The Salutation Romans 1:1-17
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God 2 (which he had promised afore, by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures), 3 concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; 5 by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name; 6 among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Bond Servant. "Paul, a servant of Jesus." It is thus that the apostle introduces himself to the Romans. In several other epistles the same expression is used. Some people would be ashamed to acknowledge themselves servants; the apostles were not.
It makes a vast difference whom one serves. The servant derives his importance from the dignity of the one served. Paul served the Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody may serve the same Master. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?" Rom. 6:16. Even the ordinary house servant who yields to the Lord is the servant of the Lord, and not of man. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Jesus Christ." Col. 3:22-24. Such a consideration as this can not fail to glorify the most menial drudgery.
Our version does not give us the full force of the term which the apostle uses when he calls himself a servant. It is really "bond servant." He used the ordinary Greek word for slave. If we are really the Lord's servants, we are servants bound to him for life. It is a bondage that is itself freedom, "for he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." 1 Cor. 7:22.
Separated. The apostle Paul was "separated unto the gospel." So is every one who is really the servant of the Lord. "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye can not serve God and mammon." Matt. 6:24. No man can serve the Lord and have other service besides that.
"Do you mean to say that a merchant or other business man can not be a Christian?" By no means. What I said was that a man can not serve the Lord and at the same time have other service. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Col. 3:17. If the man is not serving the Lord in his business, then he is not serving the Lord at all. The true servant of Christ is truly separated.
But this does not mean that he separates himself from personal contact with the world. The Bible gives no countenance to monkery. The most hopeless sinner is he who thinks himself too good to associate with sinners. How then are we to be separated unto the gospel? By the presence of God in the heart. Moses said to the Lord: "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up thence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." Ex. 33:15,16.
But the one who is separated to the public ministry of the gospel as the apostle Paul was, is separated in a special sense in that he may not engage in any other business for personal gain. "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." 2 Tim. 2:4. He can not take any position, however high under earthly governments. To do so is to dishonor his Master, and to belittle his service. The minister of the gospel is the ambassador of Christ, and there is no other position that can approach it in honor.
The Gospel of God. The apostle declared that he was "separated unto the gospel of God." It is the gospel of God "concerning his Son Jesus Christ." Christ is God and therefore the gospel of God, of which the apostle speaks in the first verse of the chapter, is identical with "the gospel of Christ" of which he speaks in the sixteenth verse.
Too many people separate the Father and the Son in the work of the gospel. Many do so unconsciously. God, the Father, as well as the Son, is our Saviour. "God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten son." John 3:16. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." 2 Cor. 5:19. "The council of peace" is "between them both." Zech. 6:13. Christ came to the earth only as the representative of the Father. Whoever saw Christ, saw the Father also. John 14:9. The works which Christ did, were the works of the Father, who dwelt in him. Vs. 10.
Even the words which he spoke, were the words of the Father. Vs. 24. When we hear Christ saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," we are listening to the gracious invitation of God the Father. When we see Christ taking the little children up in his arms, and blessing them, we are witnessing the tenderness of the Father. When we see Christ receiving sinners, mingling with them, and eating with them, forgiving their sins, and cleansing the hideous lepers with a touch, we are looking upon the condescension and compassion of the Father. Even when we see our Lord upon the cross, with the blood streaming from his side, that blood by which we are reconciled to God, we must not forget that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself," so that the apostle Paul said, "the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Acts 20:28.
The Gospel in the Old Testament. The gospel of God to which the apostle Paul declared himself to be separated, was the gospel "which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures" (Rom. 1:2); literally, the gospel which he had before announced or preached. This shows us that the Old Testament contains the gospel, and also that the gospel in the Old Testament is the same gospel that is in the New. It is the only gospel that the apostle preached. That being the case, it should not be thought strange for people to believe the Old Testament, and to refer to it as of equal authority with the New Testament.
We read that God "preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." Gal. 3:8. The gospel preached to the people when Paul lived was the same gospel that was preached unto the ancient Israelites. See Hebrews 4:2. Moses wrote of Christ, and so much of the gospel is to be found in his writings that a man who does not believe what Moses wrote, can not believe in Christ. John 5:46, 47. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43.
Paul had only the Old Testament when he went to Thessalonica, "and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead." Acts 17:2, 3.
Timothy had nothing in his childhood and youth but the Old Testament writings, and the apostle wrote to him: "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
Then go to the Old Testament with the expectation of finding Christ and his righteousness there, and you will be made wiser unto salvation. Do not discriminate between Moses and Paul, between David and Peter, between Jeremiah and James, between Isaiah and John.
The Seed of David. The gospel of God is "concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." Rom. 1:3. Read the history of David, and of the kings who descended from him, and who became the ancestors of Jesus, and you will see that on the human side the Lord was handicapped by his ancestry as badly as anybody can ever be. Many of them were licentious and cruel idolaters. Although Jesus was thus compassed with infirmity, he "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." 1 Pet. 2:22. This is to give courage to men in the lowest condition of life. It is to show that the power of the gospel of the grace of God can triumph over heredity.
