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Encountering a Changing World with God's Wrath
Scripture: Romans 1:18-32; 2; 3:1-20
Track 2 of 14 in the Study of Romans series
Running time: 28 minutes, 05 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, June 8, 2003
"Encountering a Changing World with God's Wrath"
(Romans 1:18-3:20)
C. Sackett

God is an equal opportunity offender. He shows no favoritism to those whom he offends with his truth. I don't know if you've ever noticed but the grace of God and the gospel of God are not politically correct. When you understand what Paul is teaching in the book of Romans about the gospel, you are surely to be offended at some point. It seems as though he has gone out of his way to make sure that he confronts all of us at some level somewhere.

We're taking a large chunk today of the first part of Romans, Chapter 1, Verse 18 through Chapter 3, Verse 20. We'll come back and pick up a couple of smaller pieces in that big piece over the next two weeks, but this will serve to kind of introduce this first major section of Paul's writing to Romans. First thing he does in Verses 18 through 32 is he tends to offend the secular society. He picks out the Gentiles and simply talks about their own depravity. He immediately turns around in the first sixteen verses of the second chapter and criticizes the moralizers to want everybody to live up to a certain set of standards, except themselves. And then in Chapter 2, Verse 17 down through the 8th Verse of the 3rd Chapter he tends to offend the Jewish population who is depending upon the law for their righteousness and tells them they have failed absolutely miserably at keeping the law. If that weren't enough, then he turns to the rest of humanity and says in Chapter 3, Verse 9 down through Chapter 3, Verse 20, you've all made a mess out of things. You're all in the same boat and you all face the same God.

Course, doctors aren't politically correct either. No offense to the physicians among us. I prefer that they not be politically correct. I'd rather have them tell me the bad news, if there is some.

I have a good friend who has gone to be with Jesus. He died of the same cancer I had simply because the doctor didn't bother to tell him he had it. I'm sure there was something in there in that process, that when the doctor saw the cancer count in my friend, Dan, he decided somewhere along the way that he didn't want to be unkind or something. So my friend Dan is now with Jesus.

You know, we prefer that people be honest with us rather than lie to us most of the time. It's just when it comes to the gospel we're not always ready for that kind of straight forward honesty. Chapter 1, Verse 18 through 3:20 are just straight forward, honest talk about what it means to stand before God as real live human beings bringing everything that we have to offer to him, which frankly, isn't a lot.

So let's just walk our way down through here and assume that if it's okay for doctors to offend us that it might be alright for the gospel to offend us and we might actually get some good out of it. The first thing he says is, basically the gospel offends our sense of fairness. Somewhere inherent in us, I think it's a cultural thing, certainly it was a family thing at our house there's supposed to be justness and fairness everybody is supposed to be treated alike. Surely those who have never heard the gospel cannot be held accountable for the gospel and therefore they should just be off the hook shouldn't have to deal with God at all. Look at Verse 18 of Chapter 1. He says;

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

What he's trying to suggest to you is that in the created order around us, there is a clear message. The psalmist would say it this way in Chapter 19; The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament exposes his handiwork. When you take a look at the world around you. He says you ought to recognize there is somebody greater than you. You ought to honor that person who is greater than you whether you understand who that person is or not. Instead, he says, humanity, by basic virtue of being human, tended to turn that which was the created order into a God and worshiped it instead of the one who made it.

If you come to Chapter 2, down here in Verse 12, he picks that same basic theme up when he says this.

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Verse 14 is particularly important. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Man has inherent within him, a sense of that which is right and wrong and it's his responsibility to live up to that. The problem of course is, they failed to honor God. That's just true of humanity in general, it seems to come to all of us. We seem to have this desire to have self-control and to do what we want to do rather than what God wants us to do. Natural law says everyone has heard--there isn't anybody who hasn't. All you have to do is look at creation, the natural order of things, the beauty of it--and you should know there is a God and we will be held accountable. The questions is, what do you do with what you know? Not what do you do with what you don't know. That's true for those who have heard the gospel and those who have not heard the gospel but have this inherent sense within them that God has held them up before him.

Well, he not only offends our sense of fairness, he tends to offend our sense of tolerance. Because, all of a sudden, you are now being an intolerant person in a world where tolerance is in fact, the number one quality for being human. Surely those that behave differently than we are cannot be held responsible for a standard that we hold. They should be allowed to hold their own standard.

