Paul’s Good News about God as Seen in Romans

Dallas Willard Part 9 of 10

A study of the book of Acts for a Sunday School class at the church where Dallas Willard and Richard Foster met. Expositions of Romans 1-3.


Dallas: I left a set of those sheets on that bench back there; I trust so. I feel the end coming and I get more and more anxious about the time on circumcision because circumcision is not an issue with us, is it? The interesting thing is to try to locate the things, which are an issue with us today. What are the things, which today are made matters of spiritual importance, which in fact are relatively trivial. [00:34]

Well, as I’ve put in the lesson in the sheet here, really, most of the things, which form a part of our doctrine and our practice, fall into this category. Now, I realize that this may distress some of you for me to say that kind of thing but I really think it must be said because the creeds as they have been employed have been primarily instruments of exclusion. They have been primarily instruments of division and sectarianism and strife leading people to say in updated language, “I am of Paul. I am of Apollos. I am of Cephus.” And someone standing over here saying, “Well, I am of Christ.”

There is one central teaching and that is—Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s it! That’s not just a teaching. That is to be a fact. Now, where that fact is, everything else is incidental. And if Jesus being Lord and Tic Ramsey leads him to do a lot of things, which I wouldn’t do; my part is just to praise the Lord that Jesus is Lord over Tic Ramsey. If he believes that Jesus saved us like they did back—the first theory of the atonement was that Jesus saved us by tricking the devil. He entered into this little thing with the devil and He said, “Now, I’ll tell you what; I’ll give you ME for everybody else”—at least for the elect.  And the devil took the—he bit. This is called the “fish hook theory” of the atonement by people who have to worry about such things. [2:38]

He bit and then after he had let all of souls of the damned who were called and elected go, well then Jesus surprised him and tore the bars apart and came out and got away from him, escaped. See, I mean, that’s just—that’s the first theory of the atonement. Augustine, for example, that was the theory of the atonement that was common in his day. [3:04]

Now, you see, suppose you don’t think about it like that. Suppose you’ve got a commercial theory of the atonement or you’ve go some theory of whatever—inspiration of the Trinity of whatever. You’ve got these theories. Look, I may not agree with you but the only point of our unity is not in the theory or in the lack of it but in the fact of Jesus Christ is Lord in my life.  That’s the whole story.

Now, if that’s true, it’s not just going to be a doctrine I have in my head. It’s going to be a fact about my whole life. That would mean that I love everyone, that I don’t want to hurt anyone and apart from wanting to hurt anyone, I want to help people. I love even my neighbors. That’s Jesus being Lord in our lives. Because He said, “Why call you me, Lord, Lord and do not the things I say?” [4:12]

In other words, if I am going to be your Lord, you’re going to obey me and Paul had this wonderful prayer—doulos—doulos to Christ—slave to Christ. He presents himself and the Old King James says, “servant.” We hear servant and we think of some dignified butler or something like that walking around—strutting around in his but-larian pride or whatever. That word means slave. That is the word that is used of a galley slave with the most menial kind of drudge—doulos. That’s the kind of relationship Christ wants us to have, but of course it’s a love. It’s a slavery of love; it’s not a slavery of force. It’s a slavery of love. That’s the way Paul presented himself. That’s the way he viewed himself. Now, when that kind of slavery is there, everything else is in submission. There have been such tragic mistakes. I mean the annals of missionary activity as well as the annals of individual churches if they were ever fully written are just full would of these kinds of things. [5:31]

I just want to tell you one story. There was a Sioux Chief named Big Hunter up in the Dakotas and Montana and he was one of those who when things got too hot went over into Canada. The missions reached his tribe there in Canada and he wanted to become a Christian. Now, the missionaries told him that if he was going to be a Christian, he had to get rid of all of his wives but one and you know, it’s so easy for them to say that but he has to face the question now, get rid of them? What am I going to do with them? Turn them out to live with the prairie dogs? You can’t just get rid of a wife at that particular time. You don’t just get rid of a wife. There isn’t anywhere for her to go and it’s been that way for most women in most of the history of the earth in most places. Thank God, it isn’t like that today in our society. It’s bad enough but it isn’t like that. [6:45]

Well, in his anxiety, he finally decided what he would have to do; so he hung all of his wives except one and he went to the missionary and said, “Now, I’ve gotten rid of my wives.” And, in horror, they drove him of course out of the place. They wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Well, he went back to his tribe and back to his old religion, such as it was and he got him two or three more wives and lived till the end of his life as a—as the Christians say, “a heathen.”

