In this grace nugget, I am simply going to give an overview of what Paul was trying to convey to readers in Romans 1:18-3:20. In 1:16-17 Paul explains that the reason he was not ashamed of the gospel is because it’s the power of God for salvation for all people and we receive it simply by faith. The theme of Romans is to reveal God’s righteousness but we cannot know about God’s righteousness until we first understand man’s unrighteousness. As Warren Wiersbe puts it, “Until man knows he is a sinner, he cannot appreciate the gracious salvation God offers in Jesus Christ.”
In this section, Paul will give an argument and evidence that the whole world is guilty of sin. Every man is without excuse (2:1) and needs God. Paul will prove this by showing 3 categories of men that are guilty of sin and how they are condemned.
- The immoral man (1:18-32) – condemned by creation
- The moral man (2:1-11) – condemned by conscience
- The religious man (2:12-3:20) – condemned by the law
Romans 1:18-32 – The immoral man is the man who knows about God and but he continually rejects God and decides to follow his flesh. How does he know about God? Because of the creation of the world. Psalm 19:1-6 says that the heavens declare there is a God therefore, creation condemns the immoral man. They know the truth by the created world around them. Therefore, the immoral man has no excuse.
The immoral man suppresses the truth so he can live the way that he wants to not realizing that living for himself will destroy him. This will take him down a dark path because he would rather live in darkness than light. In verse 18 until the end of chapter 1, Paul will show what happens to a society when men follow after their owns lusts. They will inevitably destroy themselves and turn from God completely. Here is the progression of the immoral man living for himself and rejecting God:
- Mankind knows God through creation (v. 19); they reject God because they love their sin (v. 23); they create idols and become what they worship (v. 23); God will allow them to do what they want (v. 24); they will turn to sexual immorality/impurity (v.24, between men and women); they will exchange the truth of God for a lie (v. 25); they will turn to shameful immorality/homosexuality/perversion (v. 26-27, men with men and women with women); they will subject themselves to a depraved mind (v. 28, meaning they cannot make right judgments).
Romans 2:1-11 – Paul takes a step up and begins to talk about the moral man. This man seems to live a pretty good life but he thinks he doesn’t need God. This man believes that because his life is good that God is accepting the way he lives. But Paul refutes that by saying that he is no better than the immoral man because his conscience condemns him. He may not do everything on the outside that the immoral man does but he is guilty on the inside (v.3). His seemingly good life is not God’s acceptance but it is God’s kindness, tolerance and patience that should lead him to repentance (v. 4). Therefore, the moral man has no excuse.
Romans 2:12-3:20 – Paul then goes another step up and talks about the super-righteous religious man. The religious man might say that he is not guilty because he follows the law, but the purpose of the law is to show man his sin. The religious man believes that he is saved by his works such and following all rules and regulations. Paul states that even circumcision is of no value unless there’s a circumcision of the heart. Circumcision was to be a picture outwardly of the transformation that took place inwardly (2:25-29). The key here is 3:20, “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” The religious man is condemned because the law cannot save him. It simply shows him that he is just as guilty as the moral and immoral man. Therefore, the religious man has no excuse.
Right now would be the time where we would echo Paul’s words in Romans 7:24,” What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” What hope is there if all men are guilty? In Romans 3:21, Paul will begin to unfold God’s beautiful plan of salvation, justification, grace and righteousness. Yes, we are all guilty but while we are by still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) Buckle up, because in the weeks to come, God is going to blow us away by His love! Amen.