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Commentary on Romans

by Michael Bugg

Chapter 1


Rom 1:1  From: Sha'ul, a slave of the Messiah Yeshua, an emissary because I was called and set apart for the Good News of God.

  1. “Slave” = Gr. δοῦλος, equivalent to Heb. ‘eved עבד
    1. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (p. 158) defines δοῦλος as “one who gives himself up wholly to another’s will (cf. Gal.2:20).
  2. Like Abraham’s ‘eved Eliazer, a sheliach (an emissary) “sent forth” to bring Isaac back his bride from the lands of the Gentiles

The Good News

Rom 1:2  God promised this Good News in advance through his prophets in the Tanakh.

  1. Good News = Gr. ευαγγελιον, basar (בּשׂר) in Heb.
    1. בּשׂר also means “meat,” since the ANE response to hearing good news was to throw a feast

                                                              i.      The Shalom Offering

  1. The Good News (Basar) in the Tanakh:
    1. Isa 40:9-11 - You who bring good news to Tziyon, get yourself up on a high mountain; you who bring good news to Yerushalayim, cry out at the top of your voice! Don't be afraid to shout out loud! Say to the cities of Y'hudah, "Here is your God!  Here comes Adonai ELOHIM with power, and his arm will rule for him. Look! His reward is with him, and his recompense is before him.  He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering his lambs with his arm, carrying them against his chest, gently leading the mother sheep."
    2. Isa 52:7-10 - How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, proclaiming shalom, bringing good news of good things, announcing salvation and saying to Tziyon, "Your God is King!"  Listen! Your watchmen are raising their voices, shouting for joy together. For they will see, before their own eyes, ADONAI returning to Tziyon.  Break out into joy! Sing together, you ruins of Yerushalayim! For ADONAI has comforted his people, he has redeemed Yerushalayim!  ADONAI has bared his holy arm in the sight of every nation, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
    3. Isa 61:1-4 - The Spirit of Adonai ELOHIM is upon me, because ADONAI has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim freedom to the captives, to let out into light those bound in the dark; to proclaim the year of the favor of ADONAI and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, yes, provide for those in Tziyon who mourn, giving them garlands instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a cloak of praise instead of a heavy spirit, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness planted by ADONAI, in which he takes pride.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins, restore sites long destroyed; they will renew the ruined cities, destroyed many generations ago.

                                                              i.      Quoted by Yeshua in regards to Himself in Luke 4:18f

    1. Nah. 1:15 - Look! On the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, proclaiming shalom. Keep your festivals, Y'hudah, fulfill your vows; for B'liya'al will never pass through you again; he has been completely destroyed.

The Hymn of Messiah

Rom 1:3  It concerns his Son - he is descended from David physically;

Rom 1:4  he was powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually, set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead; he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.

  1. Written in the form of poetry, or a hymn
    1. “descended from David physically”

                                                              i.      Isa 11:1, 10-11, 12 - But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots. . .  On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious.  On that day Adonai will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people . . . from the four corners of the earth.

                                                            ii.      Davis:  The King James Version translated “made of the seed” a better and more literal translation.

    1. “powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually”

                                                              i.      Davis: Thayer interprets this passage as “That which has been determined” adding, “for although Christ was the son of God before his resurrection yet he was openly such among men by this transcendent and crowning event.” […] Notice he was not only declared the son of God, but he also had power.

                                                            ii.      2Sa 7:12-16 - When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership.  He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.  I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished; nevertheless, my grace will not leave him, as I took it away from Sha'ul, whom I removed from before you.  Thus your house and your kingdom will be made secure forever before you; your throne will be set up forever.'" 

                                                          iii.      Psa 2:7-9 - "I will proclaim the decree: ADONAI said to me, 'You are my son; today I became your father.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance; the whole wide world will be your possession.  You will break them with an iron rod, shatter them like a clay pot.'"

    1. “set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead”

                                                              i.      Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead was so important to Pharisaic (P’rushi) Judaism that those who denied it were said to be denied a place in the ‘Olam Haba, the World to Come.

