Romans Chapter 1, Advise to the Christian, both Jew and Gentile

Jul 31st, 2009 | By | Category: Romans, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Romans Chapter 1, Advise to the Christian, both Jew and Gentile

To whom did the Apostle Paul address his Epistle to the Romans? Was it addressed to Jewish Christians who resided in Rome, to Gentile converts who were meeting together in Rome, or to all Christians who lived in Rome? As verse 7 indicates, the epistle was addressed to “all [Christians, both Jews and Gentiles] that be in Rome.” With the Jews being a mercantile or business people, a number lived in the capital of the empire, that is, until the persecution of Nero, which resulted in their dispersion mostly into Asia Minor. Priscilla and Aquila, who were among the Jews affected by Nero’s decree, went from Corinth to Ephesus, where they evidently stayed.

Before beginning the study of this epistle, we would like to know when it was written, where it was written, and by whom it was delivered. Paul dictated the letter in Greek to Tertius around the year AD 60, which was fairly late in the apostle’s ministry. “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord” (Rom. 16:22). At the time, Tertius was in Cenchrea, which was a port city in Corinth.

Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, … [who] is a servant of the church … at Cenchrea; That ye receive her in the Lord, … and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Rom. 16:1,2). The Epistle to the Romans was given to this sister, who lived in Cenchrea, to take to Rome.

Paul was temporarily residing at the home of a man named Gaius in Cenchrea, Corinth, when Tertius wrote down the apostle’s words about AD 60. Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, an official in high places, was impressed with Paul’s teaching (Rom. 16:23).

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans was not the first letter he wrote. Why, then, does it appear in the Bible as the first epistle? Because Rome was the universal empire at the time, there would be fewer obstacles for the promulgation of the gospel if this epistle to Christians in Rome was placed first. People reasoned that Rome, a very important city, had given some cognition to the gospel.

Romans 15:25-27 provides another clue: “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.” At the time this epistle was written, Paul was getting ready to go to Jerusalem with contributions for the brethren there, who were in need because of the great dearth in the land. He did not visit Rome until AD 64 and then died two years later. Thus he wrote this epistle near the end of his ministry and went to Rome subsequently as a prisoner.

Paul had the brethren in Rome particularly in mind, for in that area, the citadel of the empire, were many Christian Jews as well as Gentile proselytes, who converted to the Christian faith. The epistle was addressed to the Romans, yet nine or ten chapters are devoted almost entirely to the Jews. However, although many of the comments were directed to the Jews, the epistle had a secondary instructional value for the Gentiles by making them feel they were more in the faith. Because of the high-mindedness of the Jews, who were business-oriented and had quite a lot of mental acumen, the Gentiles enjoyed listening to Paul’s reasoning that they, as Christians, were equal to the Jews who had come into Christ. Several times Paul used the expression “to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile,” but he meant that the Jews were first in time, not in priority (Rom. 1:16; 2:9,10). God dealt with the Jews first, and the Gentiles came in later, when the middle wall of partition between them was broken down (Amos 3:2; Eph. 2:14).

In the Kingdom, the time feature will again apply—to the Jew first and then to the Gentile— because the capital of the world will be Jerusalem and the Holy Remnant of Israel will be recognized. In other words, the Jews were not superior in character, for they had as much to learn as the Gentiles; they just had the priority timewise.

Paul knew that the Christians in Rome were going to have certain problems. Since he would not be visiting Rome for a while, he wanted to give advice to this church, which consisted of a mixed element of Jews and Gentiles who met together on a regular basis. What was Paul’s motivation? Realizing that Jews and Gentiles had radically different backgrounds, he wanted to unify them by getting them to appreciate each other’s backgrounds and their one calling. He wanted them to be firm in their faith so that they would not wobble back and forth under the influence of the Judaizing believers, who felt that a Christian had to follow the Law as well as walk in grace and truth by faith. Thus he proceeded to teach the real meaning of the doctrine of justification by faith, and the theme of his Epistle to the Romans is justification by faith in the blood of Christ.

A blindfolded virgin woman holding a balance scale is a symbol of justice. The two sides of the scale are even, showing that she is the dispenser of unbiased, impartial justice. Justice is weighed, with one side of the scale being the good and the other side being the bad. Justice frowns on evil and commends good.

In reality, Paul was speaking to relatively new converts of a new religion, and both Jewish and Gentile Christians were in need of instruction. He would point out their faults as well as their strengths and good points. He particularly pursued the subject of justice—what justice is, how it is obtained, and that it is God’s justice. Most people, including the heathen, believe in a supernatural power, but they do not know what or who that power is. They might believe in a pantheon of gods or in an unknown God they cannot define. The Apostle Paul showed that the true God is the God of Israel, the One who revealed a way of justice and righteousness, and he showed how that way can be obtained.

While on the way to Damascus, Paul received the gospel from God through a remarkable revelation by Jesus Christ. Following his conversion, Paul was sent as a special messenger to the Church at large for their edification in learning of God’s will for them in the Gospel Age. Meanwhile, Jesus’ reputation had been given considerable publicity, for after the Crucifixion, people heard what he had done in the little province of Judea—he had raised the dead, healed lepers, preached a new and different doctrine, etc. This news went throughout the empire.

Peter was reputed to be the founder of the church in Rome, but there is no record of his having ever visited the city except for the faint possibility that he was crucified there at the end of his ministry. The church in Rome, which was not well organized and disciplined, was probably the result of what happened at the Feast of Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. At that time, Peter preached the gospel to Jews who had come to Jerusalem for a few weeks.

Thus it is likely that the class in Rome comprised the remnants of those who were converted by Peter and John at that feast (Acts 2:41; 4:4).

The Romans would have heard that Jesus was crucified as a malefactor and that he had spoken against Caesar. They also knew that the Roman power had winked the eye, as it were, in allowing him to die the cruel death of crucifixion, as orchestrated by the scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish religious power in Judea. An additional report was circulated that this man had been raised from the dead. He was put to death under baneful circumstances and then raised. Paul would show that this man, Jesus, was really the Son of God. He would tell about Jesus’ origin and show that instead of just being the Messiah of the Jews, the Son of God presented teachings that involved the Gentiles as well. Paul “declared … the Son of God with power,” telling of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). The “power” was the manifestation of Jesus’ being raised from death (and his ascension) “according to the spirit of holiness.” Justification by faith was the universal message that through Jesus, the sins of both Jews and Gentiles could be forgiven.