The fact that Jesus was made of the seed of David means that he is heir to the throne of David. Of David's throne the Lord said, "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever." 2 Sam. 7:16. David's kingdom is therefore coextensive with the inheritance promised to Abraham, which is the whole world. See Romans 4:13.
The angel said of Jesus, "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:32, 33. But all this involved his bearing the curse of the inheritance, and suffering death. "For the joy that was set before him" He "endured the cross, despising the shame." Heb. 12:2. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Phil. 2:9.
As with Christ, so with us; it is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom. He who fears reproach, or who makes his lowly birth, or his inherited traits, an excuse for his shortcomings, will fail of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus Christ went to the lowest depths of humiliation in order that all who are in those depths might, if they would, ascend with him to the utmost heights of exaltation.
Power by the Resurrection. Although Jesus Christ was of lowly birth, he was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Rom. 1:4. Was he not the Son of God before the resurrection? and was he not so declared to be? Certainly; and the power of the resurrection was manifested in all his life. To speak of nothing else, the power of the resurrection was shown in his raising the dead, which he did by the power dwelling in him. But it was the resurrection from the dead that settled the matter beyond all doubt for men.
After his resurrection he met the disciples, and said unto them, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Matt. 28:18. The death of Christ shattered all the hopes that they had centered in him; but when he "showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days" (Acts 1:3), they had ample proof of his power.
Their sole work thenceforth was to be witnesses of his resurrection and of its power. The power of the resurrection is according to the Spirit of holiness, for it was by the Spirit that he was raised. The power given to make men holy is the power that raised Jesus from the dead. "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness."
The Obedience of Faith. Paul said that through Christ he had received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all nations. True faith is obedience. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent." John 6:29. Christ said, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6:46. That is, a profession of faith in Christ which is not accompanied by obedience, is worthless. "Faith, if it hath not works, is dead." James 2:17. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Vs. 26.
A man does not breathe in order to show that he lives, but because he is alive. He lives by breathing. His breath is his life. So a man can not do good works in order to demonstrate that he has faith, but he does good works because the works are the necessary result of faith. Even Abraham was justified by works, because "faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness."
"Beloved of God." That was a most comforting assurance that was given "to all that are in Rome." How many people have wished that they could hear an angel direct from glory say to them what Gabriel said to Daniel, "Thou art greatly beloved"! The apostle Paul wrote by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and so the message of love came as directly from heaven to the Romans as it did to Daniel. The Lord did not single out a few favorites by name, but declared that all in Rome were beloved of God.
Well, there is no respect of persons with God, and that message of love to the Romans is ours as well. They were "beloved of God" simply because "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." Jer. 31:3. And this everlasting love to men is not shaken, although they forget it; for to those who have turned away, and fallen by their iniquity, he says, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely." Hosea 14:43. "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He can not deny Himself."
"Called Saints." The reader will notice that the words "to be" in Romans 1:7 are indicated as supplied, so that instead of "called to be saints," we may read literally, "called saints." God calls all men to be saints, but all those who accept him he calls saints. That is their title. When God calls people saints, they are saints.
These words were addressed to the church in Rome, and not to the Church of Rome. The Church of Rome has always been apostate and pagan. It has abused the word "saint" until in its calendar it is almost a term of reproach. No greater sin has ever been committed by Rome than the distinction it has made between "saints" and ordinary Christians, making practically two standards of goodness. It has led people to think that laboring men and housewives were not and could not be saints, and has thus discounted true, everyday piety, and has put a premium on pious laziness and self-righteous deeds.
But God has not two standards of piety, and all the faithful people in Rome, poor and unknown as many of them were, he called saints. It is the same to-day with God, although men may reckon differently.
The first seven verses of the first chapter of Romans are the salutation. No uninspired letter ever embraced so much in its greeting as this one. The apostle was so overflowing with the love of God that he could not write a letter without covering almost the whole gospel in the salutation. The next eight verses may well be summarized in the words "debtor to all," for they show the completeness of the apostle's devotedness to others. Let us read them carefully, and not be content with one reading:
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let [hindered] hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
A Great Contrast. -In the days of the apostle Paul the faith of the church in Rome was spoken of throughout all the world. Faith means obedience; for faith is counted for righteousness, and God never counts a thing so unless it is so. Faith "worketh by love." Gal. 5:6. And this work is a "work of faith." 1 Thess. 1:3. Faith also means humility, as is shown by the words of the prophet, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith." Hab. 2:4. The upright man is the just man; the man whose soul is lifted up is not upright or just; but the just man is such because of his faith; therefore only the man whose soul is not lifted up has faith. The Roman brethren, therefore, in the days of Paul, were humble.
But it is far different now. An instance is given by the Catholic Times of June 15, 1894. The pope had said, "We gave authority to the bishops of the Syrian rite to meet in synod at Mossul," and had commended the "very faithful submission" of those bishops and had ratified the election of the patriarch by "Our Apostolic authority." An Anglican paper had expressed surprise, saying, "Is this a free union of equal churches, or is it submission to one supreme and monarchical head?" To which the Catholic Times replies: "It is not a free union of equal churches, but it is submission to one supreme and monarchical head. . . . To our Anglican pleader we say, You are not really surprised. You know well what Rome claims and always will claim, obedience. That claim is now, if it ever was, before the world."
