Romans 1, 2 Paul offers two arguments for the existence of God.
*Paul’s purpose here is to show the universal need for God and the reality that all people are without excuse when they reject him
1:20 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.
2:14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
*These are both called “general revelation”…God has revealed himself to all people, everywhere in creation and conscience…this revelation is not specific enough to be saved but enough to know some things about him.
*For instance…He is creative, powerful, eternal
*He is a moral being with distinct ideas of what he does and does not want us to do and be.
General vs. Special Revelation
*General revelation is what we saw in Romans 1, 2
*Special revelation is a term used to describe how God has made himself known in the person of Jesus and in the Scriptures.
*God has revealed himself in what he has made and in our conscience but in neither of those is there enough to more fully know who he is, what our purpose is, how we can have relationship with him.
*So he gave us more…he spoke to people who wrote his words down and he entered the world as a man, the Lord Jesus.
*Humans have always wondered what this universe really is, how it came to be, and if there is any purpose in it.
*Here are the two big views…there are more…but for the sake of time…we’ll generalize with these two:
1. The materialist view: Matter and space just happen to happen. *The universe in some form is eternal…it has always been.
*Over a vast amount of time…plus blind chance…we are here
2. The religious view: a mind or personality is behind the universe. It is conscious, has purposes, prefers one thing over another.
-It (he) made the universe partly for purposes we do not know, but partly to produce creatures like himself…having minds, wills, etc.
*Its not true that the materialist view is relatively new and the religious view is old, outdated. *Both these views have been around since men have been around.
*One is often (wrongly) related to science (the materialist view) but Science cannot tell you which view is the right one.
*And there always have been and still are scientists who hold the religious view.
“Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, “I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 A.M. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,” or “I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.” Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science — and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes — something of a different kind — this is not a scientific question. If there is “Something Behind,” then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them…Supposing science ever became complete so that I knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, “Why is there a universe?” “Why does it go on as it does?” “Has it any meaning?” would remain just as they were?”
*GENERAL AND SPECIAL REVELATION AN ILLUSTRATION:
*THE UNIVERSE IN A ROOM: For the materialist it is…a large one…but just a room.
-For the Pantheist God is the room.
1. We figure out all kinds of things about this room…we explain how things work very well.
2. We cannot explain why things are, or how things should be
3. To those in the room there is this nagging sense that the room and we ourselves look too much like something designed to not have a designer…so blow off that nagging sense…some pay attention to it.
4. In addition we cannot get around the fact that though we often disagree on the details…we find ourselves continually arguing about what is “right and wrong”…we have this nagging thing that we cannot seem to shut up we call a “conscious”
5. Then we have some who claim to have received messages from outside the room…messages they claim are from the one who designed the room.
-Those who believe the room is all there is, reject the messages outright…there cannot be anything coming from outside the room because there is nothing except the room.
*Carl Sagan: The Universe (cosmos) is all there is and was and ever will be.
*He believes in a closed system…all that is is natural…there is no super natural.
6. This goes on for some time…until one day a messenger claims to be both human and God…he claims to be from outside the room, in fact he made the room and all of those in it.
-He shows us and tells us who God is, who we are…why there is anything at all, what happens when we die, what our purpose in living is.
*What Paul is doing in Romans 1 and 2 is showing that we can know something of God even without Jesus stepping into the box or giving us written instruction.
*He is going to get to the gospel…where Jesus stepped into the room…but for now he is showing that God has made himself known by the room itself and in the hearts of all the room dwellers.
*The information in the room is not enough to have relationship with God…but it is enough to show that people have access to information regarding the reality of God…and that God is just in his judgment when we reject the light we have been given.
FOUR POINTS ABOUT THE MORAL LAW: CONSCIENCE
1. What is a moral law or the law from conscience that Paul is talking about?
*The moral law flows from the reality and nature of God…unlike what we call natural laws…moral can be broken…but not without consequence.
*We say “laws of nature” as if they are something that the material world obeys willingly or could if it wanted to…disobey.