Now, you see, here is a classical case of what—you know, you can just hear the missionary saying, “All this faith that is in Him. Well, that’s fine but there are these few necessary things, see?” Hmmm. “There are these few necessary things.” Just like these necessary things, which were mentioned.

Now, you say, “Well, what do you mean? To condone the kind of marriage that they had in those tribes?” Not necessarily. The point is that at a certain place, that is indifferent. That is indifferent.  That’s the vessel.

Now, the Jews had a horror of blood, which had been conditioned into them over centuries, which is almost as deep as the horror of polygamy in our society. Not only a horror, but I have Jewish friends to this day who are horrified by fat and they are not horrified by fat because of some reasons that your kid may be horrified by fat. Kids, they often are horrified by fat. They are horrified of fat because of the culture—the Jewish culture, which is trained into them starting from the Old Testament that you don’t eat fat and there is a horror. I have friends who will sit—they will take a finely ground hamburger steak and they will sit and pick that apart grain by grain and put the grains over on their fork and anything that looks like fat they will put it over here. Then, after they have picked it apart, they will take that lean meat and put that in their mouths but they will not eat the fat. I mean it isn’t like big blobs of fat—little bitty pieces of fat—“these few necessary things.” You see, these things—what we don’t realize is that at a certain point, they get pulled apart from any connection with even their traditions and they just become emotional reactions. They are things, which are felt in our guts and that is why we strike out at people over them. [10:12]

It’s like some missionaries have been conditioned to the point that they simply will not have people running around without their clothes on. You know I understand that these muumuus that they wear over in Hawaii are to be credited to the missionaries who decided that there must be some covering upon these people and we can’t just have them running around here. Now, why? Well, you may say this is vitally important–people cannot be saved without clothes on. That’s like some people saying you can’t be saved unless you are circumcised or whatever. [11:02]

Now, you see, you and I might disagree and we might fuss and we might fight over these things but I won’t. You can preach to me as long as you want to about them. I wont’ even—it is just so indifferent. The important point is Jesus, our living, governing, guiding, saving, delivering, present Lord. That’s it! And if given that, you feel comfortable with clothes on, and you want people to have clothes on; that’s fine. That’s fine. I’d rather if they were clothed myself but it’s different you see, to take it in that way and then by comparison say this is absolutely necessary—absolutely necessary. [11:58]

Now, it’s interesting to see—and I hope all of you who are coming in; please pick up these sheets of paper here on this bench over there. Page 14 is from last Sunday and we are dwelling on that right now and in one minute flat, I am going to change to the other. What I wanted to point out was how in Galatians 2, you have another report on this counsel. In Acts 15, the report is “well, it’s okay all except adultery; that’s—you don’t do that and you don’t eat animals which have been strangled because they’ve got blood in them and you avoid blood puddings and things like that and animals offered in sacrifice to other Gods. [12:51]

You will notice that when Paul comes to report the upshot of the counsel in Galatians 2, he doesn’t report the same thing. What does he report? Do you remember?—that we remember the poor which also we were forward to do. As Paul put it, the only recommendation other than praise the Lord, we are glad that the Lord is at work in you folks up there in Antioch and all of that was, remember the poor. That was put forward as a recommendation because Paul took the sense of that meeting in a different way.

