Harbor Lights Sermon  Oct 2011

Romans - The Human Condition

Having concluded the series on prayer, in this next series we'll walk through Paul's epistle to the Christians in Rome. And though he addresses his letter to those beloved of God and called to be saints, as also I generally reckon you all, he starts off with a presentation of the gospel for the first 5 chapters.

He says in Rom 1:15-17a "I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith "

Today I'll be focussing up to Romans 3 verse 20 in which he speaks on the human condtion. And much as the gospel is good news, which is actually the meaning of the word gospel, it is only good news in light of the bad news. So today we'll be considering the bad news. The bad news is first of all the all have sinned and as such are subject to condemnation in view of God's judicial nature.

First from Romans 1:18 to the end of the chapter he speaks of people whom good people would categorize as wicked, sinful people. Read Romans 1:18-32

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.

Therefore 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.

Notice the progress. He speaks of people having no exuse. Everyone has sufficient information to infer that God exists. And if we are created beings that implies that our purpose is not define by ourselves but by our Creator. And the fact our Creator has given us a conscience which convicts us of sin would indicate there's some accountability demanding of us by our Creator, and consequently some judgement to come.

But much of history has shown us that the human condition is such that people will naturally gravitate towards attitudes and lifestyle which are contrary to God's intended purpose. Rejecting the knowledge of God people naturally become corrupted in their thinking and in their desires. And as they reject God, God allows to them to be given over to such corruption, which is the wage of sin in this life. In their thinking they end up replacing God with something else. And their desires become corrupted, out of control. And even those who know of what God has said concerning such behavior as being evil, they not only openly practice their sin, but encourage others to do so as well. That Romans chapter 1.

Now chapter 2 and part of chapter 3 Paul considers those who reckon themselves to be good people. In Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, as you might know, the Pharisee characteristized himself in this manner, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." Lk 18:11,12 Likewise when many allegedly good people hear that first section in Romans they thank God that they are now like such people. But Paul goes in Romans chapter 2 and chapter 3 to say that allegedly good people characteristically do the same kinds of things as those whom they view as wicked, though perhaps in a more private or in a less obvious way. Or in a way which is socially acceptable.

In fact do you know who Jesus' greatest enemies were? They were the religious elite of his day.  "He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Mr 8:31 For the whole of Matthew chapter 23, Jesus criticizes the religious elite for their hypocrisy.

To summarize chapter 2 of Romans, people, though they think themselves good and look down on others, don't actually do what they know is right. And as such they are no better off, apart from Christ, then those they categorize as wicked. And thus he concludes in Rom 3:22b-23 that "There is no difference. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Also in in Romans 3 he says that we "alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one" Rom 3:9b-10

This is what Paul said of the Ephesian Christians concerning their state prior to being saved.

Eph 2:1-3 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."

God introduced the Law, like the 10 commandments not to make people better, nor to justify people. Rather Paul says in Rom 3:20 "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." By introducing regulations, God helped allegedly "good" people realize how depraved they actually were. God wants us to realize that we need a savior, we need a savior to save us from our own nature, which is depraved, and a savior to save us from the wrath of God. So he says in Gal 3:24 "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." But not that the law was an end in itself in so much as he goes on to say in the verse that follows, "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

Paul own expereience in this regard sets a precedent. For he says, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." 1Tim 1:15,16



Jul 29,2015