But that claim was not before the world in the days of Paul. In those days it was the church in Rome; now it is the Church of Rome. The church in Rome was famous for its humility, and its obedience to God. The Church of Rome is famous for its haughty assumption of the power of God, and for its demand for obedience to itself.
Praying without Ceasing. -The apostle exhorted the Thessalonians to "pray without ceasing." 1 Thess. 5:17. He did not exhort others to do that which he did not do himself, for he told the Romans that without ceasing he made mention of them always in his prayers. It is not to be supposed that the apostle had the brethren at Rome on his mind every waking hour of the day, for in that case he could not have thought of anything else. No man can be consciously in prayer every moment, but all can continue "instant in prayer," or, as Young translates it, "in the prayer persevering." Rom. 12:12.
This is in harmony with what the Saviour said, that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint," or grow weary. Luke 18:1. In the parable that follows, the unjust judge complains of the "continual coming" of the poor widow. That is an illustration of praying without ceasing. It is not that we are to be every moment in conscious prayer, for then important duties would be neglected, but it is that we should not grow weary of praying.
A Man of Prayer. This is what Paul was. He made mention of the Romans in all his prayers. To the Corinthians he wrote, "I thank my God always on your behalf." 1 Cor. 1:4. To the Colossians, "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." Col. 1:3. Still more emphatically he wrote to the Philippians, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy." Phil. 1:3, 4. Again to the Thessalonians, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith," etc., 1 Thess. 1:2, 3. And further, "Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith." 1 Thess. 3:10. To his beloved son in the faith he wrote, "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day." 2 Tim. 1:3.
"Rejoice Evermore." The secret of this is to "pray without ceasing." See 1 Thessalonians 5:16, 17. The apostle Paul prayed for others so much that he had no time to worry about himself. He had never seen the Romans, yet he prayed for them as earnestly as for the churches that he had raised up. Recounting his labors and sufferings, he adds that they are "beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches." 2 Cor. 11:28.
"As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." He fulfilled the law of Christ by bearing the burdens of others. Thus it was that he was able to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ suffered on the cross for others, but it was "for the joy that was set before him." They who are wholly devoted to others, share the joy of their Lord, and can rejoice in him.
"A Prosperous Journey." -Paul prayed earnestly that he might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to visit Rome. Read the twenty-seventh chapter of Acts, and you will learn just what kind of journey he had. Most people would say that it was not a prosperous journey. Yet we do not hear any complaint from Paul; and who can say that he did not have a prosperous trip? "All things work together for good to them that love God," Therefore it must have been prosperous. It is well for us to consider these things.
We are apt to look at matters from a wrong side. When we learn to look at them as God looks at them, we shall find that things that we regard as disastrous are prosperous. How much mourning we might save if we always remembered that God knows much better than we do how our prayers should be answered!
Spiritual Gifts. When Christ "ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." Eph. 4:8. These gifts were the gifts of the Spirit, for he said, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." John 16:7. And Peter said on the day of Pentecost: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." Acts 2:32.
These gifts are thus described: "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." 1 Cor. 12:4-11.
Established by Spiritual Gifts. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." What is the profit? "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Eph. 4:12, 13.
The gifts of the Spirit must accompany the Spirit. As soon as the early disciples received the Spirit in accordance with the promise, they received the gifts. One of the gifts, speaking with new tongues, was manifested that very day. It follows, therefore, that the absence of the gifts of the Spirit in any marked degree in the church, is evidence of the absence of the Spirit, not entirely, of course, but to the extent that God has promised it.
The Spirit was to abide with the disciples forever, and therefore the gifts of the Spirit must be manifest in the true church until the second coming of the Lord. As before stated, the absence of any very marked manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit is evidence of the absence of the fullness of the Spirit; and that is the secret of the weakness of the church, and the great divisions that exist. Spiritual gifts establish the church; therefore the church that does not have those gifts can not be established.
Who May Have the Spirit? Whoever asks for it with earnest desire. See Luke 11:13. The Spirit has already been poured out, and God has never withdrawn the gift; it only needs that Christians should ask and accept.
"I Am Debtor." That was the keynote of Paul's life, and it was the secret of his success. Nowadays we hear of men saying, "The world owes me a living." But Paul considered that he owed himself to the world. And yet he received nothing from the world but stripes and abuse. Even that which he had received before Christ found him was a total loss. But Christ had found him, and given himself to him, so that he could say, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. 2:20.
As Christ's life was his life, and Christ gave himself for the world, Paul necessarily became a debtor to the whole world. This has been the case of every man who has been a servant of the Lord. "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep." Acts 13:36. "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Personal Labor. There is a foolish notion prevalent that ordinary labor is degrading, especially to a minister of the gospel. It is not all the fault of the ministers themselves, but largely the fault of the foolish people about them. They think that a minister must always be faultlessly attired, and that he must never soil his hands with ordinary manual labor. Such ideas were never gained from the Bible. Christ himself was a carpenter, yet many professed followers of him would be shocked if they should see their minister sawing and planing boards, or digging in the ground, or carrying parcels.