It’s interesting to see here the divergence between the book of Acts and some of the reports of Paul. You know, Luke didn’t know everything about Paul. For example, all of Paul’s travels are not recorded in the book of Acts. If you look at the 15th chapter of Romans, for example, you find that he went into what is now called Dalmatia or Yugoslavia right across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. He says so. He calls it Elycria but that’s not recorded in the book of Acts. Luke didn’t get his information just from Paul. Luke was in touch with all kinds of people. He gathered his information where he would and so we have two kinds of reports about this counsel. It’s beautiful to see that because you see, the Lord can work in His people even though they don’t even agree about what happened in a meeting or how the resolution read that came out of the meeting—“these few necessary things.” [14:41]

It is so important for us to understand this principle of the vessel and the treasure, which I have been hammering at you as you’ve been studying and to distinguish the vessel form the treasure. The vessel may vary and at least when we are concerned with salvation, the vessel is simply indifferent. The treasure is the excellency of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ—the excellency of the knowledge of God. [15:15]

Now, what is eternal life? To know God, see?—the excellency of the knowledge of God. Sounds like eternal life. The treasure is eternal life. Now, it’s the excellency of the knowledge of God and the excellency of the knowledge of God—what Paul means there is simply that it is the high degree of the knowledge of God which is given in the face of Jesus Christ because there is knowledge of God all over the world but there is not the excellency of the knowledge of God. That comes in the face of Jesus Christ and then we get to see it in the face of all of those in whom Jesus is Lord. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has shined in our heart. You can see in the faces of all of those in whom Jesus is Lord and you find it in the community of His disciples where He loved and reigns and He and God inhabits this temple that He is building by His power. [16:20]

Well, I wanted to say just that much about the 15th chapter of Acts and I hope how that you will please study through this page 14 very carefully. Work out your own thoughts about what is being said and what is being taught.

I want to turn now to the lesson for today. You will see that you have four pages of notes and outline on the first three chapters of Romans. Of course, as I’ve said repeatedly, the object of giving the outline and notes—and if any of you don’t have them, please pick them up right here on this bench—the object of giving you this outline is so that you will simply have something that you can work on in your studies and I am presupposing that you are studying. And that you are in some cases like today—Maggie says she’s been kicking the wall—and Harriet—over these first three chapters of Romans. It is not easy to get into these things. It is difficult but so what? Right? So what? Just kick the wall. [Laughter] Kick the wall and something will come from it. Something good. I won’t be able to work over this but I am trusting that you are going to be able to work over it. So what is a lot of sweat, I guess, huh? [17:45]

The object of the book of Romans is to articulate in a fairly systematic way the message which Paul preached as he went around in the Greco-Roman world. Now, I say, fairly systematic because it is not a systematic treatise; it is a letter. And letters are not written and composed in the same way that textbooks are but the Bible is not in any part a textbook. The Bible is a viable expression of a viable life and one of the reason why, if you will excuse me for second guessing the Holy Spirit this much. One of the reasons why it is not a textbook is because the whole point of the gospel is to undermine those who would say, “I have got it all figured out. I know.” Hmmmm—that’s right. Why? Because knowledge does what? Puffs up! Knowledge puffs up! We know in part. We prophesy in part. That’s why when you see someone coming around saying, “I’ve got it all figured out. Look at this chart I’ve drawn or whatever. It’s all laid out right here.” Well, friend, we prophesy in part. We know only in part. [19:19]

And Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up.” It’s the difference between a plastic bag the size of this building blown up with air—you can come along and stick a pin in it and it will go, “Shhuuuuuuu.” And a building—the word there is love edifies—it puts up edifices. I mean it’s the difference between that plastic bag filled full of air and something out of bricks and mortar and stone—that’s what love is. Love puts a skeleton and some muscles on it. Knowledge puffs up. So, this is not a systematic treatise and thank goodness it is not required that we have a systematic treatise. [20:09]

