The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
This has been referred to over time as the thesis for the whole book of Romans. This is the heart of Paul and the gospel. This is the historical foundation that people such as Martin Luther and others were established in their walk.
To begin with this verse can be taken out of context if laid out on their own. It begins with “For” which links it to the previous verse:
I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome (because I am not ashamed of it)- Romans 1:15
Every single one of us have experienced embarrassment, we have been a made a fool of. This is painful in many ways, but the most obvious is that we feel like an outcast, unacceptable.
Can you share a moment when you have been embarrassed, made a fool of?
You don’t like someone or don’t care for them and you talk to your friends about their misfortune, maybe they wrecked their car or something. Then doesn’t it just happen at the wrong time, you get in a wreck. Then you have to show up in front of your friends, no better off than the person you were belittling.
How do we get embarrassed? Or better yet, how do we prevent from being embarrassed?
You could always be thinking about every possible situation; continuously keeping yourself in the good light as you walk; work on protecting and planning every event and situation; always calculate your behavior so that people will like you, that you will be accepted. I know I have caught myself doing just those things. How about you?
Do you think that Paul triumphs over the possible shame by just declaring that he is not ashamed? Proclaiming it? Does Paul prevent himself from feeling ashamed by staying in the light? Well, if we know anything about Paul, it seems like he is always in turmoil and in the darkness. Believing and preaching the gospel constantly put Paul in a bad light. It constantly caused other people to shame Paul. Here is an example in 2 Corinthians 11:23-26 from the Message…
I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. – 2 Cor. 11:23-26 MSG
Do you see that actually the gospel causes Paul a lot of shame. One way to avoid shame is to spend all your time trying to please other people and making sure everybody likes you. You will be a slave to this world, you will be in bondage. Not to Christ, but to the world! If you try to avoid shame by pleasing other people you will be what is know as codependent!
Remember last week when Paul explained that he was in “debt to the Greek, the barbarian. The wise and the foolish”. Do you see how that can tie into this situation? We know from our own experience that different people use different tactics in their assault on people. The wise can shame us and the foolish can shame us. It would be very rare that they do it the same way.
But when we mingle with those people that assault us with their shameful tactics, we tend to despise them. We want to pull away. We tend to avoid them. We don’t like being around them. Those are the same category of people that Paul indicated that he was in debt to.
Before we can understand that Romans 1:16 shows the gospel as the basis of Paul’s freedom from shame, we need to acknowledge that it was first the basis of him being shamed. The gospel does two things: it brings out shaming behavior in those who will not believe it. And it gives freedom from shame to those who do believe it.
Even Jesus felt the shame from the gospel. He was abandoned by his friends, falsely accused of blasphemy, beaten with rods, ridiculed and taunted, stripped of his clothes, scourged with a whip, tortured in public, and made to look like a fool (the crown of thorns, the purple robe, hung on the cross with only a loin cloth). How did Jesus handle it? Check out this verse…
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2 NASB
He despised the shame for our sake. It means that when shame began to threaten his heart and to tempt him to abandon a clear and obedient witness to God and to the gospel, he said to shame, “Shame, I despise you. I will not yield to you. I will not give to you any satisfaction. You may do with me whatever you please – in the short run – but I will not obey you or follow you or give in to you. I despise you, shame, and will not let you rule me.” Though he was being shamed, Jesus was not ashamed of his God and Father. Why? Because God had power to save him from death and give him all-satisfying glory at his right hand forever. (Hebrews 12:2)
Shamed but not Ashamed!
There are no exceptions to who gets assaulted by people, so don’t believe you are being singled out. You’re not! People are going to shame you! Don’t let it take ahold of you! You will be shamed, but you don’t have to be ashamed of the gospel. That is a choice you make. Ponder the power of the gospel to bring forgiven sinners to final, everlasting joy. Nothing in the world can do this except the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the crazy things that we face today in the United States that Paul and Jesus did not face is that shame put upon us for not believing others. Years ago the only shame you would feel when sharing the gospel was that of people that did not believe the gospel and make fun of you. Now a days, majority of the people don’t really care what you believe in. But they will wield their shame assault on you if you don’t believe in what they believe in. How dare you not give them any credit.
1. the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.
2. disgrace; ignominy: His actions brought shame upon his parents.
3. a fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret: The bankruptcy of the business was a shame. It was a shame you couldn’t come with us.
1. feeling shame; distressed or embarrassed by feelings of guilt, foolishness, or disgrace: He felt ashamed for having spoken so cruelly.
2. unwilling or restrained because of fear of shame, ridicule, or disapproval: They were ashamed to show their work.
God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18-23
As the summary or title of this section illustrates in your bible, “God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness”-ESV, we move from the gift to the truthful definition of God and his broken world. Up to this point in the study of Romans we have learned about who’s Paul is and who he is writing to and the basic thesis of the book of Romans: the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that has that power to save believers from God’s wrath, because in the gospel, everyday, all the time, God keeps on revealing his righteousness as a gift to be received by faith and for faith, so that those who have their righteousness from God (not themselves) will not perish but have everlasting life.