Ah, if you look back in Chapter 1. We'll come back to this text again next week. But, look at Verse 24. After having talked about the natural revelation of creation he says;

Therefore God gave them over (because of what happened in Verses 22 and 23) God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Three times he says, God simply gave them over. He turned them loose to do whatever it was that they wanted to do. Self-gratification became their idiolatry and no one is allowed to be intolerant of that. We're supposed to all sit back and say that's okay because that's the world we live in. Your choice is your choice. You do things the way you want to do them and nobody's supposed to confront that.

The problem with the gospel is that it's pretty confrontational. The gospel is a Jesus Only gospel. Acts says it this way. There is no other name under heaven whereby man must be saved than at the name of Jesus. Jesus himself said in John, Chapter 14. I am the way, and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you go back to Chapter 1, you're going to notice several phrases. For example, Chapter 1, Verse 1. This is the gospel of God. Verse 3; regarding his Son. Verse 4; Jesus Christ our Lord. Verse 9; the gospel of his Son. Salvation comes only through Jesus and behavior matters.

To talk about it, of course, is to be intolerant and that's offensive. Because in our culture you are not allowed to become intolerant. So, therefore, for those of you who are intolerant, join the crowd of those who have been offended, because in Chapter 2, that is what he's going to do, is offend those who practice intolerance. If everybody's supposed to be tolerant, then those of us who are intolerant (and I happen to be one of them most of the time) will have to be held responsible for our intolerance.

I was walking (this morning) down the street. It was nice out. I don't know if you noticed that. The sun was out. A little breeze was blowing. It was cool, and as I was walking down the street I heard somebody's air conditioner turn off and I thought "What a waste open the window" You hear it??? Intolerance!!

"Foolish people if they did things right they would not have that on, they would have the window open." That's the attitude that he's getting at in Chapter 2, Verses 1-16, is that we tend, by enlarge to set ourselves up as the standard and the way we do things and therefore, if you don't do things the way we do them, there's something obviously very wrong with you. So he says in Chapter 2, Verse 1

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself. because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

Verse 11 says; For God does not show favoritism. There is this sense which you and I have to come to grips with the fact that not everybody is like that. We're going to be held responsible for our actions just like they are going to be held responsible for theirs. It's not our job to judge somebody else.

Well, he offends those who are wanting fairness and he offends those of us who want to be tolerant and he offends those of us who want to be intolerant and he offends those of us who would like to practice a sense at self-efficiency. Surely if we do the right things, we're going to be okay. If you go to the right places, do the right things everything's supposed to turn out okay.

Verse 17 of Chapter 2; Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Those of us who claim to have all the things that are correct, he says, are held accountable because we don't always do what we're supposed to do. In fact, one of the troubling verses in this whole chapter is Verse 24. When you realize that the behavior of those who are believers is not consistent with what they claim to do, then God is dishonored.

Well, he's gonna go down here in Verse 29 and say a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit. Ah, this is a matter of the inward. The law doesn't save. Our heritage doesn't save. We cannot keep all of the law. We cannot live up to the expectations. Just because we are a member of the church, does not necessarily mean that we're innocent.

Well, you can turn that same coin over. Maybe it's not our self-sufficiency so much as it is our insufficiency. Verse 1 of Chapter 3 says;

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:

"So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge."

But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, "If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?" Why not say--as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say--"Let us do evil that good may result"?

Do you hear what happens? If God's grace is poured out on sinners and more sin means more grace, it's gonna show up again in Chapter 6. So maybe what we ought to do is just sin more, because then there will be more of God's grace. If we tell more lies, there will be more of God's truth and if we are more unfaithful, then God will be more faithful.

There is such an American spirit of self-sufficiency that I don't know how you cannot be offended by the fact that trying harder isn't going to get the job done. If I just work harder at being a Christian, if I just come to church more, if I just give more, if I just pray more, if I just read my Bible more, if I just DO MORE! That's not the clue. That's not the key. It's what's in here that matters.

Lastly he says that the gospel offends out sense of just basic human goodness. He's going to string together more old testament quotations in this one chapter than in any other place in all of scripture. It would be healthy to go back and look at all of those places, but we'll not. He says in Verse 9 then--

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. You hear that?? Jews, Gentiles alike--doesn't matter who you are. He says you are under sin. It's an interesting phrase.

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit."

"The poison of vipers is on their lips."

"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."

"Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know."

"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

He just comes right out and says that there's just not much good with any of us that we all appear to be under sin. He's not particularly seeker sensitive nor very visitor friendly to preach like that in a church to just tell the world you're lost and going to hell in a handbasket. Because somewhere in our psyche, we are conditioned to believe that there is an inherent goodness in us all and nobody should try to point out something other than that.