As Thomas a Kempis says in one place, “It is better for us to be humble than by disputing about the definition displease God.” It says in another place what use of it is our learned disputing about the Trinity if by our arrogance we deceive each other. Love builds up knowledge so our knowledge isn’t a project. We are not saved by our knowledge and this is why I don’t hesitate to say to you as I did a moment ago that the doctrinal structure of the particular church at any particular time is to a large extent—not totally—to a large extent, a part of the vessel, not a part of the treasure and if you would simply look at the development of doctrine through the history of the church, it will do more than anything else to convince you that that’s true because we tend at any age to think that our doctrine is the only one that is laid out and you need to get out and look at the development of doctrine—the progress of doctrine. You’d see what great changes there are and how these changes come relatively fast and not only in doctrine but in the tactics of the church—the way people behave around churches. I don’t hesitate to say that simply because I know that salvation is not just our knowledge.  [21:51]

Knowledge is important. It’s very important, especially the kind, you know—what was that thing Will Rogers says, “It’s not what we don’t know that hurts us, but what we know that ain’t so.” [Actual Quote: “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”] That knowledge that we have that ain’t so often does hurt and it is important for us to give our minds over to the study of the Word of God and to have it transform, but the total personality has to be transformed. It is so important that we have these things in the right proportions. [22:18]

Now, Paul, when he went about preaching did something interesting that fits in exactly with this and I want to stress it. If you will look in the 1st chapter of 1st Corinthians, you will see how he came preaching and I want to just read this over very quickly and then move right into what I think is the core of the message in these first three chapters in Romans.

In 1 Corinthians the 1st chapter, he talks about how wisdom failed to save him but that the preaching of the cross saved him. Paul knew how men would come, how men have always come in an effort to help other human beings by sharing their wisdom. But, when Paul came preaching, the Lord had taught him that the world does not need another wise man in the ways of the world. It didn’t need another teacher of the standard sort because “the world Thy wisdom knew not God” and that it needed him. It needed someone who could come and teach and live, as Paul puts it, “in the power of God.” That is, they needed someone who lived with the God about whom the wise men spoke in such a way that God actually worked with them and in His presence simply transformed the lives of other people. [24:12]

So, in the 2nd chapter, he says, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.”  Speech or wisdom—he didn’t talk a fine line and he didn’t put over a lot of wise sayings. “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” That is, when he came into them, that’s all he was going to have his mind on. He was going to talk about a crucified Christ, which scandalized the Jews and looked foolish to the Greeks and it still looks foolish to people today. It scandalizes people today so then why did Paul do it? We will see as we go along.

Not only did he not come to them with high-sounding praises, but negatively—look at verse 3, “ . . .I was with you in weakness, and in fear, [and in much trembling.”]  You see he didn’t have that “puffing up” which comes from knowing everything and being able to shut up everyone by talking him down. He was scared. He was with them in weakness.

Watch this—“much trembling.” Some of you say, “I can’t teach. I get up there and I am all scared to death. I shake until I feel like I my kneecaps are gonna fall off.” Paul trembled.  Bravado is not called for in teaching. Confidence in one’s self isn’t called for in teaching. What is called for is confidence in God. And a person who thinks he can do the work of God on the basis of bravado or self-confidence, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. [26:18]

“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  You see, when Paul walked out of a place and left a bunch of people back on cloud nine shouting with joy and filled with the Holy Spirit, it never hurt him. Thank God he didn’t do it because if he had done it; well, there have been people who have done one thing or another all through the history of the world but no one has built the church but people who live and walk and work in the power of God. [27:13]

You see Paul didn’t want to convince anyone on His own. He didn’t want to shut anyone up on His own. He didn’t want to form a little group on his own. All he did was he wanted to just simply say, “The Son of God came into the world and lived as he did and died as He did” and of course, go into all of the details of this and to present to these people a present God who would dwell and live in them and deliver them from evil. And then as he spoke he left it up to God to do what he was talking about and God did it. But, you see, the conviction of that didn’t rest upon the truths, which Paul had given. When he went into one place, he would talk about Jewish history and when he went into another place, he would talk about whatever conceptions they had—use the Greek ideas of God—he did this over and over. We saw that last time. [28:27}

I say if you go ahead and read the 17th chapter Acts, there is another beautiful case here of where he takes the Greeks where they are. He doesn’t tell them about Moses. They don’t care anything about Moses. That’s just Jewish vessel. He says let’s get in the Greek vessel now, friend. And so he did! And the same God demonstrates the same thing. Jews and Greeks alike are called out and they receive God and he dwelled in them, but not because Paul proved anything to them. It was because the Spirit demonstrated something to them.