This section begins a long subject of “Human sin and God’s wrath”. It will cover more than a chapter. It will actually continue all the way through to Chapter 3, verse 19. The sections breakdown like this:
1:18-32 – conditions of gentile world apart from the gospel and saving grace
2:1-3:8 – conditions of the Jews
3:9-10 – conclusion that all are alike, none are righteous
This is a tour of the human heart and it is not a joy ride.
We receive the main idea that the righteousness of God is revealed through faith and he puts a bow on this idea in verse Romans 3
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. – Romans 3:21-22
Superficial diagnoses leads to false remedies and no cure.
Example: If you go running in the dirt and gravel of a playground and then take a fall. Hands and knees get all skinned up and actually come up with bits of dirt and gravel in your hands, all raw and bleeding. You go running into the house to your parents for comfort. They just grab a band aid and say, there you go. Your all taken care of. NO! You need to get the gravel and dirt cleaned out. You need it cleansed so it can heal fast and healthy. Most of the time we just want it to done with, we just want mom or dad to kiss it and make it feel better. But in reality, the parent has to take the time and clean it up and cleanse it. Now that we are older and wiser, we do know that is the right thing, but at the time, we were insistent that we were alright and did not need that soap, and iodine and maybe even some ointment.
It has been said that a “understanding sin and wrath will make you a wise man”
Profound understanding of sin and wrath will make us a far wiser person about human nature – our own and others. And if we are wiser about the nature of the human soul, we will be able to fight our own sin more successfully, and we will be able to bless others more deeply with your insight and counsel and serve God for His glory.
Many individuals don’t like to deal with their sin. They would prefer to just sweep it under the rug, or pretend that it does not exist. Many think that when Jesus died on the cross there is no more sin and that if one struggles with sin, then they really are not saved. So this leaves people walking around in a bliss ignoring their sinful ways, and logically, not growing in Christ, and not even receiving the blessings the Lord has in store.
If you run away from the study of sinful human nature – if you say, I don’t like to think about sin – then you run away from yourself, and you run away from wisdom, and, worst of all, you run away from the deepest kinds of love.
Knowing the true condition of our heart and the nature of sin and the magnitude and justice of the wrath of God will allow us to understand the mighty gospel, and love it, and cherish it, and feast on it, and share it as never before. And this is crucial because this is the way the gospel saves believers. If we don’t understand the gospel, if we don’t cherish it and look to it and feed on it day after day, it won’t save us (see 1 Cor. 15:1-3; Col. 1:23). Knowing sin and wrath will help us do that.
As we start in on verse 18, it is key to note once again the words used in the verse and see how they do not stand on their own. This specific example is where the NIV translation cuts you short on the meaning of the Word. The first word in verse 18 is listed as “For…” which means that it is continuation of thought from the previous sentence. Let’s really look at what this sentence has to explain to us. It is easy to just rattle it off, and called it good. But when we get the meaning, it just might help us deal with life better…
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18 ESV
When we are just reading though this section in general, we can simply either ignore or read through the sentence with no impact. There are way too many long words, “un” words in this section. The sad part is that this is a powerful statement that holds much treasure for us, which we will clarify today.
Do you really grasp the full idea that the creator, all powerful God is against our sin? Your unrighteousness? Do you know He cannot stand it when you ignore His truth? This is very serious situation in all of our lives. We don’t like it when the truth opposes our motives, ideas and actions. We even build up resentment to those people that bring truth to us. Many of us gathered together today have been confronted and informed about some unhealthy behaviors or actions in our lives. We agree that they don’t align with the truth of God, but we can easily be distracted by the enemy in quick judgement of who do these people think they are? We quickly compare instead of being thankful that God provided someone in our life to speak truth to us. Many times the information is simply shrugged off and simple thoughts that God’s grace is sufficient and that He loves us. Let’s be clear. God’s grace is sufficient and he does love each and every one of us, but God still has a wrath that we cannot comprehend and cannot avoid or ignore!
When we understand the extent of our actual ungodliness and unrighteousness we will have no other choice but to yearn and grasp for the gospel. See that person that just prayed the prayer of salvation, and believes that God is Lord, then shuns the truth is essentially saying that they know better than God. That they can clarify what he really meant. They tend to fall into the category of making themselves or their group “god’s” (little “g”). See we could do that right in our own group. We could pick and choose the scriptures we want to embrace and come to an agreement with the scriptures that go against what we desire. But I will declare that I will not be in this group if we stray away from the Holy Scriptures, all of it, and will not compromise.
We could get overwhelmed with this topic of the wrath of God, especially since it covers many chapters, but we will continue to focus as Paul did, not only on the sin and negativeness, but continuously wrapping it back to verse 17. The hope we have: the righteousness of God, the gospel.