I decided that I would indulge myself the other night so Gail and I went and saw "Bruce Almighty" where Mr. Carey gets to play God for awhile. There's this interesting relationship between him and Jennifer Anniston's character. You don't find out I don't want to spoil the movie but you don't find out until way into the movie that they are not married. They are living together, but they are not married. They are obviously having physical relationships with one another, but they are not married. Are you catching this scene that I'm trying to paint for you? And yet, in the movie, she is portrayed as a very good believer who has this lonnnnnngggggg. . . . computer record of praying. So therefore, if she is a praying person, who uses God's name and depends on him, you're supposed to just dismiss the fact that she's living with a man and having sexual relationships outside of marriage. You see, in our culture, that's not a problem any more. Or are you not aware of that?

In a scene from "Everyone Loves Raymond", Robert and his girlfriend have decided to live together and his girlfriend's mother and dad show up. They are the stereo typical, conservative, narrow-minded Christians portrayed only as TV can portray us. And she says, I guess I might as well tell you, Robert and I have decided to live together. I have decided that it's not SIN. Well, that's nice!! She's decided that end of discussion.

Cause, see, in American culture, I don't know whether it's true anywhere else, but in American culture there's an inherent human goodness that we assume in all of us. You know when I first discovered it? Talking to my mother. Now I was not a particularly good Christian witness to my parents. I failed miserably when I first became a Christian to help them know Jesus. I remember being in the middle of a discussion with my mother, which only happened once or twice in my entire Christian life, and her looking with great offence at me and saying; I PRAY! end of discussion. Cause, see, if I pray, I'm okay!

Paul's statement is really very clear. Romans, Chapter 3, Verse 9 and 10--There is none righteous, no not one.

Well it all sounds pretty unfair and pretty hopeless if you ask me. Chapter 1 he dismisses natural revelation - says you cannot be saved by looking around at the world. You should know God, but you can't be saved that way. Chapter 2 he turns around and says those who have the law, man they don't have any hope either because they can't keep the law. So what hope do we have?

Let's just move 2 verses beyond the end of our text. Shall we? Verse 21 of Chapter 3

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Do you remember how the first paragraph of Romans ended back over in Chapter 1? Verses 16 and 17

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

There is a righteousness that has been revealed here, he says in Chapter 1. In Chapter 3 he says, there is a righteousness that has been made known.

My friends, the bottom line of this text is this simple statement; without Jesus Christ, no one can be saved. But in Jesus Christ, anyone can have fellowship with God. Without him there isn't any hope. Not a bit! Jew, Gentile, seeker, non-seeker, atheist, doesn't make any difference, there is no hope. But in Jesus Christ, we can have fellowship with God. There is a righteousness revealed to us that God wants to simply give to you because you choose to place your trust in Christ.

God is an equal opportunity offender. He simply looks down and says: NO, you do not have what it takes--it's not there! I'm sorry. I've looked. You haven't got it. But I do and I want to give it to you in the person of Jesus.

The book of Romans is going to help us come to understand that a faith in Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. And it's the only hope for you and me. And that hope comes because God sent his Son in human flesh to live among us as a second Adam (he talks about in Chapter 5) reinstating what has been destroyed by our sin. In Chapter 6 he's going to tell us that anyone who has identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection, through Christian baptism, lives to walk in a new life. Oh there will be struggles he says, in Chapter 7, but in Chapter 8 we have the presence of the Spirit of God which makes life in HIM possible. And then he's going to say, from that point on, this is how you'll live it out. But it starts right here. It starts with the recognition that there is not one of us who stands a chance before God outside of Jesus Christ. I'm sorry if that offends you. It's just that it's not my word, it's HIS, but I offer you that same word back from him to you. In Jesus Christ, you can have hope.

If you don't know Jesus, we're here to offer him to you. If you know what you need to do. If you're ready to make a decision. If you're ready for the waters of baptism, you come and we'll take care of it right now. If you don't know what to do, we invite you to come and ask. Let us walk you through the process, so there can be an obedience of faith and God can give that righteousness to you that he so desperately wants to give you, which you cannot have without him.

And so we move from holiness and unholiness to grace and a return to holiness.

Let us stand and sing.

Gracious Father,

Your word is hard. It is in fact, offensive. We'd like it to be different than it is. But it's not. So thank you for understanding us enough to know that outside of Jesus Christ, your word would be hopeless. So we appreciate the grace and then the hope that comes through him. It makes us want to worship--makes us want to say thank you. It makes us want to give our very lives to you, so please receive from us our praise and our thanks today for the grace of Jesus. It's in his name we pray. Amen.