Now, this same Spirit is alive today. I hope that you may, this evening turn on your television and look at the Kathryn Kuhlman hour for the day. Did any of you see it this morning? Believe me, if you want to see a demonstration, you just watch that program and see. Would you please? I don’t know—about 10 or 10:30? 11:00-Channel 13. [29:38]

Now, listen, the God whom Paul spoke of is alive today and He does the same thing. When he finds people—and you don’t have to be a lot of people—but when he finds people who can receive the gift, the same things are done. This case of this woman was—she was a reporter on a, I think newspaper up in Oregon, I believe it was. She has massive, massive, hemorrhages of the brain and wasn’t going to live. I won’t tell you the story. You watch it! You watch it! I will at least tell you this much; she walked out. She went in in a wheelchair and she walked out of a meeting where the power of God had been and she was not only physically whole, her personality had been transformed. Not only from what it was after she had the stroke but from what it was before and all of the neuroticism and nuttiness that had been writhing her was gone and she brings one of her main doctors from the University Hospital who had never heard of her before on the program with her to verify what just happened. [31:07]

You look on the one side and you see this very little woman, Kathryn Kuhlman, see? A lot of people really think she’s weird—a weird little vessel. That doesn’t matter. It’s the treasure of God. Now, you see, that work is being done and not just her. There are many others and not just with reference to physical healing. It’s just like she herself says, “That’s really subordinate.” That’s just a kind of overflow of the goodness of God but the work of the Spirit and demonstration and in power was going on but you see, many ministers and many teachers don’t understand this and they are under constant temptation to revert to the old method and to try to overwhelm them—someone by the “excellency of their speech” or the “excellency of their training” or the “excellency of their whatever.” All that matters is the demonstration of the Spirit and in power and that comes in the preaching presence in the preaching of a crucified Christ. [32:25]

Now, when Paul gets ready to talk to the Romans, he just comes on very fast because He knows what he is talking about. You remember there as he goes down to the first chapter, he says, “ . . . I am ready (eager) to preach to you in Rome also.” (Romans 1:15) I am a debtor, both to the Jew and to the Greek. That’s one classification he had to get over and that was a big one. He was always facing these cultural hurdles and now he’s got to make another one as he gets to Rome. What is his classification here? Greek and Barbarian, isn’t it? Did you notice that? Look at that verse—I think it’s the 14th verse. Read it to us Paul or Flo, would you if you have it there? “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” (Romans 1:14) That’s great. You see he’s got another cultural hurdle here. For much of his life, the difficulty was to hurdle the downer between the Jew and the Gentile but now he’s talking to Romans and Romans, by in large didn’t give a flip about what the Jews thought but boy they were impressed about what the Hellenes thought—the Greeks. And he said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians . . .”

Now, who are the Barbarians?  [33:54]

Comments: Inaudible

Dallas: Everybody who wasn’t a Greek—everybody who wasn’t a Greek. Right! Barbarian was the term for non-Greeks just like Gentile was the term for non-Jews and the Romans were Barbarians. The Romans were Barbarians. In the Romans’ eyes, the Greeks were the people who were the learned, the sophisticated, the wise; and the un-wise were all of the rest of them. And, you know, it’s so pathetic; when we have these distinctions, it just seems like we are so ready to accept them and the Romans accepted that. So far forth that, for example when the rich Roman wanted to educates his son, well, the thing he would do is go out and capture a nice Greek and bring that guy in and make him a slave and let him educates his household. Why? Well, because they were the wise. They were the sophisticated, the cultured; and meanwhile, we are just, you know, we are just Barbarians. We don’t know a thing. We are Barbarians. Don’t we just run into that all the time? [35:04]