There is a false dignity altogether too prevalent, which is utterly opposed to the spirit of the gospel. Paul was not ashamed nor afraid to labor. And this he did not merely occasionally, but day after day while he was engaged in preaching. See Acts 18:3, 4. He said, "These hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me." Acts 20:34. He was speaking to the leaders of the church when he said, "I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." Vs. 35.
Slandering Paul. At the second international convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, the main address for one evening was on the subject of "Paul, the Great Missionary." The speaker said that "Paul had a faculty for dividing up the work so that he undertook very little of it himself." It was a foolish and wicked idea to present before young volunteers for missionary service, because it was an utter falsehood, and it was anything but a compliment to the apostle.
In addition to what has been cited above, read the following: "Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you." 2 Thess. 3:8. "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you." 2 Cor. 12:15. "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent." 2 Cor. 11:23. "But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor. 15:10.
The grace of God is manifest in service for others. The grace of Christ led him to give himself for us, and to take upon himself the form and condition of a servant. Therefore he who has the most of the grace of Christ will labor the most. He will not shun work, even though it be the most menial service. Christ went to the lowest depths for the sake of man; therefore he who thinks that any service is beneath him, is altogether too high for association with Christ.
Gospel Liberty. Gospel liberty is the liberty that God gives men through the gospel. It expresses His idea of freedom. It is the freedom seen in nature and in all the works of His hands. It is the freedom of the winds, blowing where they list; it is the freedom of the flowers, scattered everywhere through wood and meadow; it is the freedom of the birds, soaring unrestrained through the heavens; the freedom of the sunbeam, shooting from its parent orb and playing on cloud and mountain top; the freedom of the celestial orbs, sweeping ceaselessly on through infinite space. This is the freedom which flows out from the great Creator through all his works.
Tasting Freedom Now. It is sin that has produced what is narrow and contracted and circumscribed, that has erected boundary lines, and made men stingy and niggardly. But sin is to be removed, and then perfect liberty will be realized once more in every part of creation. Even now this freedom may be tasted, by having sin removed from the heart. To enjoy this freedom through eternity is the glorious privilege now offered in the gospel to all men. Who that claims to love liberty can let this opportunity pass unimproved?
We have covered the introduction to the main body of the epistle. The first seven verses are the salutation; the next eight treat of personal matters concerning the apostle and the brethren in Rome, the fifteenth verse being the link which unites the introduction to the directly doctrinal portion of the epistle.
Let the reader note carefully the verses referred to, and he will readily see that this is not an arbitrary division, but that it plainly appears. If in reading any chapter, one will note the different topics touched upon, and the change from one subject to another, he will be surprised to find how much easier it is to grasp the contents of the chapter, and to hold them in mind. The reason why so many people find it difficult to recall what they read in the Bible, is that they try to remember it in bulk, without giving special thought to the details.
In expressing his desire to meet with the Roman brethren, the apostle declared himself to be debtor to both Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise, and therefore ready to preach the gospel even in Rome, the capital of the world. The fifteenth verse, and the expression, "preach the gospel," give the keynote to the whole of the epistle, for the apostle glides from this naturally into his theme. Accordingly, we have next
The Gospel Defined Romans 1:16,17 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel
of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the
righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The
just shall live by faith.
"Not Ashamed." There is no reason why any man should be ashamed of the gospel; nevertheless, many men have been and are ashamed of it. Many people are so ashamed of it that they could not think of lowering themselves so much as to make a profession of it; and many who do make a profession of it are ashamed to let it be known. What is the cause of all this shame? It is that they do not know what the gospel is. No man who really knows what the gospel is. No man who really knows what the gospel is, will be ashamed of it, or of any part of it.
Desire for Power. There is nothing that men desire so much as power. It is a desire that God himself has planted in man. Unfortunately, the devil has deceived the most of mankind, so that they seek for power in the wrong way. They think that it can be found in the possession of wealth or political position, and so they rush to secure those things. But these do not supply the power for which God has created the desire. This is shown by the fact that they do not satisfy.
No man was ever yet satisfied with the power that he obtained by wealth or position. However much they have, they desire more. No man finds in them just what he thought he would; and so he grasps after more, thinking that he will find his heart's desire farther on; but all in vain. Christ is "the desire of all nations" (Hag. 2:7), the only Source of complete satisfaction, because he is the embodiment of all the real power there is in the universe the power of God "Christ the power of God" (l Cor. 1:24).
Power and Knowledge. It is commonly said that knowledge is power. That depends. If we take the statement of the poet, that "the proper study of mankind is man," then certainly knowledge is anything but power. Man is nothing but weakness and sin. All men know that they are sinners, that they do things that are not right, but that knowledge gives them no power to change their course. You may tell a man all his faults, and if you tell him nothing more, you have weakened rather that strengthened him.
But he who with the apostle Paul determines to know nothing "save Jesus Christ and him crucified," has knowledge that is power. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3. To know Christ is to know the power of his endless life. It is for lack of this knowledge that men are destroyed. Hosea 4:6. But since Christ is the power of God, it is quite correct to say that power is the one thing that men need; and the only real power, the power of God, is revealed in the gospel.