Rom. 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

In olden times, as was done here, the author of a letter put his name at the beginning. Paul identified himself as a servant and an apostle. He characteristically called attention to the fact he was an apostle, that is, “one sent forth” by Jesus. In other words, he was specially commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to bring a message. He was “called an apostle”; the supplied words “to be” should be omitted, for he was an apostle in the present life.

Despite Paul’s persecution of Christians prior to his conversion, there were external evidences of his subsequent apostleship. For example, he had great doctrinal knowledge, he spoke with authority, he raised the dead and healed the sick, and he had miraculous opportunities to speak before kings and high personages. On multiple occasions, he called attention to the vision he had en route to Damascus. Blinded by this vision of the risen Lord, he was led to Ananias for a partial restoration of his sight. Ananias could testify to Paul’s apostleship, for the Lord told him that Paul was to be a special representative: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

Rom. 1:2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

The teaching Paul was espousing—that is, the gospel—was promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. What he was presenting was in harmony with God’s Word, as told by “his prophets” (plural).

What are a few of these promises from God?

1. The promise to Abraham, which included a heavenly and an earthly seed, was that “in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14; 26:4; 32:12).

2. Having faith in the coming Messiah, Moses said, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut. 18:15).

3. Genesis 3:15 reads, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Here was a promise, after Adam sinned, that some day the scales would be turned from a negative to a more positive viewpoint.

4. The fact that Jude 14,15 speaks of Enoch indicates he was given information in Old Testament times: “And Enoch also … prophesied … saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

5. Another promise is, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isa. 61:1).

6. The same prophet wrote, “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isa. 9:1,2).

7. Further on in the same chapter, Isaiah wrote, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isa. 9:6,7).

8. Moreover, Noah and then Shem brought information from the pre-Flood era, the first world, into the second world.

The gospel was preached but not elaborated on, yet some grasped that little hope, having faith in God that there would be good news in the future. They clung to a little crumb of information with great tenacity. Not until Jesus came was the subject opened up, with life and immortality being brought to light, as well as the mystery “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

The Old Testament prophecies were bits of information, as Paul indicated when he wrote his Epistle to the Hebrews, and the gospel brought them together, starting with Jesus, who gave the remarkable prophecy of Matthew 24 and his personal testimony to John the Revelator.

Rom. 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

Comment: To be the Messiah, Jesus had to come from the seed of David, and to pay the ransom price, he had to be made flesh, that is, a human being. God so arranged matters that through both the supposed earthly father, Joseph, and the earthly mother, Mary, Jesus’ lineage could be traced through David.

Reply: Yes, the principle that out of the mouth of two or three witnesses is a thing established pervades Scripture and is a safeguard against wild speculation (Matt. 18:16). If an idea crops up in our mind, we should make the effort to try to find duplication before presenting it. A mysterious “David” was prophesied to come. Most think the prophecy refers to David himself, but the terms in which the promise is couched indicate a greater-than-David (Isa. 55:3; Acts 13:34).

Rom. 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

The words “to be” were supplied by the translators. How was Jesus “declared the Son of God with power”? During his earthly ministry, he spoke as never man had spoken, and he healed the sick and the lame (John 7:46). In looking upon this young man, many felt he thought a lot of himself in posing as the Messiah of promise. At first, this inquiry was legitimate, for any honest person who heard more than one testimony about Jesus would want to see and hear this man for himself. Jesus spoke words of wisdom and performed remarkable miracles, giving his hearers words and acts of substance to hang onto. He healed far beyond what any Old Testament prophets had done. In healing hundreds of people, even restoring missing limbs, he backed up his declaration to be Messiah by innumerable evidences. In addition, his speaking with boldness and authority and his having a marvelous vocabulary and education in the Scriptures without any synagogue training were astounding. Where did the abilities of this carpenter come from?

With such miracles attending the testimony of Jesus, anyone with an honest and open heart would see that indeed he was the promised Messiah, “the messenger of the covenant, whom ye [shall] delight in” (Mal. 3:1). Who delighted in him? The character of his healing and ministry benefited others, for he preached to the poor and healed the sick, the lame, the blind, etc.

Jesus was declared to be the Son of God “according to the spirit of holiness.” Those who observed his personal life could see that it comported with his profession. In everything he did, he was blameless and without fault. Yes, they accused him of blasphemy because of his claim to be the Son of God, but they could not find fault with his personal behavior. Thus power and his possession of a spirit of holiness in everyday life were evidences of his being the Messiah.

In addition—and most importantly—Jesus was declared to be the Son of God “by the resurrection from the dead.” Certainly when he arose from the dead, every single individual in Jerusalem heard about his resurrection because his apostles were delirious with joy. During the 40 days, their testimony was not that strong because he appeared off and on, and they were always waiting for another appearance. But after he ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the apostles were powerful evangelists. Thus all heard of Jesus’ resurrection,

but whether or not they believed the reports is another matter. Many were comfortable with their own ideas and their living according to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Rom. 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

Rom. 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Rom. 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

“By whom we have received grace and apostleship [on the way to Damascus], for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.”

Comment: Verse 5 shows the personal responsibility that Paul felt as an ambassador for Christ.

Reply: Yes, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was obedient to the faith. Then in verse 6, he added, “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” In other words, “Not only am I called of Jesus Christ in a very special sense, but you Romans are also called of him.”

As the Apostle Paul informs us elsewhere, the call is really of God, but Jesus voices the call (Rom. 8:28-30; 9:22-24; 1 Cor. 1:9; Phil. 3:14; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Pet. 5:10). Jesus prayed to his Father and was told who the apostles would be before finding them and saying, “Follow me,” and giving each a new name (Luke 6:12-16). The Twelve then became apostles of Jesus Christ. Again the words “to be,” supplied by the translators, should be omitted. The consecrated are called “saints” in the present life, even though they do not always retain that relationship in the final analysis. They are holy because they are justified by the blood of Christ.