If we are honest with ourselves. we may find it hard to remember the last time we heard a message on the wrath of God on Sunday mornings. That is because the corporate objective of church is to cast that wide net of hope for the congregation and visitors. Generally speaking, the wrath of God lessons and message are reserved for bible studies and Sunday school classes. We may hear a statement or two about the wrath of God after a tragedy and the old question, “why does bad things happen to good people” gets thrown in there.
Do you acknowledge the idea that a “good person” is still ungodly and unrighteous?
Let’s unravel the verse…
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Romans 1:18 ESV
Once we understand that God’s wrath is “revealed” to us, as against all ungodliness and unrighteousness in all of us. We can then appreciate the grace offered. Salvation is not just a ticket into heaven. Salvation and grace is something we need today, while we are still alive. We need that grace protection against God’s wrath. Yes, God is opposed to our sinful actions. Be ready, if you oppose God and his ways, you will feel the pain, you will end up crying out, “why God?” and you better be willing to look at your own walk.
In other words, the reason we need God to reveal HIS righteousness to us in the gospel and give it to us as a gift through faith is because we are unrighteous and resist the truth in unrighteousness and, therefore, God’s wrath is against us. We need righteousness. We don’t have it. God’s wrath is being poured out on us in our unrighteousness.
It is beautiful how verse 17 the righteousness of God is revealed and then in 18, Paul follows it up with the wrath of God is revealed. Do you notice the verb tense in these sentences? It is the present tense, on-going, “is revealed”. He does not state that it happened on day on a mountain or in a room. But everyday all the time, his righteousness AND wrath are revealed to us. This is another reason why we need to pay attention. We need discipleship in our lives to live with us. To help us see what is revealed.
I can share multiple times in my life where my discipleship partners have “revealed” some things in my life that needed attention. I have also been blessed with the opportunity to have that same exact people “reveal” to me the righteousness and goodness of God, that I so very much need. That is living as disciples in this world.
We know that there is a day of wrath coming, but can we acknowledge wrath that is revealed to us daily?
1. Human death is revealing the wrath of God
Death is God’s wrath of ungodliness and it is rooted all the way back to Adam. In Romans chapter 5, Paul lays explains the results of Adam’s sin and Jesus’ salvation. Death is the response God had and still has today for Adam’s sin. Our physical death is more than just our bodies getting old and we expire. It is actually the judgement of God on mankind. (review Romans 5:15-18) Death is a response to sin: wrath.
2. Suffering, futility and misery are evidence of the wrath of God
We have great plans and we have days where we work to align with God. We go to church, pay or bills, we create friends and things have hope, but then life happens. We get sick, car accidents, fires, and pain rushes in. That is futility. Patrick can share with us the heartache of his relatives dying in a house fire. See this is in verse
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:18
Who is the one that subjected this futility? Be careful. I fell into the trap and declared it was Adam and Even in the garden. But read that verse in clarity. Why was it subjected? For hope. Specifically, hope that the creation, us, will be set free from bondage and obtain freedom. After Adam and Eve are confronted it is God who provides the hope of the future for humanity. Remember, God declared that it would be the offspring of Eve that would crush the head of the enemy. Neither Adam, Eve or even Satan provided hope for us in chapter 3. It was God that interjected hope for us.
The hope is built into the curse.
3. The degrading nature of humanity is the wrath of God
We will see in the coming section that the wrath of God is directly involved in lives. Take a look at verse 24. This is a frightening verse, if we take it as truth. God gave them over or God gave them up. Yes, right in scripture he declares via his wrath, he releases them to their own will. The NLT is even scarier:
God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. – Romans 1:24a NLT
That verse can screw you up if you lean on the scripture that God will never leave you or forsake you. He won’t do it out of his desire, but he will let you do it. He allows the degradation of humanity to happen. Does he create sin and evil? No, but he does allow it to exist. His wrath is revealed by permitting our sinful ways. He allows our will to wreak wrath on ourselves as a generation. Check out verse 28:
they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper – Romans 1:28 NASB
Summary of God’s Wrath revealed
So the first way God’s wrath is revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness is in universal human death. The second way is in the futility and misery and suffering of creation. The third is the one most immediately in Paul’s mind here in Romans 1, namely, the sinking degradation of human thinking and behavior. You see this three times in Romans 1:24-28.
Wrath interlaced with mercy
Let us not just focus on wrath. We get so much more than consequences. We get his kindness, tolerance and love. He is always working in ways we cannot understand. God warns us with his wrath and encourages us with is hope. We will see in chapter 2 how this is combined together. For example:
Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, – Romans 2:4-5 NASB
What is there to look towards? How do we use this for hope and glory? When we take hold of verse 17 we can face these challenges of life.
Death is a gateway to paradise. It is not a punishment, but an escape from the wrath and corruption of this world. Regarding our futility, we know that many times we are instructed to rejoice in our sufferings and that all things work together for the good of God. There really is no such things as futility as a follower of Jesus. Sufferings will come, tragedy will come, but not futility. Remember we need to grasp that there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Conclusion: flee the wrath of God and run to His gospel!
Next week we will attempt to, once again, attempt to conclude chapter 1.