On Friday Night as I lay ill in my bed weak and exhausted from the 103º fever I thought “We'll you had better call Regina” -my sounding board and partner in the ministry- “to prepare a message for Sunday.” She, being the faithful servant of the Lord that she is, prayerfully accepted. Well by Sunday morning I was recovered, refreshed and nearly restored to my usual countenance. When Regina and I spoke at our early Sunday briefing she shared with me her Bible text and the battle with GOD she had been having about whether it was the right message. She began her dialogue with me by saying “Good morning Pastor, you look well. Are you going to preach?” to which I replied “I thought you were preaching?” We laughed. Then she shared the text she felt GOD had given to her. As I thought about it's content, I fully understood her concern. She said I really wish you would preach this one, Pastor. So, I prayed about it, we worshiped GOD and here is what GOD spoke to us.
Romans 1:7 – 2:11. Whoa! That a harsh sounding piece. But it's the word of GOD! So lets look at it together.
First and foremost we should realize the social and historical context. Rome is in her full glory. The Roman Empire encompasses or influences all of the then known world, mostly militarily. She is bustling with commerce. Her markets abound ant. Her economy is exploding with growth. She is excelling in every area of professional athletics and in the fine Arts. Rome's slaves are even being offered to buy themselves out of slavery. Sounds like pretty prosperous society, right? Well, listen to the Apostle Paul's question to the Roman believers:
“do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long suffering?” -Romans 2:4
What a question? Paul's wants for Rome to know that despite their apparent “blessed” standing in the world economy, that:
a) GOD is the true provider of wealth (health, provision, influence, favor),
b) the Gospel of Jesus is the greatest treasure because “it is the power of GOD to salvation”,
They had foolishly followed idolatry; and “changed the worship of the glorious Creator”, for that of brutes, reptiles, and senseless images. They wandered from God and lost all traces of true religion without the Gospel. As a result Paul says that “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts”
and “shameful lusts”. In these verses, Paul points out “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity”.
On the other hand the Jews (who lived among the Romans and who were most often Roman citizens as well) would often sit in staunch religious judgement of “those who do such”. To them he writes:
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? -Romans 2:1-3
Thankfully, Paul goes on to write in the Holy Spirit Romans 3:23-24 and Romans 6:23 and Romans 8:1-2 and Romans 13:8-14.