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Lesson 1: Romans 1:1-3:20

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Introduction: Do you have a favorite TV show? True confession=my daughter-in-law introduced me to the Biggest Loser and now I’m hooked, drama and competition and the transformation - keep hoping I’ll get encouraged to lose a few pounds too. Interesting about that show = all the contestants share that they have come to the realization, they can’t do it themselves, they’ve failed over and over and they all say they need HELP. That is so hard for us to confess. We need help because we can’t help ourselves. We’re born defensive and have an immediate reaction of wanting to protect our failures and inadequacies, to hide and defend them. That’s our nature, but the gospel message always begins with tearing down our defenses, destroying our illusions. It starts with saying to us “You need help, it doesn’t matter who you are, how educated you are, what your economic status or who your family is, how religious you are – you aren’t going to like to hear this- but you need help”.


I. Greetings and Gospel Romans 1:1-17

II. Sin in the Gentile world Romans 1:18-2:16

III. Sin the Jewish world Romans 2:17-3:8

IV. Sin in the entire world Romans 3:9-20

I. Greetings And Gospel - Romans 1:1-17

A. Read Romans 1:1- letter is from Paul, a servant, a slave of Christ Jesus, sent out to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not some new message. Its roots in the Hebrew scriptures, Old Testament, good news now fulfilled that was promised by the prophets, about Messiah: The study about Jesus Christ=”Christology” dual nature of Jesus Christ who was both human (descendant of David) and divine (declared/power by the Spirit of Holiness to be the Son of God), resurrected from dead. There is a suggestion here of the existence of the Trinity - Father, Son, Holy Spirit = Paul will make that definite statement in his closing prayer to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all). BUT Paul’s focus here is on the message of good news=this calling from God to have faith in Jesus Christ.

Greeting: Grace and Peace= Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:25) prayer that God would be gracious to his people and give them peace. This is Paul’s condensed version of the gospel: BY God’s grace we are saved and have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

B. Read Romans 1:8 - You are on my prayer list, I long to visit you so that “impart some spiritual gift” (Paul had gift of teaching preaching exhorting) and as iron sharpens iron we can encourage each other, compelled to share Christ to the whole world (Greeks/non-Greeks, wise/foolish, Jew/Gentile). That’s why I’m coming.

C. Read Romans 1:16, 17 - Theme

Did you think as you read this, Why did he use the negative “I’m not ashamed” instead of the positive “I’m very confident” or “I’m proud”? I wonder did Paul ever feel tempted to be ashamed of his faith, to hesitate or to keep quiet, like we sometimes do. We do know he came to Corinth (I Corinthians 2:3) in “weakness, fear, trembling” right after preaching in Athens. Yet, he writes with firm conviction that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, With one condition=for everyone who believes. Talk about this word= SALVATION. Biblical understanding is that our sins have separated us from God, through believing/trusting in Jesus Christ, atoning death on the cross, we are saved from an eternity apart from God. Jew first - means that God chose them, made His covenant with them, salvation came to them first but now also to the Gentile (rest of the world). In this gospel, good news about Jesus Christ, a righteousness from God is revealed. Right standing with God is offered as a gift that we receive by faith, always been by faith that we are right with God, nothing we’ve done to be good enough, or deserving enough. Crowd that followed Jesus asked him John 6:28, 29 “what work do we need to do that God requires? Jesus replied, the work = to believe in the one he has sent” Believing, having saving faith that God requires.

APPLICATION: Do you have faith? What do you have faith in? Yourself, your heritage, your church? Have you considered faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior? Rome, Hearing this; asking Why do I need a Savior.

II. Sin In The Gentile World - Romans 1:18-2:16

A. Wrath of God is being revealed READ Romans 1:18 “wrath of God” is totally unlike our anger. Things happen to us and we lose our tempers, say things, do things out of frustration. Gods’ wrath is not like that. DEFINITION “God acting in revulsion against sin” (Robinson). His wrath is against evil, godlessness, wickedness, SIN. The essence of Sin is godlessness. God loves his creation, loves every human being, however when men/women turn away, reject God, deny his existence, refuse His love, they then experience His wrath= God lets us experience the consequences of our choices. Paul uses the phrase “God gave them over.” Denying or ignoring God leads to a downward spiral

B. READ Romans 1:19, 20 describe= General Revelation of God through nature. Psalm 19 “the heavens are declaring the glory of God, whole earth is full of his glory.” General=available to everyone who has ever been born, experience planet earth, sun, wind, rain, sky, plants, animals, life and beauty that must have been created by an intelligent being, and people saw and knew this truth and turned away from worshipping God to worshipping created beings Romans 1:21-23. In Paul’s world, pagan idolatry was either the worship of images of human beings or images of animals, but we know that other people groups have worshiped the sun, moon, stars, mythological gods/goddesses and countless other created or imagined beings. Ie Friend who worships her fortune teller, she’s my age, seeing one since 15, doesn’t pray to God, doesn’t seek a relationship with Him, her greatest desire is knowing her future from the stars. As innocent as that may seem to some, God has powerful words to say how that displeases him= when we turn away from worshipping Him.

