Holding the Truth in Unrighteousness

Holding the Truth in Unrighteousness

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” – Romans 1:18

In the opening chapter of Romans, beyond his greeting, Paul transitions from an opening of universal obedient faith to discussing men who knew the truth but did not follow it.  It is my conviction that Paul did so with eyes on his chief nemesis, Judaizing Christians. This is not surprising as he had just written the Galatians addressing the false teachings of the same.  These were Pharisaic Christians, who continually pressed men to hold on to the guilt of their imperfections and to follow the traditions of men.  Such things lead to a heavy burden on the shoulders of men.  Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).  Christ took away the sins.  He released man from captivity.  The Gospel Paul preaches is one of transformation and lovingly following Christ with the heart.  However, this was not what the Judaizing Chrisitians taught or lived.

Judaizing Christians were a danger to the Church of Rome.

Judaizing Christians were a danger to the Church of Rome.

Paul wrote of men who despite knowing the truth (Romans 1:18) and God’s judgment (Romans 1:32) changed the truth into a lie (Romans 1:25) and did not retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:28).  Instead of walking in truth, they basked in sinfulness and the glory of fleshly honor and power.  These men so wise in their own eyes felt it necessary to lay the burden of guilt upon others who committed the same sins.  Yet rejecting the goodness of God, rather than repent, these that judged others continued right along in their iniquities.  Paul declares judgment would come upon all who failed to have an obedient faith regardless of who they were or who they claimed to be (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).  Whether they lived under the Law as Israelites or without it as the gentiles, men who “in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality” would find reward and all those who did not obey and “work good” would see God’s wrath.

The early Church had many Jews who claimed Christ.  They knew the history of God and man through exposure to the Law of Moses.  Who better than to instruct the early church?  Fortunately, the wisdom of God provided the Holy Spirit to endow men with knowledge to direct the churches, not those who simply held a knowledge of a dead covenant and walked in darkness according to their own traditions.  It would have been so easy to follow Jews who saw themselves as instructors in truth and had the DNA of Abraham.  Yet, according to Paul the conduct of those Jews was blasphemy (Romans 2:24).  Paul writes the Romans and speaks of the danger of their influence.  Salvation comes from a heart which is devoted to following God’s precepts, not from perfection in following law or falsely presumed preference from the hand of an impartial God.

Today, many still look for the way of salvation in the nation of Israel and the Law of Moses which was given to it.  There is no physical nation of God anymore.  That nation was rejected by God.  Their law, not applicable to Christians, has been taken away (Hebrews 10:9-10).  Salvation cannot be found in the behavior and teachings of those who are not walking obediently in the faith of God once for all delivered (Jude 3).   Salvation cannot be found in unrighteousness, even when the source claims to be one who espouses the truth. Evil is not good (Isaiah 5:20)! Paul unfailingly proclaimed this to the people of the first century.  He directed the faith of the Romans to God and not man.  Judaizers were trying to establish their prominence in Rome and Paul wasn’t about to let that happen.  God will not let anyone holding the truth in unrighteousness go unpunished.

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An Obedient Universal Faith

An Obedient Universal Faith

The book of Romans is a letter sent from the apostle Paul to the Christians of Rome.  It opens up declaring the Gospel had been long promised.  The Gospel by definition means “good tidings” or “good news”.  The prophets which had promised the good news tied it to universal blessing (Genesis 22:18), to a future prophet king (Deuteronomy 18:15, Jeremiah 23:5-6), a new covenant identified by forgiveness (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and a pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32).  Paul declared the good news to be about Jesus, the Son of God, who fulfilled all the expectation and prophecy which had been foretold.  It was by the authority of Jesus that all of the apostles including Paul received the charge of their apostleship.

There is one road of the Faith.  Will you walk it?

There is one road of the Faith. Will you walk it?

What was that charge of the apostles? Matthew 28:18-20 as well as Mark 16:15 are the common passages utilized to explain the charge of the apostles.  Authority is there bestowed by Christ to baptize and preach the Gospel to all creation.  Recall of Christ’s teachings would be essential so that there would be unity of teaching.  This is why Jesus sent the promised Spirit (John 16:13, 2 Peter 1:21). Paul declares to the Romans: “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.  That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” (Romans 1:11-12).  The gifts of the Holy Spirit are what enabled the first century to provide the unadulterated truth to mankind and establish the Church throughout the world.  Once the Gospel was written down, man could properly refer to God’s Word with knowledge and confidence and the gifts would no longer be needed.  However, during the era of Paul’s writing, God’s written Word was not in the hands of men.

Paul mentions the charge of apostleship in Romans 1:5.  What was the purpose of the charge?  “for obedience to the faith among all nations”.  If the Holy Spirit through the hands of the apostles enabled the one faith (Ephesians 4:5) to be taught, then the apostles and the Church would indeed have a mutual faith.  They would be able to go beyond being “children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness…” (Ephesians 4:14).  This one faith would enable mankind to be obedient to the direction of God.  If you know what the faith is, you can follow it.  If you have a roadmap, you can get to your destination.

It can be understood that charge of sharing the Gospel did not end at simply providing the one truth.  When Christ established the Gospel charge, He said in regard to the teaching of the world, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…”.  Hearing and not obeying is a deception of self and not what God desires (James 1:22, James 2:17-26).  It is the equivalent to proclaiming you are going on a journey, but never taking a step. Paul establishes in Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith”.  I suggest “to live” is not merely an ending point, but also a journey.  I John 1:7 declares: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  The charge of the apostles was to baptize which forgave sins (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-7) and then to instruct a walk of faith which results in the continual cleansing from sin.  The good news of Paul was the power of salvation to all mankind.  It meant man no longer had to walk with the weight of sin upon his shoulders.  Christians have been freed from sin!  It was the Gospel that truly provided eternal life (John 3:16, James 1:21).  Boldly embrace the Gospel and freely walk in it to the journey’s end.

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A King Like No Other

“Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?”

The sixth chapter of John records that day when the tide of popularity turned against our Lord. That first year of the public preaching of Jesus was characterized by multitudes following Him. John shows just how popular He had become, and early in this chapter we read that they were about to take Him by force and make Him their king.

Jesus had no desire to be an earthly king.

Jesus had no desire to be an earthly king.

Think about the motive many of them had for wanting a king like Jesus. He had just fed 5,000 men. This number did not include the women and children, so there likely were more than 10,000 fed that day. Who would not want a king who would feed you so that you would never have to work again? They wanted an earthly king. How did Jesus respond? John described the events of that day so vividly. “When Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone” (v. 15). He had no desire to be a king sitting on an earthly throne in Jerusalem.

The next day, they learned that He was several miles away from the site of the feeding of the multitudes, and they rushed to where He was. Look at what Jesus said to them. “Most assuredly I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (v. 26). He knew their hearts. They were not interested in the signs showing His divinity. They only wanted the free food He gave them. So, when He told them that He was the living bread who came down out of heaven, they complained. They thought that because they knew His mother and father who had raised Him in Nazareth there was no way He could have come down out of heaven. Jesus went even further that day in His teaching.

When He told them that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood there was no way for them to be saved, it was more than they could accept. Their response was, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it” (v. 60). The tide of popularity changed. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (v. 66).

Jesus even asked His closest disciples if they were going to leave, and Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

What a lesson for our world to learn! If we turn away from Jesus, where can we go? Yet, in religions today, many have tried to change the King and make Him a king that suits them. They ignore what He said and design “Christian” lifestyles to please themselves.

Think about Peter’s question. To whom shall we go? There is no other way than His way!

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