                                                            ii.      However, Yeshua was set apart by His unique, individual Resurrection, the Firstfruits of all who would follow (1Co 15:20f), as proof that the Father accepted His Sacrifice

Isa 53:10 - . . . yet it pleased ADONAI to crush him with illness, to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering. If he does, he will see his offspring; and he will prolong his days; and at his hand ADONAI's desire will be accomplished. 

    1. “he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.”

                                                              i.      i.e. “Yeshua the Annointed King, by virtue of being David’s Son, and Lord of all Creation, by virtue of being God’s Son, proven by His Resurrection.”

                                                            ii.      Php 2:6-11 - Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force.  On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are. And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death - death on a stake as a criminal!  Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow - in heaven, on earth and under the earth and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI - to the glory of God the Father.

Isa 45:22-24  Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other.  In the name of myself I have sworn, from my mouth has rightly gone out, a word that will not return - that to me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear about me that only in ADONAI are justice and strength."

Called and Elected

Rom 1:5  Through him we received grace and were given the work of being an emissary on his behalf promoting trust-grounded obedience among all the Gentiles,

Rom 1:6  including you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah.

  1. Grace, election, commission
    1. “we” = Israel (ελαβομεν is a verb (“received”) written in the plural form)
    2. “received grace and were given the work of being an emissary,” ελαβομεν χαριν και αποστολην, lit. “received grace and ambassadorship”

                                                              i.      Here Sha’ul is speaking of Israel as a whole receiving a mission to be ambassador of the Good News—a mission that only a few took up

                                                            ii.      grace = χαριν, an unmerited favor, esp. from a patron, shown in the form of a concrete gift

The socially-required response to χαριν was to give back to the patron in the form of loyalty.  To refuse to do so brought dishonor on the recipient, not the patron. [find ref]

Heb. equiv. chen (חן), favor, acceptance, “find favor in the eyes of”

    1. “called” =  the same word Sha’ul used to describe his own special calling, meaning that our calling is likewise from sin and into an ambassadorial role for the King

                                                              i.      Mat 22:14 – “. . . for many are invited (κλητοι, ‘called ones’), but few are chosen (εκλεκτοι, ‘elect ones,’ e.g., chosen and sealed with election)."

  1. “trust-grounded obedience”
    1. Often translated “obedience of faith,” and erroneously thought to mean mere obedience to the call to trust God
    2. Rather, means an obedience that comes from trusting God


Personal Greetings and Background on Roman Messianism

Rom 1:7  To: All those in Rome whom God loves, who have been called, who have been set apart for him: Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.


  1. Shalom from God
    1. Sha’ul’s usual greeting, found in almost all of his letters
  1. Rome
    1. Had several, perhaps up to eleven, synagogues

                                                              i.      Ch. 16’s “shout outs” suggest seven or eight Messianic assemblies (Nanos, Romans 77, n. 124)

    1. Evidence of mixed communities of Jews and Christians in Rome (Nanos, ibid. 70f)

                                                              i.      Christian inscription and artifacts in Jewish catacombs

                                                            ii.      “shared literature such as hymnals and prayer books”

A form of the Amidah was used as a liturgical prayer in the early Ekklesia [find reference]

                                                          iii.      Christian use of non-rabbinic Jewish apocrypha

                                                          iv.      “shared language and idioms,”

                                                            v.      “shared Sabbath and food regulations,” (e.g., not eating blood or strangled meat, Acts 15:29)

                                                          vi.      The Ekklesia borrowed heavily from the synagogue in its own organization and service

Rome’s Reputation and Fall

Rom 1:8  First, I thank my God through Yeshua the Messiah for all of you, because the report of your trust is spreading throughout the whole world.

  1. Early attestation that Rome’s assembly was founded by Peter and Paul and that it enjoyed high status among the assemblies – Dionysius of Corinth (c. 170), Irenaeus (c. 180)
    1. “Through the resources which ye have sent from the beginning, ye Romans, keep up the custom of the Romans handed down by the fathers, which your blessed Bishop Sorer has not only preserved, but added to, sending a splendid gift to the saints, and exhorting with blessed words those brethren who go up to Rome, as an affectionate father his children.”  (Dionysius of Corinth, Fragments of a Letter to Rome, ch. 1)
    2. “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [in Rome], on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”  (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, ch. 3.2)

                                                              i.      Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of Yochanan the Emissary.

