Romans Chapter 1
The Sin of the Gentiles

The book of Romans is about the gospel as a message of how to be right with God through faith.  In the first 17 verses of the book, we have the introduction.  It is in these verses that the author makes three statements that help us understand what the book of Romans is about.

  • Romans 1.14:  “I am a debtor.”
  • Romans 1.15:  “I am ready to preach the gospel.”
  • Romans 1.16:  “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”

The entire book of Romans is about the gospel.  Paul felt an obligation and was excited to preach this good news message about Jesus Christ.  

After he introduces the book of Romans as one who is excited to preach the gospel, he begins to discuss how the gospel makes one right with God.  We find this deeply theological discussion in chapters 1-11.  

The first thing the apostle Paul does in showing how the gospel makes us right with God is talk about the problem of sin.  He shows how all of us need to be made right with God through the gospel.  There isn’t anyone who is right with God apart from the gospel.  This is because everyone is guilty of sin.  

In Romans 1.18-32, Paul shows that the Gentiles need the gospel because they are guilty of sin.  In chapter 2, Paul then turns to the Jews and shows how they also need the gospel because they are just as guilty as the Gentiles.  

As the writer establishes that the Gentiles need the gospel because of their sins, he does three things.

The Anger of God

Romans 1.18:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

The gospel is introduced in verses 16,17 as being God’s power to save.  God saves us through the gospel.  Then the writer begins to show why we need this gospel.  We need the gospel because of the wrath of God that is directed toward sin.  

The idea of wrath as it is used in this context refers to a simmering anger.  It is an anger that is bottled up and continues to build over time until it finally comes out.  It is a festering anger.

Reminder:  In New Testament times, all of humanity was divided up into two major categories.  There were the Jews.  These were God’s special people that originate from the lineage of Jacob.  The Gentiles referred to everyone else.  If you were not a Jew, then you were a Gentile.  

Our passage tells us that God was angry with Gentiles.  What causes God to be angry?  Why does God have this simmering anger?

Romans 1.18:  “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”  

Notice how the Gentiles are described:

  • “Ungodliness”  To be ungodly literally means that you don’t show God reverence.  When I live a life where I fail to revere God, it causes God to be angry.
  • “Unrighteousness."  To be unrighteous is to not do what is right.
  • “Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”  The word for “suppressing” means to hold down.  

Romans 1.19:  “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” 

God has made the truth known.  These were not people who were ignorant of God’s truth.  They couldn’t stand before God and claim not to have known.  They knew the truth because God made it available to them.  They were just not interested in it.  Instead of trying to understand it and accepting it, they suppressed it and ignored it.

These are people who did not revere God.  They did not do what was right.  They held down the truth because they did not want anything to do with it.  This angered God.  

I need to know that if I do not revere God, do not do what is right, and ignore the truth, then I am making myself subject to the wrath of God. 

There is no excuse for living ungodly, unrighteous lives.  God has told us how to live, and He has revealed what He expects from us.  He has told us that there are consequences of ignoring His commands.  There is no excuse.  Then we read about His attributes.

The Attributes of God

Romans 1.20:  “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” 

How can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists?  It is the creation that teaches us about God’s existence.  Psalm 19.1 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”  I can study the universe and it speaks volumes about God’s existence.

The creation also tells me what kind of God exists.  I can study the creation and see that God exists, but I can also see the attributes of God.  Specifically, I can see His eternal power and Godhead.  

The fact that the universe exists tells us that God is powerful and divine.  Nobody could bring this universe into existence except the powerful and divine God.  When you look at the gospel as a saving message, you are talking about a message that came from God.  The gospel is the power of God.  To appreciate the effectiveness of the gospel, we need to remember that it came from the same God who created the heavens and the earth.  When I think about the life that I am to live, I need to pattern my life after the life this powerful and divine God wants me to live.

Because I can learn from the creation about God and His invisible attributes, it says that they are without excuse.  There is no excuse for ungodliness and unrighteousness because they could know about God through the creation.  Instead of recognizing God and honoring Him, watch what they did…

Romans 1.21:  “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.”  

They could see through the creation that God existed.  They knew that He was powerful.  They knew that He was divine.  Yet instead of glorifying Him and being thankful to Him, they began to think in ways they should not think.  