Notice how Paul addressed the mixed element of Jews and Gentiles in Rome, bringing in both the Father and the Son: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course the epistle is additionally addressed to all Christians throughout the Gospel Age.

Rom. 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

In what way was the faith of Christians in Rome “spoken of throughout the whole world”?

Comment: The eyes of the civilized world were on Rome, for it was the capital and chief city of the empire. Therefore, the Christians there must have been outstanding men and women.

Reply: Yes. To all practical purposes, the Roman Empire was the “whole world.” How remarkable that the gospel took root in the capital of the world, in the very seat of paganism, in the devil’s own house, as it were! The faith of the brethren was to be commended in this environment, for they were on center stage in the eyes of the world. Because of the importance of Rome in the then-known world, news of the success of Christianity in Rome was noised abroad. Incidentally, Aquila and Priscilla were originally in Rome, but they fled to Corinth when persecution subsequently arose. Eventually they ended up in Ephesus.

Comment: With Rome being a principal city, the ecclesia there was surrounded by worldly influences and pressures. Hence the Christians in Rome were admired for the stand they took.

Rom. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

Verse 9 gives us an insight into Paul’s feelings. At this time, he had never been to Rome, yet the  brethren there were especially on his mind. Since they were under an unfavorable influence, he was particularly concerned about them. “Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” He said in effect, “As God is my witness, I am telling you the truth. I pray for you constantly.” His words were almost like an oath: “Do not take my words lightly. If I am lying, I will be held accountable.” When the brethren in Rome read this letter, they realized they had a companion, one who was really solicitous for their spiritual welfare and thinking about them all the time. What a wonderful character Paul had!

There were additional reasons for Paul’s solicitude. Since none of the apostles had visited Rome, the brethren in that city had not received any gifts of the Holy Spirit, which would have helped to establish them. Also, God had charged Paul with the responsibility for the brethren.

Having been commissioned an apostle of the Gentiles, he was responsible for all ecclesias. Not only was he genuinely concerned, but he was sensitive in his feelings toward them.

Comment: Paul had a long prayer list in addition to preaching the gospel, working to support himself (and others at times), enduring persecutions, etc.

Rom. 1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

Verse 10 provides further insight into Paul. He repeatedly prayed that he “might have a prosperous journey by the will of God” to visit the brethren in Rome. Feeling “the care of all the churches,” he prayed, “If permissible, I would like to go to Rome. Please send me. If it be your will, I would very much appreciate if somehow your providence would permit me to go there” (2 Cor. 11:28). Paul made this request approximately six years before he died. He did end up in Rome by becoming a prisoner there at least twice. Thus the Lord answered his desire but in a very different way than Paul had anticipated.

Paul prayed that he might “have a prosperous journey” to Rome. Although the ship encountered a tempestuous sea, he was informed by an angel that not one person in the boat would perish (Acts 27:6-44; 28:1). And that is what happened—all landed safely on the island of Melita, and eventually Paul reached Rome “by the will of  God.”

Comment: As much as Paul yearned to visit the Christians in Rome, he did not run ahead of the Lord but awaited some leading or providence.

Paul’s outstanding intellectual qualities and logic far surpassed those of the other apostles. It is  true that James Zebedee was very cogent in his reasoning, but there was an unusual comprehensiveness to Paul’s capabilities. Hence most of the epistles were written by him.

Comment: With all of his intellectual abilities, Paul had a tender heart condition.

Rom. 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

Verse 11 is an extension of Paul’s prayer with regard to his interest and concern for the brethren in Rome. Not only did he desire to see them and hear of their experiences and give them further instruction, but he wanted to impart to each a spiritual gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands. The gifts would be useful to them as individuals, as well as to the ecclesia as a whole when the brethren assembled. A mechanical gift was a reward for giving one’s heart and life in consecration.

The same principle operates today. If we look back into our own life, we will see that something happened to convince us God was dealing with us in a personal way. We can trace His leadings in that memory, or experience. It is especially helpful to review such steps of the past when we are having a low period and need to go forward into the unknown, for faith overcomes doubt. Similarly, when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, God told them they would get that land, but they had to walk on it. For each step of progress as

they planted a foot forward, He would respond favorably. “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses” (Josh. 1:3). Faith had to propel each step. Faith and obedience to God are both rewarded in some way.

Rom. 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

When coals of fire are put together, the heat becomes more intense. Hence Paul said that we are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but … [are to exhort] one another: and so much the more, as … [we] see the [evil] day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25).

Rom. 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

Paul liked to use the expression “I would not have you ignorant, brethren” (Rom. 11:25; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; 1 Thess. 4:13). He said essentially the same thing in Acts 20:27, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” He wanted to give the brotherhood as much information as they were capable of understanding.

Oftentimes Paul purposed to visit the Roman Christians “but was let [hindered] hitherto”; that is, he may have made tentative plans to go to Rome, but each time something happened to change the plans. The word “let” was correct in 1611 Old English, but today it has the opposite thought of “permit.”

Paul purposed to visit the Christians in Rome that he might have “some fruit” among them “even as among other Gentiles.” What was that “fruit”? Paul hoped for additional converts— that others would come into the truth—so that the brethren would be further encouraged.

Q: Since Paul was talking in verse 11 about imparting spiritual gifts, would the “fruit” be character growth and development beyond just the mechanical aspect of the gifts?

A: Spiritual gifts were gifts of the Holy Spirit. One must have natural faith before consecration, but if the individual is faithful after consecration, that natural faith blossoms into the more fullness of a spiritual faith. Thus that which was first natural becomes spiritual. Along another line, if one has the natural gift of tongues, then by his meeting with others and having that tongue explained or translated to a person who does not know what he is saying, it becomes a spiritual gift. The principle is the same with those of natural faith. God does not call everyone in the world who has natural faith, but one must have natural faith to be called. Of those with natural faith, God selects the vessels He wishes to call. When natural faith becomes spiritual faith, that development is an enlargement and a bearing of fruit. A seed is natural, bare, and not edible, but when planted into the soil of faith, it grows into a fruit or food that is edible.