*But really a falling stone is not choosing to obey the law of gravity and obediently falling…where a naughty stone just sort of hovers when you drop it…refusing to obey the law.
*You don’t think a stone that falls properly is a stone with good moral character…its just a stone…that’s what they do when they are dropped.
*What we call “laws” here are descriptions of what things do, descriptions that we have put names to.
*Stones always fall, we call this the “law of gravity”…but there really is no such law as in what stones “ought” to do…there is just a description of what stones do.
*On the other hand the moral law is something that humans ought to do, but many do not…and none does completely.
*Natural laws are descriptions…the moral law is “prescription”
*One describes what is…the other describes what ought to be.
2. The moral law is Universal:
*Moral law is invoked everyday by every type of person…from upstairs in super church to the halls of power around the world.”
*My grandkids often appeal to the moral law while always trying to find a way to make it work in their favor.
Eva…”Haddie took my seat, I had it first”
-She appeals to the universal preschool code of ethics that it is an absolute right for the first person to sit to own that seat.
*I’ve not known Haddie to ever say “Well, I outweigh her by at least 10 pounds…so I got the seat now…maybe she should just get bigger.”
-She is just 4 but she knows that is an obvious foul…so Haddie will appeal to some other moral code.
*”She had it yesterday…its my turn”…ah, good move…after all its grownups that have told her that its right to take turns. (Why? Well its Kind? So? We should be kind? Why?)
*But Haddie can’t think of a good moral counterpoint so she just evades…”look at this picture I drew.”
*Knowing she has no moral ground to stand (or this case sit) but hoping I am easily distracted.
*Its not just preschoolers…this is universal in nature.
*Statements are often made, with the presumption of them having authority without regard to the basis for that authority.
*They presume there is a right and wrong and that this standard has common agreement.
“Trump is a bigot” “Hillary is a liar”
*Bigot…so what? He won didn’t he?
-The assumption is that bigotry is wrong…what are they basing that assumption on…who says its wrong, why is it wrong?
*Liar…what difference does that make if she was successful?
-The assumption is that lying is wrong…why should lying be wrong if it works better than telling the truth.
*I am not saying that bigotry and lying are not wrong…they are…I am also not accusing either one of them.
*My point is simply that those who are crying “foul” are often people who deny absolute moral codes…but show they cannot live that way…and don’t truly believe that way.
*The presumption behind all of what we are seeing out there is an oughtness, a moral code that is not being followed.
*Or at an emotional level…some code of fairness that is being violated…”Its just not fair to me.”…which appeals to some higher code…what is “fair”?
*The pro-abortion movement doesn’t normally respond to the pro-life movement with “We know its a baby, but we really don’t care…we just don’t want to be bothered…or we want to make money.”
*They counter with their own version of moral arguments… arguments that are not valid…but what is instructive is they try to use them…why would they do this?
*Even those on the lunatic fringes like the ethicist Peter Singer have their version of a moral argument.
*Singer advocates for killing those of any age who cannot do society any good and who have become burdens…even if they are happy and don’t want to die.
*But he notice doesn’t advocate for killing those who just annoy you…in which case I would have justification for killing him because his statements really annoy me.
*But even if it were allowed by law…of course I would not because there is moral code that transcends those of nations…and no one is that annoying.
*My point is that a man with absurd ideas about ethics…still has his limits…they are utilitarian…but still there are limits…why?
*People appeal to an unstated, outside themselves higher standard…a moral law…or a law of right behavior…or some concept of the greater good.
*The concept of right and wrong appears to be universal though its application may vary greatly.
*It appears to be a law, like gravitation…but unlike gravity it is broken with astounding regularity.
3. This is not just about cultural traditions
*Postmoderns argue that there are no absolute rights or wrongs and all ethical decisions are relative.
*However, they do not live this way…unless they are sociopaths and in which case they either live alone (so they cannot harm others) or in prison (because they have harmed others).
*There may not be agreement on the content of the moral argument (though there is much more than many would acknowledge) there is agreement on the reality of it…even for those who say otherwise.
