As our pastor is preaching through this most powerful of Paul’s letters (to the Roman Christians) my desire is to make note of the impressions that the Lord is leaving on my own heart and life; with the prayer that the gospel to which Paul was called and set apart, and was not ashamed, would be revealed in me, so powerful and impressive; so as to be the expression of my own life.
In the middle of the first chapter of Romans (vs. 16-17) he speaks of “the power of God,” a reference of the same “power” in verse 4 ~ “the Son of God in power.” It is the same power and the same “gospel of His Son.” (vs. 9) In these verses he also is setting the stage for the whole of the letter, as it refers to “salvation,” “righteousness” and “faith.”
Before he goes on to encourage with the main elements of the gospel for salvation he inserts the reason for this salvation, the knowledge and need of the gospel, using the backdrop of God’s wrath. Why can we not look over the wrath of God when we speak of the gospel? Why can’t the gospel be preached simply from the center of God’s mercy and love?
Before we can know where we need to be we must know where we are. Without understanding the power and depths of our depravity we cannot fully understand the need for the gospel and its power.
Oppression and Suppression of the Truth
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” In Romans 1: 18-32 we have a description of humanity in its lowest state of sin and misery. Since the antithesis began in the garden oppression has a grip on the hearts and minds of the creatures that God created to be His image-bearers. Instead of obedience to God man has rebelled, and stirred the wrath of God upon us all.
Instead of accepting all that God has created as evidence of His rule and reign over us, man continues to suppress the truth. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God, but became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.”
Even as God proved the weakness of our thinking and living on our own, with Adam and Eve, so in giving man up to their own lusts, He reveals how deep into our own depravity we come without Him. Under the power of oppression and sin man suppresses the truth and love of God; and becomes as the lowest creatures, following their own lusts as they have no power of righteousness within them.
Having read and studied Paul’s letter to the Romans, meditating on the truths that are written there, I was not prepared for the tears that came during this sermon. Knowing the mercy and love of God that comes through the power of the gospel of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and how Paul was not ashamed to live and proclaim this salvation for righteousness, I am amazed at how the ungodly are not ashamed of their sin, and of those who “give approval to those who practice them.”
We, as a congregation, were reminded that we, though believers are part of this fallen humanity, still subject to the oppression and temptation to sin. It is only through the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ that we have any hope of righteousness and of escaping God’s wrath.
I praise the Lord for such power of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit that works faith by His grace, (Ephesians 2:8-10) to make known to us and overcome the ungodliness and unrighteousness in us who believe. This power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. (Ephesians 1:19-20; Ephesians 2:1-6) a power greater than the oppression of this world and our sin.
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for this letter to the Romans. Please open our hearts to hear, and obey the gospel wherein your righteousness is revealed from faith for faith to us. Keep us aware of our own nature; keep us close to you. Search us and know our hearts; try us and know our thoughts; see if there be any wicked way in us; and lead us the way everlasting. Fill us with the power of your Spirit to speak the truth of Christ ~ not ashamed but eager to share the gospel of Christ wherever you lead us.