Read Romans 1: 8-32
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
14I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)
Paul now begins his letter. He begins with praise of the Roman church. He has heard of their faith and is excited for them and prays for them. There are some people that when they say they will pray for you, you know they will pray for you. And there are others who say this, but you are never sure. I am sure the listeners to this letter knew that Paul was a man of his word when it came to prayer.
Verse 11 points to an example of what we must be aware of when reading letters from this time. People did not throw paper away. If they wrote a wrong thought, they simply corrected it in the following sentences. Paul begins by saying he wants to come preach to them so they might gain something. He realizes this is too bold and corrects it by adding, that his goal is for both to learn from each other.
In verse 16 and 17, we begin to see the essence of who Paul was in connection to his ministry. Paul is essentially sending the Roman church a resume of himself and thus begins with that powerful statement, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” And he then settles on the essence of salvation – it is by faith alone.
We get hung up so much on this one issue. We want to add more to what it means to find salvation. But for Paul, it is simple – faith. And that faith will transform the person if it is real. We too often want to make the transformation effects equal to having faith to be saved. We sometimes to allow people to grow from infant to child to adult in their faith because we want them at the infant stage to act like an adult. Paul understood that this growth was a process much like the growth of a natural human being. And for Paul, the new birth begins with faith.
Paul then moves into the fallen nature of humanity. And it does it by addressing the Roman sexual culture. Matthew Rueger in his work “Sexual Morality in a Christless World” notes that the Roman sexuality was tied to ideas of masculinity, male domination, and the adoption of the Greek pursuit of beauty.
He says the Romans did not think in terms of sexual orientation. Rather, sexuality was tied to ideas of masculinity, male domination, and the adoption of the Greek pursuit of beauty. “In the Roman mind, the strong took what they wanted to take. It was socially acceptable for a strong Roman male to have intercourse with men or women alike, provided he was the aggressor. It was looked down upon to play the female ‘receptive’ role in homosexual liaisons.”
Paul points that is the result of sinful man being given over to his lustful desires. The effect of this attitude was to degrade women and even children. Christianity not only proposed an alternative, but condemned the Roman ideas of sex. The effect of this was powerful for those who had been treated as second class systems.
What the Christian sexual ethic did by limiting intercourse to a married man and his wife was to protect children and give them dignity. A Roman woman was accustomed to being treated as second-class human being but “in Christendom, a woman now found a culture of genuine love that saw her as equally important as any man in the eyes of God. She was sexually equal with the man in the marriage union and had equal recourse under the law of God to demand marital fidelity.
This is probably one of the reasons that the Romans grew to hate the Christians so much. They were so against their culture.
The question is have we as a country also taken this same attitude toward sexuality? I think it is well beyond the orientation question and borders on have we dropped all common sense when it comes to sexual matters. I see this effecting all our thinking from abortion to the way people date to the way they live as a couple today. Our desires come first and following God comes second. Someone once noted, “Our society is throwing off the last vestiges of the Christian sexual ethic and as it does so, we [Christians] are once again outsiders and traitors who threaten to destabilize the whole system.”
Paul then makes the connection by saying that once this idea of a certain sexual morality is thrown off, it leads to more sin by the people becoming “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” Paul then says, “They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
I think that what this truly points to is that we become a society that is more and more selfish as opposed to a society that seeks to help one another. Christ always called us to die to self so that others might live.
Blessings and Peace