See, Paul is facing here another cultural barrier and it’s important that you realize that when he writes to the Romans, he is acutely conscious of that and that’s why he doesn’t say, “the Jew and the Greek;” he says, “Greek and Barbarian,” wise and unwise, right? Because he’s dealing with the issue in the people he is talking to and they don’t care about the Jew and Greek thing actually. Besides, they knew that Paul had spent his last 15 to 20 years ministering to the Greeks and he is saying to them, “Look, that’s true, I’ve been ministering to the Greeks but I am a debtor . . .” That’s a beautiful phrase in itself. Here you have a man who regards his debts not in terms of what he has done for others but in terms of what he can do, right? I am a debtor. I owe something to you people because of what I can do. [36:04]

Paul says, “I am eager. I’m eager to preach.” Why? Because he’s got something good for them and he’s given it two test runs already—one with the Jews and one with the Greeks and now he is ready for the Romans and he is eager to show them the demonstration of the Spirit and of Power that resides in the Gospel and he says, “I am not ashamed.” I think that Paul here says this with his tongue and his cheek very wryly, “Now, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. I’m not ashamed of it because I know it is the dunamis, the power of God unto salvation.”

Every one that believeth—the Jew first, that’s where it was first tried out, wasn’t it? The Jews—that was the first test run and then to the Greeks. Jew first, also to the Greek and he is referring here to the fact of course that he had gone over the face of the earth to Jerusalem, around Asia Minor, into the Aegean, the great peninsula and as we know from what he said later on he even went so far as Yugoslavia, where the modern day Yugoslavia is over on the Adriatic sea coast there, across from Italy, across from Rome, and it may very well be that he had gone that far intending to go right on to Rome because we know from this passage that he says he’s often tried and planned to go to Rome but couldn’t which hindered, prevented. [37:46]

Oh, but he says, “I’ve got these two great trial runs. I know what’s happening.” There are people scattered all over where I’ve been who have been picked up by God, who have been sucked into the spiritual cyclone and formed into this community and they are there living in the power and demonstration of the spirit.” Now, so he says,  “I am not ashamed of it.” I haven’t avoided coming to Rome because I was afraid to try out on you what I had tried out on others. [38:17]

Have you memorized this verse? “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation . . .” It really delivers; it really does—“ . . .the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) Why and how is it the power of God? Now, this is what I want to get into and spend the remaining part of our time to day on this. Why is it? [38:49]

Someone read that 17th verse—“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) It’s an Old Testament faith out of the book of Habakkuk. “ . . .The just shall live by faith” or he who is righteous through faith shall live and he carries him to the Old Testament now with the Gospel. And he says “ . . . the Gospel is the power of God” that really delivers. Why? Because in the Gospel, we come at last to really see God as He is. The righteousness—what makes God right is finally revealed in the Gospel. That’s why it delivers. See, if you understand who God is and what God—if you really understand that, your life will be transformed; and that’s what Jesus is all about is to make so clear to people what He’s like and that they can live as He taught. [40:09]

For example, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not serve mammon, right? We shouldn’t labor for the things of that. He said, “. . . Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things . . .” which people drive themselves batty for, ruin their health, kill other people for—all these things will be added. Matthew 6:33—“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” That’s your first thing and all these other things will be added. [40:46]

The power of God unto salvation comes from the revelation of what God is really like and I repeat again, what is eternal life? Knowledge of God! Knowledge of God! John 17:3—“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ.” Now, if you want something that will unify what’s happening in the New Testament, you tie on to that definition of eternal life in John 17:3 and when you talk about eternal life, be sure you are talking about THAT and not like in that little book, Oh Ye Jigs And Julips—you remember that where the little girl says, “Eternal life is something you get after you die whether you want it or not.” [Laughter} Eternal life isn’t that. That’s not what He’s talking about. [41:38]

Eternal life is the knowledge of God, which transcends time. It is something, which joins those on both sides of this thing called death, whatever it may be—no one really understands it. Eternal life is the knowledge of God. And listen; when you begin to pick that up, you are going to see it over and over, and over and over and over and over again. Now, that’s what’s involved right here.  This is why the Gospel saves because it brings a right apprehension of God. It brings a right apprehension of God.