Stated another way, when that which is natural becomes spiritual, the individual is blessed because of acting on that gift. That is why Paul said to Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift that was given to you” (1 Tim. 4:14 paraphrase). By using his gift, Timothy would be blessed, spiritually speaking.

Rom. 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

The term “Barbarians” was used two ways in Paul’s day. (1) The Greeks were not only fond of knowledge, but knowledge was a national characteristic with an emphasis on education. Thus the Greeks (“the wise”) were the educated, whereas the Barbarians (“the unwise”) were poor and lacked opportunity for education. (2) The Romans had a different concept, for they viewed all nations to the north, especially the large and diverse area of Germany, as Barbarians. When the Romans took over in Gaul and England, they considered all Anglo-Saxon peoples of Germanic origin as Barbarians because they lacked culture and education. Paul was saying that he had an equal responsibility to the wise and the unwise, to the poor and the rich—to all.

Therefore, from the Greek standpoint, “Barbarians” were Gentiles other than Greeks. And from the Roman standpoint, “Barbarians” were Gentiles from certain areas. Actually, from about AD 300 on, we believe that the Barbarians loved the truth more than the other Gentiles to their south—more than those in Italy, Asia Minor, Egypt, etc. At that time, the Romans, who thought quite highly of themselves, called the Barbarians to the north “Aryans.” From a worldly standpoint, to be a “good” Roman with prestige, one went to a Greek school.

The sign placed above Jesus on the Cross was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (Syriac or Aramaic). Certainly when Paul used the term “Barbarians,” he was not thinking of the Jews, the Greeks, or the Romans. Therefore, he was referring to any peoples other than the nationalities that fit these three categories (Luke 23:38).

Rom. 1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

“I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Paul was an outgoing person. Some feel that if he were humble, he would not have made this statement but would have waited for the Romans to call him. However, Paul was commissioned to preach as an apostle. An honest-hearted person who had seen Jesus and heard him speak would weigh the facts and look at the Master’s life and be convinced of the veracity of his teachings and what he stood for. The same was true of Paul. Not one to stay in the background, he said, “I am [a] debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians”; that is, “I am responsible for this work.” He was not presumptuous, but as a “debtor,” he was obligated to teach and to preach. For one who might think Paul was a little pushy and high-minded, his expressing his reason for wanting to go to Rome should have resulted in the conclusion, “The Lord is blessing him, and he has the power, the knowledge, and the spirit.” Paul showed his humility in a different way. A Manna comment referring to Daniel says, “All are not leading spirits.” Elsewhere, Paul enjoined the brethren to “be patient toward all [that is, to those who are inclined to be aggressive as well as to those who are backward and need to be drawn out]” (1 Thess. 5:14). Some need to be gently curbed, and others have to be encouraged. Patience should be exercised to both types of brethren. Here we see Paul’s interest in the believer, to the wise as well as the unwise. He had an equal responsibility to both.

What a tremendous man Paul was! He was not prejudiced to the poor or the rich, or to the wise or the unwise. His magnanimous character was an example of what a Christian should be.

Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” The Christian religion was not popular, but he was not ashamed to proclaim the gospel among the Greek philosophers. If a Greek became a Christian, other Greeks thought he had lost his reasoning. To the outside, the truth appeared fanatical and foolish. The Greeks, who catered to the intellect, liked to have the learning of all the great philosophers of the past—Plato, Socrates, Demosthenes, etc.

To preach the gospel in Rome in those days was regarded by many as going right into the devil’s stronghold because that city was considered to be the seat of Satan. When John wrote the Book of Revelation and mentioned “Satan’s seat,” the early Church thought the term unmistakably meant Rome (Rev. 2:13). Moreover, the Roman emperors were men like Caligula and Nero. Paul did not overspeak when he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

As an illustration, those who have been through battle can be somewhat assured. War veterans, who have survived for some time, know that they are trained through experience and are not novices. To have that assurance does not necessarily mean they are proud—they simply recognize that they have survived hand-to-hand combat. As with Paul and other Christians, the heart attitude toward God and Christ is what matters.

Rom. 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

“The gospel of Christ … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” Early in this epistle, Paul brought in the teaching of faith. In what sense is “the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith”? Faith grows with exercise. The exercise of faith brings increased faith. We are to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).

Comment: In coming to God, one first has to believe that He exists, so some faith is required to start with (Heb. 11:6). Then there is a progression in the Christian life with faith deepening.

Reply: Natural faith is necessary to start with. Those whom God calls may be poor in money, intelligence, influence, etc., but they are rich in faith. In other words, in order to respond to the gospel, one must have a certain degree of faith to start with. That faith is one level, and when one obeys, he reaches another level of accomplishment. The development of faith should continue throughout the Christian walk up to a certain point, going from plateau to plateau.

Eventually, those who are faithful (full of faith) will see God. One then gains that to which he originally aspired, going up in steps and stairs. With this understanding, we make allowances for others who may not be on the same step. And of course some are on a higher step.

If one develops from one plateau of faith to another, what is the implication? Paul said, “Therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith [to faith to faith, etc., all through one’s life].” That development is in harmony with the Scripture “The just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

We all recognize that natural faith is necessary initially—we have to believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. With that faith and our belief in God, we consecrate our all. To jeopardize our whole hope for the future by putting our trust in God and consecrating, we show that we have faith, but that is just the start. All through life, faith has to be exercised. Step by step by step, the just live by faith. Thus faith is very important, as Paul tried to teach. His strategy was to show that knowledge is important for progress, but every step of knowledge must be accompanied by a step of grace.

God rewards those who exercise faith. The righteousness of God is revealed to those who exercise faith up to a certain point. Those who are at a certain level of faith are rewarded with another level if they exercise faith, and God is just to reward them. Therefore, much of our consecration has to do with our daily living by faith, which is difficult to do, especially if we are influenced by outside circumstances that can cause us to become depressed.

Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Rom. 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them.

We are only in the introduction to Paul’s message to the Romans, but who was Paul finding fault with? He was beginning to castigate those in the world who had some sense of right and wrong but were violating their conscience. He addressed the burden of his message by starting with the general public, the unconsecrated. Verses 20-23 tell what they were doing.