C. As the spiral descends from ignoring God, to idolatry, we see God “giving them over” Romans 1:24-28, 3 times Paul uses that phrase to what he then calls a degraded sexuality and a depraved mind. Before I read these verses I want to make two comments:

1. Probably everyone person in this room has a family member, or a friend or neighbor that is living in a same-sex relationship. We all know people we love and care for that have an alternate life=style. In our world today, a same-sex relationship is more and more the “norm”. To hear otherwise regarding people we care about is difficult. Article regarding Anne Rice if you’re familiar with her and her recent comments about leaving Christianity on the website under resources.

2. God’s plan for our sexuality is Genesis 1, 2 one man, one woman in a committed lifelong marriage. Scripture tells us that sex outside of that is sin whether it’s pre-marital, extra-marital or same sex.

READ Romans 1:26-32. In this potpourri list of sins, Paul indicts the Gentiles for practicing behaviors that they know are violating God’s standards, denying His reality and following their own desires.

Truth: There are consequences for failing to acknowledge God as Creator.

This human dilemma, this spiral downward, in one or all of the sins listed, is the result whenever God is ignored or denied in a person’s life.

You Jews have been listening carefully, that’s right Paul, that’s just like those Gentiles who didn’t worship Jehovah, all those pagan idols, all that sinful living.

But some of you Gentiles are saying I wasn’t like that before I came to Christ, ok so I didn’t worship Jehovah and I went to a pagan temple, but I had a high moral standard, I would never have done those things that other people did.

Paul says “yes, I know that, but you listen, both of you.. when you pass judgment on someone else and don’t see your own sin, that’s sin too.”

D. Judgment - Romans 2:1-16. READ Romans 2:1-3.

Stott: “Paul turns from the world of shameless immorality to the world of self-conscious moralism” the one who is critical of everyone else, passing judgment on other people and never seeing their own hypocritical behavior. This is the group who doesn’t approve bad behavior like Romans 1:32, condemn and judge and never turn the mirror on themselves. Paul exposes all of us to some degree, so easy to see someone else’s sin and not our own.

Ie. In my family of origin we have a bad habit of interrupting and correcting each other. My husband, the outsider noticed it right away, Family reunion, my mother and her siblings sitting at the table talking, my aunt interrupted my uncle, he complained, she said, you took a breath..she jumped in, that’s what we do, we interrupt and correct, I see it in others but it’s amazing I don’t see it in me.

We often have the double standard “a high standard for other people and a comfortably low standard for ourselves". It’s easy to be blind to this, but don’t think God isn’t watching. The Message Bible= God is kind but He is not soft, he will judge all people based on truth, His truth. Romans 2:6-8 talk about our deeds. Tense of the verbs help us understand this section. Paul writes in the present continuous tense.. Romans 2:7 those that “keep on seeking” =eternal life; “keep on rejecting” the truth. This really speaks to the condition of the heart, is the heart seeking and committed to God, or is it ignoring and rejecting God and self-focused? A person’s habitual behavior shows where his/her heart is toward God. Doing good deeds does not save us, only faith and trust in Jesus Christ can, however, those who trust Christ want and will do good deeds.

Some of you may be asking, If God is going to judge all of us, what about the people in the world that have never heard of Jesus, never had the law how will they be judged?

That question doesn’t have a clear answer, however, some people have thought that was what Paul had in mind when he wrote Romans 2:14-16 READ

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know this 1. God is love and God is just. 2. He is trustworthy to do what is right. 3. He will judge according to whatever revelation of Himself a person has been given, and their response. 4. The mandate for believers is the great commission, our responsibility is to go to tell the whole world about our Savior. NOW Paul turns to talk to the Jews directly.

