A Q&A with the Apostle Paul on What’s Wrong with the Human Race and What God Did About It

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We sometimes think of the second half of the first chapter of Romans as a discourse about atheists. (And indeed, according to Romans 1, the answer to the question “Does God believe in atheists?” is “no.”)

But in reality, it’s much more than this: a universal text that applies to all of us apart from Christ—what we are, what we do, and what we would do apart from God’s restraining and redeeming grace, with graphic examples to illustrate our truth-suppression and idolatrous identity.

Here are some questions for the Apostle Paul, with his answers:

What do all of us know?

(1) We know God himself.

(2) We know God’s decree.

(3) We know God’s judgment—that those who practice sinful things deserve death.

What is our responsibility?

We are without excuse.

How clear is the evidence for God’s knowability?

What can be known about God is plain.

Who showed us the evidence for God?

God himself has shown us what can be known about him.

What is it about God that every one of us knows?

We have clearly perceived God’s invisible attributes (= his eternal power and divine nature).

Where do we see God’s invisible attributes?

In the things that God has made.

What do we fail to do in response?

(1) We fail to honor God as God.

(2) We fail to give thanks to God.

(2) We fail to acknowledge God.

What do we do instead of honoring and thanking God?

We suppress the truth.

How?

By our unrighteousness.

What do we claim about our thinking?

We claim to be wise.

What are we in reality?

We are fools.

What happened to our minds?

We became futile in our thinking.

What happened to our hearts?

Our foolish hearts were darkened.

What is the result?

We exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.

What do the images we chose resemble?

  • mortal man
  • birds
  • animals
  • creeping things

What’s another way to describe exchanging something glorious and immortal for mortal things?

We exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

What did we do with created things?

(1) We worshiped the creature rather than the Creator.

(2) We served the creature rather than the Creator.

What is the result of this idolatry?

God gave us up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.

What kind of impurity?

The dishonoring of our bodies among ourselves.

How did we become entangled in dishonorable passions?

God gave us up to dishonorable passions.

Which dishonorable passions did women commit?

Women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.

Which dishonorable passions did men commit?

The men gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

What does God do to us for failing to acknowledge him?

God gave us up to a debased mind.

To do what?

To do what ought not to be done.

What are we filled with?

All manner of

  • unrighteousness
  • evil
  • covetousness
  • malice

We are full of

  • envy
  • murder
  • strife
  • deceit
  • maliciousness

What are we?

We are

  • gossips
  • slanderers
  • haters of God
  • insolent
  • haughty
  • boastful
  • inventors of evil
  • disobedient to parents
  • foolish
  • faithless
  • heartless
  • ruthless

What do we know?

God’s decree.

What is God’s decree?

Those who practice such sinful things deserve to die.

What do we do?

(1) We do these sinful things.

(2) We give approval to those who practice these sinful things.

What does God do in response?

God reveals his wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

Is there any hope?

The gospel.

What is the gospel?

The power of God for salvation.

For who?

To everyone who believes—to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

What is revealed in the gospel?

The righteousness of God, from faith to faith.

As Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous shall live by faith.”


Romans 1:16-32

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

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