*C.S. Lewis, a student of many cultures (has an appendix in “The aboliliton of man” showing the similarities of moral codes among many religions and cultures)
*Humans all over the earth have a curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way and cannot really get rid of it.
*Even when society tells them its okay, their conscience tells them otherwise…abortion guilt…why?, premarital sex (predictor of divorce and guilt)…why?
*Soldiers in war who have not committed a war crime but have violated their own conscience…have what is being called “moral injury”.
*People will seek to deny guilt, or medicate it…but it doesn’t work…the guilt is real because the broken code is real…it is not man made…it is transcendent.
*God has put it in the hearts of humans.
Peter Kreeft…”When complex, artificial objections are made these arguments look complex as well…The simple, intuitive point of the argument from conscience is that everyone in the world knows, deep down, that he is absolutely obligated to be and do good and this absolute obligation could come only from God.”
“Thus everyone knows God, however obscurely by this moral intuition, which we usually call conscience. Conscience is the voice of God in the soul.”
*Again…This proves only a small part of what we know God to be by divine revelation.
“But this part is significantly more than the arguments from nature reveal about God because this argument has richer data, a richer starting point. Here we have inside information, so to speak: the very will of God speaking, however obscurely and whisperingly, however poorly heard, admitted, and heeded, in the depths of our souls.”
*We can know more about a person by listening to them talk than we can be looking at a house they have designed and built…that’s why this argument is more powerful, than from design.
*John Stott: Took comfort and confidence in sharing the gospel with others, that he had their conscience on his side.
4. Just because people may deny it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
*Conscience: modern meaning is a “feeling” that I did something wrong or am about to do something wrong.
*”Well I don’t feel guilty.”
*Conscience here is Romans: is “knowledge” not merely a feeling.
*If someone claims he does not have that knowledge…he doesn’t see it…he’s okay with whatever he is doing…
*Then the question is whether he really doesn’t have a conscience (in which case Paul and the scriptures would be wrong)
*Or…he is repressing the knowledge he really has…
*Short of some kind of brain damage…the fact is he is repressing the knowledge he has been given.
*Of course not everyone will agree with this premise…they will explain it differently or interpret the data differently…and say it has nothing to do with God…it is about culture, evolutionary traits, group survival, etc.
*What is fascinating is that in our postmodern world where virtually every form of authority is scorned…and the mark of a hero is how much authority they have disregarded…the one authority that must be supremely obeyed is “my conscience”
*Postmoderns reject all authority except that of their “own conscience”…they have to be true to themselves.
*Paul would agree with them at least on that point…
*We will get there later this year but in 14:22-23 he says if a man does what he believes is wrong, even if it is not…then he has sinned…because everything that does not come from faith is sin…to violate your conscience Paul says is wrong.
*We even have a way whereby service members may get out of their commitment to service…conscious objector…even if we have spent a lot of money training them, paying for their education…if they can be convincing in proving that their conscience now prohibits them from going to war…they will not be sent.
*Chaplains are called to help evaluate if the objection is real…and the basis for determining what is “real” in terms of conscience objections is can it be determined that they have “sincerely held beliefs.”…does it violate their conscience.
*These beliefs don’t even have to be strictly religious anymore.
*See…over and over…though humans continually violate their own consciences…conscience is something that is universally thought to be something that should not be violated.
*People have a strong sense of moral law and they consistently break that law.
*Though you would think this would lead people to seek God…and sometimes it does…often it leads them to attempt to suppress and deny the voice of their own conscience.
*Until a person understands that they have something to repent of…that there is a real moral law and they have broken it…that they are on the wrong side of things…then the gospel does not sound like good news.
*But when a person does understand this…then they have what Jesus called “ears to hear”…and they see that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.
*The gospel becomes good news when we start to grasp the bad news.
Read: Rom. 2:12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
*In Paul’s wider argument so far he is showing that Gentiles and Jews are in the same situation when it comes to God’s judgment.
*Back in verse 11 he wrote…For God does not show favoritism.