  1. However, even as early as the second half of the 2nd Century, the Roman bishops had started to use their influence to pressure the other assemblies, particularly on leaving Jewish observances.
    1. Anicetus, Bishop of Rome (154-168) tried to influence Polycarp to change the date of Passover; Polycarp refused.
    2. Victor I (190-202) threatened to excommunicate the eastern assemblies if they would not change the date of Passover from the 14th of Nisan. 

                                                              i.      Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, replied that he was not afraid of Victor’s threats.

                                                            ii.      Irenaeus, while sympathetic to Victor’s views, rebuked him for overstepping his authority.

    1. Calixtus I (218-223) was the first to try to use Mat. 16:18 to press his claim of supremacy among the bishops.

                                                              i.      Tertullian of Carthage, the “Father of Latin Christianity,” called him a Usurper

    1. Innocent I (402-417) called himself “Ruler of the Church of God,” claiming the right to settle the more important matters of controversy for the whole Ekklesia
    2. Leo I, “the Great” (440-461), called by some historians the First Pope, taking control of the fracturing West in a time of great difficulty and even convincing Attila the Hun to spare the city in 452 CE.  Even so, he continued to try to grow Rome’s influence over the other Sees.
  1. Nevertheless, well beyond the 4th Century, Christendom was dominated by no less than FIVE centers of officialdom:  Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.  While Rome was largely unchallenged in the West, it was never accepted as having authority in the East.

A Debt to All Cultures

Rom 1:9  For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you

Rom 1:10  in my prayers; and I always pray that somehow, now or in the future, I might, by God's will, succeed in coming to visit you.

Rom 1:11  For I long to see you, so that I might share with you some spiritual gift that can make you stronger -

Rom 1:12  or, to put it another way, so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another.

Rom 1:13  Brothers, I want you to know that although I have been prevented from visiting you until now, I have often planned to do so, in order that I might have some fruit among you, just as I have among the other Gentiles.

  1. While Kefa is given joint credit with Sha’ul for founding the Roman assembly—and among Catholics, given preeminent credit—he had obviously not visited the city at the time that Sha’ul wrote his letter:
    1. Rom 15:20 - . . . making it my aim to proclaim the Good News, not where Messiah was already named, that I might not build on another’s foundation.
  2. Why did Sha’ul so wish to visit Rome? 
    1. Its centrality and importance:  “All roads lead to Rome.”
    2. Possibly because he had friends from Rome who had already been exiled for the sake of Messiah by the command of Claudius Caesar:

                                                              i.      Priscilla and Aquilla (Rom. 18:2)

                                                            ii.      Claudius “expelled the Jews from Rome, who were continually making tumults, being moved thereunto by one Chrestus” (Suetonius, The Life of Claudius, ch. 25).

    1. To give strength to a weakened and divided assembly (“some spiritual gift”)

                                                              i.      The expulsion would have left the Gentile Christians for a time without Scriptures, rabbinic teaching, or the ability to keep any of the “Jewish” commands without risking exile or worse themselves.

                                                            ii.      By the time the Jewish believers were allowed back, the Gentile Christians would have had to develop their own practices apart from the Torah in order to survive.

                                                          iii.      Sha’ul’s unique gift among the Emissaries was his ability to bridge the gap between Jew and Greek, drawing both together by subtle allusions to their respective cultures in his writings.

                                                          iv.      He was apparently successful, given the close ties the Ekklesia and the synagogue seem to have enjoyed in Rome for some time thereafter (see notes on 1:7, above).

    1. “so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another”

                                                              i.      Sha’ul’s special mission was to the Gentiles, but he never ceased to love and strive for his own people.

                                                            ii.      If he could bring peace between the estranged factions of Jew and Gentile in Rome, this would be a great confirmation of his calling

  1. “Prevented from visiting”
    1. Not the first time he had been withstood from taking the Gospel to a certain place; prevented by the Ruach from going to Asia (Acts 16:6)

A Debt to the Gentiles

Rom 1:14  I owe a debt to both civilized Greeks and uncivilized people, to both the educated and the ignorant;

Rom 1:15  therefore I am eager to proclaim the Good News also to you who live in Rome.

