Many people get annoyed if someone tries to talk to them about Christ. ‘Religion is a private matter’, they say, ‘so keep it to yourself!’
But Christianity is not private at all – according to Jesus it is a message to be proclaimed to the whole wide world (Mark 16:15)! The apostle Paul took this to heart, declaring, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16).
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it answers our greatest problem – the anger and judgement of God upon man’s sin. And this isn’t just somebody else’s problem – it’s yours and mine.
Paul’s statement appears in one of the most solemn chapters of the Bible (see Romans 1:18-32) – a chapter that shows us the depths of sin in the human heart and God’s holy reaction against it.
If sin is a reality then so too is divine wrath, and the only answer to God’s wrath is God’s love, revealed in the gospel.
Catalogue of sin
The catalogue of sin in Romans 1 has a very modern ring about it. It starts with man suppressing the truth of God (v.18). When this happens there remains no absolute standards of behaviour. Nothing is right or wrong and everything is a matter of opinion. Morally speaking, everyone does his own thing.
Consider how people suppress God’s truth today. The Bible is ridiculed on TV and radio. The media generally dismiss what God says as irrelevant (ridicule is a very effective way to suppress truth).
Our children’s education is often loaded against biblical truth – witness the sceptical Religious Education lessons, the choice of books to be studied for English exams, and many other ways.
The text continues: ‘Professing to be wise they became fools … [and] exchanged the truth of God for a lie … and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator’ (vv. 21-25). How true! We are wise enough to put men on the moon but foolish enough to create an AIDS epidemic. The truth of a Creator is called a lie, and a blind process of evolution is venerated as the truth.
How does God react to all this? Paul continues, ‘since they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting …’ (v.28).
In other words, ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’ (v.18) by leaving man to his own devices! Without God, human society digs itself deeper and deeper into the ditch of injustice, cruelty and moral corruption.
God’s punishment of sin is not something reserved only for the future but is a present reality. Read your daily newspaper if you doubt me!
People ask, why are things so terrible in society today? Here is the answer – ‘God gave them over’. Wars, crime, violence, greed, drugs and much else are destroying our world because we will not take sin seriously. There is only one answer.
The gospel answer
Some think that education and social improvement will answer the needs of our age. Of course, we all need to work for better education and a fairer society – but moving from a slum to a palace doesn’t change man’s sinful nature.
The only answer to society’s problem – your problem and my problem – is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it alone can deal with God’s wrath against sin.
Paul deals with God’s wrath right up until Romans 3:20, where Paul writes, ‘But …’ This little word is the hinge on which his message turns – because from that point onwards he presents the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Out of love and concern for the very sinners that excite his anger, God provides the amazing way of salvation. The whole plan revolves around, and depends upon, the Lord Jesus Christ..
When God sent his sinless Son into our fallen world he didn’t make him its ruler, commanding sinners to obey him. No – he made Jesus a man of sorrows, despised and rejected by men.
You see, God’s plan was to lay on the sinless One all the sins of those he planned to save. On the Cross Jesus paid the debt incurred by our sin, bearing the wrath and judgement that we deserved. And he rose again from the dead to show he had successfully accomplished his saving mission.
Thus the holy demands of God are fully met. Our sin is punished. Wrath is turned away from us and the love, grace and mercy of God come to us instead. This is God’s answer to human sin. This is the gospel.