*I can see someone at one of his meetings raising their hand “But Paul, the Jews had the law…how is this
not a decisive advantage.”
*Here is his response:
1. It is not possessing the law that counts…it is doing it. *The Jews had the law of Moses…given by God at Sinai
*This was a very precious thing but having it did not change them or save them…obeying it was what mattered.
*So those who sinned “under the law” are judged by that law…when they fail to heed it.
*They had it, could read it…could obey it…but didn’t.
2. Even the non-Jews have the law in a certain sense (and they have not obeyed it)
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things
required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
*This doesn’t mean they have the law of Moses somehow inside them…it means they had been given a moral compass, a conscience that they sometimes obey, sometimes violate.
*That’s what Paul means by “Their thoughts now accusing, now even defending.”
*They are inconsistent in their obedience to the “moral law” or conscience God has given.
*Most think verse 13 is a hypothetical situation…I agree…Paul is not in either case declaring that it is possible for a human to fully meet the standard of the law…either the written code given at Sinai or the moral code written on the conscience.
*He is showing God’s standard of assessment…and the hopeless state of humanity apart from Christ.
*This is not a passage encouraging them to “do better, try harder”…it is passage encouraging them to understand how hopeless humanity is without Jesus…and how guilty all are.
*All humanity…those with the written law, or those without the law of Moses…yet with the moral law…all fall short of obeying God’s law.
*Let’s add to our list of words and phrases that are not popular. -Wrath
*This may be the worse one yet…it is getting God’s wrath because we don’t repent…judgment.
*Here’s what Paul has said so far about God’s judgment:
1. God’s judgment is inescapable (1-4) 2. His judgment is just (5-11)
3. His judgment is impartial (12-15)
*He then adds three further truths about the final judgment of God.
16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
1. It will include the hidden areas of our lives: God will judge men’s secrets. -No possibility that anyone will get ripped off…we will not be misjudged.
2. His judgment will take place through Jesus Christ.
John 5: 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son
*It is a great comfort to know that our judge will be none other than our savior.
3. God’s judgment is part of the gospel.
*The gospel is not just deliverance from fear, or guilt or a purposeless life…it is rescue from the coming wrath
*Salvation is not just “one way of life versus another”…it is life versus death.
*The good news shines brighter across this dark background.
So we have in Romans 1,2, two kinds of evidence that is available to everyone:
1. The universe he has made.
-We should conclude that he is a great artist
-We could conclude that he is scary. The universe is a very dangerous and terrifying place.
2. Moral law
-From this we learn that he is absolute goodness…but this also is terrifying if we see what it means.
“This is the terrible fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the end hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger— according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way.” Lewis, C. S.
*Paul is making sure we understand the bad news…if not there is no good news.
*This is the great dilemma of our time…people have become convinced that they are okay without God.
*Jonathan Edwards peached a sermon in 1741 he entitled “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.”
*It is said that those who were there gripped the backs of the pews of the church in terror, afraid they would slip into hell…some cried out in fear.
*Now the sermon is mocked…probably was by many in that day as well.
*Again…it doesn’t matter what we feel about it…it matters greatly whether it is actually true.
*Are people lost eternally without the gospel? If so then for those who are lost to be afraid is a very rational response.
*People often look to religion for comfort…but the gospel is about truth first.
*And truth is initially very uncomfortable because it requires honesty with our current condition.
We need not despair…Paul is heading towards the good news in his letter.
*But we don’t have to wait…lets read ahead…we won’t get to Romans 8 until June…let’s go ahead and enjoy it today.
Rom. 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
*The key phrase is “those who are in Christ Jesus”
*Make sure you have given your life to Christ…there is nothing more important in your life.
*When your conscience convicts you…
1. Give thanks…it is his kindness that leads us to repent…conviction is a gift 2. Repent…turn to God.
3. Believe…do not live in condemnation…there is now NO condemnation.
*A few weeks ago we looked at mess up/fess up/move on
*Let’s conclude with distinguishing between conviction and condemnation.
2 Cor. 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
1. Specific 2. Sin