  1. Sha’ul’s debt – he certainly had a mission, but why a debt?
    1. Greeks and βαρβάροις (“barbarians”)
    2. The idea of using all influences, symbols, and philosophies for the glory of the Holy One was not unique to Paul, though he certainly exemplified it!

                                                              i.      Similarity to Philo (cf. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism 96f)

Philo was a fully Torah-observant Jew

a.       “He roundly condemned those Jews who ignored the literal meaning of the Law as being worthless in favor of a symbolic meaning.  Thus circumcision might be interpreted as a ‘sign of the excision of pleasure and all passions’, etc., but nevertheless had to be observed literally.” (ibid.)

However, he borrowed frequently from Greek ideas.

Object was not to use the traditions of Judaism to support Hellenistic philosophy and mystery religions—but the other way around!

b.      “Judaism not only in the Dispersion but even more so in Jerusalem itself was eager to adopt any convention of Hellenistic religion in order to exalt the one God and His Torah; Judaism could indeed be assimilated to a mystery cult to a remarkable degree—for missionary ends.” (ibid., 97)

                                                            ii.      In the same way, Paul may have used imagery from both mainstream philosophy and the pagan mystery religions in explaining Messiah to his varied audiences.  Examples:

Another Adam as a “spiritual” man and divine figure in contrast to the earthly Adam (1Co 15:45)

The concept of dying with a deity in order to be raised again into a new life (cf. Col. 2:20, 3:3)

True union with Deity, e.g., “in Messiah” (εν Xριστω)

  1. Likewise, we too should be ever-ready to use every element—every meme—of our culture to explain who and what Yeshua truly is to our audiences
    1. Meme:  An idea, piece of imagery or symbolism
    2. Sources of Memes

                                                              i.      Liturature

Religious works from both the Jewish and Christians sides

                                                            ii.      Movies and TV

                                                          iii.      Music

                                                          iv.      Jokes

                                                            v.      Political discourse

    1. The power of memes:

                                                              i.      “Whenever we read a good book, tour a foreign country, comfort a distraught friend or engage in a stimulating conversation, the experience prompts physical changes in our brain.  This remarkable process, which scientists call sproutina, involves the rapid growth of new neural connections—dendrites, axons, and the synapses between them . . . stimulated neurons produce new synapses in as little as ten minutes!
     “The enemy’s strategy is simple.  He wants to influence the kinds of thoughts that enter our minds so he can alter the neural structure of our brains. . .  An event lasting all of seconds can cause long-lasting neurological change.”  (Otis, Twilight Labyrinth 158)

In other words, there is a danger that the meme can go both ways—subversion of paganism or subversion to paganism!

    1. Examples that went both ways:

                                                              i.      Christmas

                                                            ii.      Lent and Easter

    1. Protecting against the danger of memes:

                                                              i.      Eph 4:27 - Do not give the Enemy a foothold

                                                            ii.      Php 4:8 - In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.

                                                          iii.      2Co 10:3-5 - For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way; because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have God's power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.

The key of obedience to God’s Word:

a.       Philo took every Greek philosophical idea and made it point to the God of Israel and His Torah—by continuing to keep the Torah in all of its particulars even as he subverted the Greek culture.

b.      So did Sha’ul!

                                                          iv.      Rom 12:2 - In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the 'olam hazeh (the present world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.

Sha’ul’s Thesis

Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God's powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile.

Rom 1:17  For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust - as the Tanakh puts it, "But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust." (Hab. 2:4)

  1. “Not ashamed”
    1. Despite the fact that the Good News had resulted in repeated rejection of Sha’ul by his kinsman

                                                              i.      The cause of the rejection: Gentile inclusion

The Jews of Pisidian Antioch only turned on the Message when the Gentiles of the city came en-masse to hear it (Acts 13:44f)

Likewise elsewhere in Galatia (Acts 14)

Sha’ul actually had to contend with not only the Judaizers, but with those of his own party (the P’rushim) who wanted to limit Gentile inclusion by making circumcision and Torah-keeping prerequisites for inclusion (Acts 15:1ff).

