritual decline of unbelievers, Paul praised God and relieved his mind and spirit as he wrote about the degradations of those who exchanged the truths about God for lies. Arrogant unbelievers stop thinking and acting naturally as God created them to act and they begin to act unnaturally in their human relationships. Having given up a natural and truthful relationship with God, God gives them up to unnatural and false relationships with others and the idols they worship.

 

(Romans 1:27)  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.

Paul continued to specifically describe how unnatural sin is and how the refusal to repent and return to belief in (and believe the word of) the true God results in even more unnatural behaviors. Unbelievers begin to think that unnatural behaviors are natural, and they use this falsehood to justify their continuing practice of their destructive behaviors. Paul wrote that there is a natural mental and physical penalty that does take place inside of those who persist in practicing unnatural behaviors. Paul described some of the natural penalties in the verses that follow, but there are far more penalties than those revealed by Paul in these verses.

 

(Romans 1:28)  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,

People who do not believe in God or believe God will do what He said, and who will even fight with those who believe in and worship the true God, do not (or did not) think it worthwhile to retain what knowledge they had of God. Having made that choice, their mind or thinking abilities and processes become morally and spiritually depraved or degraded in ability and quality. Paul wrote for a third time that God gives unbelievers over or up to behaving as they want and to suffering the consequences that naturally follow unnatural behaviors – behaviors inconsistent with how God created the human race to act and think. A depraved mind leads people to do what ought not to be done, and when people choose to act unnaturally they will naturally receive the consequences that flow from unnatural behaviors — God does not need to intervene to punish them directly — God gives them up to do what they want, and they suffer the consequences, which might lead them to repent and return to God for salvation (see John 3:16).

 

(Romans 1:29)  being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,

When God gives people up to living in sin, they become involved in many more ways of sinning against themselves and others than what they first began to do. People can read about or watch in movies and television (whether fiction or nonfiction), people displaying all of the many sins Paul listed in his Letter to the Romans. When enough people have been given over to sin by God, a whole culture will become identified by the unnatural acts of the people living there. We know of cities, regions, and countries that have been given over by God to do “every kind of wickedness,” and we see the consequences that can only be reversed by repentance, a return to God, and saving faith in Jesus Christ.

(Romans 1:30) slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

Among the sinful behaviors Paul listed take special note of “God-haters.” God-haters falsely claim they do not believe in God, and they cause many problems that believers and societies that attempt to honor God suffer. God-haters do actually hate God and those who try to honor and obey God. Notice also “inventors of evil.” With every advancement in technology or in medicine (and in other areas) there are some who will use this new knowledge to invent new ways of doing evil and enticing others to do evil. For example, the Internet can share the gospel around the world and bless millions or the Internet can be misused as something that will tempt people to do many evils in new ways.

 

(Romans 1:31)  without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;

When God gives a person, people, culture, or country over (or gives up on a person, people, culture, or country), the vast majority will be seen to lack understanding in the moral and spiritual realms and in their thoughts and actions. They will not understand right living and thinking and instead they will follow liars and the ways of darkness. They will do things that believers will not understand because they do these things with no understanding. They will not be trustworthy, loving, or merciful, but without compassion they will invent ways to unreasonably deceive and destroy others.

 

(Romans 1:32)  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.

God gives people a conscience, an inbuilt knowledge of right and wrong that will either commend or condemn their actions both before an act is committed (to restrain someone) and after it is committed or not committed (to condemn or commend someone). The conscience reveals God’s righteous decree; therefore, many harden or suppress their conscience until it will no longer influence or judge their actions and thoughts. Even those without the Bible or the moral law of God know that those who sin as Paul described deserve death, but they refuse to acknowledge that fact. They refuse to repent. Even worse, they approve of others who practice these sins too, and even seek ways to promote the practice of these sins among others, among both believers and unbelievers. Even though God has given unbelievers over to living in sin, God has also sent Jesus Christ into the world to save from a life of sin those who will believe in Him and to give them the free gift of eternal life. Paul will describe many of the benefits of following Jesus Christ throughout the remainder of his Letter to the Romans.