Now, Paul as a great teacher turns precisely on that point and he’s going to show how the wrath of God is revealed in a false apprehension of God. Isn’t that beautiful? Listen; I agree with Maggie and Harriet that this letter is so hard to follow but when you get a few points of the structure down and just how the thing is gonna—some of it lines up—so, let’s try to get that clear this morning now and not just with Maggie and Harriet by the way. We won’t put them in an embarrassing position on that point because there are lot of people who have spent years studying it—most people I guess. I still think it’s very difficult. I really do, but I think there are some things, which if we see how he’s working, it gets clearer.

Now, watch now, in verses 16 and 17 and you see here the revelation of the righteousness of God and this revelation of the righteousness of God is given in the Gospel and it comes to a right knowledge of God. Now, watch how the thing turns completely around and the wrath of God in the 18th verse of the 1st chapter through to the 21st verse of the 3rd chapter. Every bit of this from (Romans) 1:18 to 3:20 is devoted to how the wrath of God is revealed in the misapprehensions of men about the true nature of God. [43:51]

So, you will have the two things and at verse 21, it’s helpful sometimes to just stop reading at 1:17 and go directly to 3:21 because at 3:21, you pick back up on the theme of the righteousness of God. Watch! Let me do that for you, okay? “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans, verse 3:21—“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law . . . “—see, you’re back to the same thing, aren’t you?—the righteousness of God. What did verse 17 say?—“For therein in the righteousness of God revealed. . .” What does verse (Romans) 3:21 say? “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested? The same thought! So, keep that section in between clear as a presentation of the wrath of God and how both the wrath of God and the righteousness of God being shared and manifested and participating; all of this turns upon the central fact of the knowledge of God. [45:01]

Now, in the 18th verse and following of the first chapter, what you have is a depiction of how people have rejected the true nature of God and what happens when you do. Let’s just quickly see how that works. I don’t want to spend much time on this because I want to come back to (Romans) 3:21 and following so I am going to sketch this section in between 1:18 and 3:21 quite clearly and I’m hoping that you’ll be able, with these comments and the notes which I’ve have laid on the bench to work this out more clearly for yourself.

Men knew God. Everywhere, they have the knowledge of God. The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen. Now, I want to just elaborate this verse 20 a bit because there are two different things that are understood about God from the invisible things of the world and Paul is appealing to the fact of this universal consciousness in all cultures that emerges about God. And he says, “ . . . being understood from the things that are made, even His (eternal) power and His divinity.” (Romans 1:20) [46:21]

Now, you have in the old version, Godhead, and I would be willing to wager that practically that says nothing whatsoever to you. There were two things, which, all across the face of the earth in all cultures wherever you went, there was an understanding that there were two things about God. One is; He is a creator; He is all-powerful; He is the maker of all polytheistic systems of course. You have various levels of Gods, which aren’t that but there is ONE supreme God who is that—is all-powerful and out of Him everything comes. But you see, that was not all that was known about God and if you recall the very first lesson I pointed out how roughly in the period from 1000 to, say 700 BC, there emerged spontaneously all over the face of the earth and all over cultures where they had people who were thinking about—you know, beyond the stage of just grubbing for things to eat, where they had any kind of people who were thinking and developing culture at all—there emerged this consciousness that this all powerful God—whatever you called His name—this God demanded righteousness in Him and that He demanded it because He Himself was righteous. [47:34]

So, when you read His eternal power in Godhead, the best way, I think of reading that is simply to say, “His eternal power and His moral character and demands” because that’s the content of what’s being given here—His Godhead, His moral character. When people looked at the visible things, which He had made, they became aware of an invisible God.

