An unwillingness to accept and believe the truth can start an individual or a society on a dangerous downward spiral. But the rejection of God is not done in ignorance. Romans 1 tells us that creation alone provides each of us with enough knowledge to know there is a God. It’s not a lack of truth. Instead, men and women suppress the truth because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to respect God’s authority in their lives. The consequences are evident in our world today.
Many of those who reject the truth most vehemently are the most educated in our society. Our schools, colleges, universities, and professions are full of people who think they are wise with all their science, business acumen, and knowledge. But God says they’re fools!
Nehemiah 12 & 13
Well, here we are finishing up the book of Nehemiah. Do you realize we have finished well over half of the Old Testament, 16 books in total and a good part of Psalms and Proverbs? We’ve finished the four gospels and the book of Acts, the historical books of the New Testament.
Now we are starting the Epistles of Paul in the New Testament, beginning with the book of Romans and tomorrow we’ll start the book of Esther in the Old Testament. It’s exciting to see the progress we’re making.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Well, on to the word …
As we start the book of Romans, it might be helpful to consider a couple of things. Romans is primarily a book of doctrine, but don’t be put off by that. It doesn’t mean it’s a dry book with no relevance to our lives, quite the contrary! This epistle (letter) has some of the most important truths for us to understand in our Christian lives. In his Study Bible, John MacArthur says:
“The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.”
That is the foundation of our faith. If you are a newcomer to reading through the Bible or you’re new here, you might find it confusing that at the end of Acts, Paul is in Rome and here in Romans he is expressing his desire to go to Rome. It’s important to remember that the books of the Bible are not always arranged in chronological order.
In the New Testament the first four books are the Gospels, the four accounts of Christ’s life and ministry. Acts is the historical overview of the first three decades of the Church, ending its account in about 60-62 A.D.
The rest of the New Testament, except for the book of Revelation is a series of letters written by various church leaders to churches and individuals meant to be circulated to others within the church. They’re not in chronological order, but are grouped by author. Romans through Philemon, and possibly Hebrews, were written by the Apostle Paul. Romans was written about 56 A.D. before his imprisonment and journey to Rome.
The Joy of Christian Fellowship
So here we are in chapter one and there’s so much in this chapter. I love verses 11-12 where Paul is expressing his desire to visit Rome:
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
What a picture of the joy of Christian fellowship and one anothering (Rom. 15.14; Gal. 6.2; Col. 3.16; 1 Thess. 4.18, 5.11; Heb. 10.24-25; Jas. 5.16; 1 Pet. 4.9).
Then verses 16-17:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Are you tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? In the workplace? Or with your unsaved family? Are you afraid to share the truth because someone might make fun of you or think you’re simple-minded? Even after being beaten, stoned, ridiculed, and all the rest, Paul was “not ashamed of the Gospel”!
Claiming to Be Wise
Then beginning in verse 18, we have what can be called “the downward spiral of sin.”
This passage explains how an unwillingness to accept and believe the truth can start an individual or a society on a downward spiral. But this rejection of God is not done in ignorance. Paul tells us that creation alone provides each of us with enough knowledge to know there is a God.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
It’s not a lack of truth. Instead, men and women suppress the truth because they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to respect God’s authority in their lives. The result and its consequences are evident in our world today.
And sadly, many of those who reject the truth most vehemently are the most educated in our society. Our schools, colleges, universities, and professions are full of people who think they are wise with all their science, business acumen, and knowledge. But God says they’re fools!
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools.
How scientists can study the intricacies of the human body and the wonders of the earth and deny the existence of God is beyond me. It takes more “faith” to believe a lie than to believe the truth! But they are putting their faith in the wrong things. You have to wonder what the Day of Judgment will be like for some of them, when their utter foolishness has been totally exposed and “every knee bows” to the God of the universe—too late for them to accept Him personally.
Because of their sin and rejection, three times it says, God “gave them over” or “gave them up” (Rom. 1.24, 26, 28). You can see in this passage how lives and societies spiral downward. The more they turn away from God, the more they turn toward sexual immorality and other sins, eventually reaching the point where it’s commonplace. At the bottom of the spiral we see these verses:
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Debased minds, sexual immorality, maliciousness, murder, hatred toward God, pride, disobedient children … doesn’t that describe our world today?
And at the very bottom we see this phrase “but also approve of those who practice them.” That is what so many in the LGBTQ movement want, not just the freedom to do as they please, but universal approval. And if you disagree they want to be able to attack you, call you “intolerant,” charge you with discrimination, or worse.
As you read today’s passage in Nehemiah, imagine how he would respond if he visited our nation today? When he returned to Jerusalem and found people buying and selling on the Sabbath and ignoring other clear commandments of God, it says, “So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God …” (Neh. 13.25).
We can’t stop standing for the truth either. I’m not advocating that we act unloving. In fact, 2 Timothy 2 says: Continue reading