Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romans - The God we worship...

[Bible study on Romans - post 3  I left off in my last post at Romans 1:12.]

One of the foundational truths of the Bible is that humanity needed a Savior. Some other religions agree, others don't, but none offer salvation in the same way Jesus does.  And this is what Paul begins laying the foundations for.  Let's continue reading.

After a few verses of continued greeting, Paul says this:
For I am not (AD)ashamed of the gospel, for (AE)it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the (AF)Jew first and also to (AG)the Greek. 17 For in it (AH)the righteousness of God is revealed [j]from faith to faith; as it is written, “[k](AI)But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

You could almost call this the thesis statement of Romans. We could pick this statement apart and touch on a dozen different truths, but we'd have to use most of the entire book to do so.  So let's wait 'till we get to those parts.

If we were to put Romans into an outline, Verse 18 would begin section II, after the intro.  Paul begins to explain the state of the world in the eyes of God. In fact, he's going to go through several chapters of proof as to why we need a Savior.
18 For (AJ)the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who (AK)suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because (AL)that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For (AM)since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, (AN)being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
That's not a section of scripture that many people like. It's not seeker-friendly, and it doesn't leave room for the beliefs of many other religions. In fact, it's statements like that that cause people to say that Christianity is judgmental and not open-minded.  Yes, it is true that the Bible says judge not lest you be judged. However, if we're doing to believe the Bible and study it, then we've got to acknowledge what God says in it, regardless of how much we or anybody else likes it. And this is not our opinion in this verse; this is God's.

As we read through these passages, let's remember that we are not reading standards by which we are to judge others. We are reading truths about how God sees His creation, and we are reading about the world that we ourselves have been born into. Our job is to look at ourselves as we read these verses.

So what is this section saying exactly?

It says, "The wrath of God is revealed." I find it rather interesting, as it's not an active statement. He's not saying, "The wrath of God is poured out." To me, revealed means more like, "These things make God angry, and we can't help noticing it."  It's sort of like when the dirt slowly washes away from a cliff side until layers of rock are visible underneath. Finally, the rock is revealed. The rock didn't unleash itself or jump out at us. It always was there, but it is finally revealed.

The verse also talks doesn't say that this anger is against men who do evil things. Other verses might say that... but not this one. It specifically says that it's against men (meaning mankind--men and women) "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

God cares about truth. A lot.  You know, it only makes sense, though. He said, "I am."  He simply IS. The existence of something is it's most absolutely truth. He is bigger and more powerful and more real than anything we can comprehend. When we fail to acknowledge that, we're a bit like a piece of artwork denying the existence of the artist who created it. He is everything that we are not, and He is so much more than our created minds can fathom in even the tiniest morsels.

So for someone whose very existence is more real than all of what we see, smell, touch, and is... well, you could almost say that God is made of truth. (Actually, Jesus did say, "I am the Truth.")  Lies go against His nature, and His ultimate enemy is the father of lies.  So right here, we have the ultimate battle of the ages... Truth against Lies.

Back to the verse. Paul writes here that God's wrath is revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth.  ...Against those who take the side of the father of lies rather than taking a stand for Truth.

The next verse is a difficult one that many, many people will disagree with:
20 For (AM)since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, (AN)being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Hard as it may be to believe, this verse says humanity is "without excuse," even though it states what appears to be an impossibility!  Read it again... it says that something invisible has been clearly seen.  I can't help smiling at that.  But then Paul explains a bit more, saying that God's creation is what allows us to understand His eternal power and His nature.  And it says that this is obvious enough that, in God's eyes, we have no excuse. No excuse for what?  Let's back up.
(AL)that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 2

Now do all of us agree with the truth of who God is?

It's rather obvious that we don't. Some don't believe at all. As for myself, God continually points out areas of my life where I have not believed in His nature! Thank God for the rest of the truths of Romans, for I have needed them!

But as for those who don't agree with these truths...
21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became (AO)futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
I see pride here.  Paul is essentially saying that even though God's attributes and power have been made evident to all of us, some will refuse to admit it anyway. They won't honor Him. They'll suppress the truth. And what? They won't give thanks.  Just file that away as a note on the importance of thanksgiving.

Again, think of the piece of artwork refusing to acknowledge Truth that it was created and the power that the Artist has over it. The artwork then has to come up with other truths, because we all have to believe in something.  But having discarded the most important foundational truth of all, every other idea that the artwork can come up with is going to be rather futile, isn't it?
22 (AP)Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and (AQ)exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures.
This right here is a distinguishing point between the Truth of the Bible and many other religions. Many offer you a god in the form of an animal or a man, or a mixture in between.  We worship a God who is glorious and powerful. A God whom the majesty and beauty of the heavens is a reflection of.

Which is more worthy of worship?

These?

Or the God who has included this as part of His artwork?

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