III. Sin In The Jewish World - Romans 2:17-3:8

A. READ Romans 2:17- Paul, who is Jewish himself, lists some descriptive phrases that describe the way these Jews saw themselves; you rely on law, brag about relationship w/God, know his will, know the law, convinced you are a guide for the blind, light, instructor of the foolish, teacher of infants (sense the spiritual elitism) but what about your life? READ Romans 2:21-24 You too are guilty of judgmental hypocrisy that points out the wrong in others and overlooks the same in oneself. Claiming special treatment because you know the Law doesn’t work if you don’t keep the Law. Then Paul makes an unbelievable, astounding statement

B. READ Romans 2:25-29, Circumcision. Jews historically have believed that circumcision was the sign of the covenant between God and his people, it served to remind them of God’s promises and their commitment to Him. Paul says “Jewishness” is not a matter of race but of the heart. A true Jew, a real Jew is one whose heart has been figuratively cut around removing anything that would keep one from being wholly devoted to God. This would be shocking to hear if you were a Jew for while Paul was writing this there were men going around to the different churches telling the Gentiles converts that to be a “true” Christian you had to first get circumcised and become a Jew and then you could accept Christ the Messiah (Judiazers = Paul would passionately fight against their heresy, as it to him denied the essence of the gospel which is Grace).

C. You Jews are sitting there shocked, speechless, Paul anticipates several of your questions.

1. First question - READ Romans 3:1.

Paul you’ve been saying that both Jews and Gentiles have sinned and are guilty before God, so is there no difference, has there been no value in being a Jew? Romans 3:2 - yes, great value. You’ve had the commands of God, His very words.

2. Second - READ Romans 3:3. If people are unfaithful, is God also unfaithful? Romans 3:4 no way, the fact that God judges unfaithful Jews shows His justice, He is impartial and does not overlook sin even among his chosen people.

3. 3rd question - Romans 3:5. This question reflects the reasoning of those who try to excuse their sin by saying it gives God an opportunity to show his righteousness, so they shouldn’t be condemned, Paul strongly rejects this too - and he shows how that kind of perverted reasoning when taken to its extreme says Romans 3:8 Let’s do evil so that good can come of it. We say the same thing when we say “the end justifies the means” we tell a little white lie so that no one will get hurt , we intentionally cover up a wrong instead of facing it because we’re afraid of the consequences. That’s sin, all….

IV. Sin In The Entire World - Romans 3:9-20

All, Jews and Gentiles are under sin, all fallen short of God’s standards, his perfection, apart from the gospel all of us are hopelessly lost. Romans 3:10-18 Paul combined phrases from a collection of OT texts to prove his point. This was a common method used by the Rabbis called charaz=literally stringing together pearls. In this list 3 general universal truths about human nature:

1. No one seeks God, no fear of God (Romans 3:10, 18). Most of us are seeking a God that fits our category of what God should be: we have our own list : all loving, not judging, tolerant of all sincere people, answers all prayers, ultimately everyone goes to heaven, maybe not Hitler.

2. No one sees how sin pervades our whole bodies (Romans 3:13-17). Sin affects our minds, emotions, our sexuality, our conscience, our will, our actions. The doctrine of Total Depravity = humankind, in every part is permeated and adversely affected by sin. This doctrine has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Total depravity doesn’t mean we all sin the same way or to the same degree: Not are murderers, felons, or adulterers; yet, sin has affected all of us. J. I. Packer: “no one is as bad as he or she might be, and on the other hand, no action of ours is as good as it should be”.

3. No one is righteousness, not even one (Romans 3:10) We can’t depend on the Law, we can’t keep it perfectly, we break it, that’s where it condemns us and points out our sin to us. That’s what rules do, they show us the knowledge of our wrong doing but don’t forgive us of our sins.

Truth: All people are guilty before God, all have sinned and need a Savior. Jew, Gentile doesn’t matter, all people in the world.

Application: Do you think you need to see yourself as a sinner before you can become a Christian? Paul would say yes and that’s why this letter begins with this heavy discussion of sin. He would say “why would you need a Savior unless you were lost?” Why would God send his Son to die a horrible death on a cross unless there was an atonement needed for sin? But this becomes personal when I ask “do you see yourself as a sinner?”

William Barclay writes, “no one saw so clearly the evil of human nature as Paul did: but it must be noted that the evil of human nature was to him, not a call to hopelessness but a challenge to hope. When William Jay was an old man: My memory is failing, but there are two things that I never forget-that I am a great sinner and that Jesus Christ is a great Savior.”

Homework questions are available in the student study guide which may be downloaded from the "Related Media" box on the series home page:

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