Now, let me just pry that in with one verse in the 11th chapter of Hebrews quite quickly because the contrast—and I wish I had more time to go into other passages like the 4th chapter of II Corinthians and the 5th chapter—the contrast between the visible and the invisible is extremely important in your understanding of this faith. But, I do want to tie it in with just this much. [48:24]

In the 11th chapter of Hebrews—“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand . . .” Faith is not blind. It’s not a leap into the dark. It is not opposed to knowledge. It is a kind of knowledge. New Testament faith is a kind of knowledge. It isn’t blind groping. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that. . .”—the Word of God; that ought to ring some bells in your minds at this point. “ . . .so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” The invisible things of God are made clear from the things that are seen; and Paul is not arguing. Please, he’s not giving a demonstration; he is saying that as a matter of fact and it IS a matter of fact that all over the face of the earth, there has emerged a consciousness of God as an all-encompassing power with moral demands and a moral compass. This is the fact. [49:44]

Now he says, “When men had this knowledge”—return to your (Romans) 1st chapter, the 21st verse—“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God . . .” Now, the key phrase there is “as God.” See, everyone kept a religion, didn’t they? Everyone had a religion but the point was that they didn’t glorify Him as God and they were not thankful that He was what He is or was what He was or is what He is and were not thankful that He had the character that He has and the highest praise of God is simply He made you from your toes to the top of your head. That is the most wonderful thing in the world that God could just do that.  Now, that is praise to God. But you see, they were not thankful that God was God. And they said, “Get out of my way God as you are. Let me have a saint to worship; a cow to worship; a man to worship or some sort of grandiose turtle or something of that sort or some kind of strange, beastly sort of God, such as you get in all of the mythologies.

The key phrase here, you see is, “ . . . they glorified Him not as God . . .” and why didn’t they? Just this much on that and again, I refer you to the notes. The reason they didn’t is because to acknowledge God as who He is, once and for all puts an end to human arrogance and pride. You don’t stand up in the face of God and strut—not God as He is. [51:34]

In the Old Testament, there was the saying to Moses, “No man shall see my face and live.” And Job said, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6&7) A right apprehension of God crushes the pride of man so man will not have God to be what he wills.  He will turn God into something, which he can manipulate for his own purposes; something which he can put a little blood out there, you know and crescent wood and maybe even offer his own child to Him. And the story of religion on the face of the earth is mainly the story of the bitter, bitter fruit of man’s attempts to displace God, to put Him out of the way so that he can let his own arrogance and pride have free reign. [52:40]

Now when he degraded God, he degraded himself and the rest of the 1st chapter is the story as degradation proceeds. God, out of the way—man gives himself free reign and the primary instrument of his degradation is his body. It’s his body and I hope that you will look at these things that Paul lists here. He has a lot to say about sexual harm and certainly this is one of the areas, which the world, the flesh and the devil really go to town. People get murdered and stay sick over it. It’s one of the permanent causes of misery among human beings. I mean, just, we need to be very honest about this. It’s one of the permanents causes of misery of people in the churches—Christians, good Christians and it isn’t always because there’s one person is doing wrong but in the sexual life, we are hooked into the web of life as in no other way and we suffer with it. But it isn’t just sex; look, it’s the tongue—back biters; the teeth—gossipers; boasters—did you see that one?—boasters. That’s the tongue; that is part of the body, you know? That’s the body. That’s where the degradation of humanity occurs is in the body. [54:34]

If I want to get ahold of Tic Ramsey, what do I do? I grab his body, right? He’s stuck with that thing. If I can get ahold of this, see, I’ve got him. The body is the place where all of the corruption, which comes from the displacement of God in the mind of man occurs and that’s why the body of course is the locus of disease—disease—and that’s why no salvation is complete which does not include the body. No salvation is complete which does not include the body. A lot of people have this idea that we are these little wispy pieces of smoke that floats around in the vacant places in our head and that that’s what God is going to say. That has nothing to do with the Biblical view of personality. A human being is a living body. That’s why there is a resurrection of the body. Christians do not preach immortality of the soul; they preach the resurrection of the body. It’s a different body, thank goodness. It’s a different kind of body.

Listen to all parts in this Studies in the Book of Apostolic Acts: Journey in the Spiritual Unknown series