The Glory of Power. All men honor power. Wherever power is manifested, there will always be found men to admire. There is no one who does not admire and applaud power in some form. Powerful muscles are admired and boasted of, whether they be those of man or of beast. A mighty engine that moves vast weights with ease always attracts attention, and men honor the one who constructed it. The man of wealth, whose money can command the service of thousands, always has admirers, no matter how his money is obtained. The man of noble birth and position, or the monarch of a great nation, has multitudes of followers who applaud his power. Men desire to be connected with such an one, because they derive a certain dignity from the connection, although the power is not transferable.
But all the power of earth is frail and but for a moment, while the power of God is eternal. The gospel is the power, and if men would but recognize it for what it is, there would not be any who would be ashamed of it. Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Gal. 6:14. The reason for this was that the cross is the power of God. 1 Cor. 1:18. The power of God, in whatever form manifested, is glory, and not for shame.
Christ not Ashamed. Concerning Christ we read, "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb. 2:11. "God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." Heb. 11:16. Surely if the Lord is not ashamed to be called the brother of poor, weak, sinful mortals, man has no reason to be ashamed of him. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." 1 John 3:1. Ashamed of the gospel of Christ! Could there possibly be a worse case of the exaltation of self above God? For to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God, is an evidence that the man who feels thus ashamed really thinks himself superior to God, and that it is a lowering of his dignity to be associated with the Lord.
Saved by Faith. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16:16. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." John 1:12. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Rom. 10:10. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:29. Faith works.
Time would fail to tell of those "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, . . . out of weakness were made strong," etc. Heb. 11:33, 34. Men may say, "I can not see how it is possible for one to be made righteous simply by believing." It makes no difference what you can see; you are not saved by sight, but by faith. You do not need to see how it is done, because it is the Lord who does the work of saving. Christ dwells in the heart by faith (Eph. 3:17), and because he is our righteousness, "he also is become my salvation" (Isa. 12:2). We shall have salvation by faith illustrated more fully as we proceed in our study, because the book of Romans is devoted wholly to this one thing.
"To the Jew First." When Peter, at the request of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and the command of the Lord, went to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, his first words when he heard the story of Cornelius were, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Acts 10:34, 35.
This was the first time that Peter had ever perceived that truth, but it was not the first time that that thing was true. It had been a truth as long as God had existed. God never chose anybody to the exclusion of anybody else. The wisdom that comes from above is "without partiality." James 3:17. It is true that the Jews as a nation were wonderfully favored by the Lord: but they lost all their privileges simply because they assumed that God loved them better than he did anybody else, and were exclusive. All through their history God was trying to make them see that what he offered them was for the whole world, and that they were to pass on to others the light and privileges which they shared.
The cases of Naaman, the Syrian, and of the Ninevites to whom Jonah was sent, are among the many instances by which God sought to show the Jews that he was no respecter of persons.
Then why was the gospel preached "to the Jew first"? Simply because the Jews were nearest. Christ was crucified at Jerusalem. It was from there that he commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel. At his ascension he said, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8. It was most natural that they should begin to preach the gospel in the place and to the people nearest them. This is the secret of all missionary work. He who does not labor in the gospel in his home, will not do any gospel work although he goes to a foreign country.
The Righteousness of God. The Lord says: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law." Isa. 51:6, 7. "My tongue shall speak of thy work; for all thy commandments are righteousness." Ps. 119:172.
The righteousness of God, therefore, is his law. Let this not be forgotten. The term "the righteousness of God" occurs frequently in the book of Romans, and much confusion has resulted from giving it arbitrary and varying definitions. If we accept the definition given in the Bible, and do not abandon it in any instance, it will simplify matters very much. The righteousness of God is his perfect law.
Righteousness and Life. But the ten commandments, whether engraved on tables of stone or written in a book, are only the statement of the righteousness of God. Righteousness means right doing. It is active. The righteousness of God is God's right doing, his way. And since all his ways are right, it follows that the righteousness of God is nothing less than the life of God. The written law is not action, but is only a description of the action, but is only a description of the action. It is a picture of the character of God.
The very life and character of God are seen in Jesus Christ, in whose heart was the law of God. There can be no righteousness without action. And as there is none good but God, it follows that there is no righteousness except in the life of God. Righteousness and the life of God are one and the same thing.
Righteousness in the Gospel. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." Wherein? In the gospel. Bear in mind that the righteousness of God is his perfect law, a statement of which is found in the Ten Commandments. There is no such thing as a conflict between the law and the gospel. Indeed, there are not in reality two such things as the law and the gospel. The true law of God is the gospel; for the law is the life of God, and we are "saved by his life." The gospel reveals the righteous law of God, because the gospel has the law in itself. There can be no gospel without law. Whoever ignores or rejects the law of God, has no knowledge whatever of the gospel.
The First View. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit should convince the world of sin and of righteousness. John 16:8. This is the revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel. "Where no law is, there is no transgression." Rom. 4:15. Sin can not be known except by the law. Rom. 7:7. Therefore it follows that the Spirit convicts of sin by making known the law of God. The first view of the righteousness of God has the effect of making a man feel his sinfulness, just as we feel our littleness when gazing upon a lofty mountain. And as the grandeur of the great mountains grows upon us, so God's righteousness which is "like the great mountains" (Ps. 36:6) appears greater the more we look at it. Therefore he who looks continually at the righteousness of God, must continually acknowledge his own sinfulness.