The general public displeased God, and Paul found fault with them not just because they were living in sin but because they could know God and did not want to know Him. “That which may [or might] be known of God is manifest in [or to] them; for God hath shown it unto them.” Paul was showing that nobody can stand before God and say, “I am ignorant.” People might reason, “We were born in sin and shaped in iniquity. We are Gentiles and do not know about God, but what we do not know will not hurt us.” This philosophy was carried to quite an extent, but the Gentiles were not blameless, even though the message of truth had not reached them.

Paul was saying, “Here is a class who do not know God. They have not received the knowledge of truth as the gospel, but that fact does not excuse them entirely. They are still guilty before God because they could know Him. There is such a thing as conscience, and there is such a thing as common sense in viewing certain matters. Therefore, God is righteous in condemning them. He is not a God of wrath, for any indignation He might have with regard to sin is justified and cannot be imputed to Him. God is just, and He is righteous, for there is the light of nature and of conscience. All people should exercise faith in such a Creator.” The Divine Plan of the Ages goes into this reasoning in the chapter “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established.” The Pastor consistently and constantly showed that the creature should realize his Creator is superior to him in everything—in knowledge, intelligence, love, justice, power, and wisdom. What can the one who is created say to the One who created him?

Therefore, without any knowledge of truth, we should, if we have faith in the unseen, recognize that God—whoever or wherever He is—must be superior to everything we are, even to our noblest ideals. Paul was saying in his own way, according to the conditions of his day, what is in that chapter of the First Volume.

Comment: The Diaglott reads, “Besides, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven in regard to all impiety and injustice of those men, who through injustice, suppress the truth. Because the knowledge of God is apparent among them; for God disclosed it to them.” Not only do men know this truth, but through injustice and unrighteousness, they try to suppress it.

Reply: The truth cannot manifest itself because opposition keeps it from prospering. There is a saying, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Wycliffe’s Bible pictures the Word of God, the truth, as a blacksmith’s anvil. A sledgehammer can beat against the Word of God but cannot defeat it. Though the Bible is suppressed, it will eventually come to the forefront.

The same type of spirit resists progress in the field of medicine, science, and elsewhere. Man tends to like things as they are, the attitude being that nothing should interrupt the status quo, the present state of things. Many of the great pioneers in science had difficult times presenting their findings, even receiving persecution at times. Galileo is an example. God’s truth, which is the most important of all truths, is suppressed, whereas it should be received in humility.

“Men … hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest … [to] them.” People reason that if truth is not told to them, they are not responsible, but God is saying His wrath is proper because the whole world manifests His existence, let alone the things in nature. Thus there is no excuse. All should be amenable to, searching for, or listening to His truth. Man thinks there may be other intelligent life and beings in the universe.

In fact, some scientists are beaming signals into space, trying to get a response, but they do not search for God. “God hath shown it [truth] unto them.” No man can say he does not know.

This premise is the A,B,C of truth. If one does not know A, he is pretty ignorant, for A is the lowest step on the ladder. Truth is progressive, so if one does not know the heavens, the bottom line of self-evident truth, he cannot find fault with God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psa. 14:1).

Rom. 1:20 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:

Here are a class who do not know the gospel, but they are without excuse because the “invisible things” of God are made manifest. What are those “invisible things”? They are the things of nature. For example, smelling a flower that has a most beautiful fragrance or seeing one that has an exquisite color or texture bespeaks the character of the Being who made it.

Thus the beautiful things of nature, which we can see, give us a little clue as to the invisible Author, Authority, or Power who made them. Both the heavens and terrestrial matters furnish clues of Divinity—that an Intelligent Creator has made them. Therefore, the world is without excuse. In other words, people should analyze what they see. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:28). David said, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8:3,4). David’s habit of reflecting on things in nature made him praise God.

Notice, “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.” God’s great power and authority are manifested in the heavens; He “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). The order of creation reflects God’s character, His “Godhead,” that is, His Divinity.

“Godhead” should be translated “Divinity” or “Deity.” The term “Godhead,” which is another word for “Creator,” is used by Trinitarians, who want a triple-headed God instead of one Deity. God is the Head, the One who is above all. The reference is to a monotheistic power, for nothing in the context, in the logic Paul was pursuing, suggests a triune God. Paul was saying, “We know of the existence of this great invisible God [singular], who is manifest by the things that are made. He is Head above all.”

Comment: If three Gods were coequal and coeternal, how could one be the Head above the other two? The reasoning on the Trinity does not make sense.

Comment: We should keep in mind that Trinitarians translated the King James Bible to begin with. Instead of “Godhead,” six other translations have the following:

American Standard Version – “his everlasting power and divinity”

Revised Standard – “his eternal power and deity”

Goodspeed – “his eternal power and divine character”

Knox – “his eternal power and his divineness”

Moffatt – “his everlasting power and divine being”

Weymouth – “his eternal power and divine nature”

Reply: Yes, interpretations of the Greek favor the opposite, namely, a monotheistic power. We used the word “character” earlier. God’s power is manifested by the things that were made, especially in celestial things or in the intricacy of His workmanship, but sound, the sweetness of fragrance, and the beauty of sight are a reflection of His personality, Being, or Deity. The contrast is between God’s power and His personality, which are being reflected.

Paul was speaking about the universality of the existence of sin and saying that God is displeased. All stand guilty of sin; all are condemned before Him. Paul would show that the contagion of sin is all-pervasive, embracing the whole world. The wrath of God is one side of the balance scale, and His mercy, the other side, balances the scale.

Comment: Verse 20 reads as follows in the Revised Standard: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Reply: In other words, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psa. 19:1). Their message should be understood by all. Everyone—Jew, Greek, Gentile—stands equally guilty because the language of the heavens is universal with regard to the glory of God and the existence of an Intelligent Creator. The invisible things of God are “understood by the things that are made,” even His eternal power and Divinity, so the people are “without excuse.”

Rom. 1:21 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.

Rom. 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Verses 21 and 22 tell what happens when people suppress knowledge and resist truth.