An accusation that he was bringing Gentiles within the court of the Israelites in the Temple caused a riot in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27ff).

Rom 11:28 - With respect to the Good News they (the Jews) are hated (enemies) for your (the Gentiles’) sake. . .

    1. It is all too tempting and easy to withdraw from the truth of a message, to “soften” it to fit in with one’s own people, but we have to speak the truth without shame

                                                              i.      That doesn’t give us carte blanche to be deliberately abrasive, of course

  1. “To the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile”
    1. To the Jew first (cf. Stern, Commentary 329f)

                                                              i.      Not just chronologically first, though this is historically true

                                                            ii.      Not just referring to the Jew’s “covenantal priority,” the special relationship between Israel and God above all nations, though this is also true.

                                                          iii.      “Rather, ‘to the Jew first’ means that there is a ‘present priority’ to proclaim the Gospel to Jews, and the Church should acknowledge it. . .  Thus it is because of the need to understand ‘proton’ as underlining the ‘present priority’ of bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people that I translate it here by the word ‘especially.’”

    1. “equally to the Gentile”

                                                              i.      Bringing both into His Kingdom has ever been God’s plan, and thus He set apart Emissaries to send to both camps.

  1. "But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust."
    1. Full quote from Hab. 2:4 – “Look at the proud: he is inwardly not upright; but the righteous will attain life through trusting faithfulness.”

                                                              i.      “trusting faithfulness” = Heb. be’emunato (באמונתו), “faithfulness, trustworthiness, integrity”

Regarding Hab. 2:4, Mounce writes, “The life of the righteous that will survive judgment must be built on faithfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity toward God and others (cf. Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38)” (Dic. 234, “Faithfulness”).

Deu. 32:4 - The Rock! His work is perfect, for all his ways are just. A trustworthy (אמונה) God who does no wrong, he is righteous and straight.

a.       Would make no sense rendered, “A trusting God who does no wrong . . .”

    1. Trust = Gr. pistis, (πιστις)

                                                              i.      How the world sees faith

“Faith is believing in things you know just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” –H.L. Mencken

                                                            ii.      Variable meanings (Mounce, Dic. 232f)

Belief in a person or ideal, e.g., putting trust in that person

A doctrine or collection of beliefs

Conviction or certainty in a belief

Faithfulness or trustworthiness

a.       The primary meaning of the related word pistos (πιστος), which means “faithful, trustworthy, reliable, dependable,” and is used as such in Deu. 32:4 (see above)

b.      Rom 3:3 - If some of them were unfaithful, so what? Does their faithlessness cancel God's faithfulness (πιστιν)?

                                                          iii.      From Vines 401, “Faith”

“The main elements of faith in its relation to the invisible God . . . are

a.       (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth, e.g., 2 Thess. 2:11, 12;

b.      (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12;

c.       (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7.”

                                                          iv.      In the ancient world, was used to describe the loyalty and fidelity that a client (e.g., the recipient of unearned grace (charis, χαρις)) was expected to give to his patron.  (See J.P. Holding’s What Is Faith?)

Tit 2:9f - Tell slaves to submit to their masters in everything, to give satisfaction without talking back or pilfering. On the contrary, they should demonstrate complete faithfulness (πιστιν) always, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Deliverer more attractive.

This loyalty stemmed from not only an awareness of the honor due the patron, but from trusting in his patron’s past and continuing generosity.

This loyalty did not earn a patron’s gift—it was the proper response to it.

    1. Other citations of Habakkuk

                                                              i.      Gal 3:11f - Now it is evident that no one comes to be declared righteous by God through legalism, since "The person who is righteous will attain life by trusting and being faithful."  Furthermore, legalism is not based on trusting and being faithful, but on [a misuse of] the text that says, "Anyone who does these things will attain life through them."

Salvation comes through loyalty to the Living God, not through keeping the Torah correctly a certain amount of the time.