The Second, Deeper View. Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God. And "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:17. God does not reveal his righteousness in the gospel in order to cause us to cower before him because of our unrighteousness, but that we may take it and live by it. We are unrighteous, and God wishes us to realize it, in order that we may be willing to receive his perfect righteousness. It is a revelation of love; for his righteousness is his law, and his law is love. 1 John 5:3.
So "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. If when the preaching of the gospel reveals to us the law of God, we reject it and find fault with it because it condemns our course, we are simply saying that we do not desire that God should put his own righteousness upon us.
Living by Faith. "As it is written, The just shall live by faith." Christ is "our life." Col. 3:4. We are "saved by his life." Rom. 5:10. It is by faith that we receive Christ Jesus, for he dwells in our hearts by faith. Eph. 3:17. Dwelling in our hearts, he is life, for out of the heart are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23.
Now the word comes, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith." Col. 2:6,7. As we receive him by faith, and we walk in him as we have received him, we shall "walk by faith, and not by sight."
"From Faith to Faith." This seemingly difficult expression, which has been the subject of so much controversy, is very simple when we allow the Scripture to explain itself. In the gospel "the righteousness of God" is "revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Note that "from faith to faith" is said to be parallel with "the just shall live by faith." Just means righteous.
The reader has noticed that some versions have "righteous" in 1 John 1:9 where the KJV has "just." Both are the same. God's life is righteousness; he desires that our lives shall be righteousness also, and therefore he offers to us his own life. This life becomes ours by faith. That is, just as we live naturally by breathing, so we are to live spiritually by faith, and our whole life is to be spiritual. Faith is the breath of life to the Christian. So just as we naturally live from breath to breath, we are to live spiritually from faith to faith.
We can live but one breath at a time; so we can not live spiritually except by present faith. If we live a life of conscious dependence upon God, his righteousness will be ours, for we shall breathe it in continually. Faith gives us strength, for those who have exercised it "out of weakness were made strong." Heb. 11:34.
So of those who accept the revelation of God's righteousness "from faith to faith," it is said, "They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." Ps. 84:7.
Let us not forget that it is from the very words of the Bible that one is to learn. All the real help that any teacher can be to any one in the study of the Bible is to show him how to fix his mind more clearly upon the exact words of the sacred text. Therefore, first of all, read the text over many times. Do not do this hastily, but carefully, paying particular attention to every statement. Do not waste one moment in speculating as to the possible meaning of the text. There is nothing worse than guessing the meaning of a text of Scripture, unless it is the acceptance of somebody else's guess. Nobody can know any more of the Bible than the Bible itself tells; and the Bible is just as ready to tell its story to one person as to another.
Question the text closely. Probe it again and again, always in a reverent, prayerful spirit, to make it reveal itself. Do not be discouraged if you do not at once see all that there is in the text. Remember that it is the word of God, and that it is infinite in its depth, and that you can never exhaust it. When you come across a difficult statement, go back and consider it in connection with what precedes. Do not think that you can ever get at the full meaning of any text apart from its connection. By constant application to the words of the text, in order to be sure that you know exactly what it says, you will soon have them constantly in your mind; and it is then that you will begin to reap some of the rich fruits of Bible study; for at unexpected times new light will flash from them, and through them from other scriptures as you read.
The Justice of Judgment Romans 1:18-20 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his external power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
How Men Lost Knowledge Romans 1:21-23 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Result of Ignoring God Romans 1:24-32 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleaness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves; who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful,proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
All Unrighteousness Condemned. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. "All unrighteousness is sin." 1 John 5:17. "But sin is not imputed when there is no law." Rom. 5:13. Therefore enough of the law of God is known in all the world to deprive all people of any excuse for sin. The statement in this verse is equal to that in the next chapter, that "there is no respect of persons with God." His wrath is manifested against all unrighteousness. No person in the world is so great that he can sin with impunity, and no person is so insignificant that his sin will be overlooked. There is strict impartiality with God. He "without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work." 1 Pet. 1:17.
Restraining the Truth. The statement is that men "hold down the truth in unrighteousness." Some people have superficially read Romans 1:18 as though it said that men may possess the truth while they themselves are unrighteous. It does not say so. Sufficient evidence that such a thing is not meant is found in the fact that the apostle is speaking in this chapter especially of those who did not possess the truth, but had exchanged it for a lie. Although they had lost all knowledge of the truth, they were in condemnation for their sin.
The statement is that people restrain the truth by unrighteousness. We might note the fact that when Jesus went into his own country "he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Matt. 13:58. But the apostle in the text before us means much more than this. He means, as the context plainly shows, that people by their perverseness restrain the working of the truth of God in their own souls. But for their resistance of the truth, it would sanctify them. And herein is seen the result:
Righteousness of God's Wrath. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and justly, too, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them." Note particularly the statement that that which may be know of God "is manifest in them." Although in the common version the margin gives "to them" as an alternative reading, the Greek gives no warrant for any such rendering. No matter how blindly men may sin, the fact remains that they are sinning against great light, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them." With such knowledge not only before their eyes, but actually within them, it is easy to see the justice of God's wrath against all sin, no matter in whom it is found.