 

 

 

God’s Solution to the World’s Problems

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

 

 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

 

Paul described some of the consequences for people who refuse to glorify God as God and thank God. These consequences consist of enslavement to godless and wicked practices, which includes inventing evils, hating God, and unnatural behaviors. As unbelievers rebel against God, they become futile in their thinking; therefore, they make foolish choices. They “suppress the truth” in order to keep the truth from influencing their behaviors (Romans 1:18). When they darken their hearts, they lose the light of understanding and their actions become more destructive. Because they have destroyed their understanding, their reasoning is worthless. Unbelievers claim to be wise, but they become fools (Romans 1:22). Paul wrote that those who turn from God eventually have “no understanding, no fidelity, no love, and no mercy,” which explains the behavior of many today as we read about them in newspapers or see them on television (Romans 1:31). Many countries suffer increasingly from wicked and godless leaders and people, from those who have no understanding and whose thinking is useless. Therefore, some search for suggestions they hope will change their situations, but they ignore the only solution that will work. The majority have turned from the solution that is the theme of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ; which Paul was not ashamed to preach. The good news of Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead has redeemed people, cultures, societies, and nations, because the good news of Jesus Christ is: “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

 

 

Thinking Further

God’s Solution to the World’s Problems

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Name ___________________________

 

1. Give Paul’s reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you adopt that same reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

 

2. How did Paul prove people need the gospel?

 

 

3. Toward whom does God express His wrath?

 

 

4. What might some of the consequences be in a culture or country where almost all of the leaders are godless and wicked?

 

 

5. What might you say to someone who said, “To sin is natural”?

 

 

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Give Paul’s reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Can you adopt that same reason for not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believers. Yes.

 

2. How did Paul prove people need the gospel?

Paul showed what life is like without the power of God in a person’s life. Paul listed the

consequences of not believing in and obeying God according to the knowledge of God that God has given in creation (and later in the law of God that God gave to the Jews). The power of God in the gospel can change a believer’s life here and for eternity.

 

3. Toward whom does God express His wrath?

Against all godlessness and wickedness of people. Against those who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

 

4. What might some of the consequences be in a culture or country where almost all of the leaders are godless and wicked?

All of the evils that Paul listed and more will be increasingly permitted and promoted,

especially as new ways of doing evil are invented by godless and wicked people. Former

laws against evil practices will be ignored or repealed, and evil practices will increase.

 

5. What might you say to someone who said, “To sin is natural”?

God created us to live naturally without sin and the Bible reveals how we are to live

naturally as created by God. By way of contrast, the Bible also reveals unnatural ways to

live that the Bible calls sin and God says He will judge. Through faith in Jesus Christ

God gives believers the power to live naturally (and more and more naturally) and Jesus

Christ frees believers from slavery to unnatural ways of living and the devil’s power.

 

 

 

Word Search

God’s Solution to the World’s Problems

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Name ___________________________

 

R O L U Y B E L I E V E S H E

C I C F A I T H N S H T U R T

X Q G O D Y C O G C R W U P L

G V Z H M E I Z O U D T O N W

Q P A Q T T L P D T A W A I Y

U Y X Y A E H A L N E X C K U

E N I V I D O E E R S K G H Z

J E L D K L T U S V E W M P B

H A V C E E F G S D E T Y O R

S C K E R M J P N N G R B I E

W P G N R F A E E C E N A J W

H T A R W Y S H S T O S W V O

N L O I F S O U S V W V S K P

L E P S O G T N J A U I E J Q

S G M S U P P R E S S K F G V

 

Ashamed

Gospel

Power

Salvation

Everyone

Believes

Righteousness

Revealed

Faith

Wrath

Godlessness

Wickedness

Suppress

Truth

Eternal

Power

Divine

Nature

 

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

God’s Solution to the World’s Problems

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Name _____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because everyone who heard Paul preach accepted his message. True or False

 

2. The gospel is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. True or False

 

3. The righteous will live by faith and be saved because they do more good works than bad works. True or False

 

4. God will not reveal His wrath until Jesus Christ returns to punish the wicked. True or False

 

5. Godless, wicked people suppress the truth. True or False

 

6. God has made himself known since the creation of the world. True or False

 

7. When people who do not believe in and obey God give excuses for their practices, God will not punish them. True or False

 

8. Those who practice wickedness do not glorify God or thank God and their thinking becomes futile. True or False

 

9. People who reject the true God become fools. True or False

 

10. Some people love to invent new ways of doing evil. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Romans 1:16-32

Sunday, June 26, 2016

 

 

1.     False

2.     True

3.     False

4.     False

5.     True

6.     True

7.     False

8.     True

9.     True

10.   True

 

 

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

God our Creator, when we look at creation, may we always see Your hand behind it. When we look at Jesus Christ, may we ever see in Him the new creation You reveal. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.