Full Text for Romans- Volume 14 - The Shift from 1:16-7 to 1:18ff. (Video)

No. 14. >> Romans 1:18 comes right after the thematic verses we've been examining. But here Paul seems to shift gears and suddenly start talking about the wrath of God. How does this section introduced by Verse 18 relate to Verses 16 and 17? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: Josh, that is a very good question. And this is not the first it time that that question has been asked of me. When I taught Romans at the seminary, when I had my students translate the first chapter of Romans, a big question that was asked and that we had to discuss was: How does Verse 18 relate to Verse 17? Because it really does seem that Paul is suddenly shifting gears. I mean in Verses 16 and 17, we've got the thematic verses. And we're rejoicing in the Gospel as the power of salvation to those who believe. And that in the Gospel God's righteousness is active declaring sinners righteous is being revealed, you know, through faith for faith. And then suddenly Verse 18: For the wrath of God is being revealed. And it seems like a real sudden shift where some of these guys have said that basically 1:18 doesn't even seem to follow logically from 1:17. And not only was I asked this question by those students but other students I've had in other classes have come up to me or even left messages on my phone when they have been reading through Romans asking. What's going on between Verses 17 and 18 where we get this sudden shift? And not only that, Josh, but I even had a pastor from the field call me up. And we ended up talking for about an hour on the phone one afternoon. And the content of our discussion was: How does Romans 1 Verse 18 relate to the thematic verses. And so Josh, you're bringing up a very good question. And here we're actually looking at the transition. Now, if you recall, I introduced the six-part rhetorical structure. And if we were going with that structure, the exordium or the introduction to Paul's letter ends at Verse 17. Paul has given us his theme. And had theme now is going to underlie everything else we read in the epistle. That means that 1:18 would be the beginning of the new section. That would be the narration section or the ***narratio where Paul is now going to narrate a series of events that relate to his theme. And it is very interesting to note, though, that Verse 18 is connected to Verse 17 through the use of the word for. And so let me read these verses together just to see how odd this can sound. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. For it is the power of God for the salvation to all who believe. First for the Jew and then for the Greek. For in it, in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is being revealed through faith for faith. Just as it is written, the righteous man will live by faith. For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven. What? I mean, it does seem like a sudden shift. Well, one thing I would like to point out, Josh, before we actually discuss the relationship here is one important truth that sometimes we may not be aware of. And actually we are. Whenever we say that God's Word consists of two main teachings, law and Gospel, we're saying what Paul has just said here but Paul has just said it in a little more dramatic way. Notice on the one hand, the righteousness of God is being revealed in the Gospel through faith for faith. But note at the same time we have the same verb to be revealed in the present tense for the wrath of God from heaven is being revealed against all the godlessness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Two simultaneous revelations. The righteousness of God is being revealed in the Gospel. Nevertheless, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against sin. And this is kind of a more dramatic and full way of saying what we Lutherans say when we say the Bible consists of these two main teachings: The law or namely, that the wrath of God is being revealed against sinful mankind. And the Gospel, namely, that the righteousness of God or God's act of declaring right those who believe in Jesus is also being revealed. And notice that these are two present tense verbs. And in the Greek this denotes a close connection between the action and the doer, that these are things that are continuous going on. Continuously God's wrath is being revealed. Continuously his righteousness is being revealed. This is the state of things in 57 AD when Paul wrote this letter. And I would argue that this is the state of things today. Very interesting follow-up question was asked by a student in class. He said: Could it be possible that God's wrath was being revealed back then but no longer today? And I wondered what exactly would have changed between 57 AD and 2005 when the student asked the question that would show that God's wrath suddenly stopped being revealed. It also brought to mind an argument I had with a Sunday school teacher back in the fourth grade. This teacher told me that God no longer punished the sinners anymore because we lived in an age of grace. And so when bad things happen, you can never say that God brought these things about or that God still punishes sinners in this age because she said we lived in an age of grace. And I remember arguing back to her well you know God punished people in the Old Testament and he punished people in the New Testament. And she said: Oh, no, he didn't. And then I mentioned Ananias and Sapphire from the Book of Acts when they lied to the Holy Spirit and dropped dead. Well, she couldn't really respond to that. But it always left me wondering: Well, does God still punish sin? And Paul makes it very clear that