Even though it should not be perfectly clear to us how the knowledge of God is really placed in every man, we may accept the apostle's statement of the fact. In the wonderful description of the foolishness of idolatry, given in Isaiah, we are told that the man who makes an idol lies against the truth which he himself possesses. "He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he can not deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Isa. 44:20.
Seeing the Invisible. It is said of Moses that "he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Heb. 11:27. This was not a privilege peculiar to Moses. Every other man may do the same thing. How? Because the "invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made." There has not been a time since the world was created when all men did not have the knowledge of God within their grasp.
Eternal Power and Divinity. The invisible things of God that are known by the things that are made are his everlasting power and divinity. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Ps. 19:1. Jesus Christ is "the power of God." 1 Cor. 1:24. "For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist." Col. 1:16,17. "He spake, and it was." Ps. 33:9. He is "the firstborn of all creation." Col. 1:15. He is the source, or beginning, of the creation of God. Rev. 3:14.
That is to say, all creation springs from Christ Jesus, who is the power of God. He spoke the worlds into existence from his own being. Therefore the external power and divinity of God are impressed upon everything that has been made. We can not open our eyes, we can not even feel the breeze upon our face, without having a clear revelation to us of the power of God.
"We are His Offspring." When Paul upon Mars' Hill rebuked the Athenians for their idolatry he said that God is not far from every one of us, "for in him we live, and move, and have our being." The men to whom he was speaking were heathen, yet it was just as true of them as it is of us. Then he quoted one of their own poets, who had said, "For we are also his offspring," and placed upon it the stamp of truth, by saying, "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." Acts 17:27-29.
Every movement of men, and every breath, is the working of the external power of God. Thus the eternal power and divinity of God are manifest to every man. Not that man is in any sense divine, or that he has any power in himself. Quite the contrary. Man is like the grass. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Ps. 39:5. The fact that man is nothing in himself, and even "less than nothing, and vanity," is evidence of the power of God manifested in him.
God's Power in the Grass. Look at the tiny blade of grass just pushing its way through the hard ground to the sunlight. It is a very frail thing. Pull it up, and you will see that it has not power to stand alone. Even scrape the soil away from it as it stands in the earth, and it will at once lose its upright position. It depends upon the soil to hold it up, and yet it is pushing its way to the surface through that very hard soil. Dissect it as carefully as you please, and you will find nothing to indicate the possession of power. Rub it between your fingers, and you will see that there is scarcely any substance to it. It is about as frail a thing as there is in nature, and yet it will often remove quite large stones that are in the way of its growth.
Whence comes this power? It is not inherent in the grass, but is nothing less than the power of the life of God, working according to his word, which in the beginning said, "Let the earth bring forth grass."
The Gospel in Creation. We have seen that in every created thing the power of God is manifested. And we also learned from the scripture studied last week that the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation." God's power is ever the same, for the text before us speaks of "his eternal power." The power, therefore, which is manifested in the things which God has made is the same power that works in the hearts of men to save them from sin and death. Therefore we may be assured that God has constituted every portion of his universe a preacher of the gospel. So then men may not only know the fact of God's existence from the things which he has made, but they may know his eternal power to save them. The twentieth verse of the first chapter of Romans is an expansion of the sixteenth. It tells us how we may know the power of the gospel.
The Stars as Preachers. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard [or, "without these their voice is heard"]. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Ps. 19:1-4.
Now read Romans 10:13-18: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world."
In this text all the objections which men raise against the punishment of the heathen are answered. As stated in the first chapter, they are without excuse. The gospel has been made known to every creature under heaven. It is admitted that men can not call on one in whom they have not believed, and that they can not believe in one of whom they have not heard, and that they can not hear without a preacher. And that which they ought to hear, and which they have not obeyed, is the gospel.
Having stated this, the apostle asks, "Have they not heard?" and at once answers his own question by repeating the words of the nineteenth psalm, "Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." Thus we learn that the speech which the heavens utter from day unto day is the gospel; and the knowledge which they show from night unto night is the knowledge of God.
The Heavens Reveal Righteousness. With the knowledge that that which the heavens declare is the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation, we can easily follow the nineteenth psalm through. It seems to the casual reader that there is a break in the continuity of this psalm. From talking about the heavens, the writer suddenly begins to speak of the perfection of the law of God, and its converting power. "The law
of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." Vs. 7. But there is no break at all. The law of God is the righteousness of God, and the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, and the heavens declare the gospel; therefore it follows that the heavens reveal the righteousness of God. "The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory." Ps. 97.6.
The glory of God is his goodness, because we are told that it is through sin that men come short of his glory. Rom. 3:23. Therefore we may know that whoever looks upon the heavens with reverence, seeing in them the power of the Creator, and will yield himself to that power, will be led to the saving righteousness of God. Even the sun, moon, and stars, whose light is but a part of the glory of the Lord, will shine that glory into his soul.
Without Excuse. How evident it is, therefore, that men are without excuse for their idolatrous practices. When the true God reveals himself in everything, and with his power makes known his love, what excuse can men have for not knowing and worshiping him?