                                                            ii.      Heb 10:32-39 - But remember the earlier days, when, after you had received the light, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.  Sometimes you were publicly disgraced and persecuted, while at other times you stood loyally by those who were treated this way.  For you shared the sufferings of those who had been put in prison. Also when your possessions were seized, you accepted it gladly; since you knew that what you possessed was better and would last forever.  So don't throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward.  For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what he has promised.  For "There is so, so little time! The One coming will indeed come, he will not delay.  But the person who is righteous will live his life by trusting, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”  However, we are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!

    1. One cannot profess to have loyalty without taking action

                                                              i.      Jas 2:17-18 - Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead. But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!

                                                            ii.      Faith, however, is a divine work in us . . . a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. . .  Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace; and thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light fires. . .  He who does not these works is a faithless man.  (Martin Luther, Romans (Kregel, 1976) xvii)

God’s Visibility in the Creation

Rom 1:18  What is revealed is God's anger from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who in their wickedness keep suppressing the truth;

Rom 1:19  because what is known about God is plain to them, since God has made it plain to them.

Rom 1:20  For ever since the creation of the universe his invisible qualities - both his eternal power and his divine nature - have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what he has made. Therefore, they have no excuse;

  1. HaShem jealously guards His title of Creator
    1. Isa 45:11-12 - Thus says ADONAI, the Holy One of Isra'el, his Maker: "You ask for signs concerning my children? You give orders concerning the work of my hands? I am the one who made the earth! I created human beings on it! I- my hands - stretched out the heavens, and directed all their number.”
    2. Psa 19:1-6 -  The heavens declare the glory of God, the dome of the sky speaks the work of his hands.  Every day it utters speech, every night it reveals knowledge.  Without speech, without a word, without their voices being heard, their line goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them he places a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber, with delight like an athlete to run his race.  It rises at one side of the sky, circles around to the other side, and nothing escapes its heat.
  2. Proofs of God from nature
    1. The Proof of First Cause: 

      Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
      The universe began to exist.
      Therefore, the universe has a cause.

      The universe has a cause.
      There cannot be an infinite regress of causes.
      Therefore, there must be an uncaused Entity that caused the universe to exist.

                                                              i.      Robert Jastrow wrote in 1978 (God and the Astronomers):

I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money.  There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes that there is order and harmony in the Universe. . .  This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover.  When that happens, the scientist has lost control.  If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized . . . (p. 104)

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.  (pp. 105f)

    1. The Anthropic Principle

                                                              i.      There are hundreds, if not thousands, of variables in our universe that could conceivably be different (cf. Missler, Genesis).  Examples:

The relative strengths of the four forces.

a.       If gravity were weaker, stars would not generate heavy elements

b.      If it were stronger, stars would burn up too quickly

Expansion rate of the universe • Ratio of electron to proton mass • Age of the universe • Expansion rate of the universe • Entropy level of the universe • Mass of the universe • Uniformity of the universe • Stability of the proton • Fine structure constants • Velocity of light • Beryllium, carbon, oxygen nuclear energy levels • Distance between stars • Rate of luminosity increase for stars • Number of Stars

Unique properties of water

c.       less dense as a solid than as a liquid

d.      is perfectly suited to enable the shaping of proteins and strands of DNA

e.       And yet it is found in abundance, especially on earth

As little a difference as 1 in 10^60 in the gravity or expansion rate would have caused either a re-collapse of the universe too soon for life to exist or for it to fly apart to quickly for planets to form.

f.       Gen 1:6-8 - God said, "Let there be a dome (Heb. raqiya רקיע, something spread out by hammering, like a sheet of gold, an expanse) in the middle of the water; let it divide the water from the water."  God made the dome and divided the water under the dome from the water above the dome; that is how it was, and God called the dome Sky. So there was evening, and there was morning, a second day.

g.      Isa 40:22 - He who sits above the circle of the earth - for whom its inhabitants appear like grasshoppers - stretches out the heavens like a curtain, spreads them out like a tent to live in.

h.      “stretched out the heavens” – Isa. 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13; Zec. 12:1

                                                            ii.      Variables here on earth:

Parent star (Sun) birth date • Parent star age • Parent star distance • Parent star mass • Parent star color • Surface gravity • Distance from parent star • Thickness of earth’s crust • Rotation period • Lunar gravitational interaction • Magnetic field • Axial tilt • Albedo (reflectivity) • Oxygen to nitrogen ratio • Carbon dioxide and water vapor levels • Ozone level • Atmospheric electric discharge rate • Seismic activity. All finely tuned...