How did these people who ignored God think?  They became futile in their thoughts.  These were people who were living ungodly and unrighteous lives.  They were suppressing the truth, and they were thinking foolishly.  They were ignoring God, suppressing the truth, and doing whatever they wanted to do, and then tried to use logic to rationalize their behavior, but in reality, they were being futile.  

What about their hearts?  It says that their foolish hearts were darkened.  Their hearts were so filled with foolishness that they became extremely dark. 

Romans 1.22:  “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”  

These were people who were patting themselves on the back because of how wise and enlightened they were.  In reality, they were fools.  It was their failing to acknowledge God and give Him glory by suppressing the truth that resulted in their practicing all kinds of ungodly and unrighteous behavior.

Romans 1.23:  “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

They changed God.  If you want to change what is right and wrong, then you change the One who dictates what is right and wrong.  How many have said that the God they serve doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality.  They changed God and turned Him into something like man.

Watch what happened.  These were people who were ungodly and unrighteous.  How did they get there?

  • They ignored the truth about who God is as revealed by the creation.
  • They began thinking in a way that was futile by justifying their behavior.
  • They became foolish in their hearts while congratulating themselves about how wise and enlightened they were.
  • Then they changed God.  They didn’t deny that God existed.  They reinvented God into someone that they wanted God to be.

How did God respond to their ungodliness and unrighteousness?

The Abandonment of God

Remember that when you study the Bible, you want to give attention to the context.  That means paying attention to words that connect thoughts together.  The first word in verse 24 is the word “therefore.”  What I am about to read in the rest of this chapter is the conclusion that is being drawn from what I just read in the verses prior.  They ignored God and changed God because they wanted to act the way they wanted to act.  Therefore, as a result of what they did, here is what God did.  

Verse 24 also uses the word “also.”  They gave up on God, so God also gave up on them.  They ignored God and tried to change God.  As a result, God also gave them up.  The word “also” tells us that God turned away from them because they first turned away from God.  When you reject God by virtue of your behavior, God also rejects you.

The idea of God giving them up or giving them over expresses the idea of God handing them over to something.  These are people who rejected God.  They knew that there was a God, and they knew the kind of God He was, but they didn’t want to think about God.  They did not glorify Him.  Instead, they changed Him into something that they wanted God to be.  They wanted to live the way that they wanted to live instead of the way God wanted them to live.  In response, God says that He is stepping back and letting them do what they want to do.  What were they doing?

Romans 1.24,25:  “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

They wanted to live unclean lives.  So God steps out of the way and lets them live the way you want to live.  The  way they lived resulted in them dishonoring their bodies.  Did you know that the way we engage in sexual activities can dishonor our bodies?  

Romans 1:26,27:  “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

They had passions, and these strong passions were vile.  What did they do?  It says that engaged in homosexuality.  There were women with women.  There were men with men.  Is one born to be a homosexual, lesbian, bisexual?  These verses tell us that you are not born that way.  These verses say that it is against nature.  Nature did not make a man into a homosexual or a woman into a lesbian.  Their choices made them that way.  

I am not trying to be unkind or hateful.  When we say that we don’t believe such a lifestyle is right, we are labeled as hateful and homophobic, and that is just not the case.  We still need to show people what God says about this.  

God tells us that these women and these men took what is a part of nature, and turned it into something that is not a part of nature.  God says that He has handed them over to this lifestyle.  In other words, God says that if you want to live that way, He is not going to stop you.  But we need to know that this kind of behavior is ungodliness and unrighteousness and it causes us to be subject to the wrath of God.

Romans 1.28-32:  “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; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 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.”

Their minds were debased.  Their feelings were vile.  Their bodies were dishonored.  All of this sinful behavior is because they decided to live a life of ungodliness and unrighteousness.

Summary:  Watch what is happening in these verses.  God is angry.  His wrath is coming.  It is coming because of those who chose not to glorify God.  They chose to ignore God.  They rationalized their behavior.  They changed God into something that they wanted Him to be, and they did all of this so that they can live the ungodly and unrighteous life that they wanted to live.  In response, God says, “I’m done with you.”  

The central message of the book of Romans is to tell us how to be right with God through the gospel.  In this book, Paul is telling us that people who live this way, who ignore God, who rationalize their sin, who change God into something that He is not so they can justify their sin, the gospel is even for them.  The gospel is God power to save everyone.

To Further Study the Book of Romans:

> > > Romans chapter 1

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.