Everything is in motion, with life being like a stream going downhill, following gravity. To be faithful to God, we must swim against the stream. If we do not pursue the truth to come to the source of the river of God, we will go downhill with the world, retrogressing and becoming foolish. To say some “have gone out of the truth” means they had a measure of light but did not respond favorably and drifted away. Paul warned that this process happens to those who let things “slip.” “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip [slide backwards]” (Heb. 2:1).

Those who do not search and hunger for righteousness are without excuse “because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.” Paul was speaking of the universality of both sin and available knowledge, saying, “This deplorable state is the situation that exists.

Neither Jews nor Gentiles have an excuse, yet they blame God.” When something unfortunate happens, we often hear others blame God. “Why did God do this to me?” they ask. Of course they do not think about their attitude toward God before the tragedy occurred.

Comment: Verses 21 and 22 are a continuation from verse 20. When mankind view God by the heavens, they still do not glorify Him, nor are they thankful. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.”

Reply: Even for those who do not have the truth, there are many things to be thankful for, such as the sense of smell, sight, taste, the mechanics of movement, pleasures, the ability to think, etc. Generally speaking, one who commits suicide goes completely against reason because life, even for only a few years, is a privilege. A person with a truly thankful heart would want to know the God to whom he could render his thanks. In looking upward, he would have the desire that some day, somehow, somewhere, he would find the truth.

Comment: Psalm 107:21,22 reads, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”

Some people who are fascinated by things of God’s creation will dedicate the remainder of their life to study about a gorilla or a flower, for example. Noble-minded people use energy and dedication, even to the extent of sacrifice, to go into wilderness areas to explore the object of their interest at great jeopardy to their own life and health, but God does not choose them for various reasons. Natural faith is essential for progress in things pertaining to Deity.

“[They] became vain in their imaginations.” Examples of such vanity are making statues or symbols to worship, or worshipping an animal or the sun or the moon.

“And their foolish heart was darkened.” When a person is given the opportunity for progress in knowing about God and does not avail himself of it, instead of just being stalled, he actually slips back in understanding. He becomes more and more crystallized in that state and is “darkened” as far as receiving new and/or progressive understanding.

Comment: The principle being established here is that people’s senseless minds are darkened if they turn against what truth is available through conscience and nature. That same principle carries forward to the consecrated; namely, “If therefore the light that is in thee be[come] darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23).

Reply: The consecrated, who are spiritually minded, have a measure of status quo but not those in the world, where the devil is operative. Satan makes sure that one goes down into the cesspool as fast as possible. Consider some of the great scientists with brilliant minds. The more intelligence they manifest, the more stupid they become as regards God. They have all kinds of absurd theories, such as the Big Bang theory whereby everything is going faster and faster to destruction in a hundred million years or so. With all their investigation, they are getting further and further away from God.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools [from God’s standpoint].” As such individuals near the end of their career, it becomes more and more obvious that the more they know through their vain imaginations, the less they know of true wisdom, yet they speak words of self-adulation and self-promotion.

Rom. 1:23 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.

What are some of the things that were “made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things”? Idols of worship have been so fashioned. Carvings, statues, and paintings have been made of bulls, birds, insects, serpents, etc. Four spheres are covered in verse 23: man, birds, beasts, creeping things.

In what way did man change the nature of the incorruptible God into a corruptible being?

Mortal animals and created beings are worshipped instead of the immortal God, the Creator.

Not only are idols manufactured by corruptible man, but the idols themselves deteriorate over time and corrupt and erode. Also, they depict things that die. All down the line, the inferior quality should be recognized as such.

Incidentally, to have a painting, for example, of a bird or a beast to represent liberty is not sinful because it is not being used as an object of worship. In fact, the attributes of God are pictured as a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a man. These symbols were used in the Hebrew religion and introduced by God to represent His character. In other words, it is one thing to look at these as being symbolic of an attribute of God, and it is another matter to look at them as being representative of God Himself. From one perspective, the symbols can be an abomination, and from another perspective, they can be a help. Paul was criticizing giving more attention to idols, statues, candles, etc., and even Mary, than to God Himself or to Jesus.

Comment: What utter foolishness for man to worship his equal or even something on a lower plane than himself—birds, beasts, and reptiles—and to ignore the Creator!

Reply: The holy angels must be astounded to look down and see the degradation of man in such worship.

Comment: In referring to the Catholic Church and the doctrine of the Mass, Martin Luther expressed the same principle by saying, “How can a man make his Maker?”

Comment: After witnessing the great miracles of Almighty God, the Israelites quickly turned to making a golden calf in harmony with the heathen worship of Egypt.

Rom. 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

God gave such individuals “up to uncleanness through the lusts [desires] of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.” He let them pursue whatever their heart lusted for. A “lust” is a very strong desire along various lines. Two forms of uncleanness through lust are homosexuality and lesbianism, which are unnatural and vile. Along another line, the Israelites wanted a king instead of judges. All God had to do to give the world over to this darkness was to withdraw His favor or not to grant special favor. After all, if Satan is the god of this world and the father of the disobedient, and if the whole world is under his influence, God could just let the people go their own way. Two forces—Satan, an outside power, and their own fanciful imagination, an inside power—were against them.

What happens when a baby is born? The little baby is not aware of the sun, moon, and stars, but that baby grows up into adolescence, teenage years, and adulthood. In the meantime, especially back there when people could observe nature and the sky more readily, as each individual reached the age of responsibility, God was manifested to him through nature. Thus God has revealed this opportunity to each generation. If a person does not respond properly, he is under the influence of Satan, and God just leaves him alone. To be drawn of God, one has to exercise natural faith. In spite of the evil influences, some people have faith, which Satan would like to squelch. God is very interested in those who have natural faith, and how they respond to situations in life is important. As they respond favorably, God gives them more and more protection and enlightenment so that they can go from “faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17).

Rom. 1:25 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.

Man willfully “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” By observation, man can see the natural instincts of animals. For example, a homing pigeon flies back to the place it came from. Likewise man himself knows by instinct that certain things are proper yet intentionally represses that instinct and disobeys.

After a while, the person becomes insensitive, and God gives him over to a reprobate mind. At that point, the individual can no longer judge by instinct. Such repression is called searing the conscience (1 Tim. 4:2). If an individual responds, God provides corresponding light. Why did Paul add that the Creator “is blessed for ever. Amen”? Having just lectured on a low topic, he raised the thinking to the highest plane.