                                                          iii.      In the fall of 1973, Brandon Carter, a well-respected astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University, presented a paper called, “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology,” which argued that the only factor that united the measurements of the universe’s variables is that they were all necessary for life to exist.

                                                          iv.      “. . . even in its supposedly first second [of existence] the universe . . . has to know in advance what it is going to be before it knows how to start itself.  For in accordance to the Big Bang Theory, for instance, at a time of 10-43 seconds, the universe has to know how many types of neutrino there are going to be at the time of 1 second.  This is so in order that it starts off expanding at the right rate to fit the eventual number of neutrino types.”  (Astronomer Fred Hoyle, quoted by Brower, Unrandom Universe 63)

    1. When one starts looking at the origin of life, the issue becomes even more incredible!

                                                              i.      Irreducible complexity

Michael Denton, 1986

Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up of 100,000,000,000 atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the nonliving world.

                                                            ii.      Theory of Evolution prophesied:

2Pe 3:3-7 - First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, "Where is this promised 'coming' of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation."  But, wanting so much to be right about this, they overlook the fact that it was by God's Word that long ago there were heavens, and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters, and that by means of these things the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed.  It is by that same Word that the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

                                                          iii.      Also spoken of (obliquely) in the next section:

Ignoring the Creator

Rom 1:21  because, although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened.

Rom 1:22  Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!

Rom 1:23  In fact, they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals or reptiles!

  1. Evolution is constantly being used to put those who believe in God on the defensive.
    1. Taught by government mandate in our schools without a chance for rebuttal
    2. Those in the fields of science who challenge it often have their careers destroyed – see Ben Stein’s “Expelled”
  2. Evolution claims that God didn’t create man – we evolved from “birds, animals, and reptiles”
    1. Some have taken refuge from the abiogenesis problem by suggesting that we were “seeded” by an extraterrestrial source

The Curse of Atheism

Rom 1:24  This is why God has given them up to the vileness of their hearts' lusts, to the shameful misuse of each other's bodies.

Rom 1:25  They have exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, by worshipping and serving created things, rather than the Creator - praised be he for ever. Amen.

Rom 1:26  This is why God has given them up to degrading passions; so that their women exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural;

Rom 1:27  and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.

  1. Homosexuality and other sexual sins
    1. listed among the “abomination” (to’ebah תּועבה) sins (Lev. 20:13),

                                                              i.      along with other sexual sins (Lev. 18-20), including cross-dressing (Deu. 22:5)

                                                            ii.      idolatry (Deu. 7:25) and human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Deu. 12:31)

Lev. 18 plants human sacrifice in the midst of a list of sexual sins, suggesting a connections

                                                          iii.      impure sacrifice to the Holy One (Deu. 17:1)

                                                          iv.      occultism, astrology, séances (Deu. 18:9-12)

                                                            v.      dishonest business practices (Deu. 25:14-16)

    1. Sins of infidelity, sexual perversion, and idolatry/occultism are all tied together

                                                              i.      Prostitution of both men and women was tied to pagan temples

                                                            ii.      Cross-dressing was tied to pagan rites

The cult of Diana/Artemis in particular was infamous for this

Celtic priests were likewise infamous for their sexual preferences—among the Romans!

In modern Hinduism, many gods are connected to sex—and many idols to sexual organs

                                                          iii.      To this day, sexual sins of all varieties are common among occultists and shamans, and seen as a key to “higher levels”

  1. “Gave them up”

    Psa 81:10-12 - I am ADONAI your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth, and I will fill it.  But my people did not listen to my voice; Isra'el would have none of me.  So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to live by their own plans.
    1. Gr. παρέδωκεν, turned them over to the sin for punishment, as Yeshua was handed over to the Romans for crucifixion (Mat. 26:2)
    2. All sexual sin is a curse for idolatry

                                                              i.      To Sha’ul, sexual perversion was not simply a sin in isolation, but was the direct result of turning from the living God to idols—a curse resulting from a more fundamental sin

                                                            ii.      Note that he is referring to the societal, not the personal level. 