yeah, the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against the Godlessness and the impurity of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. And this is actually what we as Lutherans have always been saying. Two simultaneous revelations, law and Gospel. Now, Josh, we do need to be careful when we talk about the application of the law and God's wrath being revealed. We can't say that every time something bad happens to somebody that it's God punishing them for a sin. Rather, we can say that in this fallen world bad things happen because this world is fallen. And God really hasn't given us a specific revelation to understand, for instance, if your parishioner who is suffering from cancer is being punished for sin. Or if this is just the effect of living in this fallen world. So we should be very careful on the one hand not to go around and say specifically: You had a car accident because God is punishing you for something you did. Or you've got cancer because God is punishing you for something you did. We can't speak that specifically. But very generally we can proclaim the law and proclaim that yeah, the wrath of God is being revealed against sinful man. We don't live in an age when God has stopped punishing sinners. So note these two simultaneous revelations. And I think there's a close connection between these two. Paul is saying, you know, the Gospel is revealing God's righteousness. The law is revealing God's wrath. So what is Paul doing in this shift from Verse 17 where he's talking about the Gospel to Verse 18 where he's talking about God's wrath? Well, I think he's made his point in establishing his theme. Now what Paul needs to do is he needs to make the case for why we need Verses 16 and 17. In other words, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. That's good. What do I need to be saved from? And then again Verse 17, in the Gospel God's act of declaring people righteous is being revealed. Okay. Why do I need to be declared righteous? In other words, why do we need the Gospel in the first place? Well, the answer is this: Because we and everybody in this world has fallen short of God's glory and all of us deserve for condemned by God for our sinfulness. In other words, we are all worthy of the wrath of God that is being revealed from heaven right now. Every one of us. So why is the Gospel good news? Why is it that God has the power to save us that he declares us righteous when we believe in Jesus? Why is all of that good news? Is because there's also some bad news. And then I would say what Paul does next in Romans 1 Verse 18 through Romans 3 Verse 20 is he tells the bad news. As you read through this section, I can note several divisions. First in Romans 1 Verses 18 until the end of the chapter. This is a place where Paul makes his case against people. Now, to the Jewish reader, this would be the Gentiles out there, those Greco-Roman pagans. Paul makes the case that these people are worthy of the wrath of God. Why? Well, because they should know God by looking at the created world. But they haven't known God. Instead they've worshiped idols. So God gave them up to unclean living. And here is the famous passage where Paul talks about homosexuality as being a condition that God has given these people over into because they rejected him. But homosexuality isn't singled out as the one unique sin. It's really idolatry that's the big sin. And finally the chapter closes with Paul listing all a of these sins that people are guilty of. Now at this point the Jewish reader might be reading Paul and saying: Yeah, I know. All of those Greeks and Romans and Gentiles out there, those idolaters who don't believe in the true God, they are all a bunch of sinners. But then in Romans Chapter 2, Paul begins to turn the tables on anyone who might be a self righteous judge. Someone who thinks they are living a good life and looks at those, you know, sinners worse than them out there. And he begins to turn the table and reveal that even the self righteous judges are also condemned because the very standards they hold up, they don't live up to. And then finally he begins to make the case very clearly in Romans 2 Verse 17 through 3 Verse 8 that the Jewish people themselves who have the torah of God, who have the law, nevertheless, although they have the law, they, too, have not faithfully lived up to its standards. In other words, Paul makes the case that everybody, Gentile and Jew, are guilty of breaking the law. Everybody. Gentile and Jew are under sin. Everybody, Gentile and Jew are subject to the wrath of God had a that is being revealed from heaven. That there isn't anybody who on their own merits or strength could escape that wrath of God. Now, what I would argue here is that what Paul has done is he's introduced us to the theme of the Gospel. Now he is making it clear why the Gospel is good news to us. It's because we need the power of God to save us. It's because we need God to act and to declare us righteous. And all of this leads to the conclusion -- this whole section concludes in Romans 3:19 through 20 so that in case anybody didn't hear what Paul is saying, Paul finally says: Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin. And so the very section that begins with: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth concludes with this statement: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in God's sight since through the law comes knowledge of sin. And this whole section basically is written to make the case that we of ourselves cannot attain God's righteousness. We need for God to act on our behalf. And so we rejoice in the Gospel that Paul introduces in Romans 1:16 and 17 and that he's further going to amplify as the epistle of Romans goes on.