Comment: The Diaglott reads, “Who exchanged the truth concerning God for a false religion, and reverenced and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is worthy of praise to the ages. Amen!”

Reply: Paul had just shown the foolishness of man—how dumb, how crude, how vile, how vulgar he is—whereas God should be “blessed for ever.” Man perverted the manifest existence of the Intelligent Creator into all kinds of objects and images of worship.

Comment: Jeremiah 10:14,15 states, “Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.”

Reply: Yes, even the statues and images will be destroyed.

Comment: People in this country pride themselves in being advanced because they no longer believe in false gods, but evolution, which teaches that man descended from a beast, is really just another step in the same degraded process.

Rom. 1:26 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:

Rom. 1:27 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.

Rom. 1:28 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;

First, Paul showed that the world is held accountable by the light of nature. God is righteous in condemning the world because the invisible things are manifest by the things that are made. The people should realize there is a superior power.

Paul’s next subject, gross immoralities that dishonor the body, pertained more to conscience and instinct. His criticism was directed against those who willfully change what previously had been natural. It is one thing to be abnormally born, and it is another thing to be normally born and, by constant practice, pervert that which the human body is endowed with by nature and knowingly do things that are unnatural. In such cases, God gives men and women “up unto vile affections,” allowing them to pursue the paths they lust after.

For example, if a woman starts to become masculine—cutting her hair short like a man and dressing in men’s clothes—she will lose all her womanliness in time. The error of the way becomes more and more manifest as she habitually caters to this tendency, until she becomes abnormally developed in what started out mildly.

The men described in verse 27 receive “in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” In other words, they played around with the sin and eventually became addicted to it, whatever it might be.

Comment: Verse 27 reads as follows in the Revised Standard: “And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” AIDS and certain sexually transmitted diseases are some of those penalties. As a superior being, Satan takes unfair advantage of fallen humanity who have pursued the basic practice of homosexuality and lesbianism. As he puts in his fangs and controls and manipulates them as his tools, the hapless victims become his amusement park. Those who are not in Christ are of their father the devil (John 8:44).

Verses 26-28 are good to use if we are trying to help someone with these unnatural tendencies. Education in itself does not prevent sin. In fact, man’s education has been allowed to advance to show that by no means does it bring salvation. Only God’s education and instruction—His Word—lead to salvation. The permission of evil has been allowed to progress as an everlasting object lesson. Never again after the Kingdom Age will evil be permitted anywhere in the universe. Eve was tempted of the devil and seduced through the instrumentality of a serpent that probably ate the forbidden fruit. The thirst for inquisitiveness has been a problem for the human race and needs to be governed. In the final analysis, it will be seen that the permission of evil is the best method God could have used. This everlasting lesson will not have to be repeated. Thus we are really in the beginning of the creation of intelligent human beings.

God gave a perfect Law to the nation of Israel, but fallen man could not keep it. Therefore, man needs not only the Law but the enforcement of that Law. Christ will rule the nations “with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:27).

Rom. 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

Paul was giving a broad-brush description of conditions that exist in the world, that is, among the unconsecrated. The heavens declare the glory of God, but very few of the human race, proportionately speaking, take these things to heart and begin a quest, or search, for the presence of God in their life.

Probably there should be a colon after the word “unrighteousness.” “Being filled with all unrighteousness: fornication, wickedness, [etc.]….” The other nouns describe various forms of habitual, or continuing, unrighteousness. “Fornication” includes all types of illicit relationships that are usually done in secret. “Wickedness” refers to individuals whose characters are habitually seen as evil in talk and conduct. “Covetousness,” an inordinate desire for something, can occur in regard to money, position, influence, popularity, a neighbor’s wife, property, etc.

“Maliciousness” pertains to malice and ill feelings toward others.

“Covetousness” is a habit of thought that usually leads to action, whereas being “full of envy” is inward in connection with something not obtainable.

Some of these traits occur inwardly but are busting to come out. Others are manifested in various ways and to different degrees of intensity. “Murder” is a degree of hatred that, if not controlled, can result in taking the life of another person. Incidentally, it is proper to call attention to an evil person who is undermining faith. Pointing him out would damage his influence and reputation, but his habitual wrong conduct needs to be noted. On rare occasions, hatred is permissible. As David said, “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (Psa. 139:21,22). There is “a time to love, and a time to hate” (Eccl. 3:8).

For the consecrated to speak evil of one of God’s truly holy ones is “murder” but not an obvious murder in the sense of a gross deed (2 Pet. 2:10; Jude 8). Rather, evil speaking is a subtle sin. Sometimes the influence of others in teaching should be stopped because it is dangerous, but we must be very sure that we are right. In making such a judgment, we should pray about and consider the matter carefully before committing ourselves. Unfortunately, many judgments are made irrationally and unjustly and are done without due consideration.

Under those conditions, the old man speaks out, and the new creature is more reserved. To do things impetuously is more apt to be the old man speaking. The old heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately [exceedingly] wicked”; it wants to get out and express itself as it did prior to consecration (Jer. 17:9). When we weigh the mercies of God on our behalf—what He has done for us and the hope of the high calling—the desires of the old man fade away. Much has to do with our thinking.

A person may have two or more of these traits, but usually one trait is more manifest than the other(s). “Debate” refers to one who is argumentative by nature, one who looks for and delights in arguments. “Deceit” is self-explanatory. “Malignity,” or maligning others, is giving false witness with the intent to injure them and ruin their reputation. This would be a chronic condition, not a one-time false witness against someone with regard to a particular situation.

Malignity is habitually giving malicious false witness throughout one’s life. A person with this habit sees no good in anyone and is always criticizing.

“Whisperers” spread careless, damaging gossip that is not proclaimed openly. It may be hard to identify or get a handle on a whisperer because the gossip is done in a snide, sly, and shrewd way. Depending on the type of problem, when certain things need to be pointed out, sometimes we should use discretion, and at other times that is not the case.

Rom. 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

The term “backbiters” reminds us of Genesis 49:17, “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward [to his destruction].” With regard to the consecrated, one who is held responsible for an individual’s going out of the truth becomes a partaker of the destruction.