Many homosexuals struggle for a long time with the issue of their faith.

Some reject faith

Some seek a more liberal “faith” that doesn’t condemn their sin

                                                          iii.      From CatholicExchange.com, “How Much Time Does the US Have?” by Charles S. LiMandri

A friend recently asked: "How long do we have left as a society?"  In answer to that question I informed her about an interesting and comprehensive study that a renowned British anthropologist, Joseph Unwin, PhD., presented to the British Psychological Society in 1935.  Unwin sought to prove that the traditional monogamous model for marriage was not essential to the maintenance of a healthy society.  After studying 86 different cultures, across time and continents –and much to his surprise — he came to the inescapable conclusion that the traditional male-female monogamous model for marriage was indeed the best foundation for a healthy and productive society.

Unwin found that societies that adopted this model typically took about three generations to reach their peak of productivity and progress.  After that, frequently, a gradual development of complacency and licentiousness would take place and what he described as an "outburst of homosexuality" would sometimes occur.  When that happened, and the society started to move away from the traditional model of male-female monogamous marriage as its foundation, it would begin to unravel.  It would then take another three generations of deterioration from that point for the society to collapse.

    1. The case of Sodom and Gomorrah

                                                              i.      Eze 16:49f - The crimes of your sister S'dom were pride and gluttony; she and her daughters were careless and complacent, so that they did nothing to help the poor and needy.  They were arrogant and committed disgusting acts before me; so that when I saw it, I swept them away.

1.      Pride – can also mean “Excellency” or “majesty” when referring to God, seeing ourselves as equal to God, the first step in denying God

2.      Gluttony – Having so much and sharing so little

3.      Careless – lit. “abundance,” which leads to carelessness, which in turn leads to

4.      Complacent – lit. “idleness,” living for the entertainment of the moment

5.      Did nothing to help the poor and needy

6.      Arrogant – lit. “lifted up,” exalted, haughty, a step beyond pride

7.      Committed disgusting acts before me – were so arrogant that they were not even ashamed of their sin, but in effect paraded it before God

a.       Isa 5:18 - Woe to those who begin by pulling at transgression with a thread, but end by dragging sin along as if with a cart rope.

Makes one think of our gay pride parades, doesn’t it?

b.      Isa 5:19f - They say, "We want God to speed up his work, to hurry it along, so we can see it! We want the Holy One of Isra'el's plan to come true right now, so we can be sure of it!"  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!

                                                            ii.      The open abominable sins were the end result of Sodom’s previous sins, not the sole reason God destroyed her

Other Vices 

Rom 1:28  In other words, since they have not considered God worth knowing, God has given them up to worthless ways of thinking; so that they do improper things.

Rom 1:29  They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips,

Rom 1:30  slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful; they plan evil schemes; they disobey their parents;

Rom 1:31  they are brainless, faithless, heartless and ruthless.

Rom 1:32  They know well enough God's righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.

  1. Sha’ul here speaks of the then-present; elsewhere, he puts this in the context of the End Times
    1. 2Ti 3:1-5 - Moreover, understand this: in the acharit-hayamim will come trying times.  People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power. Stay away from these people!
  2. “They know well enough”
    1. Lit. “are fully acquainted” (Gr. ἐπιγνόντες), an intimate, personal knowledge
  3. “applaud others”
    1. And said Rab in the name of R. Reuben b. Istrobili, and some say that it was repeated in a Tannaite formulation as said R. Reuben b. Istrobili, “A person comes under suspicion for something only if he did it, and if he didn’t do the whole thing, then he did part of it, and if he didn’t do part of it, then he thought about doing it, and if he didn’t think about doing it, he saw other  people doing it and enjoyed it.”  (b. Mo’ed Qatan 18b)



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