But is it true that God makes known his love to all men? Yes, it is just as true as that he makes himself known, for "God is love." Whoever knows the Lord must know his love. This being the case with regard to the heathen, how utterly without excuse are people who live in lands where the gospel is preached with an audible voice from his written word.
The Cause of Idolatry. How is it that if God has so clearly revealed himself and his truth, there are so many who are in utter ignorance of him? The answer is given, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
There is one thing which God has given as the seal and sign of his divinity, and that is the sabbath. Speaking of men, he says, "Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." Eze. 20:12. This is in keeping with what we have learned in Romans; for our text tells us that God's power and divinity are perceived by thoughtful people through the things that he has made; and the sabbath is the great memorial of creation. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work; . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ex. 20:8-11. If people had always kept the sabbath as it was given, there would never have been any idolatry; for the sabbath reveals the power of the word of the Lord to create and to work righteousness.
Vain Imaginations. Men became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Gibbon says of the speculations of the ancient philosophers that "their reason had often been guided by their imagination, and their imagination had been prompted by their vanity." The course of their fall was the same as that of the angel who became Satan. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High." Isa. 14:12-14.
What was the cause of this self-exaltation and fall? "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." Eze. 27:17. Dependent entirely upon God for all the wisdom and glory that he had, he did not glorify God, but assumed that all his talents sprang from himself; and so, as he disconnected himself in his pride from the Source of light, he became the prince of darkness. Even thus it was with man.
Changing the Truth into a Lie. "There is no power but of God." In nature we see the manifestation of mighty power, but it is the working of God. All the different forms of force which philosophers name, and which they declare to be inherent in matter, are but the working of the life of God in the things that he has made. Christ is "before all things, and by him all things consist," or hold together. Col. 1:17. Cohesion therefore is but the direct power of the life of Christ. Gravitation also is the same power, as we read of the heavenly bodies, "for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." Isa. 40:26. But men looked upon all the operations of nature, and, instead of seeing the power of the one supreme God in them, they attributed divinity to the things themselves.
So, as they looked upon themselves; and saw what great things they could achieve, instead of honoring God as the giver and upholder of all things, the One in whom they lived and moved and had their being, they assumed that they themselves were by nature divine. Thus they changed the truth of God into a lie.
The truth is that the life and power of God are manifested in everything that he has made; the lie is that the force which is manifest in all things is inherent in the things themselves. So men put the creature in the place of the Creator.
Looking Within. Marcus Aurelius, who is accounted the best of the heathen philosophers, said: "Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig." That expresses the spirit of all heathenism. Self was the supreme thing. But that spirit is not peculiar to what is know as heathenism, for it is very common in these days; nevertheless, it is nothing but the spirit of heathenism. It is a part of the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. It is but natural that they should put themselves in his place; and when they do that, it is a necessary consequence that they look to themselves, and not to God, for goodness.
When men look within, what is the only thing that they can see? "Evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Mark 6:21, 22. Even the apostle Paul said, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Rom. 7:18. Now, when a man looks at all this evil which is in him by nature, and thinks that it is good, and that he can get good out of himself, the result can be plainly seen: the vilest wickedness must be the result. He virtually says, "Evil, be thou my good."
The Wisdom of this World. "The world by wisdom knew not God." Keenness of intellect is not faith, nor is it a substitute for faith. A man may be a brilliant scholar, and still be the basest of men. Several years ago a man charged with half a score or more brutal murders was hanged, and yet he was a scholar and a scientist, and had held a high position in society. Learning is not Christianity, although a Christian may be a learned man. Modern inventions will never save men from perdition. Some modern philosopher has said that "idolatry can not live by the side of the highest art and culture that the world has ever known." But at the same time men were sunk in such wickedness as referred to by the apostle in the last part of the first chapter of Romans. Even the reputed wise men were such as are there described. It was the natural result of their looking at themselves for righteousness.
In the Last Days. Read the last verses of the first chapter of Romans if you wish to have a picture of the world in the last days. The one who believes in a millennium of peace and righteousness before the coming of the Lord will doubtless be shocked; but he needs to be. Read that list of sins carefully, and then see how exactly it tallies with the following:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lover of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 2 Tim. 3:1 5. This all springs from self, the very source of the evil with which Paul charged the heathen. Those things are the works of the flesh. See Gal. 5:19-21. They are the natural result of trusting in self.
In spite of the declaration of the apostle, there are very few who will believe that this state of things will ever be general, and especially among those who profess godliness. But the seed which produces such a crop is already sown broadcast. The Papacy, "that man of sin," "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped," is the strongest force in professed Christendom, and its power is daily increasing. And how is it increasing? Not so much by the direct accessions as by the blind acceptance of its principles by professed Protestants. It has placed itself above God in thinking to change his law. Dan. 7:25. It boldly adopted the heathen sun festival day, Sunday, in the place of the sabbath of the Lord, the memorial of creation, and defiantly points to it as its badge of authority. And the majority of Protestants follow in its train, accepting a custom which stands for the exaltation of man above God, the symbol of justification by works instead of by faith.
When professed Christians cling to a human ordinance in spite of the
express command of the Lord, and support their custom by appeals to the
Fathers, men who were learned in the philosophy of heathenism, the road
to any evil which their hearts may choose is but a down grade. "He that
hath ears to hear, let him hear."