Being “proud” is the next trait. There are different degrees of pride, but in this case, the trait would be known and obvious. Sometimes one who is envious misjudges a noble person as proud when that is his own condition. Pride can be analyzed, but we have to be careful in making judgments. In time, as little things add up, pride becomes apparent.

“Boasters” are braggarts and those who are given to exaggeration. The Apostle Paul found it necessary to boast on one occasion in order to legitimize his own apostleship and to stop the falsely assumed apostleship of others, but that was not his usual manner. He had to tell about all his sufferings for Christ (2 Cor. 11:23-28).

The term “inventors of evil things” is such an evil trait that we do not want to describe it.

“Disobedient to parents” means to have no respect for parents, whereas the commandment says to honor father and mother. “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). If we disagree and see that a parent is definitely wrong, we should do so as pleasantly as possible and use decorum.

After describing all of these conditions in the world, Paul used that history to teach certain lessons to the consecrated. Thus verses 29-31 are the backdrop for subsequent lessons for the Christian. Paul listed so many evil traits because he wanted to touch the nerve of some in order to awaken them to the fact that the process of reformation had not been entirely effected. Even though we repent in coming to Christ, some undesirable traits remain and come with us. One by one, over time, we try to overcome the hangovers from the old man. Striving to overcome shows that our repentance was true. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). At first, we observe the grosser traits, but later on we find that the old man has refined or gentler methods of evil.

Rom. 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Those “without understanding” can do the most wretched things and not even realize what they are doing. No matter what one does to show them the condition they are manifesting, they cannot see it. They respond with something like, “The problem is with you.” Having “understanding” is knowing what Jesus would do in decision making. The Diaglott has the word “obstinate,” which means that one retains his wrong thinking.

Being “covenantbreakers” is a very insidious trait. If a person backs out after signing a legal document—for example, a contract or a marriage certificate—he is breaking a covenant.

However, covenant breaking can occur all down the line. With regard to the consecrated, if a person has been in the truth for a long time and is fairly advanced in character, then “yes” and “no” can become the test with regard to covenant breaking. Jesus said that our “yes” should be yes and our “no” should be no (Matt. 5:37).

As soon as any of these traits get on a more obvious and malignant level, they should be dealt with radically. The little remarks on the side are harder to handle. “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines [of fruitage in Christian growth and character]: for our vines have tender grapes” (Song 2:15). The Lord judges our intent, and none of us will be perfect in this fight. We must wage a lifelong battle.

A form of covenant breaking is for one to say, “The Lord did not accept my consecration; I did not know what I was doing.” To agree with a person who makes such a statement makes one a partaker in that sin. It would be better to misunderstand in the other direction and warn the individual about the responsibilities of consecration than to justify reneging on the vow. It is true that the Lord may not accept someone’s consecration, but if the person has outwardly professed consecration, we have to take that statement at face value. What God thinks about the vow is between Him and the individual. When certain things happen, we hope that the person’s consecration was not accepted, but we should not say it, especially when Jesus said he would not cast out any who came to him from the Father (John 6:37).

The trait “without natural affection” is a little harder to discern because many people by nature would be considered stern, yet they might be well-developed Christians. Just as in the floral realm, God has flowers of all kinds and colors, so there are many kinds of temperaments, as pictured by the jewels on the high priest’s breastplate. Being “without natural affection” is a stronger trait when applied to the world, for it signifies a person who is so stony-hearted that he cannot listen to reason and has no sense of pity for others. Habitual crudeness and rudeness in disposition are a part of one’s character or upbringing and have to be rooted out.

Comment: Another form of being “without natural affection” is manifested by parents who abuse a helpless newborn baby or older children. For this trait, the NIV has “heartless.”

Reply: Yes. Sometimes people who appear to be the gentlest in society are the cruelest, even with their soft remarks. This inward characteristic will manifest itself in deeds.

The word “implacable” should be omitted from the listing, as indicated in a footnote in the Diaglott. To be “unmerciful” is to be without mercy.

Rom. 1:32 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.

Comment: For the end of verse 32, the New American Standard says, “They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” The Twentieth Century reads, “Not only are they guilty of them [these sins] themselves, but they even applaud those who do them.” Taylor has, “Yet they went right ahead and did them anyway, and encouraged others to do them too.” The Diaglott reads, “Not only are doing them, but even are approving those who practice them.”

Reply: Each translation has a little different facet that can be read into the verse. It is wrong to back up the wrongdoer with friendship, support, and sympathy. Just as bad conditions existed with natural Israel, so these conditions are characteristic of human history.

Q: If we apply this verse to the world in the present age, what “death” are the unconsecrated worthy of?

A: Even worldly people with higher sensitivities recognize that when sin develops to such an unusual degree, the individual should be put to death. Although verse 32 does not refer to Second Death, when individuals with these traits come out of the grave in the Kingdom Age, they will be worthy of Second Death, everlasting extinction, if they continue in such sins. “Who knowing the judgment of God.” This class really know that what they are doing is wrong, but they feel strength in numbers, in the company of other sinners. They flock together

in fellowship. Not only do they themselves commit these sins, but they idolize and admire those who are even worse sinners.

Comment: Paul addressed this letter to the Christians in Rome, yet he was speaking about what was happening around them in the world.

Reply: Yes, he had a strategy, a reason, for first showing the conditions in the world. Verse 32 is a transitional verse preparatory to discussing the consecrated, the brotherhood, starting in Romans 2:1. Paul went into great detail in verses 29-31 because glimpses and manifestations of these former habits were being carried over into the brotherhood. He was pursuing a course that would be most helpful to the Roman church. Chapter 2 should have started with verse 32, which leads to an examination of the brotherhood, who should know better.

In ancient times, there were usually just three types of employment: agrarian, religious, or military. The most secure job was in the military, which even included a retirement plan. The Roman army was especially well disciplined, well organized, and orderly. Moreover, Roman law was inviolate and rigid. Thus being without natural affection and unmerciful were national inbred traits of the Roman culture. What the law said was followed without wavering or any consideration for extenuating circumstances.

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